By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS – It’s Oct. 8, 2008, and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is standing under the Gateway Arch, pleading his case for the Oval Office in front of some 100,000 people.
Much has changed since that historic election, including the political bent in Missouri.
President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, will likely focus less on Missouri before the Nov. 6 general election in favor of states where the vote’s expected to be closer.
Missouri, once considered a national battleground, has turned solidly into the GOP camp during the past three presidential elections.
Polls show Romney well ahead in the Show Me State in 2012, although Obama lost by fewer than 4,000 votes in 2008. It was just the second time since 1904 that Missouri backed the losing presidential candidate.
CNN analyst James Carville, who managed Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, told a crowd at Peabody Opera House in St. Louis last month that “Missouri in my definition is not a swing state.”
Obama will campaign in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Tuesday, his fourth visit to the state this year. Romney pressed the flesh Monday in Colorado, another battleground state.
For the immediate future, neither Obama nor Romney has Missouri on his calendar.
Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Kansas City on Monday, but not as part of an Obama re-election push – he helped raise money for Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who seeks re-election in November. Biden’s wife, Jill, spoke to members of the Missouri National Guard during the K.C. visit.
George Connor, head of the Missouri State University political science department, told Missouri Watchdog more such visits are likely in the coming months, with less of the national focus overall.
He expects Romney to visit the state sometime after the Aug. 7 primary to champion the Republican winner of the U.S. Senate race. McCaskill’s ability to hold onto her seat is one of the key races in determining which party will control the Senate for the next two years.
Todd Akin, John Brunner and Sarah Steelman lead a field of eight Republicans who hope to challenge McCaskill in November.
“It’s not just a presidential election at stake,” Connor said.
In Missouri, Kansas City and St. Louis are largely Democratic strongholds, while most of the state’s center skews heavily Republican. Connor noted the GOP controlled counties experienced the most growth in the past decade, further bolstering Romney’s chances in Missouri.
Missouri will be worth 10 electoral votes this year, one fewer than in 2008.
“I don’t think President Obama is going to write off Missouri, but it’s going to be harder for him to carry the state,” Connor said.
The last Democratic candidate to win Missouri was Clinton, who got the nod in 1992 and 1996.
Richard Martin, who was Missouri state director of Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, told news organization Gannett the state is moving “slightly right-of-center” due largely to fiscal conservatism during tougher economic times.
“More and more Missourians who are concerned about their own balance sheet are also concerned with the country’s balance sheet, and that just tends to shift voters,” he said.
Neither Romney nor Obama have bought television ads in Missouri. Their focus is on what are considered to be the swing states, with Ohio topping the list.