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Winning Missouri worked twice for President Bush's White House ambitions. Barack Obama seems to have taken notice. For the past three months, the Democratic presidential nominee has been spending significant time in Missouri. In all but one election during the past century, Show-Me State voters have sided with the winner in presidential elections.

Just before Independence Day in Independence, Missouri, Obama delivered a speech on patriotism to counter perceptions that he is less loyal than Republican nominee John McCain, who has 17 military awards and decorations and was a Vietnam-era prisoner of war for five years.

"I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign," said Obama, who had an Iraq war veteran introduce him. "And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine." Obama stressed that no party has a monopoly on devotion to the nation. "Patriotism can never be defined as loyalty to any particular leader or government or policy," he said inside the cramped gym at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Building, where four American flags served as a backdrop.

Obama's general election campaign with running mate Joe Biden, Delaware's senior senator, is built on the rhetoric of "change you can believe in," mixed with passionate words about God and country. As the junior U.S. senator from Chicago, Obama has for years been beholden to working-class voters, African Americans, feminists, gay-rights groups, and pro-choice advocates. But for the first time since Jimmy Carter ran in 1976, a presidential candidate from the Democratic Party is enthusiastically courting evangelicals and Catholics.

This effort is showing results: An August poll by the Barna Group shows McCain with greater support among self-identified ...

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October 2008

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