Truth be told, Democrat Jay Nixon is likely to be the next governor of Missouri. Early pollshave him ahead of the likely Republican candidate by a solid 10+ point margin. But it’s early and the GOP primary matters even if the nominee ends up losing. Why you ask?

Because Sarah Steelman is a Reformer Republican in a primary against the MO GOP establishment choice, Rep. Hulshof.

For an insight as to why the GOP is down and out in Washington, take a look at Jefferson City. That’s where Sarah Steelman, the state treasurer, is running in an Aug. 5 primary for the Missouri governorship. And it’s where her reform campaign against earmarks and self-dealing is threatening the entrenched status quo, causing her own party to rise against her.

So bitter are House Minority Whip Roy Blunt and Sen. Kit Bond at Ms. Steelman’s attack on their cherished spending beliefs that last month they rallied the entire Missouri congressional delegation to put out a public statement openly criticizing her campaign against six-term U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof. Joining them in their support of Mr. Hulshof has been the vast majority of the state Republican machine. Ms. Steelman is clearly doing something right.

Her sin is in fact to belong to that new mold of Republican – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint – who know it’s no longer enough to simply hawk lower taxes. In 10 years as a state legislator and treasurer, her target has been the slothful political favor factory that’s led Republicans away from small-government principles and outraged conservative voters.

It should be noted that Mr. Hulshof has been a loyal Republican who would vote with the GOP on almost every issue. Just like OKC Mayor Kirk Humphries was a staunch conservative in the 2004 OK SEN race, Hulshof is not a bad choice. But it’s time for the GOP to look for more than another party vote in the primaries. Like the 2004 OK SEN race, MO GOPers should buck the establishment favorite and put a principled, reformer forward as their nominee.

And the best news is that in mostpolls, Steelman is a few points closer to Nixon than Hulshof is. So it’s both principled and pragmatic. I’ll be watching the August 5th primary results in MO. I hope the MO GOP take this chance to send a message that the GOP is on the wrong track, and it is time for Reformer Republicans to take the lead.

The most recent poll in the primary shows the following:

Hulshof 29Steelman 25Long 10Undecided 32

Hulshof has all the establishment support, including the current Governor, the GOP Senator, and most of the other elected GOPers. You can see that “it’s his turn” in the grand scheme of things. But the primary electorate can send a message to the GOP that it’s no one person’s turn; it’s time for reformers to take the lead.