JEFFERSON CITY — In their final campaign appeals Monday, Republican state Rep. Todd Akin claimed voter enthusiasm was on his side, while Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill sought to remind voters of what she believes is the stark choice between a moderate and extremist.
McCaskill was flying around Missouri to encourage volunteers as Akin focused his get-out-the-vote efforts Monday on the St. Louis area.
Their Senate race has been among the most closely watched nationally as Republicans and Democrats battle for control of the chamber. It also has been the most high-profile campaign in Missouri, which has been ignored by Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during the home stretch of the campaign. Romney has consistently polled ahead of Obama in Missouri, though the race has been much tighter nationally and in other battleground states.
Besides the Senate race, Missourians will also be voting for a governor, four other statewide executive officials, their state legislators, various judges and local county officials. Because of redistricting after the 2010 census, Missouri will be electing just eight members of Congress instead of nine. The state lost a seat in the House because its population failed to keep pace with other faster-growing states.
Polls open Tuesday at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Election officials have forecast that 72 percent of registered voters will cast ballots, a turnout that would be slightly higher than four years ago.
McCaskill began Monday in Columbia, delivering bagels and coffee to two dozen Democratic volunteers on a gray, wet and dreary morning. She expects them to knock on thousands of doors between Monday and Tuesday.
"This is the exciting part of the campaign. The most gut-wrenching part of the campaign," McCaskill said. "This is it."
McCaskill, who casts herself as a moderate, called the Senate race "a campaign of contrasts." She described Akin as "a candidate that is very extreme, whose views would hurt Missouri families, from doing away with federally backed student loans to abolishing the minimum wage to blowing up Social Security and Medicare as we know them."
On TV, McCaskill also has been running ads highlighting Akin's mid-August remark that women's bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape." Akin apologized repeatedly, but the remark cost him Romney's support and the financial backing of some deep-pocketed Republican groups.
Akin has highlighted McCaskill's support for Obama's 2010 health care law and 2009 stimulus act. On Monday, Akin traveled around the St. Louis area to local Republican offices. In the St. Charles County town of St. Peters, Akin spent about 20 minutes speaking with volunteers, posing for pictures and thanking individuals. Akin said he has been heartened by the support he has received and confident it runs deeper than that for McCaskill and the Democratic ticket.
"They don't have a fire and enthusiasm," Akin said. "They don't see their country at risk the way you do."
Akin added: "We've got great enthusiasm in the St. Charles area, but it's almost matched in a whole lot of other parts of the state, too."
Missouri's gubernatorial candidates also were traveling around the state Monday — oftentimes appearing in the same cities as their parties' Senate nominees, though not campaigning with them.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon was joined by his party's secretary of state candidate, Rep. Jason Kander, for a campaign event at a downtown Columbia diner just a couple of blocks from where McCaskill had been campaigning. Between bites of eggs, hash browns, sausage and gravy, the governor highlighted several programs for military personnel, including the Show-Me Heroes initiative that he said helped find work for 3,700 returning veterans.
Dewey Riehn, a 74-year-old former Marine and Army intelligence officer from Ashland, lauded Nixon's work on behalf of former soldiers.
"We have accomplished great things in enhancing the attractiveness of our state to military retirees, to active duty people and to veterans that need assistance," he said.
Nixon was to stress his support for new businesses later Monday during a tour of a business-development facility at Missouri State University in Springfield.
Republican gubernatorial challenger Dave Spence was campaigning Monday by encouraging Romney supporters to also vote for other Republicans instead of splitting their tickets on Tuesday. During his first campaign event of the day in St. Peters, Spence said he senses momentum going his way.
"I really feel there's a groundswell of conservative voters out there, and they're not going to sit on the sidelines," Spence said. He later added: "If you believe in conservative values, if you believe in pro-life values, don't split a ticket."
Spence planned to conclude his day with a rally in the southwest Missouri town of Cassville, which he said was a GOP tradition.
Nixon was wrapping up Monday with a rally in Kansas City with others on the Democratic slate, including Kander, Treasurer Clint Zweifel and Attorney General Chris Koster.