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Blunt, Kander break no ground in their first faceoff

Jason Kander, left, and Roy Blunt
Carolina Hidalgo and Sen. Blunt's Flickr page

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and his Democratic rival, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, stuck to their long-standing playbooks of pitches and attacks during their first – and possibly, only – joint appearance on the same stage.

They were among five U.S. Senate contenders on stage at Friday’s forum in Branson sponsored by the Missouri Press Association. 

Although Kander has accepted two other debate invitations, Blunt so far has not.

Blunt, R-Mo., portrayed himself as the GOP insider who works across party lines and gets things done.  Kander painted himself as the outsider with a military past who’s out to change Washington.

Kander sought to tie Blunt to the gridlock that has paralyzed Washington. Blunt characterized Kander as part of the same Democratic mindset that includes the party’s presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Although Kander directed some jabs at Blunt, the senator preferred to lump his rival with the three third-party opponents on stage.

The key issues included:

  • Supreme Court: Blunt defended his decision not to meet with President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, calling him “a perfectly nice man’’ with an undesirable judicial record. Blunt sides with GOP leaders who say it should be up to the next president to fill the court’s vacancy. Kander pledged that he would meet with such nominees, regardless of who’s president.
  • Guns: Kander defended his TV ad that shows him assembling an assault weapon blindfolded, as well as his stance that there should be background checks so terrorists can be stopped from obtaining such weapons. Blunt cited his own NRA endorsement and said it was obvious that nobody wanted terrorists to get weapons.

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Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.