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In the final stretch, Missouri Republicans hope to ride Romney's coattail

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 2, 2012 - Republicans on Missouri's statewide ticket offered up the possibility of a sweep on Tuesday -- especially if the expected victor at the top, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, has coattails.

The former Massachusetts governor's political coattails were a reoccurring theme at a Friday afternoon Republican rally in Fenton, which featured every GOP candidate running for statewide office except Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.

(The Democratic ticket held its local rally Saturday morning in Ballwin.)

The Republican candidates assembled inside the Victory Fieldhouse in Fenton the party's moniker for the headquarters for GOP volunteer operations in much of the St. Louis area. Many predicted that a big Romney victory could mean wins for Republicans across the board.

Let's make sure that Mitt Romney has the kind of coattails that we need to make sure that all of these candidates make it across the field, said Ann Wagner, a Republican heavily favored to win the state's 2nd Congressional District seat on Tuesday's ballot.

Added GOP gubernatorial nominee Dave Spence: On Tuesday, don't split ticket. We all win in a landslide if we all say 'Romney' on down.

For Republicans, their biggest roadblock could well be the lack of a straight-ticket option on Missouri ballots, which was removed in 2006 at the behest of Republicans in the General Assembly, who thought the option primarily helped Democrats.

The straight-ticket option allowed voters to cast one vote for a particular party, which then automatically translated into votes for every one of that party's candidates on the ballot.

But even when that option was available, Missouri's electoral history is full of instances were a majority of voters preferred to split their tickets.

At a news conference earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., observed that progressive state Sen. Harriett Woods, D-University City, was elected elected lieutenant governor in 1984, even though voters also chose conservative Republican John Ashcroft as governor -- and awarded then-President Ronald Reagan 60 percent of the state's vote.

In 2008, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, handily won statewide -- trouncing his GOP rival by 19 percentage points -- even as Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama narrowly lost the state to Republican rival John McCain.

This year, Nixon's campaign has made a point of noting that the governor has captured endorsements from 13 major newspapers around the state, including several that traditionally endorse Republicans. Spence has yet to garner any.

But speaking with reporters, Spence said his newest ad which features Republican legislators criticizing Nixon is dispelling the notion that the Democratic governor is a worthy choice for GOP-leaning voters.

Spence added that his campaign - infused with at least $6 million of his own money -- is on course.

"I didn't do this for second place - I did this to win," Spence said. "I knew that last year it was a major uphill climb. But it met all my expectations. And I think hard work has been well-received by everyone."

Akin doubts Romney backers will defect to Democrats

A surprise addition to Friday's rally was Republican U.S. Senate nominee Todd Akin, who earlier had said he couldn't join other members of the GOP statewide ticket because of a scheduling conflict.

Akin and state party leaders had denied any strain because of the continued furor over his August legitimate rape comments on a local TV news show with KTVI's Charles Jaco.

Until a few days ago, though, Akin had been a pariah as far as many national GOP leaders and groups were concerned. But in recent days, several national conservative groups have jumped in with more than $1 million in independent ads that laud Akin and attack McCaskill.

Akin also has high hopes that a large Romney victory could help him as well.

Since the Romney campaign is "doing well in the state, it's helpful to everything down-ticket, Akin said. I'm hoping that we do well and that carries down the ticket as well.

McCaskill and her allies have sought to counter that possibility, by running a new ad this week featuring Romney and other prominent GOP officials condemning Akin.

"Is Todd Akin fit to serve in the Senate?" the ad says. "Mitt Romney doesn't think so. ... Even Republican senators from Missouri called Todd Akin 'totally unacceptable.'"

Akin though said that it made little sense for Missouri voters to cast a ballot for Romney and then vote for McCaskill.

If you're tired of Barack Obama, I would suggest that the other pea in the pod is Claire McCaskill, Akin said. And it seems to me the two go together. It doesn't make sense to me to elect Romney and then let Claire McCaskill be the deciding vote to keep the Senate Democrat. You'll have two more years of just total gridlock.

Why people would want to vote for Claire McCaskill because I misspoke for six seconds and she's voted wrong for six years, I really don't understand that logic, Akin added.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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