WASHINGTON – Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, the No. 4 Senate, announced Monday that he would not seek re-election for former President Donald J. Trump in 2022.
Mr. Blunt, an integral part of the Republican establishment, told reporters in January that he was seeking a third term and that he had taken steps to avoid alienating the former president. However, with his surprise announcement on Monday, he joined a growing group of institutionalists who have chosen to leave the party rather than potentially undergoing party primaries that promise to be competitions where the candidate will be closer to Mr Trump can bind.
“After 14 general election victories – three for the county office, seven for the United States House of Representatives, and four statewide elections – I won’t be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate next year,” said Blunt, 71 years old, said in a two minute video posted on social media.
Speaking later to reporters in Springfield, Missouri, Mr Blunt predicted that he would have won Mr Trump’s approval and prevailed if he ran again, but said he did not want to look forward to another eight years of campaigning and service set in Congress.
“I felt good about the election, but what I didn’t like was whether I wanted to move from 26 years in Congress to 32 years in Congress and maybe eliminate the other things I might get a chance to do,” he said .
Republicans are confident they can keep their seat in a state that has swung sharply to the right over the past decade. Even so, Mr Blunt’s departure adds to a brain drain that is already underway among Senate Republicans.
A bipartisan deal maker and staunch representative of Washington’s social circles known for bespoke suits and disarming charm, he is the rare figure to have served in high-profile positions in both the House and Senate leadership. Mr Blunt was also responsible for planning President Biden’s inauguration in January, a delicate task that faced explosive political countercurrents and threats of violence following the January 6 mob attack on the Capitol.
His decision not to look for another term followed similar ones Senator Rob Portman from Ohio, one of the leading Republican political figures and a seeker of bipartisan compromise; Senator Richard C. Shelby from Alabama, a former chairman of the Budgets Committee who does business; and Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, a top free market party. Republicans are still watching Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, 87, their longest-serving member, to see if he is considering another term.
In their stead, a group of Trump acolytes have emerged who reflect the former president’s fighting style, have shunned compromises with Democrats, and so far have been more willing to accept Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the longtime Republican top leader with whom Mr. Blunt works closely buck allied.
“There are two kinds of politicians in Washington – those who want to make a point and those who want to make a difference. Senator Blunt has always worked to make a difference, ”said Antonia Ferrier, a former longtime Republican adviser who worked for Mr. Blunt in the house and later for Mr. McConnell. “There is no question that his departure, on top of those like Senators Alexander and Shelby, leaves a hole for those who know how to forge bipartisan legislative deals.”
In a rasping statement, Mr. McConnell called Mr. Blunt a “political heavyweight” who had helped bring home legislative victories for Republicans and the Senate as a whole. Some of Mr. Blunt’s proudest have included billions of dollars in new funding He helped secure as an appropriator for medical research, also for cancer, Alzheimer’s and mental health. He was also an accomplished political tactician who was talked about both as a possible successor to Mr. McConnell and as a sought-after negotiator for Democrats.
These traits, once recognized in the administration, have slowly become political commitments among Republican primary voters, whose loyalty to Mr Trump and distrust of official Washington have transformed the party. Mr. Blunt had not formally drawn a primary challenger, but his close alliance with Mr. McConnell, who openly sought to remove Mr. Trump from the party, and his status as a consummate Washington insider, put him at risk.
Eric Greitens, a Republican who resigned as governor of Missouri In a cloud of scandals in 2018, said last week that he was “looking into” whether to challenge Mr. Blunt in an elementary school. Mr. Greitens, an excellent member of the Navy SEALs, has tried to position himself as the heir to Mr. Trump and accused Mr. Blunt of inadequate support.
“It is not enough to have an ‘R’ after your name. We need people who are ready to take over the establishment in order to actually fight the swamp, ”said Greitens told a radio station in St. Louis.
Mr Blunt had criticized Mr Trump only occasionally during his four-year tenure, being careful not to upset the former president who gave him a narrow victory in 2016.
The Capitol Rebellion proved to be more difficult to commit. Thereafter, Mr Blunt broke up with most of the Republican delegations in Missouri and voted to confirm Mr Biden’s election victory after the attack. He called Mr. Trump’s actions “clearly reckless”. and said January 6th was “a sad and terrible day in the history of the country”. But he vociferously opposed Mr Trump’s impeachment.
Mr Blunt had no crossword puzzles for either Mr Trump or Mr Greitens on Monday, but he warned of rising politics in his party, which focused not on solving problems for people but rather on drawing lines in the sand and picking fights.
“The country has fallen away in the last decade from too many politicians saying, ‘If you vote for me, I won’t compromise on anything,” he told reporters in Springfield Democracy doesn’t work. “
Among other Republicans contemplating running for the seat are Jay Ashcroft, Secretary of State for Missouri; Eric Schmitt, the attorney general; Jean Evans, a former party leader; Mike Kehoe, the lieutenant governor; Representatives Jason Smith and Ann Wagner; and Carl Edwards, a former NASCAR driver.
With the newly discovered dominance of the Republicans in Missouri, the GOP primaries were increasingly deciding on nationwide competitions. John Hancock, a former state party chairman, warned, however, that there was always the risk that so many ambitious young Republicans vying for the nomination could lead to a “divisive primary” setback.
“A deep bank has advantages and disadvantages,” he said.
Democrats, who have lost almost every race for nationwide office in the past decade, don’t have a clear front runner right now.
Scott Sifton, a veteran of the Missouri Statehouse, has already jumped into the race and has put together a full campaign team. Democrats in the state have suggested that either of the two Democratic members of Congress, Cori Bush of St. Louis and Emanuel Cleaver II of Kansas City, could also run. And Quinton Lucas, the mayor of Kansas City, showed interest on Monday.