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Blunt retirement shakes up Missouri Senate race

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban St. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP draws line on taxes; nation braces for Chauvin verdict MORE’s (R-Mo.) unexpected announcement on Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2022 is setting off a sudden scramble among members of both parties.

For Republican leaders in the Senate, Blunt’s retirement is the latest in a series of blows ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Four other GOP senators have said that they will not seek reelection next year, fueling Democratic hopes of not only retaining their ultra-narrow majority but expanding it.

But despite its former status as a battleground state, Missouri has shifted to the right in recent years, and Blunt’s retirement creates an opening for a candidate more closely aligned with former President TrumpDonald TrumpUS gives examples of possible sanctions relief to Iran GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban MORE to succeed him. Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), for instance, has already floated the idea of a run for Blunt’s seat, arguing that his state’s senior senator has been insufficiently loyal to Trump.

No Republican has officially announced a bid for Blunt’s seat, and there are no clear front-runners. If he decides to make a run for the Senate, Greitens would enter the race with plenty of baggage. He resigned as governor in 2018, less than a year and a half after taking office, in the face of multiple scandals and staring down potential impeachment.

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Other potential GOP hopefuls include Reps. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerGuilfoyle named as national chair of Greitens' Senate campaign in Missouri Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP GOP seeks new line of attack on Biden economic plans MORE (Mo.) and Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithMissouri Republicans eying Senate bids to hold fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago Guilfoyle named as national chair of Greitens' Senate campaign in Missouri Parade of 2024 GOP hopefuls court House conservatives MORE (Mo) as well as Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, the son of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who once held Missouri’s other Senate seat.

In a statement on Monday, Ashcroft left the door open to a potential 2022 Senate bid, saying that he is weighing “how I can best serve the state of Missouri.”

“It is imperative that Republicans take back the Senate in 2022,” Ashcroft said. “Katie and I will be praying and talking to friends and family about how I can best serve the state of Missouri.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, vowed on Monday to “ensure Senator Blunt’s successor will uphold his legacy of free enterprise and small government and we will hold this seat.”

“Any candidate who supports the Democrats’ socialist, big government agenda will struggle to find votes in Missouri, a state that Donald Trump won four months ago by more than 15 points,” Scott said in a statement.

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Winning the Senate race in Missouri is likely to be an uphill battle for Democrats, who have lost nearly every statewide race there over the past decade. They are planning to contest the seat in 2022, though there is not yet a clear favorite to win the nomination.

State Sen. Scott Sifton announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination last month and quickly picked up the endorsement of state Auditor Nicole Galloway, the only Democrat currently serving in a statewide elected office. Activist Timothy Shepard has also launched a bid for the Democratic nod.

But two high-profile Democrats have already bowed out of potential bids. Jason Kander, a former Missouri secretary of state who unsuccessfully challenged Blunt in 2016, signaled on Monday that he would not mount another Senate campaign, while former Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemings asked about Senate run after sparring with Jordan on police funding Republicans fret over divisive candidates Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP MORE (D-Mo.), who lost reelection in 2018 to Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyOn The Money: Senate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl | Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term | Left-leaning group raises concerns about SALT cap repeal RNC raises nearly M in record off-year March donations Senate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl MORE (R-Mo.), said emphatically that she would “never run for office again.”

“To all that are asking: thank you to the many who have said kind things. But I will never run for office again,” McCaskill tweeted. “Nope. Not gonna happen. Never. I am so happy I feel guilty sometimes.”

Republicans are looking to take back control of the Senate in 2022 after losing it in January following a pair of Democratic wins in runoff elections in Georgia. And while midterm elections tend to favor the party out of power in Washington — the Democrats now hold control of the White House and both chambers of Congress — Republicans are facing a particularly challenging electoral map that now includes a handful of open seats.

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In declining to run for a third term in the Senate, Blunt joins Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrBipartisan Senate group announces support for ban on big cat ownership Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term A proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US MORE (R-N.C.), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHarris casts tiebreaking vote to advance Biden nominee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After historic verdict, Chauvin led away in handcuffs How to save the Amazon rainforest MORE (R-Ohio) and Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySenate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban Biden dispatches Cabinet members to sell infrastructure plan Senate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl MORE (R-Ala.), who have all announced retirement plans. Two other GOP incumbents, Sens. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySenate locks in hate crimes deal, setting up Thursday passage Conservative House members call on Senate to oppose ATF nominee House votes to extend ban on fentanyl-like substances MORE (R-Iowa) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold Johnson15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban 'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party Republicans fret over divisive candidates MORE (R-Wis.), have not yet said whether they will seek reelection next year.

One Republican operative said Blunt’s announcement was “surprising” but “not entirely unexpected,” given the coming retirements of a handful of Senate Republicans and Trump’s repeated threats to support primary challenges to GOP incumbents he views as out of step with his vision for the Republican Party.

Blunt, 71, has been a fixture in Washington for decades. He served in GOP leadership in the House for years before entering the Senate and rising to become the chamber’s fourth-highest-ranking Republican. He was widely expected to seek reelection in 2022 and even said earlier this year that he was still planning to run for a third term.

While Blunt had largely stood by Trump — he voted to acquit the former president in both of his impeachment trials — he still faced potential headwinds within his own party. Greitens hammered Blunt in a radio interview last month for “siding with Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhen it comes to Georgia's voting law, keep politics out of business Pelosi to offer even split on 9/11-style commission to probe Capitol riot Senate GOP crafts outlines for infrastructure counter proposal MORE,” the Senate Republican leader from Kentucky whose relationship with Trump has frayed in recent months.

Democrats touted Blunt’s retirement as the latest sign of the GOP’s post-Trump political wounds. Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersHillicon Valley: Biden nominates former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar | Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after all | Biden pressed on semiconductor production amid shortage Bipartisan lawmakers signal support for Biden cybersecurity picks The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Let's make a deal on infrastructure, taxes MORE (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said that Blunt’s announcement amounted to “a broader statement about where the Republican Party is today and the willingness of incumbent senators to say they’ve had enough.”

“I think it actually speaks volumes about what’s happening in the Republican Party right now,” Peters told reporters on a video call. “Sen. Blunt is now the fifth Republican senator to say that he is not going to run for another term, and I think that certainly means that Republicans are viewing their party as in trouble.”

“We will be looking at Missouri, clearly, with a Republican senator retiring,” he continued. “I know that there are a number of very well-qualified folks who are interested in running for the United States Senate.”