JEFFERSON CITY — A former state department official for President George W. Bush said Thursday he will not seek the seat soon to be vacated by longtime Missouri Sen. Kit Bond.
Attorney Thomas Schweich, who held several state department jobs during the Bush presidency, said he wouldn't run and that he was throwing his support behind U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, the only Republican to have declared his candidacy for the 2010 race.
The only Democratic candidate is Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.
A historical swing state, Missouri is expected to host one of the nation's most closely contested Senate races next year as Democrats try to ensure a filibuster-proof majority in support of President Barack Obama.
Bond, a Republican who has served in the Senate since 1987, announced in January that he would not seek a fifth term, opening the door for Blunt's candidacy.
Blunt, the former House majority whip, has gained the endorsement of Missouri's entire Republican congressional delegation and a majority of the members of the Missouri House and Senate.
But some prominent Missouri Republicans, including former Sen. John Danforth and prominent fundraiser Sam Fox, encouraged Schweich to consider a Senate bid. They suggested a fresh political face might better make the case for change in Democratic-controlled Congress than Blunt, who has served there since 1997.
Schweich, an attorney at the same St. Louis law firm as Danforth, served in the Bush administration as an ambassador for counter-narcotics and justice issues in Afghanistan, as deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement and as chief of staff to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations.
As recently as Monday, Schweich told The Associated Press he was considering a Senate bid.
But Schweich said Thursday that after speaking with several Republicans, he decided it was better to unite the party behind Blunt.
"We just concluded that a primary race, even if I could win — and I don't know that I could have won — would have been so bloody," Schweich said. "It wouldn't have been productive. It would have lowered our chances of keeping the Senate seat held by Kit Bond."
Later Thursday night, Danforth also threw his support behind Blunt while receiving an award at a Republican event they both attended in St. Louis.
Blunt then issued a written statement saying the endorsements show "our campaign has tremendous momentum and there is growing party unity."
There is still at least one prominent Missouri Republican who hasn't given her support to Blunt.
Former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who lost a primary bid for governor last year, said shortly after Bond's announcement that she was leaning toward running for Senate. Like Schweich, Steelman met with various Republican leaders and fundraisers to gauge her support.
But Steelman lately has been quiet about her intentions and did not immediately return messages Wednesday or Thursday from the AP. Some Republicans have suggested that Steelman should instead consider running for Blunt's southwest Missouri House seat.