His campaign to fill big Dick Gephardt's Third Congressional District shoes may have been a little lackluster. But since heading to Washington, D.C., Russ Carnahan has proven himself able. With a seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Carnahan likes to boast, he brought home the bacon in the form of a $42 million transportation infusion for the region. He also vigorously opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement, arguing that it will drain Missouri jobs. "Freshman term is really a steep learning curve. You spend a lot of time figuring out how things work, and Carnahan seems to have discovered the levers of congressional power," props Saint Louis University political scientist Steven Puro. "I've been impressed with his performance." But is Puro truly struck by a sterling performance, or is he merely taken with the fact that Carnahan has exceeded the promise of a bland campaign? "No comment," says the professor.