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Purple is this season's red or blue state

Friday, October 3, 2008 | 5:00 p.m. CDT

The country isn't red and blue.

That's why my plea to the Missourian staff this Election Day will be to avoid graphics that depict presidential results by "blue states" and "red states."

The colors have become a national obsession. The bipolar depiction oversimplifies and distorts.

Consider the 2004 election. In Missouri, Republican George W. Bush carried the election with 53 percent of the vote. So, Missouri is a red state, right?

The description ignores the 46 percent of the people who voted for Democrat John Kerry.

Same for 2000, when 50 percent of Missourians voted for Bush. Or 1996, when 47 percent chose Bill Clinton and 41 percent voted for Bob Dole.

In 2004, The New York Times ran a map — several days after the election — depicting the country in various shades of purple. States in which more voters chose the Democrat were depicted in a deeper violet; those that went big time for the Republican were shown in a more fuschia shade.

There is one place for reds and blues. All 11 of Missouri's electoral votes in 2004 went to Bush. In the Electoral College, to the victor goes the color.

The newspaper's more important mission is before a single ballot is cast on Election Day.

From Oct. 13 to Oct. 25, political editor Scott Swafford has scheduled some 30 pages of print for election coverage. That's just a baseline. The schedule doesn't include live election events, articles about specific political issues in specific races, coverage from the Associated Press on the presidential race or other stories just before Nov. 4. It also doesn't include the election news you'll find on two of our blogs: The Watchword and Picking a President.

It's Scott's campaign, if you will. Winning, in this case, depends on whether you have the information you need to make an informed choice.

Here's an example. On Oct. 17, information on the 24th District state House race will run. There will be profiles of Democrat Chris Kelly and Republican incumbent Ed Robb, a description of the job, a graphic of the district and a biographical sketch of each candidate. There will be audio Q&A's and videos on ColumbiaMissourian.com, as well as links to each candidate's Web site.  

All of the coverage will also be available at Smartdecision08.com, where you can find other articles from KBIA radio and KOMU television. The intent is to provide a one-stop shop for campaign coverage among all three news sources.

If surveys are correct, most people who cast ballots won't vote a straight ticket, red or blue. A little Missourian reading might help you determine your particular shade of purple.

Tom


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