ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Sarah Palin are all scheduled to make campaign stops in Missouri this week. Those visits show that the Show Me State is coveted territory this year. Missouri voted for George W. Bush twice. It also voted for Bill Clinton twice. And according to the polls, Barack Obama and John McCain are in a dead heat there. Well, this week on the program, we're hearing from voters in Missouri. Our colleague Melissa Block is there. She's traveling along the Mississippi River.
MELISSA BLOCK: And today, we're on the river. We're riding across the Mississippi on a small passenger ferry. It goes between Saint Genevieve, Missouri, and Modoc, Illinois. It takes just about four or four and a half minutes to cross the Mississippi.
(Soundbite of ferry cruising the Mississippi River)
BLOCK: Dallen Rhymer is the deckhand, and he knows this river. He's been on it, in it, and around it since he was a boy growing up here in Saint Genevieve.
Mr. DALLEN RHYMER (Deckhand, Mississippi River Ferry): Yeah. It's something not to be messed with, something definitely to respect. There's a lot of power there. It deserves enough respect and know how to get around it. It's a lot of power.
BLOCK: As the ferry boat skims across the fast, muddy Mississippi, I asked Rhymer if he pays much attention to politics.
Mr. RHYMER: You know, I try to, you know, as much as the next guy. I wouldn't say I'm a Democrat. I wouldn't say I'm a Republican. I want the guy in there that I think is going to do the best, whether he'd be Chinese, black, white, purple. It don't matter.
BLOCK: And this year, that leads him to Barack Obama.
Mr. RHYMER: I like the way Obama talks. He's a good talker. I mean, I'd like to go see him some time, but I'm just always too busy.
BLOCK: Does John McCain appeal to you?
Mr. RHYMER: No, it's just - when I hear him talk about politics, economy, and other stuff, I've done heard that eight years ago, you know, probably four years ago when Bush ran, you know. It seems like you're listening to the same story. It's like Obama says, it's time for a change, and I believe it. Somebody for the working man, that's what I want to see.
BLOCK: And what would you want to see changed?
Mr. RHYMER: Oh boy, it's so much wrong. That's had to be a big list, wouldn't it? Healthcare for one because, I mean, there's tons of people out there with no healthcare at all. Something needs to happen for them. It really does.
BLOCK: John McCain says Barack Obama wants to raise your taxes, wants to redistribute wealth.
Mr. RHYMER: I wouldn't mind him raising my taxes a little bit if he'd give me healthcare. You know, I wouldn't mind it at all. I'm one of the people stuck in the middle, you know. You make too much to get assistance, but then you don't make enough to pay for it.
BLOCK: We pull in across the river in Illinois, and Dallen Rhymer guides a fuel tanker truck on board. Tim Heller is in the cab wearing a NASCAR jacket. He's also from St. Genevieve, and he is voting for John McCain.
Mr. TIM HELLER: I lean more towards his politics. We don't really know too much about Obama. Some of the things he wants to do with the taxes I don't agree with. It makes me nervous. Abortion is a big issue with me. I just think McCain is probably going to be better for the country than Obama. That's who I'm going with.
BLOCK: Have you ever voted for a Democrat for president?
Mr. HELLER: No, I never will.
BLOCK: Never will.
Mr. HELLER: No. I doubt it. So that's just the way I feel. I just, I don't believe in the way they go about it. I don't believe that my money that I make should have to help the guy that has the same ability to go out and get a job. Everybody had the same opportunities in this country, and if you can't make it, then I don't know where to tell you to go.
BLOCK: So, when you hear John McCain say Barack Obama wants to redistribute the wealth, spread the money around, spread the wealth around.
Mr. HELLER: That's one big thing with me. I just don't agree with spreading the wealth. That, to me, is not what this country is based on. I feel Obama is more of a socialist, and I don't agree with that. He scares me so.
BLOCK: What if Obama does win?
Mr. HELLER: Well, if Obama wins, I guess we'll have to see how he does? I don't think he's going to turn around like he says he is. He always speaks of change, but he never exactly tells us what he's going to change. Like I said before, that scares me. I'm just not - I'm not ready for that yet, so I'm voting McCain. So, I better get going.
BLOCK: Yes. Thank you.
Mr. HELLER: Thank you.
BLOCK: The deckhand, Dallen Rhymer, steers the trucks and cars off the ferry, and soon, we're headed back the other way. Yes, he says, the country is divided.
Mr. RHYMER: You have several people out there, you know. They just, they hear nothing. You know, they ain't got their ears open. They're just using their eyes. All they see is black, black. You know, that's all they see. I hear it all day long. You know, certain people talking and.
BLOCK: What do you hear?
Mr. RHYMER: Oh, I hear all kinds of stuff out here. I'd rather not say it on air, but you know. But yeah, I mean, this country needs to get pass it. I mean, it's time.
BLOCK: You think we're there?
Mr. RHYMER: No, I don't. No, I don't.
(Soundbite of moving cars)
(Soundbite of a car horn)
Mr. RHYMER: See you, greasy.
BLOCK: That's Dallen Rhymer, a deckhand on the passenger ferry across the Mississippi between St. Genevieve Missouri and Modoc, Illinois. I'm Melissa Block on the Mississippi River.
SIEGEL: And you can see photos from that ferry boat ride across the Mississippi at npr.org. Tomorrow at the program, Melissa head south to visit a small family-run farm in Frohna, Missouri.