Hundreds of area residents gathered Monday at Joplin Regional Airport's new terminal for a last-minute rally by Republican Mike Huckabee to get out the vote for Republican candidates on the state and national ballot.

Hundreds of area residents gathered Monday at Joplin Regional Airport's new terminal for a last-minute rally by Republican Mike Huckabee to get out the vote for Republican candidates on the state and national ballot.

The former Arkansas senator and governor and former Republican presidential candidate pushed Republicans to get their friends and neighbors to vote, especially if they planned to vote for presidential candidate John McCain and Missouri Governor's candidate Kenny Hulshof.

Hulshof, along with Missouri Sen. Kit Bond, State Sen. Gary Nodler, State Treasurer's candidate Brad Lager and others also spoke, urging the energized crowd to get out and vote.

Bond, Hulshof and Huckabee all said the polling, political pundits and the national media were wrong for having already declared Democrat Barack Obama the winner of the national presidential race.

"Somebody forgot to tell the people of Joplin that this election is over," Huckabee said. "It's been a long, long campaign season, but not nearly as long as it has been for Sen. McCain. He's proven he's got the energy, he's proven he's got the ideas, he's proven he's got not only the experience, but the maturity and the judgment we need. This election is going to come down to a handful of voters in a handful of states, and quite frankly the reason I'm here today is you're the handful."

Despite the fact that Southwest Missouri is solidly in the Republican camp, the state as a whole is considered a battleground state and has seen visits from all the major party presidential and vice presidential candidates in the past few days.

Bond and Hulshof said they flew to Joplin from an enthusiastic rally for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is running with McCain for vice president.

Huckabee emphasized to the people at the rally how important the vote in the Joplin area was.

"It is very likely that Missouri will decide the next president and if Missouri decides the next president, it's most likely that the decision will largely be based on how the vote goes right here in the Joplin area," Huckabee said. "We need people with a good head full of common sense to recognize that the last thing that America needs in the White House is someone who believes that the way to strengthen our economy is to reach into the pockets of everybody who went to work today and take two or three hours of your work paycheck and turn it over to somebody who decided to sit at home and watch TV."

Carthage Press