Show-Me State Seen As a Must-Watch Tuesday

As strategists, pundits and media analysts continue to churn out expert opinion about which Senate races to watch, look no further than Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman's schedule last week to discover a seat Republicans know they must hold--Missouri.

RNC chairman Ken Mehlman barnstormed across Missouri attending 12 events billed as "rallies with grassroots volunteers," a sign that GOP strategists realize they desperately need the show me state.

The battle between incumbent Republican Jim Talent, R-MO., and his Democratic challenger, state auditor Claire McCaskill , turned ugly recently with big name national figures warring over stem cell research.

McCaskill, who ran for governor in 2004, was endorsed by actor Michael J.Fox in a campaign commercial that attacked Talent over his stance on stem cell research.

Shaking from the effects of Parkinson's disease, Fox made an impassioned plea for voters to support McCaskill.

If the stem-cell measure, Amendment 2, passes, it would amend the Missouri constitution to allow patients access to any method of stem cell research, therapies and cures permitted under federal law.

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh lashed out at Fox on his radio program, insisting that Fox's tremors were because of he was "either off his medication or acting."

Limbaugh later apologized, but the controversy did not end there. A conservative organization opposed to human cloning struck back with a commercial featuring NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, actor Jim Caviezel, Jeff Suppan of the 2006 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals baseball club and others.

As a gubernatorial candidate in 2004, McCaskill performed well in Kansas City, St. Louis and the urban parts of the state but underperformed among rural voters. To appeal to a greater geographic of voters, particularly those downstate, McCaskill has stormed parts of Missouri in her RV truck.

Democrats nationally need to pick up six seats to take control of the Senate, assuming their incumbents bents hold off GOP challenges.

Talent is serving in his first term after narrowly defeating incumbent Democrat Jean Carnahan, who had been appointed to the Senate following the death of her husband Mel Carnahan.

For more than a century, Missouri has served as a bellwether state correctly picking every U.S. President since 1900 with the exception of the 1952 race between President Harry Truman and Democratic challenger Adlai Stevenson. Talent is serving in his first term after narrowly defeating incumbent Democrat Jean Carnahan, who had been appointed to the Senate following the death of her husband Mel Carnahan.

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