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Blunt touts political weight of St. Louis region in U.S. Senate contest

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 20, 2009 - U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt may be from southwest Missouri, but he understands the political -- and ballot-number -- importance of the St. Louis area.

As he continues his Republican quest for the U.S. Senate in 2010, Blunt said Saturday, "St. Louis County, St. Louis city and the St. Louis region are going to be a critical part of that."

Blunt was addressing a couple dozen local GOP leaders and activists who'd turned out for Saturday morning's rally in a ballroom of the Frontenac-Hilton hotel. They had come to listen to Blunt and two of his latest GOP endorsers -- Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent.

The event was aimed at heightening Blunt's profile, discouraging possible GOP rivals, and countering heightened attacks from national Democrats.

Blunt acknowledged that he will need to do well in the St. Louis area, and possibly carry some of it. Unspoken, but inferred, was the GOP knowledge that the only announced Democrat -- Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan -- resides in the city of St. Louis.

And there's the fact that St. Louis County has been delivering lots of Democratic votes, while neighboring Jefferson and St. Charles counties are no longer the hefty GOP strongholds they once were. Both parties are paying attention, because the region's voters cast close to 40 percent of the state's ballots in a typical election.

Blunt predicted he would do well in the region, and might carry St. Louis County. Kinder and Talent can help, he said, because they have close ties to the St. Louis area. Although from Cape Girardeau, Kinder spends a lot of time in the region and has forged alliances with regional business and political leaders. Talent is a native, and resides with his family in Chesterfield.

Also speaking was St. Louis County GOP chairman Rich McGee, who kicked off the event with praise for Blunt.

Talent called Blunt a true "agent of change."

Unlike President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats, Talent said, Blunt "wants the people to change the government. Not the government to change the people."

Using poster-sized charts, Talent also warned of economic disaster if the federal deficit isn't brought under control.

Referring to the hefty federal spending under Obama, Kinder said, "These are crazy policies and our friends in the Democratic Party are committed to more of the same."

He said that voters who put Democrats in power last fall weren't supporting "this level of generational theft."

Kinder and Talent contended that Carnahan likely could be counted on to side with fellow national Democrats. However, Talent asserted that she "has turned somersaults to avoid commenting on what's going on in Washington."

Blunt contended that some of the administration's policies, notably the cap-and-trade plan to reduce energy-pollution emissions, will force more jobs overseas. "People have seen the new definition of change...they don't like the change,'' he said. "This is not the kind of change Missourians can afford."

Blunt added that his message also would touch on the philosophy of the Obama administration, and its allies. "If the president of the United States doesn't understand the risk-reward of capitalism,'' Blunt said, "We're in trouble."

Later, in press interviews, the congressman offered an illustration while emphasizing his opposition to a public-insurance option pressed by some during the debate over how to reform the nation's health care system and reduce the rising number of uninsured.

Blunt said he advocated more private choices and competition: "We don't need a Medicare or Medicaid for everybody." 

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.