JEFFERSON CITY - Democratic candidate Claire McCaskill frequently cited her opponent Matt Blunt's age -- 33 -- in her campaign, but the only number that mattered Tuesday night was the poll result, which showed Missouri voters favored Blunt to be their next governor.
Blunt declared victory just after 2am Wednesday morning, saying he had received a phone call from McCaskill conceding defeat.
"Now is the time for every Missourian to pull together to take Missouri in a new direction," Blunt said, speaking to a crowd of campaign supporters and media members at the Springfield University Plaza Hotel.
McCaskill held out to the bitter end, hoping uncounted votes in Democrat-heavy St. Louis could deliver the landslide returns necessary to overcome Blunt's lead with nearly all of the precincts reporting.
Blunt's election capped a successful night for Missouri Republicans. George Bush's victory here was secured early on and as the evening wore on Republicans increased their control over the Legislature, reaching a two-thirds majority in the state Senate. They also took hold of the treasurer's office.
Republican Peter Kinder held a nearly 40,000 vote lead over Bekki Cook in the lieutenant governor's race with more than 97 percent of precincts reporting, but as of this writing no official winner had been declared.
Blunt's victory puts the Republicans in control of both of the governor's office and the Legislature for the first time in more than 80 years. It also ends the Democrats' decade-long hold on the state's top slot.
With Republicans increasing their hold on Missouri's government, Blunt will have considerable latitude to pursue his agenda.
He will be Missouri's first Republican governor since US Attorney General John Ashcroft, a fellow native of Greene county who served as governor from 1985-1993.
Blunt, 33, is a native of Springfield and the son of Rep. Roy Blunt, the Republican's whip in the U.S. House. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Blunt served five years in the Navy before he began his political career in 1999 in the state House of Representatives. After serving one term, he successfully ran for secretary of state, an office previously held by his father from 1985-1993.
Throughout the campaign, McCaskill, Missouri's state auditor, sought to portray Blunt as too young and inexperienced to manage the state's affairs.
"I will continue to be the best darn state auditor this state has ever had," McCaskill said during her concession speech at Renaissance Hotel in downtown St. Louis.
Blunt replaces Gov. Bob Holden, who was defeated by McCaskill in the Democrat's Aug. Primary.
MDN Reporters Jade Mingus and Bente Birkeland contributed to this report.