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Missouri Senate Race: Two Insiders Flee Label

Oct 12, 2010

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Any Missourian hoping to use the U.S. Senate race as an opportunity to express disgust with political insiders is bound to be frustrated because two very establishment figures are running for the position.

One, Republican Rep. Roy Blunt, is a seven-term congressman. His son was governor. And as NPR's David Welna pointed out on Morning Edition, his wife and two of his sons are lobbyists.

The other, Democrat Robin Carnahan, is Missouri's secretary of state. She's seeking to follow her mother into the Senate. Her brother, Russ, is a congressman and her father was a Show-Me State governor, as well.

Again, both Blunt and Carnahan are political insiders by any definition. But Blunt probably has the advantage since it's not a good year to be a Democrat in a state that was leaning Republican even before it became fashionable in the past two years to do so. It went from Sen. John McCain in 2008, for instance.

As David reported:

DAVID: Missouri State political scientist George Connor calls Blunt "the ultimate Washington insider."  But that matters far less, he says, than Blunt's ability to stoke resentment towards Democrats in a swing state that two years ago chose John McCain over Barack Obama.

CONNOR: We have become more conservative in the last two years, in response to what they've seen in Washington, DC. — the health care reforms that we don't like, the bailouts that we don't like.

And so I think nothing that's happened in Washington has helped the Democrats here in Missouri.

Last week, Blunt unveiled a new TV ad.  It seeks to tie Carnahan to the stimulus package championed by President Obama — which also gave Carnahan's brother $107 million for a windfarm in Missouri.

AD VOICEOVER: They promised jobs. Instead, we got generations of debt.  Where'd our money go? Ask Robin Carnahan.  Her brother's windfarm got over one hundred million stimulus dollars.  How? Robin Carnahan campaigned for Obama and the stimulus.

DAVID: Carnahan herself flatly rejects the suggestion her brother got a big grant because she, as Missouri's secretary of state, backed the stimulus.

In an interview, she says Blunt's tried making this race about President Obama, who's deeply unpopular in Missouri.  She insists it's about whom people can trust as their next senator.

CARNAHAN: And so this race is really about whether there's going to be someone who ultimately is able to speak for them, or somebody who's been in Washington like Congressman Blunt for 14 years and who has just gotten too cozy with the business as usual out there, and is too tied in with the lobbyists and special interests, I think, to really look out for us.

DAVID: Carnahan's tried driving that message home in a series of negative ads, including this country-western ditty:

AD SINGER: "The way to spell corruption is B-L-U-N-T. Roy Blunt is the very worst of Washington, DC."  I'm Robin Carnahan, i'm running for the Senate, and I approve this message.

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