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Carnahan proposes three U.S. Senate debates -- featuring all nominees on November ballot

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, the best-known Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, has just proposed three general-election debates for after the Aug. 3 primary.

The catch is that Carnahan is calling for the debates to feature the nominees from not just the two major parties but also the Constitution and Libertarian parties, which have automatic ballot access in Missouri. (Any other parties have to collect a certain number of signatures to get their candidates on the November ballot in the state.)

The best-known Republican candidate, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said this afternoon that he supports the idea -- and notes that he proposed the idea a long time ago. "We have been calling for debates and forums for over a year so we are pleased she has finally accepted Roy Blunt's offer to debate," said spokesman Rich Chrismer.

Still, it's also unclear why Carnahan is posing the idea now, rather than waiting until after the Aug. 3 primary, when candidates traditionally offer their debate proposals. All four parties have primaries to choose their U.S. Senate nominees, so it's unlikely any are focusing on the fall campaign or debate plans.

Carnahan also has two Democratic challengers in the Aug. 3 primary, although neither rival has been campaigning. The Constitution and Libertarian parties have Senate primaries featuring two and three contenders, respectively.  

So far, Blunt has been focusing solely on Carnahan in his latest TV spots, although he has eight rivals in the Aug. 3 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

Blunt also is generally ignoring his GOP rivals -- including state Sen. Chuck Purgason of Caulfield.

In fact, Blunt hasn't complied with Purgason's repeated calls for debates before the Aug. 3 primary.

Blunt's TV ads appear to be targeting Republican voters with the message that he is the best Republican to take on Carnahan. His likely aim, in part, is to persuade GOP voters on Aug. 3 to choose him -- and by a large margin -- over his lesser-known opponents.

His latest ad attempts to drive home the point that he would be aggressive, by highlighting the praise she received from President Barack Obama when he headlined fundraisers for her July 8 in Kansas City.

At this stage, months before the general election, that ad is aimed primarily at Republicans who will show up at the polls Aug. 3 -- not at independent or undecided voters who likely have yet to tune in on the contest, and may not even participate in the Aug. 3 primary.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

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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