COLUMBIA — Boone County residents who voted in the presidential primary on Tuesday differed overall with those statewide, picking Barack Obama as their overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination and Mitt Romney as the most popular Republican in the race.
Statewide, Obama barely edged fellow Democratic contender Hillary Clinton and seemed headed toward a near even split of Missouri’s 72 available delegates. Obama had about a 1 percentage point lead.
Among Republicans, John McCain claimed a rich delegate reward by winning a close Republican primary over Mike Huckabee. McCain will take all of Missouri’s 58 Republican delegates.
In Boone County, 41,903 people cast ballots on Super Tuesday, according to the Boone County Clerk’s Office. That’s nearly 48 percent of the county’s 87,460 registered voters and up 36,230 from the 2004 primary.
Many at Boone County polling stations said they felt it was such a hotly contested primary that exercising their right to vote was more important than ever.
Though local voter Richard Centon was quite a bit off in recalling the projected turnout he heard, his sentiment was clear.
“I’ve heard only 20 percent of voters are going to come out and vote,” Centon, a 43-year-old contractor, said. “And I’m glad to count myself in that 20 percent.”
Fellow Boone County resident Gar Vaught agreed. “I didn’t want to waste my vote by not casting it,” Vaught said.
Local Democrats far outvoted their Republican counterparts, casting a total of 25,975 ballots to the GOP’s 15,817. Libertarian voters, meanwhile, cast only 85 votes.
MU political science professor Marvin Overby said early Wednesday morning that he wasn’t surprised by the disparity between the Boone County numbers for Obama and Clinton and the close nature of the statewide race. He credited the gap to university students voting for Obama, as well as the large medical and faculty populations in Columbia.
“Boone County is a very well-educated county,” Overby said. “College graduates and post-college graduates tend to support Obama.”
The Associated Press called the Missouri primary early, projecting Clinton as the winner after just more than 60 percent of precincts had reported. It said the rural population of Missouri would propel Clinton to the victory. The AP later reversed itself as results from late-reporting precincts, including some in Boone County, closed the gap between the two Democratic contestants.
The issues on the mind of Boone County voters who spoke at the polling places appeared to reflect those of national voters. Local residents cited health care, the war in Iraq, the economy, education and immigration as the big-ticket issues that led them to pick their candidates.
Missouri is famous for its “bellwether” reputation, making many presidential candidates feel it’s a must win. Missouri voters have successfully picked the president in the general election every time since 1904 — with the exception of the 1956 race between Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower.