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Blunt a Key Player With Unique Relations

Tom Williams/Roll Call

Despite clashing with Boehner when they opposed each other for House Minority Leader, Blunt and the Speaker have long since repaired any damage to their relationship, according to GOP sources. During the 111th Congress, after Blunt had relinquished the Whip position, Boehner included the Missourian in Republican leadership meetings and gave him a role in developing the opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care agenda.

Blunt might not be on friendly terms with all House Republicans, and his historical support for earmarks — although he backed the Senate GOP moratorium — and other policies might be out of vogue. But GOP sources said the Senator remains generally well-liked and respected in the chamber. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) previously served as his Chief Deputy Whip, and he is close with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

“Roy is the consummate political professional and works really well with both sides of the aisle,” said a Republican operative who works downtown. “He can work with Cantor and Boehner as a conduit for Kyl” and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy agreed, saying that Blunt could be among the Senate Republicans’ most valuable weapons. The California Republican also noted that Blunt’s relationships extend to Democrats — a rarity in the House — and that his knowledge of the GOP runs deep. Blunt, McCarthy added, understands what makes rank-and-file Republicans tick, having traveled to many of their districts personally. The Missourian is also familiar with the new House Republican committee chairmen and understands how they approach major policy issues.

“If used properly, he could help Senate Republicans be stronger,” McCarthy said. “He will be an asset to them.”

Blunt’s political experience extends about 40 years, beginning a few years out of college. And although he was not the only Republican insider to win last cycle, his victory over Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) stood in stark contrast to the host of anti-establishment candidates who were successful in the fall’s GOP wave.

The Senator’s father was a state legislator, and one of his first jobs was working on the 1972 Congressional campaign of former Attorney General John Ashcroft (R). Blunt, a native of the Springfield area in southwest Missouri, was appointed the Greene County clerk a year later by former Senator and then-Gov. Kit Bond (R). His election as Missouri secretary of state in 1984 was his first victory and followed an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 1980.

Blunt’s political success is due at least partly to his ability to forge relationships. The Missourian conceded he still has much to learn about the Senate — that it still feels like foreign territory despite his experience in negotiating and strategizing with the chamber’s GOP leaders while he was Whip in the House. But Blunt said his limited experience has already taught him one thing: Relationships matter, more so than they did in the House.

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