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Politically Speaking: GOP Consultant Keller Assesses Election Landscape

Chris McDaniel, St. Louis Public Radio

This week, the Politically Speaking crew welcomes Gregg Keller, a locally based Republican consultant who now runs his own firm, Atlas Strategy Group.

Keller represents a number of corporate and political clients, including state Auditor Tom Schweich, who’s expected to run for governor in 2016.

A graduate of Clayton High School, Keller got his political start after college (Florida State). He began as a volunteer, and later as a staffer, for Jim Talent when he ran in 2002 for the U.S. Senate (defeating Democratic incumbent Jean Carnahan).

“I was answering phones, taking out the trash, and became his ‘body man,’ ” recalls Keller.

Keller later held various political posts with 2008 presidential contenders John McCain and Mitt Romney, and ran McCain's Missouri operation in 2008 when he became the nominee.

Keller subsequently was the executive director for Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition and spent three years heading up  the American Conservative Union (ACU), known as "America’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization."

ACU hosts CPAC – the Conservative Political Action Conference -- which held a regional gathering in St. Charles in 2013.

During the podcast, Keller said:

  • Even though Talent lost in 2006 to Democrat Claire McCaskill, the margin was small enough that Keller's political career was enhanced. He noted that many other incumbent Republican senators -- such as Pennsylvania Rick Santorum -- lost their re-election bids by much larger margins.
  • He enjoyed working for the American Conservative Union, but often had to go through the "meat grinder" in keeping competing factions happy.
  • This midterm election cycle lacks the excitement of past ones, mainly because there aren't any major ballot initiatives or statewide races of consequence. He also said the fact that Republicans and Democrats are pouring lots of money into the 22nd and 24th District Senate races is a sure sign of their competitive nature.
  • He expects Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal to challenge U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay in two years. Keller and Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, went to Clayton High School together.
  • He says Republicans will need to turn Attorney General Chris Koster's decision to switch parties into a "character issue" for it to be effective. He says the act alone probably isn't salient enough anymore to hurt him during his possible 2016 run for governor.

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter:@csmcdaniel

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter@jmannies

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter@jrosenbaum

Follow Gregg Keller on Twitter: @rgreggkeller

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.