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More outside money may be headed to Missouri on behalf of U.S. Senate contenders

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

Missouri TV viewers may see a deluge of new ads focusing on the U.S. Senate contest — and those ads may not be from the candidates’ campaigns.

In the wake of Sunday’s presidential debate, political activists in both parties privately say they expect more outside money to be spent in the state shortly on behalf of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and his Democratic rival, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander.

Why? Because of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's latest national surge in the polls.  The Blunt-Kander contest is increasingly seen as possibly a deal-breaker in determining which major party gets control of the U.S. Senate in January. Democrats need to snag at least four additional seats to take over.

The national parties and independent political action committees already have poured millions of dollars into the Missouri Senate race on behalf of both candidates. But more aid is expected, because of concern – or glee – over Clinton's apparent stronger position.

Some sources speculate that Clinton may begin running some TV ads in Missouri soon to help Kander, since she wants a Democratic-controlled Senate.  But such spending by Clinton would only come if she’s pretty certain she will carry other states and win in November.

Blunt allies are expected to prepare for such pro-Kander activity by sending in more GOP aid of their own.

The chairmen of both state parties acknowledged at a Sunday forum that Trump is favored to carry Missouri. But if Clinton is assured of winning elsewhere, she may run ads in Missouri to narrow Trump’s margin and help Kander.  

Republican party chairman John Hancock said the state GOP is concerned what a Trump loss nationally could do to Missouri candidates on Election Day.

“When a presidential race looks like a foregone conclusion, turnout can be challenging for the side that’s losing,’’ Hancock said. “We’re closely monitoring that.”

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is believed to be encouraging Clinton to spend money in the state and contended over the weekend that Clinton had a shot of actually carrying Missouri. McCaskill also maintains that Kander could defeat Blunt.

Of Missouri’s statewide contests, the Kander-Blunt race would likely be most affected by the Clinton-Trump battle because the Senate candidates will be listed on the ballot right after the presidential contenders.

Blunt, Kander stick with nominees

At a Monday campaign event focusing on health care, Blunt reaffirmed  to reporters afterward that he’s still with Trump. The senator didn’t bring up the controversial 2005 video in which Trump talks about sexually groping women, and which has prompted some Republicans to withdraw their support. They include U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, who is close to Blunt.

Nor would Blunt discuss Sunday’s debate.

Blunt contended that his support for Trump stems from their shared views of the issues. “I think if you want to do something about Obamacare … the out-of-control regulators, our terrible foreign policy, you can’t do that by electing people who have been part of the Obama term,’’ Blunt said. 

“We don’t need a third Obama term. As long as the choices are Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, I’m for Mr. Trump.”

Kander’s campaign said it’s not surprised. “Jason hasn't changed his message since day one: We won't change Washington until we change the people we send there,” a spokesman said.

“Whether Donald Trump was up or down in the polls, Jason has consistently gained ground against Sen. Blunt and now the race is a toss up. Sen. Blunt stuck with Todd Akin until the end, so we anticipate he'll do the same with Donald Trump even though he's clearly unfit to be president just like Todd Akin was unfit to be senator.”

When asked, Blunt said he would campaign with Trump, should the GOP nominee opt to return to Missouri. But Blunt doesn’t expect to see Trump again in the state.

Blunt noted that the Trump campaign did not organize any debate-related events in St. Louis on Sunday, even though Missouri Democrats and the Clinton campaign had several watch-parties and rallies in the state during and after the debate.

Said Blunt: “I think (Trump) will carry Missouri. I don’t expect to see him in the state for that reason.”

Hannah Westerman contributed to this report.

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.