BRIDGE TO SOMEWHERE 4: Show-Us, Obama!

One more week of nail biting and
backbiting (an ongoing weekly summary of the presidential campaign).

BY BEN WESTHOFF

 

October 28, 2008 – Dispatch from Missouri: Though
bright red for the past two presidential elections, Missouri is actually a bellwether state,
having picked each president in the last hundred years except Stevenson over
Eisenhower in 1956. If everyone else jumped off a bridge the Show-Me state
would too, and they’ve been trending purple since the election of Democrat senator
Claire McCaskill over Jim Talent in 2006. This year it’s a battleground hot
spot, naturally, and over the long weekend I spent time in St. Louis and the Ozarks, taking the
temperature of the place. (Warmer than New
Jersey.)

 

I went to
college at WashU and later worked as a staff writer at Riverfront Times, so it didn’t surprise me that
the same state responsible for this Barack Obama-as-Muslim
Sambo billboard (in West Plains) could also play host to a 100,000 person Obama
rally (at the St. Louis
arch). It’s something of a middle-American Pennsylvania,
after all, with urban hubs on its east and west ends (swap Pittsburgh
and Philly for Kansas City and St.
Louis) and, essentially, Alabama
in the middle. (My Birmingham-born girlfriend hates that analogy.)

 

Obama’s face was
all over the airwaves in St. Louis,
the result of his record cash haul. Or at least McCain’s hang-dog cue-ball head
was, squawking about voting with Bush every minute of every hour. At Kingshighway
pub The Royale pictures of John and Bobby Kennedy decorated the walls, and on a
local hip hop station former Miss America Vanessa Williams called in to implore
the T-Painoscenti to go big O on November fo’. The on-air host, after relating
his school days crush for her, added that the station will sponsor election day
taxis to drive people to the polls
for free.

 

The Big Muddy McCain
supporters weren’t faring quite as well. St. Louis Blues goalie Manny Legace tripped
over the carpet that had been rolled out on the ice for Sarah Palin to drop the
puck at the team’s game on Friday, suffering a strained hip flexor and giving up
two goals in the first period. (Whereupon he left the game.)

 

That same day I
drove some 200 miles southwest to Springfield,
Missouri, a Republican stronghold
in the heart of the Ozarks. One of the whitest cities in the country with a
population over 100,000, it’s also one of the largest red dots on U.S. election
maps, the kind of place where a Bass Pro Shop is the preeminent cultural
institution. In fact, the parking lot of said hunting and fishing supply store
was the site of one of Sarah Palin’s largest rallies yet on Friday, drawing
maybe 15,000 despite chilly temps. (I saw a number of “Sarah” bumper stickers
around town, feeding rumors that she’s writing off this election and gunning
for 2012.)

 

 

Election issues
were on everyone’s lips and folks were ridiculously informed, spouting win
share numbers they read on fivethirtyeight.com and
discussing early voting problems in Florida.
The family I was staying with even had an Al Franken bumper sticker on their
car, despite no ties to Minnesota.
They greeted each other in the morning, I kid you not, with the former Saturday
Night Live comedian’s latest poll numbers. (Personally, I think Franken’s a tool, although Norm
Coleman’s chompers are a bit tough
to take as well.)

 

Even in
Republican country there were signs of the coming Democratic onslaught. Democrat
Attorney General Jay Nixon maintains an enormous lead over Republican
congressman Kenny Hulshof in the Governor’s race; first term guv Republican
Matt Blunt made a lame duck out of himself earlier this year by announcing he
wouldn’t run again. This was a stunning turn of events for the baby-faced son
of Springfield-based house minority whip Roy Blunt. The thirty-eight year old deficit
hawk came to the Governor’s mansion in 2005 with a Republican house and senate
and a very pregnant wife in tow. She gave birth to their son in March that year.
Now he exits amid rumors he’s hiding something in a series of improperly
deleted emails that may yet see the light of day. (The Springfield folks insist it’s common
knowledge around town that he’s gay.)

 

In any case, a Research 2000 poll over
the weekend showed Obama up by a point in Missouri, within the margin of error
but the first time he has led in that poll. Big news in the Show-Me state,
perhaps, but nobody else around the country seemed to care much. Obama doesn’t need Missouri, after all. In fact, if he can
swing Colorado and Virginia, he doesn’t need any of the Bush
states.

 

Regardless it
looks like Missouri
may end up doing what all the cool kids are doing, per usual. During my visit I
certainly saw plenty more Obama signs than Confederate flags.

 

Backtrack:

 

Bridge To Somewhere Week 3: Joe the Gay Porn
Star

 

Bridge
To Somewhere Week 2: Something in the Ayers

 

 Bridge To Somewhere Week
1:Dizzy with spin

 

 

 

 

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