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Carnahan blasts Blunt in first TV spot, while he hits rural roads

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 12, 2010 - Missouri's two major nominees for the U.S. Senate -- Democrat Robin Carnahan and Republican Roy Blunt -- are launching new campaign efforts as they head into the final dog days of August.

And both camps are focusing on Blunt.

Carnahan has just gone up on the air with her campaign's first TV ad, which is running statewide. Although allied groups have run ads attacking Blunt (an indirect benefit for Carnahan) since late last year, this is the first spot that the Carnahan campaign is paying for.

She's also deviating from the traditional strategy of using that first ad buy to offer a glowing portrait of herself. Instead, Carnahan attempts to paint a disparaging picture of Blunt.

The ad focuses on 10 years of Blunt's congressional career, and cites votes, comments and actions that Carnahan asserts makes him a player in the unraveling of the nation's economy. (Click here to view it.)

"The ad holds Congressman Blunt accountable for his Washington record of helping wreck the economy, bailing out Wall Street, and sticking middle-class families with the bill," her campaign said in a statement.

Added Carnahan spokesman Linden Zakula: "This ad tells the story of how Congressman Blunt has become the very worst of Washington -- wasting tax dollars and fighting for corporate special interests while sticking it to the middle class."

Although her campaign declines to discuss strategy, some area Democrats privately have been prodding Carnahan in recent weeks to turn up the public heat on Blunt, particularly since independent polls show him with a small but persistent lead.

Her ad, and accompanying campaign comments, particularly hammer Blunt over his support and major House lobbying role in favor of the bank bailout in late 2008. (Blunt emphasizes that he only voted for the first half of the $700 billion allocated.)

Blunt's spokesman angrily condemned the spot. "This phony ad is the worst in political deception and hypocrisy," said Blunt spokesperson Rich Chrismer. He asserted that Carnahan privately has indicated support for the bailout and publicly has portrayed the bailout as needed to stabilize economy. However, Carnahan has repeatedly said at public appearances -- including the one cited by the Blunt campaign -- that she would have voted against the bailout as it was crafted, because of the lack of controls. 

Zakula contended that it's Blunt who is masking his true actions that involved "twisting arms to pass the $700 billion Wall Street bailout after his vote to deregulate the banks helped wreck the economy..."

Carnahan's campaign adde that the ad's point is broader than the bailout bill: "The story of Congressman Blunt's loyalty to corporate special interests actually started years earlier when Blunt voted to deregulate Wall Street and let them run hog wild."

Which brings us to Blunt's latest focus on the farm.

Blunt began Thursday a three-day, 11-stop rural tour with Missouri Farm Bureau chief Charlie Kruse, in keeping with a Republican tradition aimed at bolstering Blunt's farm credentials. (He was raised on one.) Kruse, who is stepping down this fall, often has accompanied Republican candidates on statewide tours.

Statewide Republican candidates need a huge edge among rural voters to counter the usual large lead that Democratic candidates often amass among urban voters.

But this trip also may be motivated by the need to counter Carnahan's months-long approach of emphasizing her side job operating her family's cattle spread near Rolla, Mo. Carnahan's aim is to reduce the GOP's rural advantage.

Kruse is highlighting the Democratic anti-pollution proposal, known as cap-and-trade, which passed the U.S. House last summer. The measure is unpopular among Missouri farmers. It would restrict certain types of energy emissions, which critics say could increase energy costs, especially in coal-dependent states like Missouri. The bill also offers incentives for alternatives to fossil fuels.

The measure is mired in the Senate, where many in both parties -- including both of Missouri's senators -- have said the House bill goes too far. The Senate's latest version knocks out the cap-and-trade provisions.

Said Kruse: "As Missouri's U.S. senator, Roy Blunt will do all in his power to prevent cap and trade and other costly legislation from becoming law. We must elect leaders to the U.S. Senate with the courage to stand up and fight for us, and the common sense to know cap and trade legislation will be devastating to farmers across Missouri. Roy Blunt understands this."

Kruse asserted that Carnahan supports the cap-and-trade bill; she previously has disparaged the House version.

Robin Carnahan spokesman Zakula said that she has repeatedly made clear that she does not support any energy bill that unfairly hurts farmers and other Missourians. But the spokesman added that Carnahan does believe that changes are needed in the nation's approach to energy. "The policy Congressman Blunt supports rewards Big Oil," Zakula said.

The issue is an example of where the GOP is attempting to tag Robin Carnahan with the actions of her brother, U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, who did vote in favor of the cap-and-trade bill. (Another example: the aforementioned $700 billion bank bailout, which Russ Carnahan also voted for.)