FRONTENAC, Mo. -- It's 17 months before the 2008 election, and presidential candidates are already beating a path to Missouri.
Two Republican candidates were in the St. Louis area Friday. Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson spoke at a forum on Medicaid at the Washington University School of Medicine.
And former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani visited the Children's Home Society, an adoption agency, then greeted supporters and patrons of a restaurant in Frontenac, a posh suburb. He was also to attend a private fund-raiser with about 100 guests at a private home later Friday, a spokesman said.
Missouri is considered a pivotal swing state. Only once in the last century has the state failed to throw its electoral votes behind the eventual presidential winner.
Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton visited the St. Louis area last month. On the Republican side, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has the support of Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt.
At the Canyon Cafe, Giuliani drew a big crowd of supporters. Speaking briefly with the media, he said an unacceptable end to the war in Iraq "would be if our military came to the conclusion that this would be a victory for the Islamic terrorists."
Giuliani said the same sort of efforts that reduced crime in New York during his tenure as mayor could help crack down on those entering the country illegally.
"We have to make a commitment to the American people to end illegal immigration," he said.
Earlier Friday, Thompson, who also served as secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bush, challenged his fellow Republicans to move health care issues to the forefront.
Thompson indirectly criticized Blunt for cutting thousands of residents from state Medicaid rolls. He said governors should instead expand the ranks of low-income residents on Medicaid because a majority of the cost is paid by the federal government.
"Republicans shy away from it, but I look at this as an opportunity," Thompson said. He said enrolling more people in the entitlement program helps states save money by cutting long-term health care costs.
Blunt's office did not return a message seeking comment.
Thompson dismissed Democratic proposals to provide universal, government-assisted health insurance. He said any system that puts a cap on health care prices would discourage innovation by taking the profit motive out of new medical research.
Thompson also proposed a $1 per-pack tobacco tax, using the proceeds to fund smoking cessation programs.