As Sen. Roy Blunt meets with Donald Trump in Washington today, we now know this: If there was any doubt that the central issue in Missouri’s 2016 U.S. Senate race will be the presidential contest, those doubts are gone.
Wednesday, Blunt’s campaign attached Hillary Clinton to Jason Kander, the Democrat running for Blunt’s seat.
“Hillary Clinton would send utility bills through the roof and kill jobs, and Jason Kander would help every step of the way,” a Roy Blunt campaign press release said Wednesday. “Jason Kander stands #WithHer, but he doesn’t stand with Missouri.”
On Thursday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee struck back.
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“Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Senator Roy Blunt is desperately trying to avoid talking about the toxic and divisive candidate he’s spent months pledging to support,” its release said. “Blunt is already sick and tired of trying to hide from the onslaught of Trump-related questions, but there is nothing he can do to separate himself from the policy positions he shares with Trump.”
UPDATE: Blunt met with Trump Thursday.
“Senator Blunt joined the Senate Republican Leadership for today’s meeting with Donald Trump and reminded him that tone and language matter in our efforts to defeat Hillary Clinton in November,” said a statement from spokesman Brian Hart. “Senator Blunt urged Donald Trump to unite Americans in this effort in a way that reminds all of us of our common goals.”
No pictures of the meeting between Blunt and Trump have surfaced.
The politics of the top-of-the-ticket battle aren’t clear. A few polls show Trump leading Clinton in Missouri, and most analysts believe the state is still reliably red.
Yet in a close race for the Senate, dislike of Trump or Clinton could make a difference in Blunt v. Kander. And Trump’s negatives nationally are higher than Clinton’s.
Kander has fully embraced Clinton. Blunt has said he’ll support the GOP nominee — Trump — but the endorsement has been lukewarm at best. Blunt says he won’t attend the Republican National Convention; Kander says he’ll be at the Democrats’ gathering in Philadelphia.
The outlines of the campaign will sharpen this summer and fall. But the rules appear to be set in place now: for Missourians, it’s Blunt/Trump against Kander/Clinton for the state’s Senate seat.