Then the election really becomes a referendum on health care, on the stimulus and the bailout, on cap and trade, on all of those big-ticket items that have been on the national political landscape. Really, these two very well-known people have just become the conduits for those issues. Because everybody knows about as much as they’re going to know, if not about Robin Carnahan and Roy Blunt personally, [then about] their legacies—who these people are and what their families stand for.
So there’s an opportunity for this to be a race in which really the issues matter. Proposition C is a good example. Most of the legal experts I’ve talked to say it’s unconstitutional. But it’s similar to the Arizona immigration law in that the aim is to create a legal battle that will bring money into the Senate race, and will in turn give Blunt a way to talk about why Obama’s health care policy is bad. And Carnahan will have to respond.
Blunt came out with a clear statement in favor of Proposition C, and he wants to repeal the federal health care law. The Carnahan campaign issued a statement, where in long paragraph form they kind of said they’re against Prop C without ever saying they’re against Prop C. It’s an incredibly nuanced statement trying not to offend anybody, and it says very little at all. Whether he’s right or wrong, Blunt’s coming out with a pretty clear statement about something people have an opinion about. Carnahan has said some aspects of health care reform need to be changed—she is afraid to come out and say, “Yep, health care reform is a good law, and Blunt’s wrong.” It forces her into this position of nuance, and I’m not sure how well that plays politically.
2. The Tea Party has less influence in Missouri’s Republican Senate primary than it has in other Republican Senate primary races, but the outcome of Tuesday’s vote could determine the extent of their involvement in the national race come November.
Probably the most important thing about this race is that in no other state would a seven-term congressman named Roy Blunt, who’s very well known as a Washington insider, be the favorite. And yet he is. And it goes back to that political royalty thing. Blunt’s connections to Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, ethics questions, close ties to lobbyists—those things should hurt him. But many of them apply to Carnahan’s family as well.
Robin Carnahan herself is not an insider, but her brother’s in Congress, her mother was a senator, and her other brother has lobbied as well. All of the same things that she’s going to try to paint Roy with—it’s going to be like kindergarten: “I’m like rubber, you’re like glue.” A huge part of the Carnahan campaign has been “Blunt’s a Washington insider,” but it doesn’t seem to have the desired effect because her name is Carnahan. To some degree, they cancel each other out.
You look at what happened in Utah, Kentucky, and Florida—in all of those big races, the political insider lost to the Tea Party upstart. Here the Tea Party can’t get any support: Roy Blunt has all the cash. The Tea Party is for the most part backing a primary opponent to Roy Blunt, Chuck Purgason, but he’s not getting any national money, so without the money his grassroots support isn’t sufficient. And Michele Bachmann just threw her support behind Blunt. Her coming in angered a lot of the Tea Party folks in Missouri—Blunt voted for the bailout and is kind of the antithesis of what the Tea Party movement is about this year.
Robin Carnahan’s going to get like 80 percent of the Democratic vote on Tuesday. Blunt’s number’s not going to be as big because Purgason could take away some of his momentum; Purgason’s numbers on Tuesday could help determine whether the Tea Party is at all involved in the national election. If Blunt wins the primary, as is likely, and goes on to face Carnahan in November, those activists that are mad at Blunt and support his opponent are not likely to vote for Robin Carnahan—but the question is, do they vote in November? To me, Roy Blunt doesn’t bring in Michele Bachmann if he’s not at least a little bit worried about Tuesday. If this were the general election, he’s not bringing in Michele Bachmann, because she’s not going to help with independents.
3. Ultimately, the Senate race will be won or lost in southwest Missouri.