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Sen. Roy Blunt Says He Won't Run For Reelection

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Yet another Senate Republican says he is not running for reelection in 2022. The announcement today from Roy Blunt of Missouri has set off a scramble among Republican officials in that state who fear that a divisive primary could put a safe GOP seat in play for Democrats. St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum has more.

JASON ROSENBAUM, BYLINE: In a web video where he ticked off a litany of accomplishments over a career stretching back to the 1970s, Roy Blunt said these words that set the Missouri political world aflame.

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ROY BLUNT: I won't be a candidate for reelection to the United States Senate next year.

ROSENBAUM: Blunt is a powerful figure inside Missouri politics and a member of GOP Senate leadership. But his political stock here may have taken a hit when he chose not to object to President Joe Biden's Electoral College win, prompting criticism from some Trump supporters, including former Governor Eric Greitens.

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ERIC GREITENS: We've seen Senator Blunt out there criticizing President Trump, criticizing his administration, embracing Joe Biden.

ROSENBAUM: The prospect of Greitens becoming a U.S. senator worries some Missouri Republicans, especially since he resigned in 2018 amid a sex scandal. Others, like GOP activist Chris Arps, feel Missouri is now so red that a contentious primary won't tip the race to the Democrats.

CHRIS ARPS: This is going to be a whole melee in 2022. 2022 was looking like it was going to be kind of a sleepy election. I don't think so now.

ROSENBAUM: Besides Greitens, Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, U.S. Representative Jason Smith and Attorney General Eric Schmitt could run. Former Missouri Republican Party chief Jean Evans says whoever connects with Trump will get a boost.

JEAN EVANS: Whoever the nominee is is going to really want to have that Trump endorsement for the primary because it's a big deal in a Missouri primary.

ROSENBAUM: Whether Democrats can break the GOP's hold on Missouri could depend if a flawed Republican candidate makes it through the primary.

For NPR News, I'm Jason Rosenbaum in St. Louis.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE MOORE'S "BELOVED EXILE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.