Democrats Play Catch-Up in Missouri Senate Race

U.S. Senate candidates from Missouri, Republican Roy Blunt, left, and Democrat Robin Carnahan, right, from the CBS Evening News, Oct. 13, 2010.
There are only 20 days until the midterm elections, with control of both houses of Congress at stake.

Republicans have a good chance to take back the House. It will be a lot more difficult for them to capture the Senate, and CBS News is keeping an eye on the critical contests that will decide it all.

The Republicans need to pick up 10 Senate seats now held by Democrats and hold onto five that are currently in play, including Missouri.

CBS News Senior Political correspondent Jeff Greenfield reports the Missouri Senate race is a family affair: Republican Roy Blunt's son was governor. So was Democrat Robin Carnahan's father. But it's party, not family, ties that are driving this campaign: The "D" in Democrat could stand for "Disadvantage," the key to a double-digit poll lead for Republican Blunt. Special Report: Election 2010

You hear it from a stalwart Democrat in Hannibal, Mo.: "The Republicans have been great about staying on message and accusing the Democrats of tax and spend," says one voter.

You even hear it from the party's nominee: "Just no doubt," says Carnahan, "because they are in charge in Washington. People want results and they haven't seen results yet."

When the 2010 midterms began, Democrats saw the open Republican Senate seat here as a prime target of opportunity. Now, that target seems a lot more elusive.

"This is a campaign about what to do to create private sector jobs and get the federal government under control," says Blunt.

For Blunt, a 14-year veteran of Congress, the declining fortunes of President Obama have proven a political goldmine. Mr. Obama's ratings in Missouri are well below his national numbers.

Now Carnahan, who has never served in Washington, is trying to recast the debate from "Democrat vs. Republican" to "outsider vs. insider."

"If you'd been watching those ads on television, you'd think I was the one in Washington causing the economy to be a wreck," says Carnahan.

Carnahan says in an interview, "He's been he worst of what we don't like in Washington. Wasting our money, too much corruption and sweetheart deals."

One analyst says that argument is not working against the broad tide of voter unhappiness.

"The economy is not doing well and it's difficult to say it would have been even worse if someone else had been running it," says Terry Jones from the University of Missouri-St. Louis' political science department.

In 2008, John McCain won a razor-thin victory when his overwhelming support in rural Missouri overcame Obama's huge advantage in St. Louis and Kansas City. This year, the overwhelmingly bleak view of the way things are going has made the outlook much bleaker for Democrats. Special Report: Campaign 2010

Missouri Senate Election 2010: Roy Blunt (R) vs. Robin Carnahan (D)