SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Hundreds of Missouri Republicans were arriving in Springfield this weekend for the party's first major gathering of the election year.
The statewide Lincoln Days offered party activists a chance to plot strategy and hear from candidates and officeholders in a political year headlined by a U.S. Senate contest and battles for state legislative control.
Headlining the party's banquet Friday evening was Marc Racicot, the former Montana governor who was recently named chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Racicot said Missourians "know the issues of the day" and would "make very precise judgments" when it comes to the U.S. Senate contest between former U.S. Rep. Jim Talent and Democrat Jean Carnahan.
"They know that some of the efforts that have been presented before Congress that have been successfully passed by the House are not being acted on by the United States Senate," Racicot said.
GOP leaders said they had much to celebrate, including party control of the Missouri Senate for the first time in half a century and prospects for tilting the state House to Republican control.
There were also cheers for Talent, who narrowly lost a 2000 governor's race to Democrat Bob Holden and is campaigning for the seat held by gubernatorial appointment by Carnahan. Carnahan is seeking to win a full term.
There is less speculation about the state auditor's race. Democrat Claire McCaskill is seeking a second four-year term, but no Republicans have announced plans to challenge her. Party spokesman Scott Baker said the auditor's contest isn't the state GOP's top priority this year.