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Two major presidential candidates have yet to visit MO

February 16, 2000
By: Jennifer Lutz
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - While skipping across the United States on campaign tours, two of the four major Presidential candidates have completely leaped over Missouri.

Vice-President Al Gore and U.S. Sen. John McCain have not made stops in the Show Me State during their presidential campaigning, even though Missouri's primary is less than three weeks away.

Democrat Bill Bradley, a Missouri native, has visited St. Louis and Kansas City, and George W. Bush, a Republican contender, stopped in Missouri four times.

This will be only the second time in history Missouri will hold a presidential primary after the 1988 primary passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature to give a boost the campaign of Missouri's Democratic Congressman Dick Gephardt.

Last year the legislature passed a bill to make presidential primaries permanent in Missouri.

March 7, is the date set. That date, however, is Super Tuesday which means Missouri will be competing with 10 other states -- including mega-states like California, Massachusetts and New York -- for candidate's attention.

But Missouri's secondary role also provides a potential advantage for challengers with limited campaign funds.

"Picking up a state like Missouri is key for Bradley," said Joe Gagnon, a senior political science student at MU, has been working with the Bill Bradley for President campaign. "He could really gain some ground."

Added Gagnon, "The Vice President might overlook Missouri because he already has two wins. He will probably concentrate on other states."

So far, Bradley has 27 national convention delegate votes while Gore has 42. A candidate needs more than 2000 delegates to receive the Democratic nomination.

In Missouri, the Democrat candidates will receive delegate votes based on a percentage of the votes in the primary. In Missouri, 92 convention votes will be decided in the primary -- compared to more than 1,400 delegates that will be selected by the ten other states on Super Tuesday.

Kim Baldwin, communication director for the state Democratic party, said she hopes candidates won't forget about Missouri when the primary rolls around.

"Logistically, it's very hard to be everywhere," Baldwin said.

Although Gore has made 15 stops in Missouri over the last seven years, he has yet to make an appearance as a presidential candidate.

However, Todd Webster, spokesman for the Gore campaign, said the Vice-President will visit Missouri before the March primary. Webster also confirmed that Tipper Gore will stop by before the end of the month.

"Al Gore has tremendous support throughout Missouri," Webster said. "Missouri is a very important state."

On the Republican side, Daryl Duwe, spokesman for the state Republican Party, said he thinks Missouri probably will be overlooked. The voters might also chose not to pay attention, he said.

"So many other delegates are up for grabs," Duwe said.

Christopher Benjamin, a MU student and McCain supporter, said he doesn't think that McCain will overlook Missouri on Super Tuesday.

"Not if I have anything to do with it," Benjamin said.

Benjamin has helped to organize a grassroots campaign throughout the state. He also is working to promote student involvement in politics. Benjamin said he first supported Bush, but changed candidates because he said he feels McCain `is the real deal'.

Clayton Jones, an insurance agent in Nixa, Mo., switched parties altogether when McCain became a presidential candidate.

"I'm a Democrat, but I don't want to see four more years of what we have in the White House now," he said.

Jones, a Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart recipient, decided to support McCain because the candidate's `integrity is not for sale.'

Like South Carolina, Missouri has an open primary that does not impose a restriction on whom can vote in a party's primary.

Unlike the Democrat candidates, the Republican race has become a seesaw between the top two contenders. So far, McCain has racked up 10 delegate votes nationally while Bush has 17. On Wednesday, former GOP Presidential hopeful Gary Bauer endorsed McCain.

In Missouri, State Rep. Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County, is Bush's state campaign executive director. She said she does not think Missouri will be forgotten in the Republican primary when March 7 rolls around.

"Missouri is a bellwether state where the winner takes all," she said. "A close second gets zero."

The Republican winner in Missouri will grab all 35 national convention delegates.

U.S. Sens. Christopher Bond and John Ashcroft also have publicly supported Bush. Bond serves as the chairman for Bush's campaign in Missouri.

"It's not likely Missouri will get overlooked," said Dan Hubbard, spokesman for Bond. "Typically as Missouri goes, so goes the nation."

Missouri has chosen the winner in every general election but one in the last century.