Patriots Clearing House Starting With Old GOP
Roy Blunt—a man with a name out of heartland central casting, seemingly tailor-made for senatorial glory—will not run again for the upper chamber, a place he spent the better part of a lifetime trying to reach, the Missourian announced on Monday.
The senior senator from “the Mother of the West” joins a coterie of Republican establishment grandees from the Rust Belt who took a look at 2022, and looked away. The exits of Blunt, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, and Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania leave Minority Leader Mitch McConnell further isolated, following the close, but politically calamitous forfeiture of the Senate in January.
The conventional view on this development is that it’s straight-up bad omens all around for the Republicans, a party riding out a rolling identity crisis over the future of Trump. It’s standard fare for incumbents to lose and lose big in the midterm elections, and no one knows this better than President Joe Biden, who served as principal lieutenant to Obama in 2010 and was in his third decade of senatorial service when President Bill Clinton was walloped in 1994. But Democrats and their allies are feeling hopeful they can buck the trend. Biden is and will be the beneficiary of potentially considerable headwinds: He experiences personal approval far in excess of his own party; the U.S. vaccine rollout is uneven right now but in process; and his lo-fi approach in the White House is, for many Americans, a welcome change in tone.
One gubernatorial candidate claimed to me that he believes that despite it all by fall and into next year the fallout from school closures, inner-city violence, a politicized vaccine rollout, and even a possible stock market correction or collapse, owing to inflation and asymmetric attacks on the system, could help hand the keys back to the Republicans. If so, many of the would-be replacements are offering different medicine than their predecessors, a fact put firmly on display in the recent minimum wage debates in Congress and the intellectual chatter on the right about family policy, where more conservatives are convinced the state should provide a helping hand.
And in Missouri, Blunt’s successor is unlikely to be in the man’s mold.
But the two heavyweight contenders are Eric Greitens, the controversial former governor, who has cultivated a relationship with Bannon, and Rep. Jason Smith.
Jason Rosenbaum of St. Louis Public Radio argued Monday on Twitter that Smith could potentially clear the field, reporting that most people he’s spoken with in the state “agree that a @RepJasonSmith candidacy makes a @EricGreitens #MOSEN run even less likely to succeed since Smith is a) a hard worker b) a good fundraiser and c) has credibility among fans of former President Trump.”
Smith keeps his cards close to the chest, but as Rosenbaum’s last points indicates, Smith is more in the Hawley mold than Blunt’s—and, critically for his fortunes, he has a personal relationship with Trump. Chris Buskirk of American Greatness writes in the New York Times Monday that “there is a generational divide among Republicans.” At just forty, Smith’s age is as indicative of a changing of the guard as anything.
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