Much of Missouri's political makeup and economic reality is derived
from the state's unique geographic location and the rich natural
resources found there.
Nicknamed the Show Me State, it is the land of rolling hills
and fertile plains. The Mississippi and Missouri rivers pass through
the region, making the state a large supplier of agriculture and
a significant trade route.
Missouri is home to the Ozark Mountains and to over 5,600 caves,
a few of which are open to the public. The state is the nation's
largest producer of lead and is notable for its mining economy.
It boasts of being the base for the country's westward expansion
with both the Oregon and the Santa Fe Trail running through it.
Its capital is Jefferson City, while the larger business and urban
centers are based in St. Louis and Kansas City.
2000, the state's political divisions reflected the original patterns
of the state's Civil War-era settlers. Recently, however, the
divide has shifted to an urban versus rural dichotomy with voters
in St. Louis and Kansas City favoring Democrats and rural voters
Rural Missouri is still mostly countryside sprinkled with farms,
small towns and churches. The population is predominantly white.
The state is more culturally conservative than bigger states and,
based on voting patterns since 1992, has favored Republicans.
In 2000, President Bush won the state by 3 points and in 2004
he increased his win to 7 points over his Democratic rival. As
the state level, voters elected Republican majorities in both
houses of the legislature and chose Republican Matt Blunt as governor.
Both U.S. senators are Republican as are five out the nine U.S.
Many races have been close, however. Republican Jim Talent won
his Senate seat in a special election in 2002 by less than 1 percent
of the vote, defeating Democratic incumbent Jean Carnahan. Carnahan
was appointed to the seat after her husband Mel Carnahan, died
just 22 days before the 2000 election but still won the race.
In 2004, Claire McCaskill, Talent's Democratic challenger in
2006, lost a bid for governor to Republican Matt Blunt by about
3 percent. This year, the race between Talent and McCaskill will
be one of the most competitive races in the country.
In the Senate race, stem cell research is expected to play a
role in who wins the Senate seat. A ballot initiative, proposed
by medical researchers and advocacy groups, would amend the state
constitution to allow scientists to conduct any embryonic stem
cell research permitted under federal law.
Not only do the Senate candidates differ on the issue -- Talent
opposes it while McCaskill supports it -- but some Missouri Republicans
such as Governor Blunt are turning away from conservatives and
are voicing support for the initiative saying it will help Missouri's
If approved, the amendment would make Missouri the only state
besides California to legalize stem cell research. Polls show
support for the ballot measure and Talent's opposition could hurt
his re-election campaign.
Also on the Missouri ballot for Nov. 7 is a proposal to increase
the state minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.50 an hour. The candidates
are traditionally divided on this issue, with the Democrat supporting
the measure and the Republican against.