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Ashcroft to make rare public political appearances to aid Blunt

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 22, 2009 - Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who previously was a Missouri governor and a U.S. senator, has generally stayed out of the political limelight since leaving office in early 2005 and undertaking a lucrative private career as a lawyer and strategic consultant.

But Ashcroft is apparently making an exception today for an old friend, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Strafford.

Ashcroft is joining Blunt this afternoon at two news conferences Monday afternoon in Springfield and Joplin, two Republican strongholds in the duo's home turf of southwest Missouri.

The events are expected to feature Ashcroft strongly endorsing Blunt, and emphasizing his conservative credentials.

Two other prominent Republicans -- former Sen. Jim Talent and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder -- performed the same service at a rally Saturday in St. Louis County.

Blunt's aim is two-fold:

-- Reassure Republicans -- especially donors -- that he has the solid backing and backbone needed to take on the likely Democratic nominee, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan;

-- Discourage potential Republican rivals, the latest being state Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield.

The Blunt-Ashcroft Springfield event is at the Greene County Sheriff's office (perhaps reflecting some focus on gun rights and law enforcement matters?), while the Joplin news conference is in a more-typical venue, a hotel meeting room.

Ashcroft and Blunt go back decades. Blunt served as Missouri secretary of state during Ashcroft's two terms as governor (1985-93), and some suspected that Ashcroft -- although publicly neutral -- privately favored Blunt in the three-way GOP gubernatorial primary in 1992. Ashcroft's brother did publicly endorse Blunt.

Blunt lost narrowly to then-Attorney General Bill Webster in 1992, who then went on to political defeat and prison for campaign-related offenses. But by the late 1990s, Blunt and Ashcroft were both in Washington as members of Congress -- Blunt in the House and Ashcroft in the Senate.

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.