With Missouri Sen. Roy Blount's announcement this week, five Republican senators have now announced their retirement ahead of 2022 contests, and that means Democrats have the opportunity to pick them off as votes who no longer need to fear Republican primary cultists, and to take those seats in 20 months.
This is not the way Republicans wanted to begin the year.
Missouri’s Roy Blunt on Monday became the fifth Republican senator to announce he will not seek reelection, a retirement wave that portends an ugly campaign season next year and gives Democrats fresh hope in preserving their razor-thin Senate majority.
History suggests Republicans are still well-positioned to reclaim at least one chamber of Congress next year. But officials in both parties agree that the surge of GOP departures will make the Republicans’ challenge more difficult in the Senate.
“Any time you lose an incumbent, it’s bad news,” said Republican strategist Rick Tyler, who briefly worked for failed Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin nearly a decade ago. “Missouri’s not necessarily a safe state for Republicans. Democrats have won there.”
The 71-year-old Blunt’s exit is a reminder of how the nation’s politics have shifted since the rise of Donald Trump. Blunt and his retiring GOP colleagues from Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Alabama represent an old guard who fought for conservative policies but sometimes resisted the deeply personal attacks and uneven governance that dominated the Trump era.
Their departures will leave a void likely to be filled by a new generation of Republicans more willing to embrace Trumpism — or by Democrats.
Several Missouri Republicans are expected to seek the nomination to replace Blunt, but none will be more divisive than former Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 amid the fallout of a sex scandal and ethics investigation. Missouri’s Republican base has since rallied behind him, believing he was unfairly prosecuted.
Greitens was considering running for the GOP nomination even before Blunt’s announcement. He is expected to announce his candidacy as soon as Tuesday morning.
Two leading Missouri Democrats, former Sen. Claire McCaskill and 2016 Senate candidate Jason Kander, both said they would not run for the open seat.
Greitens in, McCaskill out. Should be a hell of a fight, but can Democrats convince people to vote for them instead of even worse Republicans?