Our Opinion: Revelations about Kinder splinter party unity

Editor's Note: This page has been updated since its original version was posted on Aug. 26, 2011. See the clarification posted below this editorial.

A freshman GOP lawmaker has voiced what more faint-hearted Republicans only have thought.

Rep. Kevin Elmer on Tuesday e-mailed what he characterized as an “editorial” calling on Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder to abandon any campaign for governor in 2012.

Elmer said the lieutenant governor’s “irresponsible decisions in his personal life have impugned his ability to lead publicly from a principled position,” a reference to Kinder’s admission he visited an Illinois strip club about 10 times in the 1990s.

Elmer may be the first to raise the concern publicly, but he told The Associated Press other Republicans, including fellow lawmakers, share his frustration.

A copy of his e-mail release was provided to us from the House Communications Office. In addition, a major campaign donor has withdrawn financial support for Kinder’s bid.

Kinder has shunned conversation about strip club visits or comments by a former exotic dancer who identified the then-state senator as a client. After repeated visits, he said he stopped patronizing the club because it conflicted with his religious beliefs. Why that realization took 10 visits only he can answer.

The decision about whether Kinder should abandon his anticipated — but not yet announced — bid for governor rests with him and/or the Republican faithful.

Kinder’s campaign affirmed Tuesday he “continues to enjoy strong support from all across the state and intends to keep his campaign focused on plans to create jobs and improve the economy.”

Magicians call this misdirection, diverting the audience’s focus and attention.

Republican Party members are not likely to be diverted easily.

If Kinder chooses not to step aside, Republicans have a range of options, including: back him, either wholeheartedly or reluctantly; or discourage him, either gently or forcefully.

Also in play is the “lost cause” theory. An example is when a baseball manager anticipates a shellacking and leaves a starting pitcher in to preserve the bullpen. This theory, of course, presupposes an early concession by the GOP, which other observers consider unlikely.

With the 2012 election still more than a year away, one thing is certain — compelling conflict already has begun, and that’s just within one party.

CLARIFICATION, posted Aug. 28, 2011

Missouri House Information spokesman Trevor Fox said this weekend that an e-mail release from Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, was provided to the News Tribune inadvertently and incorrectly listing Speaker Steven Tilley’s e-mail address as the return address.

Fox said Tilley was not aware the e-mail had been sent under his name, and Tilley did not endorse Elmer’s conclusions. The text in the above editorial has been updated to properly reflect the source of the e-mail release.

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