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Candidates mark final day of campaigns by targeting the bases and the 'burbs

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 5, 2012 - For their final day of campaigning, Missouri’s Big Four – the major-party candidates for the U.S. Senate and governor – are targeting their bases and the ‘burbs.

Their final campaign stops make clear where both parties believe the bulk of votes will be cast on Tuesday, and where Missouri’s top contests will be decided.

The base for Missouri Republicans includes rural voters and social conservatives. For Democrats, it’s urban voters and labor.

And for both parties, the pivotal deal-breaker in any close contests will likely be provided by the voters in Missouri’s suburbs, which generally are politically swing territory.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is doing a swift cross-state blitz on Monday that begins in Democratic-leaning territory in Columbia, Mo., then hits Kansas City and ends in St. Louis – the two major urban areas where all statewide Democrats must amass huge vote totals if they are to counter large GOP tallies outstate. All her stops are at Democratic get-out-the-vote offices.

The one GOP stronghold that the senator is visiting on Monday is Springfield, Mo., where she is hoping to rev up the Democratic minority – and moderate Republicans, particularly women – in hopes they will show up at the polls on Tuesday.

Her final campaign stop will be Monday night before labor activists in Bridgeton.

McCaskill's message remains the same -- that Akin is too extreme, and poses a threat to Social Security, Medicare and government-insured student loans. And then there's his "legitimate rape'' comment.

Republican rival Todd Akin has opted to spend his last day close to home, after his own cross-state bus tour on Saturday that focused on fellow social conservatives.

Akin is doing a series of stops Monday all over the St. Louis suburbs, beginning in St. Charles County and ending in Jefferson County late Monday afternoon.  In between, Akin is stopping in north, south and west St. Louis County.

Akin's theme also is unchanged -- that McCaskill is too extreme for Missouri, backs too much government spending and is too supportive of President Barack Obama and his policies.

In Missouri’s battle for governor, Republican Dave Spence is focusing largely on Republican turf, including St. Charles County, Cape Girardeau, Clay County and Cassville.  Spence’s one swing stop is in Columbia, Mo.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, hit the St. Louis area on Saturday. On Monday, he’s beginning his day in Columbia, Mo. with military veterans – a popular target this year for Missouri Democrats – then traveling to Springfield, Mo. and then Kansas City.

Nixon,  like McCaskill, is making a point of targeting the moderate GOP votes in Springfield, generally a Republican stronghold.

Nixon's message is that Missouri's economy has improved, with more jobs, a lower unemployment rate and no new taxes. Spence's pitch is that the state can and needs to do better, economy-wise, and can do so by curbing the power of labor and reducing regulations.

Monday’s tours by the top candidates in both parties also are aimed at boosting enthusiasm among the party faithful, to increase the chances that they'll show up at the polls Tuesday.

Tuesday’s vote, for both parties, isn’t just about snagging high percentages among each side’s base. It’s also about generating volumes of votes.  For example: if overall turnout is down in the city of St. Louis, the expected Democratic percentage of 80-percent plus may not be enough, if turnout is stronger for Republicans among their base voters.

Absentee balloting has been down significantly in the city of St Louis, compared to 2008, and there’s been a slight decline in St. Louis County – which could be bad news for Democrats.

However, GOP-leaning St. Charles County also has seen lower numbers of absentee voters compared to 2008 – which could signal that Republican enthusiasm is a bit down as well.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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