After a roller coaster four-plus years and three grueling campaigns, Cori Bush found herself in an unfamiliar position on the eve of Election Day — the favorite.
Bush famously upended incumbent U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay three months ago in the Democratic primary. In Missouri's solidly blue 1st Congressional District, that all but ensured her path to Washington, D.C.
All that was left was to step over a Republican candidate and a Libertarian candidate — two young men whose most notable presence in the campaign has involved them arguing that they are not in fact white supremacists — but the real dogfight of the race ended in August when she toppled Clay.
"It's a strange place," Bush says of campaigning as the favorite. "But it's a humbling place. It's also a rough place, because while trying to help others, we're also trying to run our own race."
Her final days of the campaign have been a whirlwind of working to persuade as many people as possible to vote and supporting Democratic candidates across Missouri while also finishing strong in her contest. She's been pushing hard for state Auditor Nicole Galloway, who is trying to unseat Gov. Mike Parson. And she's used a little of her star power to highlight not only statewide races (Alissia Cannady for lieutenant governor, Yinka Faleti for secretary of state, Vicki Englund for treasurer and Rich Finneran for attorney general) but on down the ballot to lesser-known candidates such as Derrick Nowlin, who is running in the Springfield area to replace Elijah Haahr, the term-limited speaker of Missouri's House of Representatives.
By the time you read this, she'll have voted at sunrise in a south city union hall and begun a long day of socially distanced campaigning where she will encounter supporters who are dying for a Democratic sweep that begins with the presidential election, but who are also worried about what will happen if
In recent weeks, Trump-backing militias have been caught in plots to kidnap prominent Democrats and popped up around the country in armed displays of intimidation. A caravan of pickups sporting Trump flags surrounded a Joe Biden bus in Texas in what the Biden campaign said was an attempt to run it off the road.
In a phone interview on Monday, Bush says she's heard from people who are fearful of what will happen if Trump's supporters don't get their way.
"I have already talked to people who say, 'I'm going to the store. I'm going to stock up, because I don't know what is going to happen. I won't come outside if I don't have to,'" Bush says. "People are really worried. So what do we do about that? Number one, we need to make sure we turn out this vote, but turn out the vote in such a way there is no question — he cannot question the results."
Bush says Trump, whom she calls the "current father of racism," has inflamed bigots and inspired others to follow his bad example. After the Texas incident, Trump shared a video of the trucks surrounding the bus and tweeted "I LOVE TEXAS!" He has enthusiastically endorsed the rolling supporters' tactics, calling them "patriots" and chastising the FBI for investigating them.
"Donald Trump carries himself as if he is a four-year-old child and has been told he can't have his favorite toy in the store, so he's just going to scream," Bush says.
That's encouraged others to do the same, "to throw a tantrum and react violently," she says.
Asked if that has led to threats or other problems directed at her or her campaign, Bush chooses her words carefully.
"We have some people who are not happy, but we don't give it light," she says. "We pay attention just enough to make sure we stay safe. But we don't give it light. We don't add fuel to that. We just keep our message strong."
She promises she won't be deterred.
"If we didn't let tanks stop us in Ferguson, if we didn't let rubber bullets and everything else that happened — this won't stop us."
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