Blunt, Tea Parties focus of first Lincon Day
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Blunt, Tea Parties focus of first Lincon Day

Date: February 26, 2010
By: Jeremy Essig
State Capitol Bureau

ST. CHARLES -Tea Party activists and U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt were the focus of the first day of an annual Missouri Republican party gathering.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, in a speech introducing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said the future of the Republican party lies in the hands of non-traditional party loyalists.

"We rise or fall on the voting behavior of swing voters," Kinder said. "These are the Tea Party movement folks."

Kinder said it was the job of the Republican base to reach out to the conservative activists, arguing that they held the votes allowed Scott Brown to win a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts long held by Democrats.

Following a speech that lasted around four minutes, Kinder introduced Pawlenty, describing him a model of common-sense reform.

Pawlenty is "a genuine, bonafied star of the Republican party," Kinder said.

Tea Party activists were also mentioned twice by Pawlenty, who said conservatives of all types needed to band together.

"I hope we realize we are first constitutional conservatives," Pawlenty said.

In his 30-minute speech, Pawlenty also offered his support for U.S. Rep Roy Blunt, who is running for the soon to be vacant U.S. Senate seat currently held by Christopher "Kit" Bond.

"I'm glad that Roy Blunt has stepped up to run for U.S. Senate," Pawlenty said.

Lloyd Smith, executive director of the state Republican party, said Pawlenty had appeared earlier in the day with Blunt at a fundraiser in the St. Louis area.

While Smith would not say the party was endorsing Blunt over his Republican primary rivals, Blunt and his campaign materials were displayed more prevalently than his Republican opponents.

The St. Charles Convention center was awash in blue and white Blunt balloons and a "Roy" banner was affixed to a third floor balcony at the Embassy Suites hotel connected to the convention center. Blunt also held a rally inside the convention center earlier in the afternoon.

Jonathon Prouty, spokesman for the Missouri Republican party, said the rally was not one of the scheduled Lincoln Days events.

In his rally, Blunt did not mention any of his primary challengers by name, instead focusing national Democrats and possible general election opponent Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

Speaking at the rally, Blunt said he sees his campaign as one that could change the future of the country.

"I've never run for office before where I thought weather I got elected or not actually had the likely hood of truly affecting the absolute future of America," Blunt said.

State Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, - one of Blunt's primary opponents - said he wasn't deterred by the high visibility of the Blunt campaign.

"In my first race for state Rep. the party worked against me," Purgason said. "I've been there before."

Purgason said he's running on a platform to balance the federal budget, a position he said Republicans in Washington - including Blunt - have abandoned.

"The Republican party had an opportunity (to reign in federal spending) when they were the majority from 200-2006," he said. "Blunt was part of the leadership that added debt... He enjoys earmarks and failed to balance the budget."

The central theme to Blunt's campaign, he said is job creation. At his rally, and later at his speech opening the evening's banquet, Blunt said that Democrats were wrong to focus on health care and have turned people against the party.

"No one has done as much for my Senate campaign as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, Blunt said referring to the House and Senate leaders who have both put forth versions of the health care reform. "Along with the President they have scared the county to death."

Smith said the turnout at this year's Lincoln Days event would be double that of last year when close to 400 attended.

"What happened in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts caused people to be energized," Smith said.

Lincoln Days will continue Saturday with speeches from former Attorney General John Ashcroft and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN.