Barbara Gardner of Lee's Summit calls them three peas in a pod.
Sarah Steelman, Todd Akin and John Brunner are the three leading Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in Missouri. But they're so similar on the issues that it's tough for voters in Tuesday's primary to draw distinctions.
"There's not one decisive thing that makes up my mind," Gardner said.
She's all but certain to vote for Brunner. But making up her mind was a struggle. And it's apparently that way for tens of thousands of other Republicans who must make decisions on primary election day.
All three candidates are die-hard conservatives. All three want to rid the country of President Obama's health care program. All three vow to never vote for a tax increase and pledge to slash the federal budget by hundreds of millions of dollars.
"As best we can tell, there are remarkably few differences among them," said Peverill Squire, a University of Missouri-Columbia political scientist.
So what's a voter to do, professor? "That's a good question," he admits.
Although positions on the issues may not give voters much direction, other factors -- their backgrounds, endorsements, ability to beat Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, and support from Tea Party groups -- may prove helpful.
Private polls released last week show the race likely remains a jump ball with Brunner, who's spent $7 million of his own fortune on his campaign, holding a narrow lead over Steelman and Akin.
A poll conducted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and released over the weekend found 33 percent favoring Brunner, 27 percent Steelman and 17 percent Akin.
But 19 percent of GOP voters remained undecided.
Even the campaigns acknowledged that voters don't have much to go on, at least when it comes to issues.
"A lot of the positions being thrown out really look the same," said Ryan Hite, spokesman for the Akin campaign. "Ever since Ronald Reagan, it's been very popular to say you're a conservative."
Still, the campaigns themselves are quick to offer their own reasons why their candidates deserve support.
Akin is "the only candidate with a federal-level record," Hite said.
Brunner said he's shown that he can take a punch after "nearly $2 million in false Democrat attacks." He described himself as a citizen-senator, Marine Corps officer and manufacturer and his opponents as "career politicians."
Steelman "is a known quantity," said her spokesman, Patrick Tuohey. "She's run statewide several times. She's performed very well in southwest Missouri. They are happy with what they know of her. They know her to be a fiscal conservative. The other guys are kind of a gamble, since a lot of people haven't ever seen them on a ballot."
But there are some distinctions:
Of the three, only Steelman has held statewide office before. She was the Missouri treasurer from 2005-2009 and a former state senator to boot. She's an economist by training.
But Akin is the only one who has held federal office before. He has served as a congressman from the St. Louis area since 2001, and is a former state representative. He's an engineer who touts that background when he explains his methodical decision-making style.
But Brunner, who has never held public office, has the most business experience. He said his company, Vi-Jon, Inc., a manufacturer of Germ-X hand sanitizer, has employed hundreds over the years. His wealth skyrocketed in 2006, when a private equity firm bought his majority ownership interest.
"I've built a business from 80 employees to over a thousand," he said in one TV ad.
** This has shaped up as a race of high-profile endorsers. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a Tea Party favorite, is backing Steelman, calling her a fighter.
"Sarah Steelman has fought against the political establishment her entire career," Palin said in a new robo-call message playing statewide.
Steelman's also backed by Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley.
Akin is supported by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who finished second to John McCain in the 2008 Missouri presidential primary. "Todd's the real deal," Huckabee told Akin supporters.
Akin's also backed by Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party caucus of the U.S. House. Although the Tea Party has been an influential force in Indiana, Texas and Nebraska, it's influence in Missouri has been more muted, perhaps because the candidates already are so conservative.
Brunner's lineup of endorsements may lack marquee names, but among those backing him are Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Right to Life and the Missouri Soybean Association.
Akin and Brunner hail from St. Louis. Steelman, from Rolla, is the only outstate candidate.
Ability to beat McCaskill
All three candidates claim they can do the job. Political scientists tend to agree that Akin might struggle the most because he, like McCaskill, has a long record that will provide his opponent with political ammunition.
His strong conservative credentials also may make him a tougher sell for independent voters.
That Brunner has no voting record might help him. Wisconsin voters elected a businessman, Johnson, in 2010 over incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold after Johnson poured more than $8 million into his own campaign.
Akin defends his backing of congressional earmarks, pointing out in one that armor he got placed on military vehicles protected lives in Iraq.
Steelman is touting her backing from Palin while the U.S. Chamber, which is supporting Brunner, has an ad comparing Steelman to McCaskill -- "two peas in a pod," the ad proclaimed.
Brunner leads the pack with $7.6 million raised since January 2011. Akin has brought in $2.2 million and Steelman $1.4 million.
None of the above
Of course, there are other choices. Five additional GOP contenders are on the ballot, though none have raised much money or campaigned aggressively.