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Blunt praises federal aid he had opposed, while GOP highlights Carnahan's family tree

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 12, 2010 - With Missouri possibly providing or denying the Democrats' needed 60th Senate vote this fall, both parties are ramping up the rhetoric against the state's two best-known Senate candidates, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield, and Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat.

Expect Democrats to hammer soon at Blunt, as they have other congressional Republicans, for touting federal aid to his district that he'd voted against in Congress.

In Blunt's case, critics already point to his release Monday in which he announced "grants totaling more than $942,009 to six local agencies that provide programs for homeless families and individuals."

Blunt praised the recipients as "strong voices for the homeless in Southwest Missouri. ... In national competition for these funds they make a convincing case about why these federal resources are needed and best used here in long-standing programs that help our homeless population.”

However, it appears that Blunt had voted against the spending bill that directed money to the program that doled out the grants.

UPDATE: Later Tuesday, Blunt's office issued an explanation.

Blunt "supports the great work of the Consortium of Care Homeless Assistance Program in Southwest Missouri, which has competed for and won federal assistance from HUD every year since 1995,'' his staff said.

The congressman did indeed vote against "the massive, budget-busting $446.8 billion spending package, which included funding for HUD for 2010, because it included an eye-popping 23% increase in transportation and HUD spending over last year," the statement added.

"Congressman Blunt believes you stimulate the economy by returning money to taxpayers, not through government spending programs."

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Meanwhile, Blunt's campaign has taken to calling Carnahan "Rubberstamp Robin'' because of her general support for Democratic efforts to change the nation's health-care system (although Carnahan, who praised the Senate's passage of its bill last month, has repeatedly said she is waiting for the final version of the legislation before taking a definite stand).

But perhaps more significantly, the Blunt camp now has adopted another attack line against Carnahan in an apparent attempt to counter the longstanding Democratic accusations that Blunt -- in Congress since 1997 and the father of former Gov. Matt Blunt -- is a Washington insider.

Monday's Blunt release characterized Carnahan and her well-known political family as "creatures of Washington" and then went on to cite the Democrats' bio: "In 1993, Robin Carnahan left Missouri to live and work in Washington when she was an executive for the Export-Import Bank. Robin Carnahan's mother was a U.S. senator in Washington, her brother is a congressman in Washington and her grandfather was a congressman in Washington."

That line of attack also appears aimed, in part, at damaging Carnahan's campaign narrative that portrays her as a semi-rural (remember Moxie?) Washington outsider.

The national focus on Missouri's Senate contest is expected to get even more intense, now that North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan is retiring -- and all sides agree that state's GOP governor, John Hoeven,is favored to replace him. (Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Democrat, also is retiring, but another Democrat -- state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal -- already is deemed the front-runner.)

Meanwhile, it's a Republican seat on the line in Missouri since Blunt and Carnahan are competing to succeed U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo. If that seat goes Democratic, Dorgan's loss is a wash. If Bond's seat stays with the GOP, it could be the crucial election to end the Democrats' brief enjoyment of a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority.

In other words: Expect to hear a lot more about Carnahan's family tree, and any more attempts by Blunt to praise federal aid that he sought to kill.

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.

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