JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri Republican Rep. Roy Blunt won a promotion to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, defeating Democrat Robin Carnahan with a campaign that tapped into voter frustrations with President Barack Obama.
An Associated Press analysis of exit poll data showed Blunt defeating Carnahan. Blunt's victory assured a continued Republican hold on the seat being vacated by Sen. Kit Bond, who is retiring after 24 years in the chamber.
Blunt, 60, of Springfield, is a former member of House Republican leadership whom Carnahan portrayed as "the very worst of Washington" because of his connections to lobbyists, corporate interests and former GOP leaders who got caught up in scandals.
But Blunt dismissed such criticism as desperate personal attacks and instead suggested Carnahan would be a "rubber stamp" for Obama, who has grown more unpopular in Missouri since narrowly losing the state in the 2008 presidential election.
Blunt stressed his opposition to many of Obama's policies, including the health care overhaul, stimulus act and climate control legislation. When Obama appeared with Carnahan at a Kansas City fundraiser, Blunt quickly turned it into an effective TV ad against her.
His message resonated with the likes of Alice Robertson, 67, a retired janitorial business owner from Jefferson City.
"We need a change from Obama," Robertson said after casting her vote for Blunt.
"Carnahan? No, I don't think so," added Joyce Burns, 54, an unemployed pharmacy technician from rural Tipton. "I don't like Obama and I don't like anything he represents."
Preliminary exit poll data suggests Blunt gained support from rural voters, independents and people worried about an intrusive federal government. Nearly six in 10 Missouri voters participating in the exit poll said they disapproved of Obama's job performance.
When he declared his candidacy February 2009, Blunt appeared to be facing a strong headwind. He told fellow Republicans his election was essential to prevent Democrats from obtaining a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
But as the economy remained a concern and Obama's popularity declined, Blunt's campaign gained momentum and Democratic hopes for the seat diminished. Polls consistently showed Blunt ahead in 2010.
Blunt frequently campaigned on economic issues. He traveled the state in a big blue RV plastered with the message: "The choice is clear. Roy will fight for jobs." And he touted the fact he attended more than 900 campaign events.
Nearly all of Blunt's speeches included a warning about the growth of government.
"Are we going to live in a country where the government is bigger than the people?" Blunt rhetorically asked as part of his standard stump speech. "Or are we going to live in a country where the people are bigger than the government?"
Blunt has worked in government much of his life. He was a 23-year-old high school history teacher when he was appointed as Greene County clerk by then-Gov. Bond. He went on to serve 12 years in the post, then twice won election as Missouri secretary of state.
After losing a bitter Republican primary for governor in 1992, Blunt served as president of Southwest Baptist University. He made a political comeback by winning election to Congress in 1996 and quickly rose through Republican leadership ranks to become the House whip. He temporarily served as House majority leader after Tom Delay stepped down in 2006, but Blunt ultimately lost the majority leader's election to Rep. John Boehner of Ohio.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)