Missouri officially loses its bellwether status

Tuesday, December 2, 2008 | 8:43 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri has officially lost its status as the prognosticator of presidential winners.

Election returns certified Tuesday by the secretary of state's office show that Republican John McCain won the state Nov. 4 in Missouri's closest presidential election in a century.

Of more than 2.9 million votes cast, McCain edged Democratic President-elect Barack Obama by 3,903 — or 0.13 percentage point. McCain's total was one vote more than local election authorities had reported to the secretary of state two weeks ago.

Obama thus joins Dwight Eisenhower as the only president since 1900 to take office without winning Missouri. In 1956, Democrat Adlai Stevenson outpolled Eisenhower in Missouri by 3,984 votes out of more than 1.8 million cast.

In 1908, Republican William Howard Taft edged out Democrat William Jennings Bryan in Missouri by 449 votes or 0.06 percent.

Polls had shown McCain and Obama in a tight race in Missouri throughout the campaign, and both spent considerable resources campaigning in the state.

Missouri's members of the Electoral College are to cast their ballots on Dec. 15 at the state Capitol. Congress then meets in early January to count the Electoral College ballots from Washington, D.C., and the 50 states.

The newly certified results showed that nearly 70 percent of Missouri's registered voters cast ballots last month.

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said she was pleased by how the election was conducted, but she renewed her call for legislators to let voters cast ballots at the polls before Election Day.

Missouri is among the few states that don't permit early voting and require voters requesting absentee ballots to explain why they cannot vote in person on Election Day.

Tuesday's certification triggers a state law allowing second-place finishers who lost their elections by less than 1 percentage point to request automatic re-counts. They have seven days to do so.

Five contests are eligible: the presidential race; a state Senate race in St. Louis; two Missouri House elections; and a judgeship in the 17th Judicial Circuit.

The Senate seat was won by Republican Jim Lembke by 76 votes. In the House, Rep. Vicki Schneider, R-O'Fallon, lost re-election by 74 votes, and Republican Denny Hoskins took an open Warrensburg seat by 129 votes. For the judgeship in Johnson County in the western part of the state, Democrat Mike Wagner won by 582 votes.

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