by Phill Brooks

Missouri is in the middle of one of the most unusual fall election periods I’ve covered.

Step back from the daily campaign rhetoric and look at the broader picture. It’s a fascinating landscape with the potential of historic ramifications as the year winds down.

One element of that landscape involves the recent statements by Gov. Jay Nixon about his political future that I wonder might have undercut his powers in these final months of the year.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Nixon discounted thoughts of running for future office.

He’s only the second elected governor I’ve covered since Warren Hearnes to voluntarily pull the pin on future political office.

He did not rule out a federal position if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, but he definitely seemed to rule out a future political campaign.

Instead, Nixon talked about a home and work in St. Louis.

It’s caused me to reflect on the waning influence of a governor in the final months of office.

It’s a natural process. Part of the cause is the loss of top aides leaving for other jobs.

But I suspect it’s exacerbated when there is no possibility that the outgoing governor will be in another campaign or elective office with positions to fill.

In just the past few months, Nixon has lost his communications director and the directors of his Natural Resources and Revenue departments.

With families to support and careers to consider, you can’t blame administration officials for jumping ship.

The only other governor in my time to walk away from political office was Republican Matt Blunt who renounced a campaign for re-election for reasons he never fully explained.

His decision struck me as leaving him with less political clout and influence in his final months.

We like to think our political leaders should be above politics. But I’ve found that a long-term skilled political team is essential to political power and effective government leadership.

In contrast to Nixon and Blunt, the other governors I’ve covered aggressively sought future elective offices — at least initially.

Republicans Kit Bond and John Ashcroft went on to the U.S. Senate.

Mel Carnahan posthumously won his U.S. Senate campaign after a fatal plane crash that occurred too late to replace his name on the ballot.

But even after his death, Carnahan’s team held together. It was one of the brightest and most effective political teams I’ve seen in Missouri.

The group held together because Carnahan’s replacement, Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson, announced he would appoint Carnhan’s wife Jean to the first two years of the Senate term if Carnahan won.

But there were a couple others for whom the governor’s mansion was the end of the road, despite trying to remain in office.

Hearnes aggressively campaigned for the U.S. Senate. But under the cloud of of federal corruption investigations that never brought any indictments, he lost both the Senate race and a later campaign for state auditor.

Two other governors who unsuccessfully fought to stay in political office were Joe Teasdale and Bob Holden. They both lost their re-election campaigns.

The other aspect of this fall that has intrigued me is the degree that Missouri mirrors the Clinton-Trump national campaign.

That national race involves a government outsider against a long-term government player.

We have the same theme in Missouri with governmental neophyte Eric Grietens running against long-term government veteran Chris Koster.

There’s another similarity — absence of long-term party loyalty.

Similar to Republican candidate Donald Trump who once supported Democrats, Missouri’s Democratic candidate for governor was once a Republican state senator.

Does Trump’s non-traditional background reflect a political undercurrent in Missouri that will benefit outsiders like Greitens and the GOP attorney general candidate, Josh Hawley?

Will these campaigns of political switch-hitters bring to the polls Missourians who otherwise might not have voted?

Will turnout be increased by candidates who attack career politicians?

We’ll see in November.