Party official Lloyd Smith was a former staffer to ex-Rep. Emerson, and was instantly viewed as the favorite to win the seat thanks to his good rapport with party insiders. That fact is why I was surprised to see him not leading in a poll of committee members, probably due to the strong overlap of his Emerson loyalist base with Kinder's. Lloyd Smith is definitely still in the mix, and if I were a betting man I'd still expect to see him as the nominee thanks to his inside game. He also has the advantage of not holding office, meaning he has no record to scrutinize and his selection would not trigger another special election. Add in the fact that he's probably the second choice of almost all Kinder supporters but far less toxic, and he's the front-runner in my book. That said, Lloyd Smith is nowhere near the lock for this nomination that he appeared to be when Emerson retired.
State Rep. Jason Smith of Salem was the suprise front-runner in the poll. The third-ranking Republican in the State House, Smith is a young and ambitious lawmaker. He is probably most famous for leading a recent effort to change the laws surrounding the LG succession procedure to prevent Nixon from appointing his own LG to serve until 2016 if Kinder leaves. Jason Smith was the clear leader in the poll, so it's wise to consider him a major factor in this race. Only the probable strong Kinder/Lloyd Smith overlap keeps him from being the front-runner.
State Rep. Todd Richardson of Poplar Bluff is, like Jason Smith, another young and ambitious lawmaker, and thought to be in line for the speaker's gavel in a few years. Richardson is apparently close to the chairman of the selection committee, as well as to the Emersons. Though he finished fourth in the poll, that may be selling him short as he seems like a decent compromise candidate if neither Smith can close the deal. A strike against him might be inexperience, as he has only been in the legislature for two years.
Ex-Rep. Wendell Bailey of Willow Springs may have the most unique pitch of the candidates - if he is elected, he will retire in 2014, triggering an open primary with no incumbent. Bailey had scant support in the poll, but if the convention is hopelessly fragmented, he seems a logical bet to emerge as a compromise choice. Bailey was the congressman from the old MO-8 from 1980 to 1982 when he was defeated by Ike Skelton after their districts were merged; he then served as State Treasurer from 1984 to 1992. The big issue for him is his pro-choice positioning in his prior campaigns; If he has not had a conversion on the issue it could be very problematic. Bailey recived just three votes in the poll, but does have a path to victory: If he can consolidate the votes of the candidates who have almost no chance here, but could be in strong position in a primary - Crowell, Steelman, and Parker - he would vault into contention with the top three.
LG and Sauget Ballet afficionado Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau is close to former Rep. Emerson and is (for some inexplicable reason) quite popular among party insiders. Kinder was a front-runner in the poll; however, between his scandals and the prospect of handing the LG job to a Democrat for at least 18 months (and maybe even until 2016) Kinder would be a profoundly unwise choice. Personally, though he placed third in the poll, I doubt he can convince enough committee members to slip through. He does seem to have some loyal fans though, and his inside connections may provide him enough personal pull on the committee.
Ex-State Sen. Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau would be a force to be reckoned with in a primary. However, he is less than beloved by insiders, and there is speculation that Emerson didn't retire in the regular 2012 cycle precisely to keep him out of the seat. Crowell is known as a strong fiscal conservative, but also someone who does not play well with leadership - sort of the Tim Huelskamp of Jefferson City. He has a strong base among grassroots activists, but his appeal among more establishment members of the party is basically zero. As this convention is one of insiders, don't expect him to be chosen unless the delegates are really afraid of a grassroots rebellion.
Ex-Treasurer Sarah Steelman of Rolla probably would have won this race were it a primary among all these candidates, thanks to her high name recognition and some regret for passing her over twice for ultimately inferior candidates. This race is not decided by a primary, however, and Steelman has burnt a lot of bridges with the Republican establishment. It's hard to see how she becomes a significant factor.
Rancher Bob Parker of Raymondville mounted primary challenges to Emerson in 2010 and 2012, recieving about a third of the vote each time. He seems to be a serious candidate, but I doubt he is considered as a real possibility by the committee. He may be someone to watch for to challenge the eventual winner in the 2014 primary.
Judge Scott Lipke of Jackson, a former State Rep., has been under the radar because judicial rules prohibit him from openly campaigning. He attracted a small amount of support in the poll.
Cape Girardeau County Commissioner Clint Tracy embarrasingly did not attract the declared support of a single declared committee member in the poll. That said, he is an established name from his time in local office and prior service as a State Rep.
Attorney John Tyrell of Mountain Grove strikes me as being at Some Dude level but managed to get the support of one committee member.
State Sens. Dan Brown and Wayne Wallingford have both dropped out after recieving little to no support.
RRH will be keeping you updated with news tomorrow as we get it - be sure to check back!