COLUMBIA — Wine glasses and silverware clinked as waiters in black-and-white uniforms rushed among tables holding plates tastefully laid with pasta and chicken.
Men in pressed suits and women in dresses or slacks chatted as they began their meal.
Then suddenly, as one man entered the room and walked toward a podium emblazoned with the face of Abraham Lincoln, the crowd rose from its chairs, applauding.
Gov. Matt Blunt spoke to more than 100 Republicans who attended the annual Lincoln Day dinner on Friday night at the Holiday Inn Select hotel.
Blunt addressed the room, talking up the changes made during his term and calling on Republicans to back the party’s candidates in upcoming elections.
“It is critical that we ... maintain control of the governor’s office, the House, the Senate,” Blunt said.
Following the governor’s speech, the audience listened as several Republican candidates rallied the crowd in laid-back, humorous campaign speeches.
Among the speakers was 9th District Congressman Kenny Hulshof, who is competing with state Treasurer Sarah Steelman for the Republican bid for governor. Hulshof said he thinks the outlook is good for Republicans.
“Going ... to so many of these Republican Lincoln Days, I’m very encouraged by the enthusiasm and by the turnout because we’ve got a challenge,” he said.
Despite his overall optimism, Hulshof expressed mixed feelings about Sen. John McCain’s nomination as the Republican candidate for president.
“I think John McCain is going to be a very strong candidate,” Hulshof said. “There are things that I don’t agree with him on, but he’s the nominee.”
As the evening closed, Rosa Robb, president of the Boone County Republican Women’s Club and the organizer behind this Lincoln Day, smiled as she gave directions and cleaned the emptied room.
She said she felt great about Republicans’ chances in upcoming months.
“It’s going to be historic,” she said.