State primaries prove tough on incumbents

WASHINGTON — Democrat Robin Carnahan — a member of a famed Missouri political family — and seven-term GOP Rep. Roy Blunt secured spots on the November ballot in that state's Senate race.

In Missouri, Carnahan, the daughter of a former governor and a former senator, easily defeated two challengers. Her Senate bid comes 10 years after the death of her father and one of her brothers. They died in an October 2000 plane crash while Mel Carnahan was campaigning for the Senate.

Robin Carnahan, the two-term secretary of state, will face Blunt, who has served in the House since 1996 and whose son is a former governor. He beat eight opponents for the GOP nomination, including tea party favorite state Sen. Chuck Purgason. Four-term Sen. Kit Bond is retiring.

In a surprise primary outcome in Michigan, political newcomer Rick Snyder dispatched Michigan's attorney general, a longtime congressman and two others Tuesday to win the Republican nomination in the race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero grabbed the Democratic nod, but the GOP candidate automatically became the favorite in the economically ailing state. Michigan has the nation's second-highest unemployment rate — at 13.2 percent — and scores of foreclosures, and that has been a drag on the two-term Democratic governor.

Those outcomes were expected in what otherwise has been a primary season filled with unanticipated results as tea party hopefuls shook up races across the country and voters spurned candidates aligned with the Washington establishment and political parties.

Seven-term Michigan Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick was struggling in her re-election bid. State Sen. Hansen Clarke led Kilpatrick. Clarke has emphasized the legal problems of Kilpatrick's son, Kwame Kilpatrick, who resigned as Detroit mayor in 2008 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.

If Kilpatrick stumbles, she'd be the sixth incumbent lawmaker — the fourth from the House — to lose this year.

In the Michigan governor's race, Snyder — who grabbed attention with ads promoting himself as "one tough nerd" — overcame Attorney General Mike Cox, Rep. Pete Hoekstra and two others. A wealthy businessman, he was president and chief operating officer of computer maker Gateway Inc.

In November, Snyder will face Bernero, who beat House Speaker Andy Dillon.

Link to Obama

Blunt has tried to link Carnahan to President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He has been particularly outspoken against the new federal health care law and $862 billion stimulus package, both of which Carnahan has supported. After Obama attended a Carnahan fundraiser in July, Blunt quickly converted the video into a television ad attacking her — suggesting Carnahan would "rubber stamp the Pelosi, Reid, Obama liberal agenda."

That message appeared to resonate with Republican primary voters.

Why did he vote Blunt? "Basically because I don't want Carnahan. She's an Obama person," said Roger Frevert, 43, a Jefferson City-based supervisor for utility AmerenUE.

Carnahan has characterized Blunt as the ultimate Washington insider. She criticized him for ranking among the top recipients of lobbyist contributions and helping negotiate a now-unpopular 2008 law bailing out troubled financial institutions. Her campaign events around the state are labeled as a "stop the bull" tour — suggesting that's what Blunt is peddling by implying he would stand up for regular folks.

"She would make a better senator. Blunt has been in office all this time and hasn't done anything," said Carnahan supporter Ron Gideon, 66, a retiree from Blunt's home town of Springfield.

Missouri also became the first state to test the popularity of Obama's health care overhaul law.

Voters strongly approved a new law that prohibits the government from requiring people to have health insurance or from penalizing them from paying for their own health care. That conflicts with a federal requirement that most people have health insurance or face penalties starting in 2014.

The legal effect is questionable, because federal laws generally supersede those in states. But its passage send a clear political message to Obama and the Democrats.