OK, so let me chime in on the sudden and unexpected political bombshell that incumbent Gov. Matt Blunt would not seek re-election this November. The fact is that political junkies are having a feeding frenzy on the Blunt withdrawal but, for most people, they unfortunately have more interest in hearing about Heath Ledger's death. In other words, on the state level in politics, there is not the interest nor passion that our friends in Jefferson City would have us believe. And that is especially sad because those in power in Jefferson City have a much greater impact over our lives than the news that most people follow on a regular basis.
I can't offer one logical explanation for Blunt's sudden departure other than the words he told Missourians this week. Blunt said he had little left to accomplish following his first term and without that passion or "mission" he no longer had the drive to seek the state's highest office. Cynics are looking for something hidden, something ugly that forced the announcement. I doubt it exists though I've been proven wrong more times than I can count.
If Blunt lacked that "fire in the belly" to wage another nasty campaign, to fight another protracted battle, my only question concerns the timing of his announcement. Why lay this bombshell on our state at this particular time? And if you believe those who live and work and toil in Jefferson City daily, no one - and I mean no one - knew this odd announcement was on the horizon. I suspect Matt Blunt was never fully comfortable in the skin of a Missouri politician, much less the top office holder in the state. I don't hold that against him - it's just an observation I believe to be true. He had the intelligence and the assorted "gifts" it took to claim the state's highest office but, once elected, I think he was less enamored with the process of governing. But Blunt also did a disservice to the Republican Party in many ways with his swift departure. He had raised $6 million, had effectively removed others from a race for the governor's mansion and had proposed a fairly ambitious agenda for his second term in office. So why now? If Blunt was unwilling to continue in office, surely that revelation did not arrive suddenly Monday night. That is not a decision made in haste. And strictly from a political standpoint, it is not a decision made alone. Following on the heels of the do-nothing Bob Holden, Blunt brought respect and success back to the state's top office. He was vilified by many for his substantial cuts in Medicaid health care coverage but that bold move also brought a balanced budget without a tax increase. He recognized that health care costs take one-third of our state budget currently and at the accelerated pace of spending under Mel Carnahan and Bob Holden, we were headed for a train wreck. You wouldn't know it from reading the urban media but as many people in the state applauded the Governor for those moves as criticized him.
For anyone who thought this election season in state politics was going to be lackluster, think again! The game is just getting started. Conventional wisdom says that Attorney General Jay Nixon - the likely Democratic candidate for governor - is the major beneficiary of Blunt's announcement. I'm not at all sure that's the case. The dust has yet to settle from Blunt's announcement so it's a tad bit premature to predict where this turn of events will end.
Just one final side note for our region of the state. Among the names being mentioned prominently as stepping in to fill Blunt's shoes are Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau, State Treasurer Sarah Steelman of Rolla, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau, House Speaker Rod Jetton of Marble Hill and Rep. Kenny Hulshof of Columbia, who has substantial family and career connections with Southeast Missouri.
Could the next governor of Missouri be someone with strong Southeast Missouri roots? As we learned this week, in the world of politics anything is possible!