KANSAS CITY — Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill retained her seat in the Senate and Jay Nixon became Missouri's first two-term governor in nearly two decades Tuesday night, while Mitt Romney captured the state's 10 electoral votes in his failed bid for the White House.
Romney's victory marked the second straight election that Obama failed to carry the state, though neither presidential candidate did much campaigning in Missouri. Obama long ago conceded the bellwether state, allowing Romney to focus on other battleground states.
The race between McCaskill and Republican challenger Todd Akin garnered plenty of national attention in part because of its pivotal role in deciding which party controls the chamber and because of Akin's much-publicized remarks about pregnancy and abortion.
Voters ultimately sided with McCaskill, considered among the most vulnerable of the Democratic incumbent senators because of her ties to Obama, in a state increasingly favoring Republicans.
"With a stubborn determination, tenacity and refusal to give up, we showed the country what Missouri is made of," McCaskill said during her victory speech.
Nixon defeated Republican challenger Dave Spence in a gubernatorial contest focused largely on the economy. Nixon had campaigned on his ability to work with Missouri's Republican legislature to become the state's first two-term governor since Mel Carnahan in 1996.
"Missourians said that because we've been able to work together, because we've put the common good first, we're moving in the right direction," Nixon said.
Six of the seven incumbents in Missouri's U.S. House delegation won re-election: Veteran officeholders Emanuel Cleaver, Sam Graves, Billy Long, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Jo Ann Emerson each defeated challengers with less name recognition and far fewer campaign resources, and first-term GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler held off challenger Teresa Hensley in a closely watched contest.
Ann Wagner, a former state Republican leader and U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, will succeed Akin in Congress. Wagner is a former Missouri Republican Party chairwoman.
Missouri was electing just eight members of Congress instead of nine because of redistricting after the 2010 census. For the first time in three decades, the state lost a seat in the U.S. House when its population failed to keep pace with other faster-growing states.
Election officials forecasted 72 percent of the population — more than 3 million of nearly the 4.2 million registered voters — would cast ballots, and long lines were reported at polling places across the state. Only minor glitches had been reported to the Secretary of State's office.
Several contentious policy issues were on the ballot, including a measure that voters struck down that would have increased Missouri's lowest-in-the nation tobacco tax by 73 cents per pack. It was the third time in a decade voters rejected an effort to boost the tax from 17 cents.
Voters passed a measure limiting the governor's ability to implement part of Obama's health care law and a proposition allowing St. Louis to oversee its own police, but voted down a measure that would have changed the makeup of the state's nonpartisan, seven-member Appellate Judicial Commission to give the governor four appointees, instead of the current three.
But it was the U.S. Senate race that drew the most attention. Akin, a staunch opponent of abortion, said during a TV interview in August that pregnancy is rare "if it's legitimate rape" because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Akin apologized for his comments and admitted he was wrong, but top Republicans — Romney among them — called for him to drop out of the race. The six-term congressman refused, and even mounted a comeback late in his campaign, despite McCaskill reminding voters of his inflammatory comments.
They clearly weighed on voters, both Democrat and Republican.
"It was very easy to vote against Akin with the things that he said," said Amanda Blinebry, a 27-year-old research specialist from St. Louis. "It wasn't hard to make that choice."
Akin tried to gloss over his "six-second mistake" and highlight McCaskill's close ties to Obama, including her support for his 2010 health care law and the 2009 stimulus act.
Republican voter Erica White, a 39-year-old nurse from Jefferson City, said she was giving Akin "the benefit of the doubt that perhaps he misspoke, and I believe in his ultimate beliefs — the right to life and the just the general attitude of the Republican Party."
Nixon, seldom emphasizing his Democratic affiliation, became a two-term governor by pointing to his work in keeping the state's unemployment rate below the national average, and highlighting the addition of 17,900 jobs in August, when many undecided voters were weighing their choice.
Nixon also noted his steady leadership in natural disasters, including the deadly Joplin tornado and massive flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
Spence, the former CEO of a St. Louis-based plastics company, was seeking his first elective office by arguing Missouri had fallen behind its neighboring states in business development.
In other statewide races Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster defeated Republican attorney Ed Martin. Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder won a third term, defeating Democrat Susan Montee, a former state auditor. Democratic Treasurer Clint Zweifelwon re-election, beating Republican House member Cole McNary.
Democratic Missouri House member Jason Kander narrowly defeated fellow state lawmaker Shane Schoeller and will succeed Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who opted not to run for a third term.