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Commentary: If the pundits say it, it must be true

Woe is us, fellow Missourians.

We are exposed.



Better have the tissues handy while I break the news. OK, deep breath. Here it is:

Missouri is no longer the bellwether state.

The national punditry has declared it thus, so it must be true. We blew our presidential-picking winning streak four years ago by selecting John McCain over Barack Obama by 3,632 votes, and we will not be given a second chance.

By most accounts we are not even considered a swing state this time around. No, we are lumped with states like Georgia, Indiana, Montana and South Carolina in the “leans red” category.

Oh, the indignity.

Missouri gained the reputation over the decades as the state that picks the presidents. Prior to four years ago, there was only one glitch, when the state narrowly went for Adlai Stevenson over Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. But Missouri righted itself the next time around, and its bellwether stature only grew from there.

Now we are consigned to irrelevance. You will not find a reporter from some far corner of the globe at your coffee shop or your book club, wanting to know your “feelings” about the election and the state of the nation. You will not go to lunch at Arthur Bryant’s and find Mitt Romney holding court. You will not likely pick up your telephone and hear a cheery voice say, “Hi, this is Barack Obama.”

We will not see the dignified ads created by the Obama and Romney campaigns, only trashy commercials financed by super PACs, which have money to burn.

Both candidates have already passed Missouri over on TV buys aimed at influencing swing-state voters. You can bet that station directors throughout the state are shedding genuine tears over the bellwether bust.

As should we all. The original definition of a bellwether is that of a sheep, which wears a bell and leads the rest of the flock. Surely Missouri should be at the front of the flock.

Shouldn’t it?

Well, of course. Except

Except that Missouri has a bronze bust of Rush Limbaugh occupying a place of honor in its Capitol Rotunda.

Except that the Missouri legislature gained national ridicule last session for considering the “don’t say gay” bill, intended to stifle all discussion of sexuality in public schools.

Except that, when a Washington website identified the seven members of Congress most likely to sponsor or vote for anti-gay legislation, two of the seven on the list were from Missouri. That would be Republicans Todd Akin and Vicky Hartzler.

Except that some lawmakers this past session actually wanted to cancel health care benefits for nearly 3,000 blind, mostly low-income Missourians, as a budget-balancing move.

Except that Missouri is so tax-averse that even the Democratic governor, who will probably cruise to re-election this year, refuses to advocate for a raise in the state’s cigarette tax, the lowest in the nation at 17 cents a pack.

Except that Missouri politicians are content with financially struggling public schools, bankrupt social services and one of the nation’s most underfunded university systems.

Except that actually, scratch everything I said earlier. It’s good that Missouri is no longer the bellwether state.

We don’t have to be subjected to all those TV ads. The chances of having all of the region’s main arteries blocked off during morning rush hour in anticipation of a candidate’s motorcade passing by three hours later are greatly reduced.

It will be peaceful not being the bellwether. And we won’t have to worry about Missouri leading the flock over a cliff.

Far better that we ride out the 2012 election in obscurity and hope that Missouri regains its sanity before making its return to the national spotlight.