ST. LOUIS, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt defeated Democrat Jason Kander in a close race, likely giving control of the Senate to Republicans.
In a year where Republican incumbents in several states were fighting for their political lives, at least one of them, Blunt of Missouri, did not initially appear to be among them.
Then came a surprisingly strong challenge from Kander, the Missouri secretary of state, who pressed Blunt -- and Republicans nationally -- to treat the race as one of the most competitive in the country, and one that could tip control of the Senate to one party or the other.
Blunt began the race with a wide lead in the polls while Kander, 35, struggled to gain name recognition.
That all changed with one political ad, when Kander broke through.
In the end, however, Blunt rode a red wave of support for Trump and pulled out the victory,
Responding to criticism from Blunt about his call for universal background checks on gun purchases, Kander, a former Army National Guard captain who served in Afghanistan, filmed an ad showing him assembling an AR-15 rifle in less than 30 seconds as he talks about his position on gun control – and he did it all blindfolded.
The ad garnered more than 1 million views on YouTube and coincided with Kander's rise in the polls, with many pollsters calling the race a tossup in the final days of the campaign.
Though Missouri is a reliably conservative state in presidential elections, it has a history of electing Democrats in statewide races. Democrats control the governor's mansion and Sen. Claire McCaskill has won two Senate campaigns.
Kander has been harshly critical of Blunt's family ties to Washington lobbyists.
By return, Republicans have repeatedly cast Kander as too liberal for conservative Missourians. One campaign ad attacking Kander showed his face morphing into liberals Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders.