For a few days, at least, Missouri has the feel of a presidential battleground. With Tuesday's primaries approaching, candidates were campaigning across the state Saturday.
For a few days, at least, Missouri has the feel of a presidential battleground.
With Tuesday's primaries approaching, candidates were campaigning across the state Saturday.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz was to hold events in suburban St. Louis, Kansas City, Cape Girardeau and Springfield.
Republican Donald Trump also was to be in Kansas City on Saturday, a day after he rallied in St. Louis.
In the Democratic campaign, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to campaign in St. Louis, and Sen. Bernie Sanders was to hold a rally in Springfield.
All four of the top contenders have been airing TV ads.
With 52 Republican and 71 Democratic delegates at stake in its primaries, Missouri is a Top-20 state in terms of the potential prize for presidential contenders. Yet it offers the fewest delegates of the five states holding primaries Tuesday, lagging behind Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio.
That may help explain why some candidates are focusing elsewhere — most notably Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who face must-win scenarios in their home states if they are to keep their Republican presidential hopes alive. Both states are winner-take-all in terms of GOP delegates.
Missouri is perhaps best described as a "winner-take-most" state for Republicans. Under a new approach this year, the statewide winner will get all of Missouri's delegates only if he gets a majority of the votes cast for active candidates. Otherwise, a portion of Missouri's GOP delegates will go to the winner of the statewide vote while the rest will be allotted to the winners in each of the state's eight congressional districts.
The method was adopted in September, when there were more than a dozen GOP candidates, with the intent to make Missouri's primary more relevant nationally.
"We believe this plan will encourage candidates to campaign in every area of the state, allowing Missourians to see and evaluate them before they go to the polls," state Republican Party Chairman John Hancock said in a September statement.
But it hadn't played out that way until recently.
Trump's visit to St. Louis on Friday was the first of his campaign. For Cruz, it was his first Missouri events since speaking at an Eagle Forum conference in St. Louis County in September. Rubio's only public campaign rally occurred in December in Joplin.
Kasich hasn't campaigned in Missouri. The new Republican delegate approach nonetheless may have caused campaigns to look at the state differently.
Candidates can pick up five delegates by winning a congressional district, meaning they can concentrate on certain areas only and still get a reward.
"From a campaign perspective, it's created a bunch of little fiefdoms that you have to look at separately ... a series of little kingdoms that each have their own issues important to their area," said state Rep. Caleb Jones, of Columbia, who is the national Southeast chairman for Rubio's campaign.
Though Democrats also award delegates based on congressional district results, they don't all go the top vote-getter but are divided proportionately. That means a split outcome is likely.
For example, in the First District in St. Louis, where 10 delegates are at stake, a candidate who gets 60 percent of the vote would get six delegates and a candidate who gets 40 percent would get four.
Clinton and Sanders both have opened campaign offices in St. Louis and Kansas City, and Sanders also has one in Columbia.
Clinton has been aided by some of Missouri's leading Democrats, including state party executive director Crystal Brinkley, who took a one-month leave to direct Clinton's state campaign.
All of the candidates are focused on get-out-the-vote efforts this weekend. At Sanders' office in Columbia, organizers are running three shifts a day for volunteers to make phone calls and go door-to-door.
Clinton's final-weekend push involves "hundreds of volunteers knocking on tens of thousands of doors and making tens of thousands of calls," said spokesman Drew Pusateri, who temporarily left the office of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill to work for Clinton's campaign.