Video: Battlestate Missouri

updated 7/21/2004 6:45:23 PM ET 2004-07-21T22:45:23

Missouri: No state in modern times is more reliable at picking the presidential winner.

The state is so important the candidates have been here 10 times already this year.

“I think it's within two to three points either way and it can move in that direction,” Governor Bob Holden (D) said.   Holden is in a tough re-election fight of his own, and he sees Bush-Kerry going down to the wire.

A few things to know about Missouri:

  • This state is a bellwether. “In the last 25 elections, Missouri has voted for the eventual winner of the presidency 24 times which is 96 percent,” Professor David Roberts, University of Missouri said.
  • Elections here are always close.  For example, take Clay County: It's where Jesse James staged his first daylight bank robbery, and where in 2000 the presidential race came down to a single vote. (Al Gore=39,804; George Bush=39,803.)
  • Energize your base. Bush/Cheney ’04 already has a dozen paid staff members in Missouri, ahead of the Kerry campaign which only named its state chair recently. They are depending on outside groups for its ground game.
  • Know your geography.  Places like Cape Girardeau in outer state Missouri are laid back towns where people just sit and watch as the Mississippi River goes by.  Yet, the main tourist attraction is the boyhood home of native son, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. George Bush won 95 of Missouri’s 103 rural, less populated counties in 2000 to give him a 3 percent win. Many of those counties, essentially the Bible belt, where there seems to be a church on almost every corner, concentrate on issues like gay marriage which may energize voters.

“At the end of the day, it's not who you get your message to and whether they agree with you and your particular issue,” Ann Wagner, Republican National Committee Co-chair said.   “It's whether you got that individual to the polls.”

John Kerry’s sixth visit to Missouri this year was to a Baptist church in St. Louis.  He’ll need to run up big numbers there and in Kansas City to win.

“We will register more voters, we will activate, we will energize, we will have a turnout bottom line superior to none,” Representative William Lacy Clay (D) said.

Chris Jansing has traveled all over Battleground America in the past couple of months to talk to undecided Americans in big cities and little towns, and to look at the grassroots efforts being conducted there. "Battleground America: Winning the White House" airs July 25, Sunday, 10 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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