KANSAS CITY -- Sen. Kit Bond all but formally endorsed Congressman Roy Blunt for his U.S. Senate seat Friday night and strongly suggested that Jim Talent should be the party's candidate in 2012.
Bond made his comments before a Republican Lincoln Day audience of about 170 at the downtown Marriott hotel in Kansas City.
Bond said he was very pleased Blunt had "joined the fray," and praised his leadership in the House. Bond never explicitly endorsed Blunt, but his message and tone was clear. He did not mention Blunt's main rival for the Republican nomination, Sarah Steelman.
Steelman was seen briefly at the Marriott with her husband and a small entourage of loyalists. But the Steelman brigade left before the formal speaking banquet began to dine at a downtown Kansas City restaurant.
"We need a candidate that can unite the party," Bond said in comments that were very similar to those he made last spring in Branson, when he endorsed Kenny Hulshof for Governor. He said the G.O.P. needed someone who would put "integrity before politics."
"I want this seat red, not just for the Chiefs and the Cardinals but for the Republicans. We're going to keep this seat," Bond said to cheers.
Talent, who introduced Bond as the "most genuine person in politics I've ever met," also expressed the importance of holding the U.S. Senate seat. But in an interview afterward with reporters, Talent did not choose sides between Blunt and Steelman. He said he would not endorse, but encouraged both camps to "work it out," to attempt to avoid a primary. When asked if he thought Steelman should get out of the race, Talent replied, "no."