Sen. John Kerry (search) lost his battle to make Missouri a battleground state.

While the Democrat and President Bush still have legions of supporters working in the state, Missouri hasn't been a focus of television advertising or candidate visits for weeks. Polls suggest that with the race close nationally Bush leads in Missouri; Kerry's only chance of winning the state is if he takes the national popular vote by several percentage points, strategists in both parties say.

The road to the White House normally runs through Missouri, a state that has sided with the winner in every election but one — 1956 — for the past century. Bush won the state by 4 percentage points in 2000.

Kerry sought to put Missouri and its 11 electoral votes into play. His campaign spent $5.8 million and the Democratic National Committee spent $1.7 million before Labor Day.

Missouri has been growing more with each election cycle. Four years ago, Bush won a majority of independent voters and took advantage of the state's anti-tax sentiments. Nearly half of the state's voters identify themselves as "born again" or evangelical Christian.



11 — Electoral votes.

2,860 — Illegal methamphetamine labs uncovered in 2003, most in the nation.

4,206,423 — Registered voters, up 9 percent from 2000.

1956 — The only presidential election of the last 100 years in which Missouri didn't go with the winner (siding, during a farm drought, with Democrat Adlai Stevenson of neighboring Illinois over President Eisenhower).



— "With the threat of terrorism, now is not the time to change chief law enforcement officers." — Pulaski County Sheriff J.T. Roberts, a Democrat.

— "I've had people at my Catholic church come up and whisper, 'I'm for Kerry.' But I don't whisper it. Church and state must not ever shake hands, and I don't vote a certain way just because the archbishop says I should. So I'm for Kerry." — Beth Nuelle, 50, Massachusetts native who has lived for about two decades in the St. Louis suburb of Des Peres.



This election can bruise or burnish political dynasties: Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Blunt is the son of the No. 3 House GOP leader, Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt, and his grandfather served as a Republican state legislator. Also, a son and daughter of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan and former Sen. Jean Carnahan are on the ballot: State Rep. Russ Carnahan aims to fill the St. Louis congressional seat being vacated by Dick Gephardt, and Robin Carnahan is running for secretary of state.



In past elections, Democrats have been strongest in St. Louis and Kansas City, while Republicans have had solid backing in the Ozarks and rural counties. The parties battle over the most populous area, St. Louis County.

Missouri has more women seeking statewide offices than at anytime in memory. There are female candidates for Senate, governor, lieutenant governor and state treasurer — and both major party nominees for secretary of state are female.

Teams of international election observers hosted by the San Francisco human rights group Global Exchange will watch balloting and vote counting in St. Louis, Columbia and other Missouri cities. The organization said it decided to have teams watching in Missouri because hundreds of St. Louisans on an "inactive" list were kept from casting ballots in 2000.



On his way to carrying Missouri by about 4 percentage points, Bush romped to lopsided wins in rural counties and the Ozarks, but he lost Missouri's most populous region — St. Louis County and the adjoining city of St. Louis — to Democrat Al Gore.