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With ad and rally, Blunt and state GOP focus on national Democrats

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 6, 2010 - U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield, and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder are underscoring with their actions this week that this fall's key Republican target -- regardless of the contest -- will be President Barack Obama and the Democrats controlling Congress.

Blunt, the GOP's best-known candidate for the U.S. Senate, is launching his first TV campaign ad today -- and deviating a bit from the traditional strategy of using the first ad as a "positive'' spot highlighting the candidate's biography and qualifications.

The ad does focus on Blunt's background. But it frames portions of his personal past with the candidate's grim portrayal of the national present, while the Democrats remain in control of Washington.

Meanwhile, Kinder is headlining the state GOP's "Give Me Liberty Rally" slated for 6 p.m., Wed., July 7 in Lee's Summit.

The event comes on the eve of Obama's trip to Kansas City on Thursday to help raise campaign money for Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, the best-known Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.

State Republican Party executive director Lloyd Smith highlighted his party's chief line of attack:

"American liberty is under siege by liberals like Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Robin Carnahan who are determined to take over our health-care system, rack up massive debts, and implement a crushing new energy tax that will affect every aspect of our lives," Smith said in a statement.

"But Missourians have rejected this reckless government overreach. Now, as Obama comes to Kansas City to raise money for one of his ‘favorite people,’ Robin Carnahan, Missourians will have the opportunity to stand up and demand that this assault on their liberty ends now."

Ad Ignores Blunt's Political Career

Blunt's ad offers similar anti-Democratic themes --without mentioning any names.

Blunt spokesperson Rich Chrismer said in a statement that the ad (entitled "Education and Hard Work") "highlights how the America that Missourians know and love, where anything can be achieved by working hard at school and in life, is threatened by Washington’s out of control spending and debt."

Says Blunt in the spot: "I was taught there was nothing you couldn’t achieve through education and hard work. But today that America is threatened. Irresponsible spending, crippling debt are killing jobs today and our children’s future tomorrow. That’s wrong and I’ll fight to change it."

The ad mentions Blunt's brief tenures as a teacher and, later, as a college president.

The spot does not mention the eight years Blunt spent in Jefferson City as Missouri's secretary of state -- or the 14 years he's been in Congress. 

Nor does it mention Carnahan or the Democrats in power in Washington.

But Blunt's campaign says the Democrats are the unspoken target: "The ad presents the clear choice Missourians will make when they go to the polls on Nov. 2: Do Missourians want even more power for Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama for more out of control taxing, spending and borrowing, with Robin Carnahan? Or do they want change by sending Roy Blunt to the U.S. Senate to provide checks and balances in liberal-monopoly Washington, end the failed policies that are killing jobs and threatening our future, and put the nation back on course for fiscal responsibility to encourage the creation of private-sector jobs?"

The ad and the state GOP rally both rely on Republican calculation that the public is upset with Obama and the Democrats in charge of Congress, and will punish Democratic candidates like Carnahan.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee offered up this morning its reaction to Blunt's ad, which it called "misleading:"

"Longtime Congressman Roy Blunt’s eleventh hour talk of fiscal discipline flies in the face of his deep record of championing wasteful spending in Washington.  Congressman Blunt is desperately trying to make voters in his own party forget about his support for bank bailouts, deficit spending and wasteful fiscal policies. But at the end of the day, Blunt’s ads won’t be able to mask the fact that his wasteful spending, coziness to corruption, and history of sticking it to the middle class represent the very worst of Washington.”

Carnahan, in turn, has sought to counter the Republican approach with blunt talk that highlights her experience running the family's ranch (and doesn't focus much on the fact that she lives in St. Louis).  Her website also shows Carnahan sporting casual attire.

Thursday's fund-raising event with Obama may be in downtown Kansas City, but it is is billed as "a grassroots reception."

UPDATE: Democrats also have raised questions about the farm backdrop used in Blunt's ad. He is seen wearing a casual shirt, and standing in front of a white fence. A barn is in the background.

A Blunt spokesman said this afternoon the candidate is not standing in front of a fake backdrop, as Democrats allege. Blunt "was at a friend's family farm outside of Springfield in southwest Missouri," the spokesman said.

Correction: The initial description of Blunt's apparel in the ad was inaccurate, and has been changed.

Purgason, Polls May Play Roles

Blunt's campaign says his TV ad campaign -- which is a bit early, from a general-election perspective -- is prompted, in part, by the independent ads that environmental and labor groups have been running for months against Blunt. Some of those groups already have endorsed Carnahan.

But there also may be another unspoken Blunt target that his ad has in mind: his only active Republican challenger in the Aug. 3 primary, state Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield.

With far less money and name recognition, Purgason is given little chance of toppling Blunt in the GOP primary. But Purgason's popularity with the Tea Party crowd, a recent noteworthy endorsement and last week's hefty news coverage of his apparently successful effort to block the Legislature's special-session agenda, could be prompting Blunt and his allies to take early action to curb any potential Purgason momentum.

Like all party favorites, Blunt and Carnahan each need strong showings on Aug. 3. Failure to snag their respective party nominations by huge margins will likely provide campaign fodder for their opposition.

With an active intra-party rival, Blunt may have decided that a statewide TV ad blitz in early July might provide some political insurance worth the cost.

There's also another matter to take into account. Early July also happens to be the time when some major Missouri news outlets have traditionally conducted their first polls of major statewide contests.

A candidate with an active TV ad campaign, while the pollsters are in the field might gain a few extra percentage points. So might a candidate who gets free TV coverage because the president is coming to town on her behalf.

Even some Republican candidates for the state Legislature are focusing more on Obama and national Democrats, than they are on their rivals back home.

In mid-Missouri, state Rep. Kenny Jones, R-Jamestown -- who is running in a GOP primary for the open state Senate seat in the 6th District -- has been running a TV ad on Jefferson City stations that takes aim at Obama.

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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