Page 5 of 6
On October 24, as Spence seriously considered entering the race for governor, he cut Kinder a check for $5,500. In an interview with the Associated Press, Spence called the donation "a gesture of friendship."
Roughly two weeks later, the "friends" — fraternity brothers who attended the University of Missouri at different times and did not meet each other until later in life — decided to size each other up. Over coffee in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in St. Louis, one of the hotels named at the start of Kinder's slide, Spence told Kinder where he stood.
"Dave sits down with Peter and says, 'I'm really serious about doing this. I don't think you can mount a credible campaign. I'm going to run,' " a source with knowledge of the meeting tells The Pitch. "Peter didn't think he was serious."
But the lieutenant governor wanted to be clear that he, for one, was still very serious. On November 13, Kinder's spokesman, Jared Craighead, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Kinder was all in.
"The lieutenant governor will be announcing his plans in the next two weeks," Craighead said, "but he will not be announcing that he is running for re-election as lieutenant governor."
State Sen. Brad Lager (R-Savannah) took that statement as his cue to enter the lieutenant governor race left open by Tilley's exit. The day before Lager announced his candidacy on November 14, he called Kinder's campaign to confirm that Kinder would not change his mind.
"They said, 'No.' Period," Lager says.
But Kinder had already undone his own campaign — with a tweet.
Unlike most politicians, Kinder writes and sends his own Twitter updates. The practice has sometimes created controversy for the lieutenant governor.On June 7, 2010, Kinder noted via Twitter an "astonishing explosion of lefty Jew hatred." On September 2 that year, he tweeted a link that he called a "MUST READ :)" to an illustrated article about the tattoos known as tramp stamps.
The tweet Kinder issued on November 11, 2011, then, was not his most outrageous. And it wasn't wholly surprising, either. The timing, however, was a killer.
It read: "RT @BrentTeichman: Free Wings today at @Hooters for Veterans and Active Duty Military Personnel... 11/11/11. Happy #Veterans Day #MO #pdk."
If talk of Tammy Chapman had dissipated at all in the Missouri political firmament, the tweet revived it. When staffers asked him about the tweet, Kinder's reaction was nonchalant, says one Republican who spoke to Kinder that day. By that afternoon, though, the tweet had been deleted.
But it was too late. Bloggers had picked up on the mention of Hooters. So had Spence. One Republican staffer with knowledge of Spence's reaction says the tweet "pushed Dave over the edge of the cliff."
"His reaction was, 'This is ridiculous — I'm getting in,' " the staffer says. "It became abundantly clear to him, with Kinder's lack of discipline, that he had to do it."
The Hooters tweet was posted on a Friday. The following Tuesday, Spence announced that he would run for governor. In an interview with the Associated Press, he confirmed that he was "100 percent committed."
Kinder, aides say, was not surprised, but he was angry and disappointed. During the days that followed, Kinder huddled with a close group of aides and confidants to decide what his next step would be. Could the candidate survive an expensive primary against Spence, only to face a taxing general election against Nixon? A path to victory no longer seemed to exist.