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One week from today, voters in Missouri will go to the polls to choose who will represent them in the U.S. Senate...There's the incumbent, Republican Senator Jim Talent and his Democratic opponent, State Auditor Claire McCaskill. KSMU's Missy Shelton recently spoke about the election with George Connor, associate professor of political science at Missouri State University.
Shelton: Let's talk about the television ad featuring actor Michael J. Fox. He's speaking in favor of the stem cell ballot initiative here in Missouri. The ad is approved by Claire McCaskill who is the democrat challenging the incumbent Republican Senator Jim Talent. I'm wondering how the ad has impacted the senate race.
Connor: I think it cuts both ways. The ad is quite moving. But based on the response we've seen in the media and the blogosphere, it may not work as well as McCaskill's campaign envisioned initially. Certainly, it will galvanize her support that's tied to the stem cell initiative. There are people who support Claire McCaskill that don't support the stem cell initiative. But certainly this will light a fire under those people who support the initiative and get them on McCaskill's side. But by the same token, there's a backlash here in that we don't need left-wing Hollywood types telling us how to vote. So I think this is also galvanizing the anti-stem cell supporters and to the degree they're on Senator Talent's side, it's going to help Senator Talent.
Shelton: You said there are those who don't like the Hollywood types telling them how to vote or how to think. But the opponents of the stem cell ballot initiative do have their own celebrity ad that aired during the World Series. So, what was the impact of that?
Connor: I think the ad that ran during the World Series in that two things happened. One, it gives some celebrity to the anti-stem cell group but it also gave specific St Louis celebrity. When you have Jeff Suppan or Kurt Warner, there are people who for good or for bad may not know a lot about politics but they're names that are familiar in St Louis. The other thing about it, it was specifically tied to the stem cell initiative and it wasn't tied to Senator Talent. The Michael J Fox ad is being discussed as a stem cell but it really was a McCaskill and I think she's putting her eggs in a basket in that regard. She's tying her support, her victory in the senate election to the vote on stem cell. And that may be overreaching. There are some democrats out there who would ordinarily vote for democratic senatorial candidates who don't support the stem cell issue. The anti-ad with Patricia Heaton and Jeff Suppan wasn't tied to the Senator Talent campaign. It was specifically geared toward the opponents of stem cell and Senator Talent doesn't tie his name to that so that could help.
Shelton: With all the ads we're seeing in Springfield and elsewhere in the state. What does the senate race come down to?
Connor: I think the senate race is still going to come down to that traditional balance in Missouri: the urban areas of Kansas City and St Louis versus out state Missouri. Democrats have to carry Kansas City and St Louis, the urban areas and Republicans have to carry the suburban areas and most of out state Missouri. Certainly, both Senator Talent and Claire McCaskill have been fighting for those out state rural voters. Mainly, that's Claire McCaskill's campaign, trying to demonstrate she is one of us, meaning one of us out state Missourians. Senator Talent largely ignored out state Missouri. He assumed out state Missouri was going to vote for him so he didn't spend much time campaigning when he won this seat and so he has been here. We've been inundated with commercials in this area because they're both fighting for the rural vote. I think it's going to come down to can the Democrats get out the vote in Kansas City and St Louis. And if they can, and Claire McCaskill can shave a few points off of Senator Talent's support in out state Missouri, she doesn't have to win but she has to win enough percentages to make that difference...but the bottom line comes back to she has to carry Kansas City and St Louis first.
Shelton: Senator Talent has an ad in St Louis about his sickle cell legislation. It's aimed at African-American voters. Will it be enough to erode McCaskill's support in urban areas?
Connor: There's been some discussion that some of the black activists that are democrats in St Louis are unhappy with the McCaskill campaign, somewhat disgruntled that she hasn't paid enough attention to them, that her campaign hasn't spent enough time in St Louis. She's been so busy in out state, rural Missouri here in Springfield by comparison that she's left an opening for Senator Talent to exploit. I think the sickle cell ad that he's been running...it is as moving and as personal as the Michael J Fox ad is but it is specifically geared toward an urban audience. I think it's very unlikely that black democrats from St Louis are going to vote for Senator Talent because they feel neglected. If there's a likely scenario, it's simply not voting at all.