SEDALIA, Mo. (AP) -- Republican Roy Blunt set out Friday on a 19-city bus tour for his U.S. Senate campaign, asserting that President Barack Obama's policies are creating uncertainty for businesses and making them reluctant to hire employees.
Blunt decried the health care, energy and tax proposals of Obama and the Democratic-led Congress as an "experiment in extremism" that are prolonging -- not resolving -- the nation's economic problems.
"The biggest issue is jobs, coupled by the biggest issue of debt that the country cannot repay," Blunt told about 30 people at the Rustic Pantry restaurant in Sedalia, the first stop on his tour.
Blunt, a congressman from southwest Missouri, is the leading Republican seeking to replace retiring GOP Sen. Kit Bond in the November elections. The lone Democrat in the race is Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. But more candidates could emerge when Missouri's official candidacy filing period begins Tuesday.
Blunt's multicity tour -- in a blue recreational vehicle emblazoned with stars and his first name in large white letters -- was timed to begin on the one-year anniversary of his candidacy announcement. The tour is to conclude Tuesday in St. Louis after winding through rural towns and city suburbs in various parts of the state.
Blunt is taking aim at the massive health care overhaul bill that has stalled in Congress, a climate control bill that could raise costs for Missouri's many coal-fired power plants and Obama's proposed tax policy changes that Blunt says would harm small businesses by raising the upper income tax brackets.
As long as those issues remain unresolved, businesses are reluctant to expand their payroll or operations, he said.
"You can't continue to create an uncertain future for small businesses and expect them to create jobs," Blunt said. "The president has spent a year spinning his wheels in the areas that have to be settled before people create jobs."
Carnahan said later Friday that she agrees the lack of action in Washington has created uncertainty for businesses. But she blamed Blunt and other Republicans for blocking needed reforms to the nation's energy and health-care policies, and noted Blunt was in Republican House leadership when the nation's debt started rising.
"Folks like Congressman Blunt have decided saying no is better for them politically and don't care that it's bad for the country," Carnahan said in a telephone interview from Portland, Ore., where she was attending political fundraisers and meetings. "We need some new folks that aren't entrenched in that system like Congressman Blunt is, if we are going to hope to change it."
Public opinion polls have shown a high level of discontent among potential voters heading into this fall's elections, where Republicans are hoping to put a dent in the Democrats' solid congressional majorities.
In a CBS/New York Times poll taken Feb. 5-10 of more than 1,000 adults, 62 percent responded that "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track" while just 33 percent agreed that things in "this country are generally going in the right direction." The dissatisfaction rate with the country's direction was 77 percent in a Gallup poll of more than 1,000 adults taken Feb. 1-3.
Diners at the Rustic Pantry expressed similar frustrations Friday.
"We're in a world of hurt," said Kate Woody, 47, a residential care center worker from Marshall who ate and left before Blunt arrived. "This Democrats against Republicans, it's kind of like high school -- we're not going to pass that, because there's an `i' not dotted -- it's just ridiculous. I think they should just get rid of everybody" in Congress.
Woody was particularly concerned about the rising cost of health insurance. Her husband, Darin, said their family's insurance premiums have quadrupled in the past six or seven years. The Woodys said they typically lean toward Democrats and knew little about Blunt.
Larry Gross, who said he typically backs Republicans, was equally as frustrated with the direction of the nation. He was most concerned about rising debt and a perceived decline in the United States' strength around the world.
The nation's leadership is "the worst I've ever seen it," said Gross, 74, of Clinton, who was smoking a cigarette while drinking coffee. "I think we're giving ourselves away to the Chinese and those other countries."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)