ST. LOUIS -- I've been channel surfing out here and haven't seen a political ad yet. It's not just my myopia, according to Sunday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The fact is that this state tilts so heavily toward John Kerry that nobody's buying much airtime in Missouri.
According to the Post-Dispatch, the Kerry and John Edwards campaigns have each dropped a paltry $40,000 on St. Louis TV stations -- an amount that Saint Louis University political scientist Ken Warren termed "incredible peanuts." Indeed, both Kerry and Edwards have been outspent in the St. Louis media market by Lyndon LaRouche, who paid $51,000 for a half-hour spot on the local CBS affiliate. The Post-Dispatch reports that the LaRouche extravaganza had higher ratings than Seinfeld and The Simpsons on rival stations, which suggests that people here really are as bored as they look.
The Kerry campaign says it will spend about $120,000 for Missouri media; the Edwards campaign is in for $80,000. Wesley Clark's campaign says it will begin advertising in the last few days before Tuesday's primary. Howard Dean's campaign will have no media here, nor does it have a headquarters. While Missouri Representative Dick Gephardt was in the race, Dean's was the only other campaign to have visible supporters in the state. As far back as February 2003, Deaniacs converged to create a statewide volunteer network. But unlike Kerry and Edwards, Dean has declined to open campaign offices here since Gephardt dropped out right after Iowa.
As a result, Dyan Ortbal-Avalos, volunteer state coordinator for Dean, has been running the campaign out of her living room. There are 800 Dean volunteers who have committed to work their precincts on election day, and the pro-Dean unions are rallying their members, too. The combined Missouri membership of Dean's two powerhouse unions, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), however, is less than 20,000. And in a speech to several hundred AFSCME members in St. Louis on Saturday morning, AFSCME President Gerald McEntee proclaimed, "We're gonna fight like hell for Dean. But let it be understood: Our main theme is, 'Anybody but [George W.] Bush!'"
On balance, the Dean people here seem to be playing out their string with few illusions. "I'd like my living room back," says Ortbal-Avalos.
She's likely to get it back soon enough. A poll conducted from Wednesday through Friday that ran in Sunday's Post-Dispatch gives Kerry 44 percent support among likely Democratic primary voters. Edwards runs second at 14 percent, Dean third with 9 percent, and Clark and Joe Lieberman poll at 5 percent each. As candidates need at least 15 percent support Tuesday to qualify for delegates, it's possible that no one but Kerry and Edwards will claim any of Missouri's 74 delegates.
Kerry has appeared twice here this week, on Wednesday in St. Louis and on Saturday in Kansas City, each time surrounded by the phalanx of Vietnam veterans who now turn out wherever he goes. The message that the Kerry campaign is seeking to convey seems to be getting through in Missouri; one of the respondents to the Post-Dispatch poll called Kerry "straightforward and tough."
Try to remember the last time that there was a Democratic candidate whom people called "tough." There, in a nutshell, is Karl Rove's dilemma.
Harold Meyerson is the Prospect's editor-at-large.