At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt did the unthinkable and announced he would not run for reelection. And while the announcement caused heads to explode in some deadline-minded newsrooms across the state, your typing pals at CHATTER were not surprised.
In November 2006 we predicted that Blunt wouldn't run for a second term as governor. We made a similar prediction in December 2006.
(Granted, most of our other predictions fell flat. But we'll take being a Blunt seer.)
There was no way Blunt was going to run for another term. Too many signs pointed the way:
•He's never held an elective office for more than one term. He was a state representative for a single two-year term. He was secretary of state for one term. Why change stripes just because you're governor?
•He's been solidly unpopular for most of his time in the governor's office. Blunt's 2005 cuts to Medicaid made him a huge target for Democrats -- so huge that Jay Nixon, the attorney general (and governor wanna-be) has been running on that single issue for more than a year.
•He never said anything about a second term in office. Any politician with an eye to the future would outline what he'd like to do in the next four years. Blunt's silence on that front was loud.
So what does Matt Blunt do with the rest of his life? Here's one scenario:
He spends a lot of time this spring shaking the trees for Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor running for president. Blunt and Romney are friends, and Republicans need Missouri if they want to retain the White House. Now that Blunt's not running for reelection, his approval rating will surely go up -- important for a competitive showing in November.
If Romney wants to rattle the political world, he'll name his choice for veep in advance of the convention -- and he'll pick Matt Blunt.
Only one fly in that salve. Can the nation stand a Mitt-Matt ticket? For those who giggle at the sing-song sound, the answer is self-evident.
Tuesday's news brings bad tidings for Missouri Democrats. They've lost the boogeyman at the top of the ticket. Jay Nixon has spent his time running against Matt Blunt; he's done very little to tell people why they should vote for him. That worked fine when Blunt was the incumbent opponent. Now it's just a dated, jaded strategy.
Missouri Republicans could select Treasurer Sarah Steelman or Rep. Ken Hulshof to run for governor. Either candidate would have more appeal than Blunt did with moderates -- and Nixon would have a much harder time demonizing them.
Democrats wanted Matt Blunt out of the way. Now that they have their wish, they may be sorry.