Gov. Matt Blunt laughed when he was asked during a Hannibal press conference how he views the race to succeed him.
"From the sidelines," Blunt said, relaxing momentarily after a stop to promote the new law that will crack down on thieves who try to sell metal.
A moment later, his smile faded as he shifted modes and once more became one of the most recognizable Republicans in the state.
"It would be a dramatic mistake to go back to the old way and select a candidate like Jay Nixon (the presumptive Democratic nominee) who proposes hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending with no way to pay for it except a tax increase on hard-working Missourians," Blunt said.
He did not make his preference known on whether U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof or Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman should be the Republican party’s nominee. Blunt did not rule out the possibility of endorsing one of them before the August primary, but said he has no such plans so far.
Early this year when Blunt announced he would not run for re-election, some of the reporters who have covered his administration closely said Blunt has not enjoyed the constant "rough and tumble" world of politics.
It may be a stretch to see Blunt’s moment of laughter on Wednesday as confirmation of his deeper feelings. He has joked, very briefly, in other visits to the area.
Still, after watching this press briefing, it was hard to come away without seeing signs of relief from a governor who seems ready to step out of the state’s top job and go on to the next chapter in his life.