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Major GOP players -- Perry, Christie, Gingrich -- to descend on Missouri

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 20, 2012 - Missouri may not be a presidential battleground, but the state is still a magnet for major Republicans.

On Sunday and Monday, three of the GOP’s biggest names – former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – will fly into the state to help Republican statewide and congressional candidates.

Christie is to be in Springfield on Sunday to headline a rally for Dave Spence, a Kirkwood businessman who’s running for governor.

(Update) The rally is open to the public, and begins at 3 p.m. at the Ramada Oasis Convention Center, 2546 North Glenstone in Springfield. Spence's campaign calls Christie "a captivating public speaker and a top Mitt Romney surrogate." (End update)

Perry will be in Missouri on Monday for two events – one to help raise money for U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio. Perry will then travel to Columbia, Mo., for a rally for St. Louis lawyer Ed Martin, who’s running for Missouri attorney general.

And in St. Louis on Monday, as the Beacon reported earlier, Gingrich is to be in town as the chief speaker at an event for embattled U.S. Senate nominee Todd Akin. Like Akin, Gingrich – who made an unsuccessful bid for president this year -- often has found himself at odds with national GOP leaders.

Earlier this week, another marquee Republican – U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida – was in town for a private fundraiser to help Martin, who is seeking to counter the financial edge of the Democratic incumbent, Attorney General Chris Koster.

Koster also is on TV with an ad attacking Martin. An independent PAC is now running an ad attacking Koster, presumably on Martin’s behalf.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.