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Vote Now: Where Should Roll Call Travel for the Midterm Elections?

Senate Candidates Who Stayed Home

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Virginia Senate candidate George Allen took to the stump instead of flying to Florida for the GOP convention.

Route 50 is often described as the loneliest road in America, and with the media attention focused on Charlotte, it was an apt description of McCaskill's travels last week. Turn south off the highway about an hour outside Kansas City, drive another couple of miles, and you arrive in Warrensburg, home of the University of Central Missouri "Mules and Jennies" and host of one of McCaskill's "On Our Campus, On Our Side" events.

After giving her stump speech to the crowd of about 70 - which focused on her differences with her opponent, GOP Rep. Todd Akin, on support for financial aid - many of the questions centered on the political arena, particularly how difficult it can be to forge consensus.

"There's a lot of things about it that suck, to use a technical term," she said, getting a laugh out of the sympathetic crowd before decrying polarization in the parties. "And what happens to those in the middle? It gets very lonely," she said somewhat wistfully.

Allen sought out venues such as a veterans' lunch in Abingdon, Va., the town where he began his law career by clerking for U.S. District Court Judge Glen Williams. "This is where I got my start," he said there.

He also did a tour of main street Marion, where he walked around with town officials and a small group of supporters and passed out campaign fliers.

"You have the best looking car in Virginia," he shouted out to a man driving a Chevrolet sedan covered with Allen and other pro-Republican stickers.

"This part of Virginia, this region, is really crucial," Allen said.

Indeed, he will need southern Virginia's votes if he hopes to overcome a strong challenge from former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) in November.

That sort of sentiment was echoed by McCaskill as she sought to fire up students to support her.

"I think part of it is paying attention, showing them I care. That's why we're going to so many college campuses this week. And we're going to keep doing it. I mean, we have, we're going to have, a robust presence on college campuses," she said.

Her twice-a-day events at Missouri's colleges last week typically featured a coordinated campaign worker or regional field director on hand to sign up volunteers. "If you're over 21, we specialize in warm beer and cold pizza," she said at Westminster College.

Allen and McCaskill are similar in many respects. They come from the same generation of political leaders - Allen is 60, McCaskill 59. They both received bachelor's and law degrees from their state's flagship public university. The success of their careers has, in part, come from paying their dues and working their way up from the state legislature to statewide and federal office.

And both have, in the past, been considered rising stars in their national parties. As one of Obama's earlier supporters in his bid for the presidency, McCaskill landed a prime speaking slot at the 2008 Denver convention.

When Allen spoke at the 2004 New York City convention that renominated President George W. Bush, he was already being mentioned as a strong contender for the 2008 GOP presidential ticket. At the time, his pedigree was right: He won election to the Senate in 2000 after a high-profile term as Virginia's governor from 1994 to 1998.

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