Elections '06: Missouri Senate

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St. Louis Fireworks

Rockets’ red glare. Gateway to the West and all that. [creativity+ / Flickr]

If following all the national midterm hype seems too overwhelming this season, if you worry that you can’t follow the scripted snark in all 40 toss-up races, then tune out the background noise. Missouri has your race to watch.

Missouri, who’s picked the winner in every presidential election this century, save one every presidential election save one since 1904.* Missouri, whose demographic profile makes it the perfect bellwether, with the same proportions of black to white, urban to rural, Republican to Democrat to independent voters as we have nationally. Missouri looks like a microcosm, too, with cold wheat fields in the north, brimstone-bellied evangelical conservatives in the south, and two urban poles that battle for the title of “gateway to the west.”

So say what you like about Missouri, but it’s only as Republican/white/corn-fed/urbanized/Christian/elite/patriotic/disaffected as America is, and it’s likely to vote as America will. We’ll be talking about the Senate race, where Trumanist Claire McCaskill faces affable conservative Jim Talent, where stem cells rule the conversation, and where every move has national echoes and national implications.

What can you tell us about Missouri? Did you catch Wayne Newton in Branson? Learn your barbecue recipe in Kansas City? Can you decode the eternal Missouri/Missourah debate? Show me.

*Thanks to duplicity for the correction.

George Connor

Associate Professor of Political Science, Missouri State University

Jonathan Franzen

Author, The Corrections and The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History.

Antonio French

Blogger, PubDef.

Dee Vantuyl

Author, The Chatterbox Chronicles

Extra Credit Reading

election.nationaljournal.com, Missouri State Profile, election.nationaljournal.com, October 2006: “For most of the 20th century, Missouri was one of America’s political bellwethers: it has voted for every presidential winner but one (Eisenhower in 1956) since 1900. From the 1960s to the 1990s it mirrored national trends by moving its congressional politics from pretty solidly Democratic to leaning Republican.”

Kenneth F. Warren, Betting the Farm, American Prospect Online, October 11, 2006: “If Claire wins this toss-up race, it is likely that Democrats eyeing the 2008 candidacy for president will take notice of her rural strategy. Given the recent, grim history of Democratic electoral defeats in states with large rural populations, it’s a strategy worth serious consideration.”

Jay, Don’t Forget Missouri!, The Horse Race Blog, October 22, 2006: “If you are looking for a single state that is a metaphor for the nation, you would be hard pressed to find a better metaphor than Missouri.”

Carolyn Lochhead, If GOP is in trouble, Missouri will reflect it, San Francisco Chronicle, September 24, 2006: “Deep in south-central Missouri, where wooded cattle farms mingle with Wal-Marts, Jesus billboards dot the highways, radio runs from Rush Limbaugh to Dr. Laura and carrying a concealed weapon is legal, a rebellion is brewing — against Republicans.”

Chris Maag, Campaign ’06: A Fight for the Heartland in Missouri, Time.com, October 3, 2006: “Both candidates have that problem of connecting with rural voters,” says Jerry Wamser, a lawyer and state Republican Party activist. “Neither of them is exactly down-home folk.”

Geoff Brumfiel, Meredith Wadman, Emma Marris & Heidi Ledford, US election: Showdown for Capitol Hill, nature.com, October 18, 2006: “Meanwhile, in various states, scientific issues are turning up on important ballot initiatives. In Missouri, a high-profile measure would amend the state constitution to protect stem-cell research.”

Steve Kraske, McCaskill vows to avoid ethical conflicts, KC Buzz Blog, October 18, 2006: “I will put anything in a trust that needs to be put in a trust to make sure that there are no ethical questions.”

Howard Beale, KC Star Calls Talent Out for Twisting Words in Attack Ads, Fired Up! Missouri, October 24, 2006: “So desperate now for something –anything– to damage his opponent, Jim Talent is throwing political haymakers that consist of quotations torn deliberately and misleadingly from their context in newspaper stories.”

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