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Election Brings Massive Turnout in Missouri and Other Heartland States


Most of the states in the middle section of the United States favor Republicans, but this year some of them are leaning Democratic and a few are toss ups. Voter turnout was massive in states like Missouri, where Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican John McCain are in a very tight race. But, as VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, Texas, even in states where there is no contest, voters have been enthusiastic.

Texas is a state safely in the Republican column, but that did not dissuade voters from either party from coming to the polls in early voting over the past two weeks or on election day. Turnout has been heavy, and many voters say they were not deterred at all by the surveys showing that the presidential contest was already decided here.

Nancy tells VOA she decided to vote for McCain.

"I do not go for a party, I go for the candidate," she said. "I just did not think that Obama had it for me. He is smooth. He is a smooth talker, but he did not have enough substance for me."

Conica says she has voted both Republican and Democrat in past elections and took her time in deciding which candidate to support this time.

"Actually, I wavered for a while. It was in the first week of October that I decided I was going to go ahead and stick with my last thought and that was to go ahead and vote for Barack Obama," said Conica. "Due to the sliding effect in the economy, I felt his plan was best suited for me, personally."

But the presidential race is not the only reason to vote.

Houston voter Roy says he was motivated by local races.

"A lot of the judges are up for re-election right now," he said. "That is important, a lot of local officials."

In most other parts of the heartland there are no real contests. Kansas, for example, will vote Republican and Iowa will go Democrat.

But there is a real contest in Missouri, where officials reported record turnouts. There were long lines at polling stations, and some voters grumbled about the state's lack of early voting - a move many other states have adopted.

The last surveys conducted before the election showed a statistical dead heat between Obama and McCain in the contest for Missouri's 11 electoral votes. In the United States, presidential candidates compete state-by-state for electoral votes, with 270 needed to win.

Heavy turnout in the state's major urban areas around St. Louis and Kansas City is expected to favor Obama, but McCain could get a boost from a large turnout in rural areas, smaller towns and suburbs.

In Louisiana, turnout is also heavy, partly because of the presidential race, but also because of a tight battle between U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, and Republican challenger John Kennedy, the state Treasurer.

Two other states in play in the heartland are New Mexico and Colorado, both of which supported President Bush in the 2004 election. Obama and McCain have campaigned hard in these states, but the latest surveys show Obama with a comfortable lead. Colorado has nine electoral votes and New Mexico has five.

There are two Senate races in those states in which Democrats are favored to win. Tom Udall is ahead in public opinion surveys in his race against Republican Steve Pearce in New Mexico and his cousin, Congressman Mark Udall, appears to be the favorite for a U.S. senate seat in Colorado over opponent Bob Schaffer, a former congressman.

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