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Blunt launches U.S. Senate bid at Harris-Stowe

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 19, 2009 - U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt launched his bid for the U.S. Senate on Thursday by asserting that the 41 Republican votes in the 100-member U.S. Senate are all that prevents the new Democratic president and his party's congressional leaders from imposing "absolute one-party rule."

"My sense is, Americans and Missourians are not well served by one-party rule,'' Blunt said, as he laid out why he believed his political expertise and governmental experience make him his party's best candidate to seek to succeed U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, a fellow Republican who is retiring and not seeking re-election in 2010.

If Democrats control 60 seats in the U.S. Senate, Blunt explained, that's a filibuster-proof majority and will allow Democrats to "roll over'' the GOP minority.

"The truth is, the fight is in the Senate," Blunt said. "That's why this seat is so important."

He said the Democrats' large majority in the U.S. House and their current Senate edge of 58 votes (including two independents and excluding the still-contested seat in Minnesota) has been enough for that party to almost singlehandedly approve a federal stimulus package that Blunt lambasted as failing to be "targeted, temporary or timely."

He accused Democrats controlling the government, from the president on down, of pushing through measures that rapidly expand federal spending while doing little to address the nation's economic problems.

Blunt cited his 12-year record in the U.S. House of Representatives of focusing on the economy, health care and national security. He noted that he sits on the House Intelligence Committee.

Among other things, Blunt said his campaign issues will include the need to revise Medicare and Medicaid, two programs that have seen their costs skyrocket. Medicare provides health care for Americans age 65 and over, while Medicaid primarily provides care for the poor and disabled.

Blunt predicted that the war in Iraq will largely be over by 2010, and not much of an issue. Obama's decision to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan could be "a huge issue,'' Blunt said, if military actions don't go well. 

Blunt will touch on those issues, among others, during his two-day campaign swing that will end Friday night in Kansas City, where hundreds of Missouri Republicans will gather for the party's annual Lincoln Day festivities.

While Blunt was speaking, state Democratic Party chairman Craig Hosmer fired off an electronic statement that painted Blunt as "a driving force behind George W. Bush's failed economic policies and Congress' reckless spending."

"And now the congressman thinks he deserves a promotion?" Hosmer continued. "We'll never get the change we need here in Missouri if we keep sending back the same old gang with the same failed ideas back to Washington."

Hosmer went on to praise the only major Democratic candidate who's announced so far: Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

Blunt acknowledged that he and Carnahan have many similarities: Both come from political families and both have been secretaries of state. Blunt held that job from 1984 to 1993. 

But when it comes to issues, Blunt asserted that the two are stark opposites -- offering a hint of the campaign that he is likely to run, should Carnahan be his opponent. When asked, Blunt acknowledged that the contest could get personal, although he hopes to focus on issues.

While Blunt's Senate announcement was expected, his choice of Harris-Stowe State University for Thursday's first campaign stop was not.

Blunt said he selected the urban university for two reasons:

-- It highlights his earlier career as a teacher and, later, as a college president.

"I began as a teacher, and fundamentally, I'm still a teacher,'' said Blunt, 59. 

-- It underscores the political importance of the St. Louis region.

"I'm going to be (campaigning) in St. Louis a lot,'' Blunt said. "St. Louis County is where Republicans have seen the most slippage'' in recent elections.

Last fall, for example, Democrats captured most of the statewide posts -- and Barack Obama almost carried the state -- because of huge majorities amassed in St. Louis County. Two decades ago, the county was generally reliably Republican.

On Thursday, county Republican activists and officeholders made up the majority of the crowd who joined Blunt for his Harris-Stowe stop.

Our earlier story

U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt will officially announce his long-expected quest for the U.S. Senate Thursday morning, when he holds a news conference at Harris-Stowe State University.

It's unclear why he's chosen Harris-Stowe for the first stop of several around the state over the next two days, as Blunt launches his campaign with a traditional fly-around.

Blunt, R-Strafford, hails from southwest Missouri -- the most reliably Republican area of the state.

Blunt, 59, is seeking the seat soon to be vacated by U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., who has announced his intentions not to seek re-election in 2010. Bond, a former governor, has held the seat since 1987.

Blunt's decision to launch his campaign Thursday makes sense, since it's right before the state Republican Party's annual Lincoln Days festivities, which begin Friday in Kansas City. Blunt has been scheduled to address the crowd at the three-day event's opening-night banquet Friday, along with Bond.

Lincoln Days long has been the traditional rollout for many Republican bids for office.

Blunt's announcement will put pressure on the remaining high-profile Missouri Republican known to be considering a run for the U.S. Senate: former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who lost her quest for governor last year. She has made several trips to Washington D.C. to discuss a possible candidacy with national Republican leaders.

Another Missouri Republican rumored to be looking at the Senate contest, former state Rep. Jack Jackson of Wildwood, announced Wednesday night that he has decided instead to run for the state Senate. Jackson plans to seek the post now held by state Sen., John Griesheimer, who can't run for re-election in 2010 because of term limits.

So far, most major Democrats are getting behind their only announced major candidate, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

Blunt has been in the U.S. House since 1997. Earlier, he served two terms as Missouri's secretary of state and made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1992, when he narrowly lost in the GOP primary to then-Missouri Attorney General William L. Webster. Webster lost that fall to Democrat Mel Carnahan, the father of Robin Carnahan.

Roy Blunt is the father of former Gov. Matt Blunt.

In the U.S. House, Roy Blunt rose through the ranks quickly and held his party's No. 3 position. He stepped down last November, following the second disappointing national finish for House Republicans, who lost their majority in the 2006 election.

In 1999, he aligned himself quickly with then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, when he declared his bid for the White House. Roy Blunt led Bush's arm of congressional supporters.

A number of southwest Missouri Republicans, but so far not Matt Blunt, have indicated an interest in Roy Blunt's U.S. House seat, should he run for the U.S. Senate.