Holden's four years in office were marked by political battles with Republicans, unrelenting budget problems and challenges from within his own party. He says now that if he had to do it all over again, he would make the same policy decisions. And he adds that if he had survived the primary against McCaskill, he believes he could have beaten Blunt in the general election.
Holden faced a series of setbacks - some not of his own making - almost from the moment he took office. In his first few weeks as governor, American Airlines acquired St. Louis-based TWA, financial problems forced him to cut millions from the state budget and Republicans took control of the state Senate for the first time since 1948.
There was one positive note from a former Holden appointee, 'Steve Roling, who was director of the Department of Social Services under Holden, said he would be remembered by those who cared about education, health care and jobs "as someone who stood up for them in really difficult times and wouldn't back down."'
Many people I talk to who have been involved in Missouri politics had a great deal of respect for Holden as governor and respected the strength of his convictions. Certainly a significant factor in Claire McCaskill's victory in the primary was Holden's "nice-guy" attitude and a certain lack of style in public speaking. Some voters felt that McCaskill's more aggressive style (honed during her career as a prosecutor) would be more effective against Governor-elect Matt Blunt.
While I agree that a more aggressive campaign would be more effective, after listening to Holden's concession speech on election night I think that if Holden could have spoken more about his ideals than letting himself get bogged down in details (as he did during the primary debates) the voters may have responded better. Holden certainly had the baggage of an incumbent, but McCaskill's reformist campaign also failed to create enough support.
At this point Missouri Democrats are going to have to work with a Republican dominated state government, and decide how and with whom they will challenge Republican control.