The first moment came early in the morning when news outlets reported that Heath Ledger had died. This was pre-The Dark Knight, so the best memories of the Aussie star included stints in Ten Things I Hate About You, A Knight's Tale and Monster's Ball. Nevertheless, his death prompted me to blurt out a word that would have earned me a time out in pre-school.
After the initial shock wore off, I went back to my work day. Most of my afternoon was consumed by a hearing about whether felons should have the right to bail bondsmen. Not exactly a thrilling issue, but still interesting enough for me to pay attention. When I went back to my office to write a blog post about the hearing, I this headline on the Kansas City Star's Buzz Blog.
I uttered the same expletive that I utilized hours before. And this was one story that I wasn't going to be able to shake off right away.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: I covered Gov. Matt Blunt more than any other Missouri chief executive. Blunt managed to pass most his agenda within a couple of years - which was impressive, considering his predecessor had a major trouble on certain initiatives.
But Blunt's term had rocky moments. Democrats sharply criticized his decision to cut the state's Medicaid program. His staff sometimes propelled his administration into controversy that he probably didn't need to deal with. Blunt also faced the prospect of facing an opponent for re-election with fairly substantial name recognition and political savvy.
There's been endless speculation about the "real" reason why Blunt decided not to run again. But the explanation he gave - that he accomplished much of his agenda and didn't feel a "sense of mission" for a second term - showcases the inherent risks of running for re-election as a chief executive. For instance, there are not many examples in American history of Presidents having successful second terms. George W. Bush, of course, was weakened by Katrina and the economic collapse. Clinton was impeached. Reagan encountered Iran Contra. Nixon resigned in disgrace after Watergate engulfed the political scene. Even historically popular presidents like Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt had less-than-stellar second terms.
If Blunt had ran for re-election and won - which was not a certainty - his focus in office would be to craft a budget and deal
with whatever political issue becomes important. That's not exactly as enticing as enacting a comprehensive policy agenda.
In any case, Blunt's decision not to run again sparked a political domino game. U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof and state Treasurer Sarah Steelman decided to run for governor. The contested primary and the Democratic tilt of the 2008 election helped Democrats capture four out of the five statewide offices.
Today, Blunt is immersed in the private sector and is probably devoting some time to his family. But while the urge to write Blunt off in the realm of politics is strong, there was another youthful governor named Kit Bond who didn't get a chance for a second term immediately after his first one. Four years later, he was back in office and on track for a lengthy political career.
Can Blunt repeat history? We'll have to wait to find out.
FUN FACT: Had Blunt decided to run again, Clint Zweifel would likely still be in the Missouri House. He decided not to seek the office earlier in the election cycle, but jumped into the race once Steelman started running for governor. Zweifel narrowly won the Democratic primary and the general election.