Bellwether state may miss the mark; Nixon wins Mo. gov. race

The streak may be over.

After correctly predicting the winning candidate in the last 13 presidential elections, Missourians on Tuesday appeared headed toward choosing the wrong guy — picking Sen. John McCain over Sen. Barack Obama. Obama became the 44th president Tuesday. McCain led narrowly with less than 10% of returns still out.

It would be first time a Democratic candidate had the presidency without Missouri and could signal the end of the Show Me State's status as a bellwether.

A possible factor: the dwindling number of ethnic minorities even as the nation becomes more diversified, said Jeff Smith, a Democratic state senator from St. Louis.

"When you think of middle America, you think of Missouri," Smith said. "But the country is getting increasingly diverse. And Missouri is lagging behind."

Located smack in the center of the country, Missouri has long represented the demographics and culture of the USA, said Dave Robertson, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

But that's quickly changing. Missouri has a higher-than-average number of evangelical Christian residents and fewer Latinos (3%) than the national average (15%), Robertson said.

"The strength of evangelicals remains a very formidable part of the Republican coalition that has to be reckoned with well into the future," Robertson said.

Democrats did vote in Jeremiah "Jay" Nixon as governor. He beat out Republican Kenny Hulshof to replace Matt Blunt, also a Republican.

African-American and student voters mobilized across the state early for Obama, often lining up at polls before dawn. Eddie Caumiant, an Obama volunteer, arrived at Yeatman-Liddell Preparatory Junior High, in a predominantly black neighborhood of St. Louis, at 5 a.m., expecting thin crowds, he said. Instead, several hundred voters were already lined up, he said.

At St. Louis University, student voters began lining up about 5 a.m. More than 2,200 students registered for the presidential election, a school record, university officials said. Many of them were for Obama.

"He really connects with the American people and students," said Samantha Minor, 20, a junior communications major. "He had to pay back his student loans, too."

Both camps courted Missourians — and the 11 electoral votes they represented — in the days leading up to the election. Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Democratic running mate Joe Biden and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton all held rallies the weekend before Tuesday.

The battle for Missouri played out in the suburbs and rural neighborhoods. The Obama campaign worked hard in the rural areas. Of the 44 Obama campaign offices across the state, 29 were in rural areas, said Justin Hamilton, an Obama spokesman in Missouri.

By comparison, the McCain campaign had 15 offices across the state, spokeswoman Wendy Riemann said. Volunteers spread out through rural areas, spreading the Republican message of lower taxes and less government, said Gentry Collins, who directed McCain's Midwest efforts from Iowa. "Missouri is still slightly right of center and still values the Second Amendment," Collins said. "They're not looking for a liberal candidate."

State office

• Democrat Jay Nixon, Missouri's longest-serving attorney general, won election as governor Tuesday by turning back Republican Congressman Kenny Hulshof.

Nixon fared well among all ages and races of voters and in both urban and rural parts of Missouri.

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