Jason Kander, Missouri's 33-year old secretary of state, has given Democrats that rarest of post-2014 feelings: Enthusiasm about a red state race. He's running for U.S. Senate against first-term Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican who left a safe House seat to win office in the 2010 Tea Party wave. (He defeated the previous Democratic secretary of state, Robin Carnahan.) "Barely halfway through his first term as secretary of state and Democrat Jason Kander is already bored with his job," thundered the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which in 2012 supported Ohio's 35-year-old Josh Mandel, and in 2014 supported Arkansas's 35-year-old Tom Cotton.
What could make Kander seek higher office in a state that rejected the Obama-Biden ticket by 9.5 points in 2012? This is easy: the next Democratic ticket is likely to be led by Hillary Clinton. Kander's move should be seen as the latest burst of red state Democratic enthusiasm about the return of the Clintons. In the large swath of red America where white voters preferred Clinton to Obama in 2008, many Democrats see the Clinton restoration as the removal of a heavy anchor. Bill Clinton twice won Missouri, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Kentucky–all states lost by Obama. Even if Hillary Clinton can't repeat that, Democrats hope her brand will alienate fewer voters than the toxic Obama brand.