50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 24. Missouri

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

24. Missouri

Capital: Jefferson City

Nickname: The Show Me State

Motto: Salus Populi Surpema Lex Esto

(The Welfare of the People Shall be the Supreme Law)

About the State

Prior to the arrival of French settlers, Missouri was inhabited by Native Americans from the Osage and Missouri tribes, the latter of which suffered great losses in number, due to the introduction of diseases such as smallpox, from the Old World.  During the 18th century, the region was claimed by the French as part of the colony of Louisiana.  It became an important agricultural hub for the French, as corn, grain and tobacco were grown in Missouri, then sailed down the Mississippi River for trade in New Orleans and other cities in the lower part of the territory.    In 1762, France gave control of the entire Louisiana colony to Spain under the terms of the Treaty of Fontainebleau, which guaranteed in return Spanish support during the Seven Years’ War they were fighting against England.  By 1800, Napoleon had negotiated the return of the territory to France and, three years later, sold the entire colony to the USA in the Louisiana purchase.

When Louisiana became a state in 1812, the north of the region was organised into the Missouri Territory and it became the western front in the War of 1812 against the British.  As the system of waterways grew – connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and, later, via the Erie Canal, the Hudson River and New York Bay – so did the prospects of trading for St. Louis and other parts of Missouri.  As the population increased, so did the desire to achieve statehood for Missouri, but there was an issue with the balance of power in the Union between free and slave states.  Alabama’s admission in 1819 had made the number of each equal, but a compromise was reached in Congress to admit Missouri – where slavery was accepted – in 1821, after Maine had also become a state the year before, maintaining the equilibrium.

In Missouri, slaves were used in the process of rope-making and tobacco production, but they were more expensive there than in states that were further south, making the number of people held in bondage smaller.  There had been great concern as to whether neighbouring Kansas was to join the Union as a slave state or a free one, as a Federal Law ruled that any slave who entered a state where it was not accepted was to be considered free.  Fear of the western border between the two states becoming an easy route for the Underground Railroad to free people, resulted in it becoming the front-line for the fight on whether or not Kansas should accept slavery, with people on both sides carrying out attacks and murders against individuals who held the opposite view.

By 1860, less than 10% of the population of Missouri were enslaved and ultimately it stayed in the Union for the duration of the Civil War – although around 40,000 men from the state served in the Confederate army, with approximately 110,000 fighting for the North.  As a border state, Missouri had high strategic value for both sides and more skirmishes were fought there than anywhere else other than Virginia and Tennessee.  The number of people who believed in secession grew after the St. Louis Massacre in May 1861, when Union troops had forced the surrender of state militia who had planned to raid the artillery in the city, but then opened fire on the unarmed prisoners and civilians in the streets, killing 28 people, including women and children.  Missouri abolished slavery in 1865, becoming the first slave state to do so prior to the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Agriculture remains one of the biggest parts of Missouri’s economy and the state ranks in the top five in the US for production of soybeans and rice, as well as being in the top ten for hogs and cattle.  Other major sectors include food processing, aerospace, beer (St. Louis is the home of the Anheuser Busch brewery, who make Budweiser) and transportation equipment.  One US President was born in Missouri – Harry S Truman – and the state is home to five “Big Four” sports teams: Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams (NFL); Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals (MLB); and the St. Louis Blues (NHL).  Missouri is the 21st largest state and ranks 18th in population, with just over 6 million residents.  The nickname refers to skepticism of political rhetoric – I’m from Missouri, you have to Show Me – and is believed to have been originated from a speech given by Congressman Willard Vandiver in the 1890s.  In 1904, the ice-cream cone was invented at the St. Louis World’s Fair, when a vendor ran out of cups and asked a waffle salesman to roll up his product so that he could serve his ice-cream in them.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 10

2008 Result: McCain 49.4% Obama 49.3%

Latest Poll: Romney +3%

Since the election of Teddy Roosevelt in 1904, on only two occasions has a candidate won the Presidency without winning Missouri – Eisenhower in 1956 and Barack Obama in 2008.  The seat has been considered safe for Romney this November, but current polls show that it is still in play for the President, after he lost it by 3,632 votes last time around.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election in Missouri this November, with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) fighting to win a second term in office, against Republican challenger, Todd Akin, in a race that is considered a toss-up.  Akin caused controversy in August when he stated his belief that a woman’s body could shut down a pregnancy itself if she was being “legitimately” raped, comments for which he later apologized for in a statewide advert.

After redistricting as a result of the 2010 census, the number of Representatives serving Missouri in the House will decrease by 1 to 8.  Currently the delegation is made up of 3 Democrats and 6 Republicans, with the GOP expected to be the party to lose a seat in 2012.

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