The campaign buses of Republican incumbent Roy Blunt and Democrat Jason Kander provide real insight into the U.S. Senate campaign in Missouri.
The bus for Blunt, who was first elected to Congress in 1996, features a photo of a farm field. It contains Roy Blunt’s name in relatively small letters and his campaign theme: “More Jobs. Less Government.”
The side of Kander’s bus contains a huge photo of the candidate and this label in large letters: JASON KANDER, U.S. SENATE.
Kander, who used his military leadership resume to leap from a state representative’s job to Missouri secretary of state four years ago, seeks all the name identification he can get. He wants Missouri voters to see his photo everywhere he goes.
Blunt, who grew up on a dairy farm, doesn’t need to display his photo on his bus. He has traveled to all 114 Missouri counties at least three times since 2009 and started this race far better known than Kander. Blunt won two terms as secretary of state and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1992 before winning seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate contest in 2010.
Seeking the outsider status that has worked well for other candidates this year, Kander labels Blunt the “consummate Washington insider” and insists Blunt has lost touch with voters who sent him to the Capitol. Kander further contends that Blunt is far too cozy with lobbyists and is in fact married to one while three of his children are lobbyists.
Blunt counters that Kander has not done his present job well. Blunt claims Kander is too liberal and out-of-touch with Missouri’s core values to deserve a promotion. Blunt repeatedly ties Kander to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, both of whom are unpopular in the state.
While Kander has served in state political offices for eight years (four as a state representative from Kansas City), he is counting on the overall disapproval rating of Congress to give him the “outsider” edge. The former Army officer has the freedom to say what he would do if elected while being free to criticize what Blunt has done or not done.
Blunt does have a record in Washington. He is one of the few people ever to have held top leadership positions in both the House and the Senate. He has been a prolific fundraiser and has provided funds for many other Republicans who are then happy to work with him to pass or kill legislation.
Blunt is undeniably conservative and has been a fierce critic of some of the Obama administration policies. But even in the era of tea party fanatics, Blunt has demonstrated an ability to work effectively with Democrats on major issues such as increased funding for medical research and improving roads, bridges, ports and underground water and sewer lines.
Last year Blunt worked with Rep. John Delaney, a Maryland Democrat, to support legislation that would have created thousands of jobs working on the nation’s massive infrastructure needs. The measure would have provided dependable multiple-year funding for the Highway Trust Fund.
Ultimately, that measure did not pass, but work on it did lead to the successful passage of a five-year $305 billion highway bill late last year. That was the first long-term national transportation package in a decade.
Blunt also successfully pushed for the Water Resources Development Act, passed by the Senate last week 95-3. That measure would authorize flood control and other water infrastructure projects across the country. Missouri would benefit greatly from the act in terms of jobs and infrastructure improvements.
He also responded in 2011 to the impending shortfalls in Social Security. He called for changes in the program for those younger than 55, such as working longer before retirement; higher-income workers would have received lower benefits. The proposal didn’t pass, however.
Kander believes Blunt’s record is too thin and too long. On the stump he repeatedly asks crowds to raise their hands if they approve of the job Congress has done. Few hands go up.
As a veteran with a good military record, Kander pledges to work to clean up the lingering mess in the Department of Veterans Affairs, where veterans have been denied needed treatment or misdiagnosed and mistreated. Kander notes that Blunt never served in the military, receiving repeated student deferments.
Blunt points to legislation he has passed to assist military families as part of his lengthy support of veterans and his lifetime service award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
After digesting the seemingly unending round of TV and radio ads and reviewing direct mail and social media appeals, voters will decide between a conservative insider with proven accomplishments and a progressive outsider with good potential.