Expectations for attendance in today's primary trounce turnout numbers in 2000 and 2004, years in which the Missouri primary served more as a coronation for one candidate than a primary election for several candidates. Landslide victories for George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 and for John Kerry in 2004 produced low turnout numbers.
About 1.1 million people, or 28 percent of registered voters, are expected to vote tomorrow in the state, up from 543,392 in 2004 and 745,754 in 2000.
In 1988, almost a million Missourians voted in the presidential preference primary, a high turnout driven by the participation of a Missouri favorite son, then-Rep. Dick Gephardt, and a competitive race between Republicans Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush.
The competitive three-way race in Missouri between Sen. John McCain and former Govs. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee should again account for a strong turnout, said Paul Sloca, spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party.
"Well, we think turnout is going to be very heavy, obviously," Sloca said. "This is a very important primary, and Republican voters are well known for getting out and voting, and with some very strong candidates on the ballot, I think it's really going to drive people to the polls."
Democrats are expecting a high turnout as well, and former Sen. John Edwards' former supporters might be some of the most important voters in the state, said Missouri Democratic spokesman Jack Cardetti.
"John Edwards had quite a following here in Missouri," Cardetti said. "He made almost a dozen visits here over the last three years and had a very faithful following, and the question of where his supporters go tomorrow, whether or not they vote for Clinton or Obama, could be the difference in this election."
While both state parties have lauded the expected turnout, the percentages still pale in comparison to the presidential primaries held last week in Florida, where more than 4.2 million people, or 41.8 percent of registered voters, cast their ballots.