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Blunt will support GOP presidential nominee, but is skipping trip to Cleveland

Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

In the midst of a re-election campaign, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., says he won’t be attending this summer’s Republican presidential nominating convention in Cleveland.

Blunt has attended most presidential conventions during his congressional career, although he notes that his visits have usually been only for a day or two. His decision to skip this one entirely, he says, has nothing to do with the party’s turmoil over its likely nominee, Donald Trump – nor his heated fall contest against Democrat Jason Kander.

He’s staying out of Cleveland, Blunt said, because of the convention’s timing: from July 18-21. Missouri’s Aug. 2 primary is just two weeks later.

“I’m saying that I think Missourians would assume that I should be paying attention to their vote in a couple weeks rather than how the delegates are going to vote at a national convention,” Blunt said Monday.

The senator added that he’s always viewed presidential conventions as more important to party activists than to elected officials.

He has stayed out of the Missouri fight between Trump and Ted Cruz, which resulted last Saturday in Cruz’s allies filling many of Trump’s delegate slots. 

Blunt emphasized that he’ll support whoever wins his party’s nomination, a stance that he’s held for months.

U.S. Chamber endorses Blunt, blasts Kander

When asked, Blunt indicated that he doesn’t believe the presidential battle will have much of an effect on his Senate contest with Kander. “We should be focused on jobs,’’ Blunt said. He added that he also is highlighting his opposition to federal regulations that he believed hurt job-creation efforts.

In line with those themes, Blunt was traveling the state Monday with national officials with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which highlighted its support for Blunt at several stops.

In his first Senate contest, in 2010, the national Chamber’s blanketed Missouri’s TV airwaves in early fall with ads attacking Blunt’s Democratic rival, then-Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. Blunt went on to win by about 14 percentage points.

Monday’s early endorsement blitz could be a sign that the Chamber plans to repeat that strategy against Kander, who currently is Missouri’s secretary of state.

(The Missouri Chamber cannot get involved in federal contests, said chamber CEO Dan Mehan, who explained that he participated in Monday’s tour as an individual supporter of Blunt.)

Rob Engstrom, the U.S. Chamber’s political director, sought to link Kander with other prominent Democrats in Washington, including President Barak Obama. Engstrom also derided Kander’s record in the GOP-controlled Missouri House.

Kander’s campaign, in turn, has sought for months to portray Blunt as  a Washington insider too close to special interest groups like the U.S. Chamber.

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.