A top Republican leader expects 2008 to be a rough election year for his party.

House Speaker Rod Jetton (R-Marble Hill) is the one who pushed for Republicans to elect a Speaker-designate. The House Republican Caucus elected Representative Ron Richard (R-Joplin), who now will have a year to learn the ropes from Jetton so he will be ready to become Speaker in 2009, after the November 2008 elections.

That, though, works only if Richard wins re-election and Republicans keep their majority in the House. Jetton expects Republicans to hold on to the majority, but not the 92-71 margin Republicans enjoyed after the 2006 elections. (Republicans now hold a 90-70 majority with three vacancies in the House) Jetton is credited with playing a big behind-the-scenes role in Republicans taking over the majority in the House in 2004. He says it is likely that Republicans will lose three to four House seats in 2008. The map doesn’t favor Republicans, who have to defend more vulnerable seats than Democrats in 2008.  Also, national trends don’t help.

Jetton insists Republicans remain strong in Missouri, but concedes the low public opinion poll numbers for President Bush dog Republicans and drag down their numbers. One factor could change that, according to Jetton, who says that Hillary Clinton carries such negatives in Missouri that if Democrats nominate her as their presidential candidate, Republicans could pick up some undecided voters. He says the only national candidate who worries him is John Edwards, the former vice presidential candidate, who he says would do very well in Missouri and help Democrats down ballot.

The low public opinion poll numbers for Governor Blunt don’t seem to worry Jetton. He says he has seen recent poll data that indicates Blunt is closing the gap with Attorney General Jay Nixon, the top Democrat in the gubernatorial field for 2008. Jetton predicts the Blunt-Nixon race will be close, which he says gives neither political party an advantage.

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)