By all accounts, the end of March and the beginning of April have been kind to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the leader of Mitt Romney’s effort to secure Member endorsements.
In recent days, the former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential frontrunner has been endorsed by a group of much sought after tea party stalwarts, including GOP Sens. Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Marco Rubio (Fla.). Also endorsing on the cusp of Tuesday’s key Badger State presidential primary was House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
But in an interview with Roll Call last week, during which Blunt discussed his plans to use his leadership position as Senate GOP Conference vice chairman to improve coordination between House and Senate Republicans, the Missourian reflected on an endorsement whip operation that functioned much differently than when he did the same thing in 2000 for George W. Bush, the Texas governor who would go on to be elected president.
A dozen years ago, Congress didn’t have an approval rating in the low teens and most Members believed their endorsement was worth something. That has not been the case in 2012, Blunt said.
“In 2000, political leaders thought their endorsement was more unquestionably valuable,” he said. In 2000, the Missourian led Bush’s whip operation in the House only; this cycle, he has run the effort in both chambers.
As of today, 94 Members from the House and Senate have endorsed Romney, according to Roll Call's tracking of Hill endorsements. His competitors lagged far behind, with former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) having been backed by six Members. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) is supported by 11 Members and Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) has endorsements from four Members, including his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Meanwhile, Blunt said, he is still adjusting to the slower pace of life in the Senate compared to the House. Blunt served in the House for 14 years until he was elected to the Senate in 2010.
“I’d be more adjusted to the deliberate pace of the Senate if it actually went somewhere,” he said. “There’s too much talk and not enough action — except for the regulators.”