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Bond talks up Blunt in 2010 - and Talent in 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 21, 2009 - U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., is leaving no doubt that he's solidly behind U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt's quest to succeed the senator in 2010.

"We need a candidate who will unite party and put integrity before politics," said Bond, who is opting to retire when his current term ends in January 2011.

But such praise, made Friday night, was tempered Saturday morning -- when Bond emphasized to reporters that he was not ready to endorse Blunt or anyone else, as yet.

And the senator says he'd love to see former Sen. Jim Talent make a comeback in 2012, by seeking a rematch against Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who defeated Talent in 2006.

Addressing cheering Republicans at the Friday night kickoff of Lincoln Days, Bond asserted that Blunt shared his views when it came to defending the country and opposing the $790 billion stimulus package approved by Congress last week.

"It will stimulate the debt, it will stimulate the growth of government,” but not the nation's troubled economy, Bond said.

Bond did acknowledge that the nation's financial health was poor. "The economy has gone off a cliff,'' Bond said.

He drew laughs when he observed, "This economy is so bad, you can't even sell an Illinois Senate seat."

Bond made clear he plans to actively campaign for Blunt, who he said offered the GOP its best hope for retaining his Senate seat. "I'm neither shy nor retiring,'' Bond quipped.

Bond made no mention of any possible Senate bids by other Republicans, notably former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman.

But Bond began his remarks by lamenting the 2006 loss by Talent, who had introduced the senator at Friday night's banquet. Talent's defeat by McCaskill, said Bond, is "one of the most disappointing things that's happened to me."

Talent, Bond added, "was a great senator and will be again."

(Bond's comments were particularly interesting because he and McCaskill have been on very friendly terms personally, even having dinner together. Just goes to show that political ties are stronger than the personal.)

Afterward, Talent -- who's now in private practice as a lawyer and consultant -- said in an interview that he was leaving all options open for his professional and political future.

Talent said that any return to politics will depend, in part, on his family. His children are now 18,16 and 12. "It has made a difference, me being around these last few years,'' Talent said.

"I'm interested in public service, but I'm not focused on any particular thing,'' Talent added. "There's a lot of possibilities out there."

Among other things, Talent is promoting the recent release of a report -- "World at Risk" -- by a bipartisan anti-terrorism commission on which he sat.

Talent served as vice chairman of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. He and the chairman, former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., plan to be in St. Louis in April to discuss the report and its findings.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.