Boone County gave Sen. Barack Obama a clear win in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary, but the state result was so close it ensures an almost even split of the delegates for Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. Obama had about a one percentage point lead.
It wasn’t even close in Boone County, where Obama won 15,725 votes, or 60.54 percent, compared to Clinton’s 9,598 ballots, or 36.95 percent.
Statewide, Obama grabbed a narrow lead over Clinton in the last stages of the race. With all precincts reporting, Obama had 49 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 48 percent.
There was a strong turnout at the Barack Obama watch party at The Blue Note in Columbia. The crowd was a mix of university students, community bloggers, divided households and jovial drinkers. The moods were even more elevated at about 10 p.m. when it was announced that Obama had 594 delegates while Clinton had 546 delegates.
Many of the Obama supporters at the watch party said they were there because of an idea, not particular issues.
“He’s fresh,” said Craig Smith, an engineering consultant. “He’s an idea, not just a candidate. He represents greater change. He’s more of an outsider than Clinton.”
Obama inspired many young voters to turn out as a large portion of the MU College Democrats were present.
“The best thing that I’ve seen in this campaign is the enthusiasm and hard work of young people,” said Ted Farnen, chief of staff to state Sen. Chuck Graham.
Glenn Rehn, director of Mizzou for Obama, felt that young volunteers helped shape the voter turn out in Boone County.
“We are very proud of the fact that he is winning so big in Boone County,” Rehn said.
Although many voters came out for a candidate that represents an idea, some voted for a candidate they believe can win in all four corners of the country.
“He won in different parts of the country — Utah, Kansas, Connecticut, Illinois,” said Farnen. “It shows he will have national appeal. I think that’s one of the best things going for him. More appeal to a stronger number of people.”
As the crowd watched Obama gain on Clinton’s lead in Missouri, a Hillary supporter snuck in with her pro-Obama husband.
Carol Stevens voted for Clinton and her husband Mark Stevens voted for Obama. She made a quip about Obama and he replied, “Hillary is another four years of Billary.”
The scene at Boone Tavern, where two tables of Clinton supporters gathered, was calm and attentive to the results as national news coverage continued throughout the night. The watch party was organized by Betty Wilson, an attorney and chairwoman of the Boone County for Hillary Clinton Committee.
When Clinton spoke at about 10 p.m., those at Boone Tavern quieted and turned their attention to the large flat-screen television. Even some of the wait staff stopped to hear what Clinton had to say. Sporadic cheers erupted throughout the restaurant as Clinton spoke to a room full of supporters waving “Hillary for President” signs at her campaign headquarters.
Wilson said there was still a long haul in the months ahead for the Democratic race.
“I think it’s going to be a long spring and summer,” Wilson said about the incoming results, which showed Clinton and Obama still in a head-to-head race across the nation.
For Boone County voters several issues were key: health care, the war in Iraq and the economy. Many voters heading to the polls Tuesday morning said the candidates’ stances on these issues caused them to swing toward one or the other.
Tim Biello brought his dog, Hank, along to vote at the Old Armory Sports Complex. Biello said originally he was going to vote for former Sen. John Edwards, who dropped out of the race last Wednesday. Left without a favorite candidate, Biello came down on the side of Obama.
“I appreciate his consistency on his anti-war stance,” Biello said.
For Janice Selby, a voter at Parkade Baptist Church, the issues led her to a different choice. Although retired, Selby runs the switchboard at MU three days a week because, she said, she needs more money. Selby cast her vote for Clinton after hearing her husband, former President Bill Clinton, speak on the economy and energy conservation on Saturday at the MU Rec Center.
Some were unable to decide whom to vote for until they had their ballots in hand. Lindsay Rowe, 28, showed up at her polling place, Forum Boulevard Christian Church, not knowing if she would darken the oval next to Clinton or Obama.
“I’m kind of debating right now,” Rowe said. “I’ll go with my gut.”
Gender was an important factor for some, but not all, women who voted for Clinton.
Centralia resident Sallie Blakemore said she voted for Clinton because she is a woman.
“She may not be the best one, but at least we get over the (gender) hurdle,” Blakemore said.
Doireann O’Brien, a massage therapist who cast her ballot at Rock Bridge Christian Church, said having a woman in the Oval Office would mean a change in focus.
“I think women often show a greater concern for human needs,” O’Brien said, referring to the issues of health care, education, the environment and the prevention of war.
Another important factor was Bill Clinton. Some, such as Jason Garrett, a University Health Care worker, considered the former president an asset.
“I believe her previous stint in the White House with her husband makes her the most qualified for this particular election,” Garrett said. Gary Brotherton, a voter at Forum Boulevard Christian Church, felt Bill Clinton was not always a positive part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“What pulls me away from her is Bill (Clinton), but I’m going to vote for her instead of against Bill,” Brotherton said.
For Wilson, Clinton’s strongest point is her experience.
“I’m impressed with her competence and experience and her program for change,” Wilson said. “She’s a healer; she’s a survivor.”
Obama supporters said he possessed an ability to unite the country.
“I am looking for a candidate that can rise above the fray, venom and hatred, and work together,” Esther Stroh, 48, said of why she voted for Obama.
Greg Shuck, a loss-control consultant who voted at Columbia Public Library, was an example of Obama’s appeal across party lines. Shuck said he usually votes Republican.
“I liked what Obama had to say, and that’s why I voted — for the first time — for a Democratic candidate,” Shuck said.
About 15 students gathered at Brady Commons to watch the results roll in. Most said they voted Democrat, and they chatted about the reasons behind their vote, including Obama’s record, as the news played in the background.
MU student John Connor said he supported Obama because he believes the senator has yet to make any mistakes. Casey Hanford, another student, also voted for Obama.
“I appreciate the whole package,” Hanford said.
Missourian reporters Paul David Lampe and Julie Karceski contributed to this story.