Republicans are making sure they take Missouri seriously in the presidential election. It remains to be seen whether Democrats are doing the same.
U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., held a conference call with reporters Wednesday to question Barack Obama’s credentials in foreign relations and national defense. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bond said Obama and vice presidential candidate Joe Biden have "not shown an appreciation of the magnitude of the threat" by radical elements in the Middle East.
"I know he gives a great speech … but has no idea what it takes to win the war on terror," Bond said of Obama.
While the Republicans were figuratively rallying their troops, the Missouri Democratic delegation in Denver was placed in the nose-bleed section of the convention hall in Denver. That left some party officials wondering if the national campaign staff has given up on the state.
It would not be the first time Missouri has been dropped by the Democrats. In 2004, the John Kerry campaign staff was pulled out in late October. At that point it appeared that President George W. Bush would win the state. The withdrawal of campaign offices affects more than the top of the ticket.
Democrat Claire McCaskill lost the governor’s race to Republican Matt Blunt by about 3 percent of the vote. Several of her top campaign officials said McCaskill could have done better if Kerry’s campaign offices had remained active and helped get Democrats out to vote. (A few of the most optimistic McCaskill supporters say she could have won, but that seems unlikely.)
Two years later, McCaskill won her U.S. Senate race against Jim Talent by about 3 percent, thanks to a late surge and a decidedly Democrat-friendly year.
McCaskill is now one of Obama’s biggest supporters. She was part of a rural tour last week designed to tout Obama’s stance on farm issues. Apparently that didn’t convince too many farmers, because a State Fair straw poll gave GOP presidential hopeful John McCain a landslide victory. McCain got 71 percent of the nearly 5,100 votes cast.
Three recent polls in the Show-Me State have McCain ahead by anywhere from 5 percent to 10 percent. Obama’s numbers should climb somewhat after this week’s convention due to the "bump" that goes with such events. McCain could be expected to get his bump next week as the Republicans complete their convention.
With two months to go, things could still shift. The big question is whether Democrats will concede the state — at least insofar as the presidential campaign is concerned.
Bond hopes they will. McCaskill hopes they won’t.