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Struck by illness, Bachmann campaigns for Blunt here via Skype

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., campaigned here Saturday on behalf of GOP colleague Roy Blunt's U.S. Senate campaign via Skype, and not in person, after she was hospitalized with an undisclosed illness.

The fundraising event that she was supposed to headline for Blunt has been postponed, said a spokesman for the Springfield, Mo., congressman who is competing Tuesday against eight lesser-known rivals in the state's Republican primary.

But via large screen, Bachmann still managed to excite the dozens of volunteers who were participating in a phone bank operation Saturday morning on behalf of Blunt and Proposition C, the health care ballot proposal that seeks to exempt Missouri from some of the provisions in the new federal health law.

Bachmann, apparently speaking from Washington, praised Blunt as the kind of U.S. senator who would oppose such Supreme Court nominees as Elena Kagen. She also lauded his willingness to vote several years ago in favor of $40 billion in proposed cuts in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Bachmann's chief point was that Blunt would oppose many of the changes that President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress have made in the last 18 months. "Getting things done is not worthwhile if it's not the right things," Bachmann said.

She also blasted the best-known Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, saying she and her allies have been making false accusations -- and running inaccurate ads -- against Blunt.

Bachmann added that she also had a suggestion for Obama, who headlined a fundraising event for Carnahan on July 8 in Kansas City. "Why don't you make 15 more trips to Missouri for Robin Carnahan," the congresswoman said, touching off cheers from the Blunt volunteers.

Joining Blunt -- live, at the headquarters -- was former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., and former state party chairwoman Ann Wagner, who recently ended a multi-year stint as ambassador to Luxembourg and now chairs Blunt's Senate campaign.

Talent joked about the last-minute request that he stand in for Bachmann, but then got serious -- passionately laying out his objections to the federal health care changes, which he asserts relies too much on $500 billion in cuts in the existing Medicare program. Talent said he was confident Blunt and other Republicans, if they regain control of Congress, can repeal much of the federal changes.

Blunt and his campaign -- and Bachmann's staff -- denied that her change of plans about Saturday's visit had anything to do with the opposition of at least 30 Missouri Tea Party groups to Bachmann's decision to campaign for Blunt.

About two dozen Tea Party activists waved signs critical of Blunt and Washington just outside the Sunset Hills building housing his campaign headquarters, as well as a satellite office for the Missouri Republican Party.

Declared one sign: "No more RINOS," (Republicans in Name Only).

Tea Party activist Tyson Laube displayed a sign asserting "Chuck out Blunt," a reference to the favorite among some Tea Party members: Blunt's chief GOP rival, state Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield.

Blunt dismissed any talk of his camp's tension with the Tea Party, instead emphasizing the common ground that he believes he shares with the movement. He said his campaign now, and this fall, will be about "jobs, too much spending, more government control of health care" and the threat of higher utility bills if a proposed anti-pollution measure -- known as cap-and-trade -- becomes law.

Blunt also rejected any speculation about Purgason's chances on Tuesday, and declined to even mention his GOP rival's name.

"We're going to be fine on Tuesday," Blunt said. "The real focus (of his campaign) is on winning the general election."

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

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.