MO: Bellwether State Hopes for High Turnout
By Rob Stein
Missouri, where 58 delegates are at stake on the Republican side and 88 Democratic delegates are up for grabs, is one of the most competitive states for both parties.
State election officials projected that 28 percent of eligible voters would come to the polls for the state's primaries, a sharp increase from the 15 percent turnout four years ago.
In the days leading up to the voting, the state was the focus of last-minute appearances by Sen. John McCain, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.
"We do not usually play a big role in the primaries," said Jack Cardetti of the Missouri Democratic Party. "But besides the number of delegates, there's a lot symbolism in winning Missouri. We're a bellwether of American politics. We've voted for the winner every year except for 1956."
Polls showed McCain leading, with Huckabee and Romney fighting for second. On the Democratic side, Clinton and Obama are locked in a virtual tie. Obama leads in St. Louis, and among independents, young voters and African Americans. Clinton appeared to be doing better in Kansas City, and among women and older voters.
Clinton is hoping to benefit from the state being next door to Arkansas, where she has deep roots. Obama is hoping to attract more independent voters and even some Republicans. On the Republican side, McCain is also going after independent voters, while Huckabee is popular in the southwestern part of the state -- home to many evangelical Christians.
While the winner of the Republican primary will take all 58 of the state's delegates, the Democrats allocate their delegates on a proportional basis. Forty-seven of the delegates will be awarded according to how well the candidates do in each of nine congressional districts while 25 will be awarded based on the statewide vote.
Sixteen will be unpledged.
Obama picked up endorsements from three members of the state's congressional delegation and Clinton picked up one. Gov. Matt Blunt and House Speaker Rodd Jetton endorsed Romney. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch endorsed Obama and McCain while the Kansas City Star endorsed Clinton.
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