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The Road to Super Tuesday: Mo., Colo., Ga., Ill.


And if there was ever a time when Super Tuesday deserves that title, it is this year. Today, we're going to hear from four of our reporters in Super Tuesday states.

To get a sense of the races there, we're going to start with NPR's Jason Beaubien in Missouri.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Over the last week, in the heart of Kansas City, presidential yard signs have started to pop up. But here in the conservative suburb of Lee's Summit, Missouri, there are almost none.

Mr. RICK RAINS(ph) (Owner, Barbershop, Lee's Summit, Missouri): Now that you mentioned it, I haven't really noticed any campaign signs for the presidential.

BEAUBIEN: Rick Rains runs a barbershop on 3rd Street in downtown Lee's Summit. Despite few visible indications that an election is less than a week away, Rains says customers are talking about it.

Shawn Mitkiff(ph) who also cuts hair at the shop says the two most prominent issues customers are grappling with are religion and health care.

Mr. SHAWN MITKIFF (Barber, Lee's Summit, Missouri): Even though these families are conservative, they're caught in a loop of wanting to side with the more non-conservative ideas about health care to get health care, and they're wresting with their morals versus their budget, you know?

BEAUBIEN: University of Missouri-Kansas City political scientist, Elizabeth Moore(ph) says this year, residents of this purple state are still waiting to be wooed.

Ms. ELISABETH MOORE (Political Scientist, University of Missouri-Kansas City): So far, it seems as if the candidates have all but ignored Missouri outside of a few fundraising events.

BEAUBIEN: In the Republican primary, Moore says any of three candidates could win it. Mike Huckabee is hoping to do well among socially conservative voters in rural areas. Mitt Romney and John McCain, both are potentially appealing to fiscal conservatives around St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City. And in the election season that's lacked direction, it may be fitting that the state's most prominent Republicans, Senator Kit Bond endorsed Rudy Giuliani who's no longer in the race.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Kansas City.

KATHY LOHR: I'm Kathy Lohr in Atlanta.

Support here for Democratic candidates is split between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. African-Americans made up 43 percent of the vote in the southern state in the last Democratic presidential primary.

Many older civil rights leaders support Clinton and younger blacks, including Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin are going with Obama.

Mayor SHIRLEY FRANKLIN (Democrat, Atlanta): I was just moved emotionally, intellectually and spiritually by his courage, his smartness, his experience and his willingness…

LOHR: But the Clinton name has strong poll in the state. Georgia is the first primary that Bill Clinton won in his 1992 bid for the nomination. That has translated into support for Hillary Clinton.

Atlanta Councilman Kwanza Hall says people are worried about the economy.

Mr. KWANZA HALL (Councilman, Atlanta): And they want to see a person who can lead and run and make it happen because people are already ready for it, they're just waiting for somebody to kind of be the conductor. I think Hillary Clinton is that conductor.

LOHR: Just east of Atlanta, Stonecrest Mall draws lots of middleclass African-Americans. In an unscientific poll, voters here were either undecided or like Tony Griffin(ph) said they were behind Obama.

Mr. TONY GRIFFIN: He's a great guy. I mean - and we're watching debates on TV and he struck me like he's a great guy. So I mean I like Hillary, too, also. It'd be beautiful to have a woman as a president but is she going to be there to do what we need for her to do?

LOHR: Obama held a rally in Atlanta earlier this week. And thousands turned out to see Clinton last night at the state Democratic Party's annual fundraising bash. Among the Republican presidential hopefuls, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is the only one who has spent time in Georgia lately, attending the King Day services and a pro-life rally at the state capital. Huckabee has reached out to evangelical voters across the country and in Georgia, they're (unintelligible) behind him.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.

JEFF BRADY: I'm Jeff Brady in Denver.

The environment has played a prominent role in the Colorado civic life lately. There's a controversial gas drilling boom in the Rocky Mountains and the governor has made renewable energy a centerpiece of his year-old administration.

Matt Elder(ph) says the environment will factor into his decision on Tuesday.

Mr. MATT ELDER: Well, I'm probably going to scale them one to 10 with environmental issues, I'd probably say it's five, about seven or seven. I know now they say like global warming is not there now, it's really something that we really need to pay attention to.

BRADY: Elder is a Democrat. But in this state, where outdoor recreation is big business, the environment is an issue across the political spectrum.

Colorado Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams has some advice for his party's presidential candidates when they visit the state.

Mr. DICK WADHAMS (Chair, Colorado Republican Party): Republicans who present a positive agenda on the environment that is responsible and that protects the environment without killing the economy, those Republicans do well.

BRADY: While the environment is a topic in Colorado, nationally, it doesn't get as much play. The League of Conservation Voters analyzed more than 2,000 questions posed on television, found only a half-dozen about global warming -slightly more than the number of questions about UFOs.

Matt Garrington is with Environment Colorado.

Mr. MATT GARRINGTON (Field Organizer, Environment Colorado): You know, pundits are asking the hard questions on global warming and renewable energy. It means that the public isn't getting engaged on these important issues.

BRADY: Garrington's group is trying to raise the profile of climate change one phone call at a time.

BEN(ph) (Environment Colorado): Hi, Shawn(ph). My name is Ben. I'm working with Environment Colorado. How are you doing this afternoon?

BRADY: The group is encouraging people concerned about the environment to show up at their local caucuses on Tuesday.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.

DAVID SCHAPER: I'm David Schaper in Chicago, where many Illinois voters are thrilled about the chance to elect their own senator president. Waiting for a commuter train at the Randolph Street Station, Kathy Marcov(ph) of Chicago can hardly contain her excitement for Barack Obama.

KATHY MARCOV (Resident, Chicago): What he's trying to bring at the table is just so refreshing. It's so energizing. It really brings such electricity back into politics.

SCHAPER: Carrie Anderson(ph) of Chicago shares that enthusiasm.

Ms. CARRIE ANDERSON (Resident, Chicago): Oh, yes. Yeah. For first time in a long time, very excited.

SCHAPER: The reason.

Ms. ANDERSON: Just tired of the old-school politics and needs something new. And he possesses that.

SCHAPER: But Susan Cooper(ph) of suburban South Village(ph) supports…

Ms. SUSAN COOPER (Resident, South Village): Hillary.

SCHAPER: Because…

Ms. COOPER: I think she can use today's experiences along with what she hopefully learned in the past from when her husband was in office.

SCHAPER: The Clinton campaign is not ceding Illinois to Obama whatsoever. After all, Mrs. Clinton was born and raised here. And she and her husband maintain close ties to much of the Democratic Party establishment. One hundred and eighty-five Democratic delegates are up for grabs here. And though it is a reliably blue state, there are 70 Republican delegates available in Illinois Tuesday. GOP political consultant Chris Robling.

Mr. CHRIS ROBLING (Political Consultant, GOP): I think, actually, it's a very mixed picture for everybody.

SCHAPER: With issues like national security and the economy in the fore, Robling expects Illinois to be tight between John McCain and Mitt Romney. Much of the Republican establishment had been backing Rudy Giuliani. It is now shifting to McCain. But Robling says that doesn't mean much these days for a state organization still weakened by the scandal that landed its most recent governor in jail.

Mr. ROBLING: The Republican Party of Illinois is supine. It is really on the ground. And I would say that it's begging for life support.

SCHAPER: Still, there are too many Republican delegates here for the candidates to ignore.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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