Video: Battle for the Senate rages in Missouri

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/20/2006 7:35:31 PM ET 2006-10-20T23:35:31

Missouri calls itself the "Show Me State," but in fact it usually shows the rest of the country which way the political winds are blowing. The state has predicted every presidential winner since 1900, with one exception, in 1956. Now all eyes are on the state's Senate race, which many say is reflecting the country's unease with the war in Iraq and the decreasing popularity of the president.

In St. Louis this week, baseball fans speak with one voice about their beloved Cardinals, but when it comes to the race for the Senate, those voices are split down the middle.

The incumbent, Republican Jim Talent, is in the political fight of his life. This week, he brought popular national figure, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., to help him campaign.

His challenger, Democrat Claire McCaskill, is making serious headway by highlighting Talent's support for President Bush and the war in Iraq.

To say the national parties are paying close attention to this race is an understatement. Republicans view Missouri as a must-win, one of just a few races that will mean the difference between Republicans holding on to the Senate or losing control to Democrats.

Plus, Missouri is consistently what political scientist Kenneth Warren calls a "mood mirror" for the rest of the country.

"If we look at the Senate race in Missouri and we see that Talent is fading in the polls as he is, you can see that candidates elsewhere in the nation who are Republican are fading in the polls as well," says Warren.

Talent doesn't dispute that the souring mood toward Republicans nationally may hurt.

"Obviously, if the national climate is good, that helps you," he says. "If the national climate is bad, that's a headwind. But I just believe voters in all places generally tend to vote who they have in front of them and what they think they're going to do."

McCaskill is also benefiting from a local initiative on the ballot to allow stem cell research. Polls show most in Missouri support it, as does McCaskill, but Talent is opposed.

"I think people's attention to that issue is driving a lot of intensity on the side of curing diseases, and I think that's going to help our turnout," says McCaskill.

The race is so important to both parties that they are now pouring millions into both campaigns.

So while Cardinals' fans know how they feel about their team, the Missouri Senate candidates are hoping undecided voters will make up their minds.

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