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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  • duplicity

    Not to be a jerk, I am actually curious: Has Missouri voted for the winning president in each presidential election THIS century, or do you mean in the 20th century?

    And while we’re on the topic of stem cells, I hope everyone saw this paper (link to a news release) demonstrating some of the more exciting possibilities and challenges of stem cell research. Sorry for the non-sequitor; I work on Parkinson’s research myself though not in stem cells.

  • pryoung

    First, though, a moment of tribute to a singular public servant sent to the Senate by the good people of the state of Missouri:


    Let the Eagle Soar!

  • howardpark

    The interesting thing about Missouri is how the stem cell issue divides the Republican base. There are Ashcroft Republicans — based mostly in rural & far suburban areas — who take thier cues from the “religious right” who are against stem cell research — they sincerely believe is destroys “life.” Then , there are Danforth Republicans — mostly suburban — who believe that stem cell research is different from abortion. The Danforth Republicans also want Missouri to be a leader in biotech and they have staked much of the state’s economic future on it. Danforth Republicans are comfortable with big time Universities & big business . Ashcroft Republicans want to be seperate. They are suspicious of anyone connected with a University or a biotech giant like Monsanto. Ashcroft Republicans are deeply suspicious or urban St. Louis & Kansas City. Danforth Republicans embrace urban culture & institutions even though they live in nice suburban areas. Danforth Republicans have lots of Democrat friends. Ashcroft Republicans don’t know many Democrats, but they do prey for thier souls.

    Anyway, in Missouri the Democrats seem united. It’s the Republicans who are divided. When was the last time that happened on a hot button social issue?

    BTW – I grew up in Missouri & most of my family lives there.

  • Hushd

    Went to highschool with the Ashcroft kids…you think John is bad you should meet his wife. But the real deal about Missouri is the ignorance. My family voted for Nader in 2000 only to vote for Bush in 04…no interest link between those two candidates whatsoever. Missouri may be the posterchild for the state most voting against it’s interest (Big red). Chris just asked about what people in Missouri do for a living…prisons baby…and more prisons and prison related jobs and the state. Missouri is car culture and enviro degradation…the latter is easy when you just roll over the hill and build a new subdivision or throw in a new highway. Missouri is baptist churches with hypocritical deacons who cling to the hope they really are moral. Missouri is fear-based. Missouri is talking down to your children and a good ass-beating when the talking down to them won’t work. Missouri is nepotism in politics and military and non-thinkers and so much more.

  • Greta

    By the way, here’s the tape of that Michael J. Fox ad for Claire McCaskill: http://youtube.com/watch?v=a9WB_PXjTBo

  • Hushd

    By the way, turdblossom normally gets it right but he got it wrong with the Schiavo issue because real Americans understand death and watching family die and don’t like politicians telling them they cannot pull the plug on suffering family members….same goes for stem cells. Do not tell real people (Missouri) that you are not going to allow something that will cure Aunt Margie’s cancer or parkinsons etc….unless you want to lose that battle. Turdblossom will lose that battle just like Schiavo. Please pray to your god for subpoena power very soon.

  • Stan Fox

    “Dee”‘s reasons for voting Republican came across to me, a foreigner who once knew America well, as something from a Science Fiction B movie of the 50’s. How could anyone believe that banning stem cell research was the most important issue in your election? Even after Christopher suggested Iraq, Global Warming, Immigration, Corruption, the Economy, etc. etc, she still put stem cell as number one. I was stunned. We, your friends, are very very depressed.

  • georgeconnor

    Stan, you may be “stunned” but there are a lot of people in the state who are, in fact, treating the stem cell initiative as the most important issue. This is true to some degree for both sides but mainly for opponents of the amendment; what Eric Hoffer would call True Believers.

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