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Attack Ads Fly in Tight Missouri Senate Race

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Attack Ads Fly in Tight Missouri Senate Race

Attack Ads Fly in Tight Missouri Senate Race

Attack Ads Fly in Tight Missouri Senate Race

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6276391/6277299" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Incumbent Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) and his challenger, Claire McCaskill, participate in an Oct. 8 debate on Meet the Press. Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press hide caption

toggle caption Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press

Incumbent Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) and his challenger, Claire McCaskill, participate in an Oct. 8 debate on Meet the Press.

Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press

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Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) speaks with David Welna about Iraq, stem-cell research and the role of President Bush in the election during an annual GOP dinner in West Plains, Missouri.

Jim Talent Interview

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Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill speaks with David Welna about Iraq, the Mark Foley scandal and the independence of Missouri voters during a campaign appearance at The University of Missouri in Columbia.

Claire McCaskill Interview

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Missouri is one of three states where the Republican National Committee has decided to focus spending and build what GOP officials hope will be a firewall against a Democratic takeover in the Senate.

Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) and his Democratic challenger, State Auditor Claire McCaskill, face off Monday night for the fourth of five debates in Springfield, Mo. The fiercely contested race is one of the tightest in the country and could determine which party controls the Senate next year.

"The race is practically dead-even right now," said University of Missouri political scientist David Robertson. "McCaskill has the wind at her back. And Talent has the wind in his face because of the currents in American politics at the moment. But that can change; a lot of money will go into this race in the last couple of weeks."

McCaskill, meanwhile, is targeting areas won by Republicans in recent years. On Saturday, in the central Missouri city of Columbia, she ridiculed Talent's barrage of attack ads. Then she raised an issue that Democrats feel is a winner for them: a widely supported ballot initiative funding stem-cell research.

"We're gonna talk about his wanting to criminalize the people that are doing stem cell research," McCaskill told the Columbia crowd. "He co-sponsored a bill to put people in prison for doing medical research.

On Saturday, at a Republican dinner in the Ozarks town of West Plains, Talent took a moment from working the crowd to sum up the case he's making for a return ticket to the Senate.

"I've talked about what I've done on ethanol, biodiesel, and methamphetamine [control] and transportation infrastructure," Talent said. "And a strong defense, and completing the mission in Iraq, and strengthening all the fronts in the war on terror."

But like several others at the dinner, local Republican Lois DeBolt gave the Iraq war a thumbs down.

"I think it's just causing more problems now. You have North Korea now against us, and you have Iran," DeBolt said. "I think it's just putting us deeper and deeper in the hole."

Such disillusionment could spell trouble for the incumbent. Asked whether they'll actually vote for Talent, some at the GOP dinner said they're still thinking about it.

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