Sunday, February 22, 2009

Steelman leaning toward U. S. Senate run

Former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman appears to be on the verge of entering the U. S. Senate race, ensuring a primary battle with Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt:

Blunt was a predominant presence this weekend at the state GOP's annual Lincoln Days conference in Kansas City, jumping from one speaking engagement to another while basking in the praise of incumbent Sen. Kit Bond and various other officeholders. Many attendees wore stickers proclaiming: "Roy Blunt U.S. Senate."

By contrast, Steelman neither was invited nor did she ask to speak at the conference. There were no Steelman campaign stickers nor signs and no Steelman hospitality suite for the guests. Instead, Steelman kept a low profile while visiting with Republicans outside the formal events.

After Bond announced in January that he would not seek election to a fifth term, Blunt moved quickly to position himself as a contender, and Steelman said she also was considering the race. Asked Saturday if she would run for Senate, Steelman said: "I'm leaning towards it."

The Republican Party is on the path to repeat the same mistake it made when it anointed Kenny Hulshof to replace Matt Blunt. Instead of inviting the best and brightest lights of the party to settle it in front of voters, the GOP bigwigs want to make the decision themselves.

This is something the party does not just on the state level, but on the national level. How else can you explain the nomination of Bob Dole as the party's candidate for president in 1996? A handful of top party leaders decide whose turn has arrived and anyone else is just out of luck.

As far as the 2010 U. S. Senate race is concerned, barring the entrance of another high-profile Republican into the primary, this race is made to order for Sarah Steelman. Roy Blunt is a far easier target than Kenny Hulshof, simply because of his greater prominence and his connection to the K Street lobbying factory. The fact that he is married to a lobbyist (for big tobacco) and now has three children engaged in lobbying activities, paints a giant target on his back

Blunt will do well in this corner of the state, where he can point to different pork barrel projects he has brought here, but there is no reason for any other part of the state to regard him with the same affection.

If Steelman is going to cash in on her advantage, she has to get better at pushing her views across as a speaker. Her ads worked well and her strategy was sound during her gubernatorial run, but the smooth, composed Hulshof (who had no plan whatsoever as far as I could determine) outshined her in debates and in personal appearances.

A Sarah Steelman without the halting delivery could be Roy Blunt's worst nightmare.

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