Gore Down to the Wire in Missouri

By Dale Forbis | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

St. Louis, Mo. (CNSNews.com) -- At the TWA Dome, Al Gore and thousands of Democrats rallied Monday. Across the street in the Drury Hotel, several dozen Republicans, a lot of them high-profile candidates for state office, stumped for votes on the eve of what is expected to be the closest election in decades.

Just hours before the polls open, Missouri feels like "ground zero" in the 2000 election.

About 3,000 supporters and party faithful greeted the Vice President in St. Louis on his final furious day of campaigning that also took him to Iowa, Michigan and Florida.

"It makes a difference," Gore told the crowd, "if you have a president who's going to fight for you, instead of just making it sound good."

His St. Louis speech at mid-day Monday featured some of the same language reporters had heard on his last visit. That was no problem for the big crowd. The cheers kept coming.

He targeted comments to union members and the working class. "I want to raise the minimum wage a dollar an hour, for those who most need the help," Gore shouted. "I want to protect the right to organize, and get rid of permanent striker replacements."

Gore promised the crowd equal pay for women who do the same job as men. Tipper Gore, and 18-year-old son Albert Gore III, joined the Democratic Party's presidential hopeful.

Another continuing theme: the environment. Gore had Governor George W. Bush's home state of Texas in his sights. "They've got the worst industrial air pollution. They have the smoggiest state and the smoggiest city," Gore said, explaining, "Houston, we have a problem, and we don't want that problem nationwide. "We don't want the St. Louis skyline to be like the Houston skyline."

Gore said his opponent coddles special interests, instead of "serving the interest of the people."

The biggest reaction of the crowd? When the candidate spokes glowingly of former Missouri First Lady Jean Carnahan. Her husband, Governor Mel Carnahan, died in a plane crash last month while campaigning for the U.S. Senate. His name will remain on Tuesday's ballot, and Governor Roger Wilson has said he will appoint Mrs. Carnahan to the U.S. Senate seat if her late husband gets more votes than incumbent Republican John Ashcroft.

"You know what it means when we all say, 'Still with Mel,'" Gore told the crowd, "when we all say, 'Keep the fire burning.' "You all know the strength and character, the grace and dignity of Jean Carnahan," Gore reminded the crowd, as it roared its approval.

The Carnahan-Ashcroft race has taken more turns that anyone could have predicted. After Carnahan died in the crash, his campaign workers were left in limbo.\tab "For a lot of us," explained Tony Wyche, "getting back into the campaign has really helped us deal with this (death), not just the keeping busy part, but knowing that there's something he was fighting for that we can continue fighting for, for him."

As Al Gore flew to Michigan, his wife Tipper was headed for Springfield, Mo., to talk to a crowd at a high school. The two meet in Miami later as the final decision nears.

Across the downtown street, U.S. Senator Christopher "Kit" Bond led a delegation of Republican candidates. The crowd was smaller, and more quiet, but the enthusiasm was just as strong.

Republican candidates Sam Jones (attorney general), Rep. Matt Blunt (running for secretary of state), Jim Talent (governor), and Ashcroft made the stop, before traveling on to Cape Girardeau, Jefferson City and Springfield. They had been scheduled to rally in Kiener Plaza, an outdoor venue, but a steady rain drove them inside.