On Mo. G.O.P's Problems: "It's Much Harder To Draw A Single Lesson."
On The 2012 Presidential Field: "I Hope Romney Stays In The Arena."
On His Political Future: "I Haven't Ever Ruled It Out."
It's been just over two years since Claire McCaskill forced the word "former" before Jim Talent's title of U.S. Senator. Since then, Talent has done work with the Heritage Foundation, Fleishman Hillard and Mitt Romney -- and mostly stayed out of the political spotlight.
And he says, he's happy with it. "I'm enjoying private life," Talent said in a wide-ranging interview with the KY3 Political Notebook. "I have much more time at home, and my 16-year-old said to me the other day, 'I'm glad you're around more,' and I was waiting for the punchline, and it never came. So that was nice," he recalled.
Still, Talent did do work in the political sphere as a mostly behind-the-scenes adviser for Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney during his presidential run. Talent tells the Notebook that if Romney decides to run in 2012, he'll back him again.
"I believe we'd have if not a different, a closer result in this campaign," Talent said, if Romney was the G.O.P. nominee in 2008. "I just believe he's an optimistic agent of change. I hope (Romney) stays in the arena."
Not that he has anything against the other 2012 possibles. He specifically mentioned he believes Gov. Bobby Jindal is impressive. On Sarah Palin, Talent was lukewarm. Asked if she helped or hurt McCain, Talent replied, "both." "She helped with the base, but hurt a little with the middle. I think that that had a lot to do with tactical decisions with how to market her," he said.
But this year, he said Barack Obama was just a superior candidate to John McCain, especially following the September economic crisis. He made it clear he believes Romney would have performed better against Obama than McCain did.
But he stressed that "it's much harder to draw a single lesson" in Missouri statewide politics.
"The Governor's race wasn't a party loss. It was a combination of Matt pulling out late and the primary for Ken," Talent said, referring to Gov. Blunt's abrupt departure from the race in January and Sarah Steelman's vigorous primary challenge to Congressman Kenny Hulshof.
When asked if Steelman might have been the better candidate to run against Jay Nixon, Talent side-stepped the question by presenting both candidates strengths. "I think Sarah being a woman in a year of change, that was a strength she always had. Ken had a strong base -- at least we thought he had -- in the central and southeastern parts of the state. But a lot went wrong," Talent explained.
Talent pointed to two areas that should be of particular concern for Missouri Republicans: East Jackson County and St. Louis County. "Clearly our statewide candidates need to do better in those places across the ticket," Talent said.
When asked who he believed are the future leaders in the party, Talent specifically named Treasurer candidate Brad Lager and Attorney General candidate Mike Gibbons, both who came up short in their 2008 bids.
"Missouri's a frontier state, politically. You know everybody forgets, most successful politicians lose a race. And a lot of times, they lose more than once. If you look at Kit, he lost twice, Claire, John Ashcroft. This is what I've told Brad (Lager) and Mike (Gibbons)," Talent said.
It's clear Talent believes the losses suffered by Missouri Republicans are less due to philosophical and structural problems and more due to a bad national tide. "
As for his own political future, Talent is candid: "I haven't ever ruled it out." Meaning, don't count him out as a potential statewide candidate in the future. But the timing has to be right.
"I'm happy doing what I'm doing, but I got to tell you Dave, I don't really plan very hard ahead," he said.
The best indication of when Talent may dip his toe in the political water, may just be that 16-year-old, who likes seeing Dad in their living room, rather than on the TV screen.
Or as Talent puts it, "As my kids get older, it could be more of a possibility."