In a way, Missouri’s a microcosm of the nation. It has amber waves of grain accented with green crests of corn stalks and soybeans, purple mountain majesties in the Ozarks, and a fruited plain filled with fertile soil and strong foundations for industry. Missouri’s a quintessential snapshot of America, and we’ve been an incredibly accurate political bellwether for more than a century.
Since the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, the Show-Me State has only voted for the losing presidential candidate twice, we incorrectly picked Adlai Stevenson in 1956 instead of Dwight D. Eisenhower and in the last election, John McCain beat Barack Obama here by less than 4,000 votes. Other than that, Missouri’s batted 1.000 when it comes to deciding the chief executive of the United States.
Our status as a microcosm extends into the political realm, as well. The largely Democratic urban and suburban areas of metropolitan Kansas City and St. Louis fight for political control against the rural predominantly-Republican areas. There are other liberal islands in the sea of conservatism, like Columbia in the center of the state, St. Joseph just north of Kansas City and a few other various counties.
Missouri 2008 Presidential Election by County (Source: Wikimedia)
The Missouri State Congress heavily favors the GOP (106 Republicans to 56 Democrats in the House of Representatives, and 26 to 8 in the Senate) even though our Governor, Jay Nixon, is a Democrat. We produced President Harry S Truman, and Gens. Omar Bradley and William Pershing. Missouri also produced writers; like T.S. Eliot, Maya Angelou and Mark Twain; musicians Scott Joplin, Eminem and Chuck Berry; and actors like Brad Pitt and Josephine Baker. We even elected a dead man to Congress in 2000.
Due to our flagship university’s new SEC obligations, Missouri might have to vote Republican in 2012 like the rest of the South, but early polls indicate that Mitt Romney’s got a tough race ahead of him. According to Public Policy Polling, he’s losing to Obama in a state where 46 percent of the population calls itself “somewhat” or “very conservative.” As cliche as it is, Romney will need to attract the moderate vote to win the state’s ten electoral votes.
The polling company also says that forty-five percent of Republicans feel that Missouri will act as a swing state as opposed to only 42 percent of Democrats. Our population’s split on whether or not our state will be split this November.
Since we’ll be discussing Missouri’s economy a lot this summer and fall, here’s a quick intro to the financial status of the state. Missouri is lagging behind in terms of economic growth. Reports from the U.S. Commerce Department put Missouri at 43rd among the states, with growth at a mere 0.04 percent in 2011. The national average is 1.5 percent. This is the third consecutive year Missouri trailed the nation. It was once was a strong state for manufacturing firms lost tens of thousand manufacturing jobs because of the recession, as many of those jobs are sent overseas.
However, among the bad news, there is still hope for the Midwest state. According to statistics from the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in Missouri dropped 0.1 percentage points in April to 7.3%. Unemployment rate reached its highest point in August 2009 at 9.7%.
Another hot button topic for the upcoming election is the issue of gay marriage. Despite Missouri’s constitution, which explicitly defines marriage as ceremony between a man and a woman, 64 percent of Missouri voters fell that gay couples should be allowed to marry or form civil unions.
There’s the run down of Missouri, the bellwether swing state that historically holds a lot of sway in the national political discussion. Sure, it could be coincidence or happenstance, but the numbers speak for themselves: pay attention to the Show-Me State.