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Candidates rally for support from swing state Missouri

Monday, November 3, 2008 | 1:46 p.m. CST; updated 4:33 p.m. CST, Monday, November 3, 2008

Swing state Missouri got a fresh round of attention on the last day before tomorrow's election.

Polls have shown Barack Obama and John McCain about even in Missouri, a traditional swing state that has 11 electoral votes. Missouri has voted for the winning presidential candidate every time but once in the past century, when it picked Adlai Stevenson instead of President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.

Monday's political schedule underscores how important Missouri is to both parties.

In the state capital, thousands of people gathered on the grounds of the Missouri Capitol for a final-day campaign rally with Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

"If we win in Missouri, then McCain-Palin will win the nation," Republican U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., told the crowd before Palin appeared. "We have never been more important in the vote for president than this year."

Democrats have focused much of their firepower on big-city suburbs, areas that analysts see as key to overcoming McCain's perceived grip on rural Missouri.

Democrat vice presidential candidate Joe Biden made a last-minute pitch in the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit on Monday, vowing that he and Obama would "re-establish the middle class" by focusing on job creation and helping homeowners facing foreclosure.

"For too many families who are working hard, playing by the rules ... people can see it slipping from their grasp," Biden told a crowd of about 1,500 at the Longview Community College Recreation Center. "We are on the cusp of a new brand of leadership."

Monday's Jefferson City stop was Palin's third trip to Missouri in less than two weeks. McCain himself has not come to Missouri since he made a three-city swing on Oct. 20. Instead, he has sent Palin — a favorite of conservatives — to some of Missouri's most traditionally Republican areas. Palin has appeared recently in Cape Girardeau and Springfield, areas where about two-thirds of the vote went for Republican President Bush four years ago.

Just two days after his appearance in Columbia, Obama spoke to a crowd of about 35,000 people in Springfield on Saturday night — his fourth campaign event in Missouri in the past two weeks.

Springfield is one of Missouri's strongest Republican areas and home to the state's Republican governor Matt Blunt.

Later Monday, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was scheduled to rally Democrats in the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles.

The presidential candidates themselves are capping a history-making campaign with a last-day dash from Florida through a half-dozen other crucial states.

With little sleep, McCain was darting through seven swing states Monday, arguing that victory was virtually at hand despite national polls showing otherwise.

"My friends, it's official: There's just one day left until we take America in a new direction," the Republican Party's choice to succeed President Bush told a raucous, heavily Hispanic rally in Miami just after midnight on Monday.

Obama, comfortably ahead in national polls, was getting a later start with a rally in Jacksonville at midday and a swing through longtime G.O.P. bastions that might go to his Democratic Party this time.

"I feel pretty peaceful," Obama said on the "Russ Parr Morning Show."

"The question is going to be who wants it more," he added. "And I hope that our supporters want it bad, because I think the country needs it."


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