Missouri 7th District
One of the biggest tourist destinations in America today is Branson, Mo.—something almost no one would have predicted 30 years ago. Branson has only 7,010 residents, is served by two-lane roads, and is nowhere near a major airport, but it thrives thanks to the surging popularity of country and western music. The town has two dozen theaters with 56,000 seats—more than Broadway—and has become a hub for nonstop, low-cost, family-friendly entertainment. Nearby are fishing and boating and plenty of shopping. These diversions have made southwest Missouri the fastest-growing part of the state in the past 20 years, generating new businesses and attracting retirees as well as vacationers. A 1907 novel by Harold Bell Wright put Branson on the map early in the 20th century. The Shepherd of the Hills acquainted readers with the hardy people of the mountains, hills, and meadows of southwest Missouri, just north of Arkansas. When completion of the Ozark Beach Dam created Bull Shoals Lake in 1913, even more tourists came, lured by the native bass and stocked trout. In the 1960s, more man-made lakes were added, and entertainers—notably the four Mabe brothers, who as “The Baldknobbers” entertained audiences with comedy and country music, and Boxcar Willie from the Grand Ole Opry—started performing. Today, Branson is constantly undergoing new construction and hosts more than 7 million visitors a year, 80% of whom have been there before.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Springfield is the biggest city in southwest Missouri and the self-styled “buckle of the Bible Belt.” It is home to more than 200 churches, including the headquarters of the Assemblies of God, one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing Protestant denominations. It is also the headquarters of such Middle American institutions as the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, perhaps the nation’s largest fishing equipment store. Southwest Missouri is also dairy country and home to a growing poultry industry. Latinos have been moving into McDonald County to work in chicken-processing plants.
The 7th Congressional District of Missouri includes Branson and Springfield. Historically, this area has been Republican territory since 1861, when it opposed secession. Pro-Union Springfield changed hands several times as Missouri staged its own civil war. Its conservative response to the big-spending government of the 1960s and cultural liberalism of the 1970s reinforced its allegiance to the GOP, and now it is the most Republican part of Missouri. In the 2008 presidential election, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won all of the counties here, many by 2-to-1.