The most famous native son of Cape Girardeau, Mo., a solidly Republican city home to about 35,000 people, is Rush Limbaugh, who speaks loudly for many in this conservative part of the battleground state. This week, Limbaugh beat the drum that Barack Obama is a dangerous socialist.
Cape Girardeau was also a campaign stop for Sarah Palin, who came for a "Road to Victory" rally at the Show Me Center. People were lined up outside well before dawn. Vendors sold light-pink McCain-Palin T-shirts and buttons galore. But John McCain seemed to have only a bit part: as most of the buttons said, "Go, Sarah, Go!," "Sarah-licious" and "Palin power."
In the week before the election, NPR traveled through Missouri as part of a series of stops along the Mississippi River to take the temperature of voters. The last stop was Cape Girardeau, about 100 miles downriver from the more urban St. Louis. The city is protected from the Mississippi River by more than a mile of concrete floodwall.
The Palin Support
In the crowd at the McCain-Palin rally, Sharon Lehner is a convincing Sarah Palin look-alike, wearing a trim black suit and glasses, her hair up in a Palin-esque twist.
"I've had so many people, even my own children when they knew that she was the running mate, they said, 'You look like her!'" Lehner says.
Lehner brought her fourth-grade class to the rally from Unity Christian School, across the river in Illinois.
"We are so grateful that she is running. She stands for good morals, and she is a good Christian lady, and we are so thrilled we could be here to see her today."
Inside the arena, the Republican candidate for governor of Missouri, Kenny Hulshof, takes the stage, saying how "awesome" it is to "be at a venue where we can actually cheer the flag and the pledge."
"We don't have to worry about the words 'Under God' taken out of the pledge with this group, do we?" says Hulshof.
With Shania Twain blaring from the speakers, Palin emerges to a hero's welcome. Her supporters wave red and white pompoms, and stomp their feet on the bleachers as she says she's glad to be in Missouri, where there is "so much patriotism."
Palin gets one of her biggest cheers when she says: "John and I have a vision of America where every innocent life counts!"
A Concerned Mother
Jocey Bennett, a 28-year-old former teacher and new mom, was at the rally with her 5-month-old daughter Caroline, who was sleeping in a backpack carrier with a "Women for Palin" button pinned to it.
Bennett says she's concerned about her daughter's future — about the quality of her education, her safety and her opportunities to be whatever she wants to be, whether it's a banker or a teacher.
She says she's concerned about her "growing up in a world where we do have the big debt, and we do have an energy crisis, and just kind of wanting to know that she will be provided for and protected."
Bennett also says she likes really like Palin because she can relate to her as a woman and a mother.
"There's a lot of girly things I like about her," Bennett says. "But I also like that she seems just like a solid person — she seems to know what she wants to say and how she needs to say it to get her point across to a whole realm of people. I feel like I could sit down and have conversation with her and not feel intimidated.
"I like that she really embraces her womanly role. She's a mother of five. I'm a mother of one, and it's hard for me to get up every morning and make myself presentable. And I love that she's able to do that, she's able to get up and present herself well to moms and to business men and our country."
Bennett adds that she feels blessed to live in a part of the country that upholds conservative values, such as the right to life.
The 'New Voice' Of The Conservative Party
Jessy Stubblefield, who turns 27 on Election Day, shares those same values. The Cuba, Mo., resident came to the rally with her mother and grandmother. She's a big Palin fan. She got to the rally at 5:30 a.m., so she could get really close. And she wears a button that says, "It's awesome being a conservative Republican."
Stubblefield says that the conservative issues are getting addressed more since Palin was added to the ticket, because she's "the new voice of the conservative party."
"She's really excited the conservative base in the Republican Party, and she's a breath of fresh air," Stubblefield says.
She says she was always going to vote for McCain, but she's more excited about the ticket with Palin on it.
As for Obama, Stubblefield is "not a big fan" and says she would not be happy if he is elected.
"I think it'd be one of my least favorite birthdays so far," she says. "I mean, I think we could overcome it eventually. I think in 2012 when Sarah Palin would get elected, I think everything would turn around."