FIVE IDEAS: What is most important in political campaigns

Saturday, November 1, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT

 President: McCain vs. Obama

Around 40,000 people packed onto MU's Mel Carnahan Quadrangle Thursday night to catch a glimpse of presidential-hopeful Barack Obama. The lines started early and were long, winding through campus hours before the gates opened at 7:30 p.m. The age of the crowd varied, but the emphasis on youth involvement and influence on the election was tangible. In an opening speech, the crowd was asked to take out cell phones and text Obama's campaign to sign up for cell-phone updates. Rock the Vote, a youth voter advocacy group, said the economy is the No. 1 concern of young voters ages 18 to 21. If that is true, Obama's speech hit home with a majority of young people. Obama spoke for 33 minutes, focusing primarily on the economy, specifically tailoring his  comments to young people, especially the cost of higher education and the job market for recent graduates.

Young voter turnout increased greatly in 2004 and 2006, according to Rock the Vote. Its early polls show that the 2008 election will have an even higher turnout. A recent Gallup poll said that among voters 18 to 19 years old, 61 percent support Obama, with McCain roping in 32 percent support. USA Today called this the biggest discrepancy in an age group in modern election history.

Not all young people at the rally were in support of Obama, though. Several people stood beside the long line holding signs in protest of Obama — some of a more serious nature, regarding abortion and the war.  Others took a lighter approach, claiming that Obama loves Kansas.

What is it about this election that has young people so fired up? What impact can young voters have on the outcome?

Governor: Hulshof vs. Nixon

Education is always a big priority in Columbia. With two colleges and MU's flagship university, you couldn't get away from higher education if you tried. It's natural, then, that plans for higher education have taken a starring role in the race for Missouri's next governor

Missouri ranks 47th in the country for commitment to higher education funding, Republican candidate Kenny Hulshof said. He said he wants to "put forward a specific formula to help fund our institutions so they'll have some certainty of funding, and hopefully then not have to raise tuition rates and raise tuition fees."

That formula would increase the funding for higher education to the rate of inflation plus 2 percent, according to Hulshof's Web site.

Democratic candidate Jay Nixon has a different plan, which would offer two years of community college to every Missouri student who meets certain standards. Also, students from households making $80,000 or less would be eligible for four years of free tuition at a state college or university, as long as the student commits to do community service and keeps a B average.

"I think it's the kind of investment in the future that can have hundreds of thousands of folks graduate debt-free and begin once they graduate to get this economy going again," Nixon said.

What are your biggest concerns about higher education?  Whose plan do you like better and why?

9th Congressional District: Baker vs. Luetkemeyer

Advertisements can have as much influence on an election as debates and speeches. This has been especially true in the race for Missouri's 9th Congressional District, where Republican candidate Blaine Luetkemeyer and Democratic candidate Judy Baker have each opted for numerous negative advertisements.

In a recent debate at Truman State University in Kirksville, the two faced off about ads.

Luetkemeyer said he was upset about an attack ad on his health care policies in light of the fact that he and his family are coping with cancer.

Baker said her family was dealing with cancer, too, and that she had only wanted to highlight the facts and inform voters.

"My campaign made a pledge that we would only produce positive ads and that we would stay on those until it was absolutely necessary to change,” Baker said.  “Unfortunately, we were not able to stay there.”

Luetkemeyer said he thought some of her ads were not factual, saying that one of them had even been pulled from the air because of its inaccuracies.

What effect does negative advertising have on your views of the candidates? Do you think it's a necessary part of a campaign, or do you think other tactics would be just as powerful?

Attorney General: Koster vs. Gibbons

Thirty-five states have laws on the books that shield journalists from having to reveal sources and unused information in courts. Bills in Missouri's state legislature have been introduced for several years but have never made it into law

Democratic attorney general candidate Chris Koster has been one of the most outspoken opponents of a Missouri shield law.

"After 220 years of our country, suddenly we have organizations coming forward saying we cannot effectuate the freedom of the press without effectuating immunity from the courts," Koster said. "Why can't we? If any other industry sought immunity from the courts, the media would be the first to cry foul."

A shield law is intended to make sure that sources are willing to come forward with sensitive material, which is an integral part of journalism's watchdog role.

Republican candidate Mike Gibbons supports the idea of a shield law, as long as it has exceptions, for example when there was an extreme public risk.

Do you think that Missouri needs a shield law? Why or why not?

24th House District: Kelly vs. Robb

The two candidates for Missouri's 24th House District have loosened the purse strings for this year's race. The campaign is already the most expensive in the history of Boone County and is expected to be the most expensive in Missouri state representative history.

Former Democratic state representative Chris Kelly raised more that $130,000 by August. He has more individual donations than his opponent, Republican state Rep. Ed Robb. Kelly's more than 900 individual donations range from $10 to $325, most coming from attorneys, teachers, union members, health professionals and retirees living in Boone County. Robb has more than $89,000 in over 107 donations, most coming from business owners and executives who gave at the maximum $325 level.

While they both have spent a lot of money in the campaign, the two candidates differ greatly on how to spend money if elected.

Robb said he thinks that Missouri's taxes need big changes. He said the state needs to get rid of the corporation franchise tax, reduce individual and corporate tax rates and expand the state sales tax base while reducing the sales tax rate.

Kelly said he does not support any increase in taxes. He said his top tax priority will be lowering property taxes for fixed-income seniors.

What changes do you think are needed in Missouri's tax code?

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