Even before the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, oil has been an issue in the race between Democrat Robin Carnahan and Republican Roy Blunt to replace the retiring Kit Bond in the US Senate.

The League of Conservation Voters has targeted Roy Blunt for defeat in his race to take over Kit Bond’s senate seat, running brutal ads against him (like the one embedded here) that started running last year. They also put together a website called Big Oil Blunt that lays out Roy’s pro-oil, pro-business, anti-clean energy record that earned him an A+ from the American Petroleum Institute.

When these ads were running last year, Blunt could afford to ignore it as treehuggers wasting their money, far ahead of any elections (primary or otherwise). Thanks to the fine work of BP, Transocean, and Halliburton, however, Blunt is backpedaling furiously to avoid being caught up in voter anger at the oil industry. In a new ad, Carnahan is highlighting Blunt’s ties to Big Oil and his willingness to help them at the expense of his Missouri constituents. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s “Political Fix” blog, it’s clear that Blunt is worried:

Less than hour after Democratic Senate aspirant Robin Carnahan released a sharp-edged Web ad accusing  Rep. Roy Blunt of seeing to the oil industry’s interests, Blunt announced this afternoon that he was sponsoring legislation that would dramatically increase companies’  liability.

Carnahan’s ad contends that Blunt’s recent remarks about the spill show that he wants “Missourians to pay for BP’s accident.”   It’s based partly on Blunt’s assertion that the present liability cap ($75 million) would be the extent of BP’s exposure “unless there’s some criminal activity that no one is aware of.”

Blunt’s legislation, available just minutes ago, would cap liability of offshore facilities at clean-up costs plus $150 million or, as an alternative, tie liability to profits in a way that could saddle a big company with billions in costs.

Roy Blunt has been around. He’s been in the US House since 1996, representing the most conservative portion of Missouri (John Ashcroft’s southwestern corner of the state). He’s been in the leadership of the GOP caucus since 1998 when he was named chief deputy whip, served as Majority Whip under Tom Delay, and became the interim majority leader when Delay stepped aside in 2005. After the 2008 elections, Blunt stepped out of the leadership and focused on taking Kit Bond’s seat in the Senate.

Roy Blunt has been around, and he knows how elections are won and lost. He knows how to read the political winds, and he doesn’t like the sudden change in the political weather.

Knowing that he’s got that kind of political radar, it is beyond amusing to see how the fear of political failure can make him change the tune he’s been singing for years in less than an hour.

The Gulf Oil Spill is washing up on the Missouri Senate race, and no one is more terrified of that than Roy “Big Oil” Blunt.