Happy over his continued edge in the polls, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt celebrated Sunday with St. Louis Republicans in what he declared was his 560th campaign event in Missouri since launching his bid for the U.S. Senate.
Blunt, R-Springfield, highlighted some of his key themes as he energized city Republicans at their annual picnic at Carondelet Park by taking on national Democrats and his expected target this fall, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.
The congressman had left by the time that his chief Republican rival, state Sen. Chuck Purgason, showed up.
The two Senate rivals were among a crowd of Republican officials or candidates who entertained the picnickers over burgers, hot dogs and cookies.
The tone for all of the speakers was feisty and confident. "We have been given a great gift in Barack Hussein Obama," said state Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay. "The people are rising up."
Blunt noted that he had kicked off his Senate bid in the city in February 2009 at Harris-Stowe State University and touted his various visits in Democratic-dominated St. Louis as evidence of his political strength and guts.
Like all statewide Republicans, Blunt doesn't expect to carry the city of St. Louis this November. But assuming he wins his party's nomination, Blunt emphasized that every additional city vote he does collect will cut into Carnahan's chances of a statewide victory.
He emphasized the national significance of this fall's congressional elections, which he said were even more important than the 2008 presidential election that put Obama in the White House.
A Republican comeback this fall, said Blunt, could halt the agenda of Obama and Democratic congressional leaders, and reshift the nation's priorities.
Blunt also cast the GOP effort in religious terms: "I think God has a special place for the United States of America."
On the health-care front, Blunt observed that the fact that many provisions don't kick in for four or five years offer the GOP and "the American people a reasonable chance to look at this again."
"It doesn't matter if there are good things" in the federal health-care package, Blunt told the picnic crowd. "We can't afford it."
Blunt said later that he continues to support repeal of the new health-care law and replacing it with some alternative proposals.
He also reaffirmed his opposition to the federal "cap and trade" energy and anti-pollution bill that has been stuck in the Senate since it passed the House 13 months ago.
Blunt said he feared that Obama's Environmental Protection Agency "has the potential to enact 'cap and trade' on its own," unless congressional Republicans are in the position to block the agency from doing so.
Blunt also joyfully tweaked at Robin Carnahan by observing that her opposition to some of the objectives of Obama and the Democrats controlling Congress put her at odds with her brother, U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, who had voted for some of those proposals.
Russ Carnahan's 3rd District, by the way, includes Carondelet Park.
An hour later, Purgason, R-Caulfield, sought to remind city Republicans that he still hopes to stick a pin in Blunt's political balloon on Aug. 3.
"I think the 'silent majority' of people are beginning to understand," Purgason said, as he asserted that Blunt long played a role in the federal spending that he now decries.
If Republicans had stuck by their principles when they controlled Congress and the White House from 2001-07, said Purgason, the public never would have sided with Democrats at the polls in 2006 and 2008.
Republicans like Blunt, insisted Purgason, are "part of the problem, not part of the solution."
Purgason tacitly acknowledged in a brief interview that many Republicans assume Blunt is the frontrunner for the party's nomination Aug. 3. "We just keep going," Purgason said. "We'll see what happens on Election Day."
This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.