Sen. Blunt introduces Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder to Lincoln Days crowd

He looked like a candidate. He acted like a candidate. He sure sounded like a candidate. But, Lt. Governor Peter Kinder isn’t a candidate for governor, yet.

Kinder is widely believed to be the front-runner as a Republican nominee to challenge the re-election of Democrat Jay Nixon in 2012. Kinder has given every indication that he will run against Nixon. Speculation at Lincoln Days, the annual Republican gathering being held in Springfield this weekend, runs high that Kinder will enter the race. Senator Blunt even introduced Kinder as a person who could be the state’s next governor. Kinder, though, hasn’t made any formal announcement and is unlikely to do so this weekend.

Still, Kinder launched into a harsh criticism of the current governor during a half hour speech to about 400 Republicans gathered for the opening banquet in Springfield.

Kinder characterized Nixon as a spectator, standing at the sidelines while Missouri loses jobs and struggles to emerge from the recession. Kinder contended that Nixon enjoys the perks of the job, but doesn’t care for the work of the job.

Recent news stories disclosed that the governor has billed various state departments $400,000 for travel, rather than taking it out of his own office. Kinder latched onto that during his speech, stating that the record shows that Nixon flies, on average, ever three days to various events.

“Taxpayers have paid for him and his wife to take a trip to a college basketball game in Kansas City and to watch a baseball game in St. Louis,” Kinder told the crowd. “And, get this; we even paid for him to fly around the state to announce a moratorium on travel for everyone else in state government.”

Kinder accused Nixon of being nonchalant about some job losses, recounting an interview Nixon gave to a St. Louis television station in which the governor stated that you win some and you lose some in economic development efforts.

“Well, with Governor Nixon it seems like we’ve lost a heck of lot more than we’ve won,” Kinder stated. “And, you know what folks, with a record like that, I’m going to suggest to you it’s about time we find a new manager.”

The biggest line of the night didn’t take aim at Nixon. It took aim a bit farther north. In criticizing the action by Wisconsin Democrats to leave the state to keep a bill on public employee collective bargaining from being debated, Kinder called the Democrats in that state the “cut and run caucus”. Kinder, who served as minority leader in the state senate prior to Republicans taking control of the chamber, said he never considered leaving the state rather than fighting for what he believed in.

“I’d rather die than go to Kansas,” Kinder said to thunderous applause.

AUDIO: Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder addresses Lincoln Days crowd [33 min MP3]