Election 2012
5:00 am
Tue November 6, 2012

Predicting Results In Missouri, Clay County As Bellwether

It's Election Day, and the polls close at 7 p.m. in Kansas and in Missouri.

The Kansas City Star's political correspondent and Up to Date host Steve Kraske talked about predicting possible outcomes based on early results, and the impact of last-minute campaign spending.

Early returns, predictions for Missouri

Steve Bell: "One of the things that we always run into when we're covering these elections is: What does this mean? Particularly early in the evening, we want to know who's going to win a particular race or a set of races. The returns start coming in and how soon are we going to know? What should the listener listen for, in order to know what the earlier returns mean?"

Steve Kraske: "Well, it's always tricky in Missouri, Steve, because typically the big cities come in late.

"But if you want a cheat sheet on what's happening in Missouri, I'd recommend that voters watch Clay County very, very closely." - Steve Kraske

And what happens, as a result, is that Republican candidates, more conservative candidates, tend to hold leads beginning early in the evening and really throughout the night, until you get the St. Louis and Kansas City returns, which sort of balance things out a little bit between Democrats and Republicans.

"But if you want a cheat sheet on what's happening in Missouri, I'd recommend that voters watch Clay County very, very closely. Clay County, one of our best bellwether counties in Missouri these days, very much an even-steven county in terms of where it tends to go between Democrats and Republicans, over recent years particularly. So watch Clay County, if you want to have a sense of Claire McCaskill and Todd Akin, where that race is, Governor Jay Nixon and Dave Spence, keep your eye on Clay County. That will give you a very early indicator of what's going on.

"The other thing you want to keep an eye on tonight is just how big of a lead does Mitt Romney build in Missouri. If he wins by 7 or 8 points, I think that would be a better sign for Democrats than if he wins by 10, 11, 12, even 13 points, at which point, sort of his coattails effect, he'll pull a lot of down ballot Republicans along with him if he wins by that much. So, again, keep an eye on how big a lead Mitt Romney builds in Missouri. That will be another key sign as to what's happening in our state."

Last-minute campaign spending

Steve Bell: "I have seen a big acceleration and a big change, in the Missouri campaigns particularly, as we got into the last week before the election. There's new money pouring in, from outside sources. What's the effect of that, does that change things?"

Steve Kraske: "Well, here's an out-of-the box sort of hypothesis here. My thinking is that these late ads, these big late advertising buys, don't have the same impact as they used to have. I think in a lot of races, that we're seeing in Missouri this year particularly, a lot of voters had already made up their minds. And you wonder really how many voters are swayed by these tough attacks in their final days...

"I'm not sure we're going to see massive shifts because of these late ad buys."

Undecided voters in Missouri

Steve Bell: "What is the percentage of undecided voters going into the election in Missouri, do you know?"

Steve Kraske: "Well, I don't know if we know. I think 3, 4 percent perhaps at this point, maybe even

"You'll see a lot of ticket splitting in Missouri this year...people voting Republican and then coming back and then voting Democratic up and down the ballot." - Steve Kraske

lower than that. And typically those folks, a lot of those folks don't vote. But you don't see as much of that in a presidential race. But what you do see are folks who walk into the ballot, they might vote for president, if they're not happy with the U.S. Senate candidates or the candidates for Governor, they skip that line and move down the ballot. They sort of pick or choose.

"You will see in this election a certain number of people voting for president. There will be a smaller number of people who vote for McCaskill and Akin in the next line, which is U.S. Senate. And that's because, as I said, a lot of folks aren't happy with either candidate in that race, and they'll simply skip it altogether.

"So you see folks sort of skip up and down the ballot. You'll see a lot of ticket splitting in Missouri this year, Steve, people voting Republican and then coming back and then voting Democratic up and down the ballot. It's going to be very interesting to see how that plays out."