Senate Control May Hinge on Missouri Outcome
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
We're going to Missouri now and aside from that voter I.D. issue Pam mentioned, the state is home to one of the most closely watched Senate races. It's the contest between Democratic State Auditor Claire McCaskill and Republican Senator Jim Talent. It's been neck and neck for some time now and it's a race that could play a large role in deciding which party controls the Senate.
NPR's Frank Langfitt is in St. Louis and joins us now. Frank, you've been out in the field all day. Is there a particular issue that's driving people out to the polls?
FRANK LANGFITT: There is, Michele, but it may not be the one that a lot of people expect. You know, Claire McCaskill, like a lot of Democrats, was trying to nationalize this race, and instead of hearing as much about the Iraq War or corruption on Capitol Hill, the words off many people's lips has been stem cells. You know, there's an amendment on the ballot to protect embryonic stem-cell research, and people on both sides have spent over $30 million on it. Senator Talent is against it, McCaskill's for it, and it seems to be energizing voters on both sides.
Earlier today, I talked to Tony Pavia. He works for a surgical instrument company out in St. Charles. It's a Republican exurb, where Jim Talent needs to do well, and here's what he had to say.
Mr. TONY PAVIA : The most important one for me was the stem cell issue, and the reason that I'm out is because they just didn't educate the public enough. Can you clone a human heart? Where are you going to get these stem cells from?
LANGFITT: But you know, Democrats also seemed equally fired up about this, as well. This is Jonathon Whiting. He's pro-McCaskill. He's a CPA. I talked to him over at Kirkwood City Hall this morning, and that's a swing precinct in suburban St. Louis.
Mr. JONATHON WHITING: For medical reasons, it's so important to use this. I don't - you know, this stuff's just going to be thrown away, and I think there's a misconception that people think cloning is taking place, which I don't believe is happening.
NORRIS: Frank, what have you been hearing about Iraq? Has that been on the mind of people you've talked to also, today?
LANGFITT: It has been, to a lesser extent. You know, you hear Democrats say it's time for a change, we need new leadership. Some say we need to begin pulling out of there, a need to save, particularly, American lives. But I also found instead of despondency among Republicans, I heard a number of Republicans talked about needing to be supportive, to finish the job, and people also citing terrorism, that if the American troops didn't stay there, certainly terrorism, more and more terrorism, was going to come to our borders.
NORRIS: What's the turnout like?
LANGFITT: Well so far, what I've seen, pretty heavy in the places I've been so far. I was in an elementary school up there in St. Charles County that I mentioned, and around 2:00, they had 35 percent, and they were predicting they could get as many as 60 percent of the registered voters by closing, which is 7 p.m. tonight, here in St. Louis.
Then I was over in Kirkwood at a community center, and early in the morning -7:30, 8:00 - the waits were as long as an hour to vote, and when I was there about 9:30, I counted 30 people in line.
NORRIS: Now, we just heard Pam Fessler tell us about that problem with Missouri's chief election officer, Robin Carnahan, being asked for ID at the polling places. Any other problems you're aware of?
LANGFITT: Not yet. I mean, I still have to check the wires and see what we're hearing from other parts of the state. You know, one pundit I was reading in the Washington Post said that because of St. Louis' past problems and because of this photo-ID law that was recently struck down by the courts, that this could be ground zero for voting problems. But so far, we haven't seen anything that serious.
NORRIS: Thank you, Frank.
LANGFITT: Thank you, Michele.
NORRIS: That was NPR's Frank Langfitt speaking to us from St. Louis.
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