BACKGROUND: Although then-Sen. Barack Obama's visit to Columbia was a huge spectacle, I enjoyed watching the future president speak in a less hospitable outpost.
The Illinois senator decided to go on a "rural swing" through the Show Me State, which in some cases emulated Sen. Claire McCaskill's focus on outstate Missouri throughout her 2006 U.S. Senate campaign. After stopping in Springfield, Obama came to Rolla, arguably the most popular city in Phelps County.
The subtext of the visit was pretty clear. Obama had barely won the Missouri Democratic primary by capturing big margins in some of the state's urban areas. But he did pretty darn terrible elsewhere, allowing then-Sen. Hillary Clinton to nearly swipe the state away. In the end, Obama won a plurality of votes, even though the two candidates evenly split delegates.
Obama spoke for a pretty long time in Rolla. In addition to making a somewhat controversial statement about how he "wouldn't look like presidents" on currency, he spent most of the event taking questions from the overflow crowd. He talked about the economy, foreign affairs and issues involving veterans. When he was through, he made a stop in Union and called it a day.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: I put this on the list for the same reason I included the Kirksville debates. I thoroughly enjoy
visiting different parts of the Show Me State. And this trip gave me a chance to scope out Rolla, a Republican-leaning area that's the homebase of the Carnahan family. Plus, it was interesting to see Obama speak in an area that was probably out of his political reach.
FUN FACT: One other great thing about going to Obama's Rolla event was meeting Leslie Spencer. The Democratic activist was standing outside the event with a "Rednecks for Obama" banner.
I'm not sure if Obama succeeded in attracting the "redneck" vote in Missouri. But I'm guessing that some in that self-professed group in North Carolina, Indiana and Virgina helped put Obama over the top.