Not much suspense in today's Missouri Senate primaries to fill the seat vacated by four-term Republican Kit Bond. On the Republican side, Rep. Roy Blunt, the former House majority whip, is a clear favorite to defeat state Sen. Chuck Purgason, a favorite of some Tea Party folks. Robin Carnahan, the secretary of state, is the all-but-certain nominee of the Democratic Party.
Blunt's decision to leave the House, to which he was first elected in 1996, is no surprise. First elevated in GOP ranks thanks to his patron, then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Blunt's star fell following big Republican defeats in 2006 and 2008. He resigned his party post following the latter cycle and began looking at the Senate race. His son, Matt Blunt, was elected governor in 2004, but poor polling numbers caused him to abandon a re-election try in 2008. The senior Blunt once ran for governor himself, but he lost the primary in 1992.
Carnahan's father was Mel Carnahan, a popular governor who died in a plane crash less than three weeks before election day in 2000, when he was campaigning for the Senate. Nonetheless, he was elected, posthumously, having narrowly defeated GOP incumbent John Ashcroft. Her mother, Jean Carnahan, was appointed by the then-acting governor to fill the Senate vacancy, a position she held until her defeat two years later.
Polls for November show a close race, with Blunt perhaps holding a slight edge. But Missouri elections have been notoriously close in recent years, and so this should go down to the wire.
The big focus is on Proposition-C, which has turned into the nation's first referendum on the recently-passed health care bill. If Prop-C passes, it would force Missouri to block the federal mandate that everyone must have or purchase medical coverage. Blunt supports the measure, Carnahan opposes it. Local observers think that it will pass, but its constitutionality is all but certain to be challenged. Here's the view from Time magazine's Karen Ball:
It is likely to give Republicans a chance to brag about the unpopularity of Obamacare, but the vote will be largely symbolic. Courts will eventually decide whether Missouri and other states can legally trump federal law and exempt citizens from the mandate to buy insurance. But sending a signal to Washington will be victory enough for the Republicans and Tea Party activists pushing Proposition C.
Polls in Missouri close at 7 p.m. Central time.