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Analysis: Hancock controversy pushing Blunt into a tough corner

Some Missouri Republicans are forcing U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt into some pretty uncomfortable territory by putting the controversy over GOP chairman John Hancock firmly in the senator’s lap.

David Steelman said Wednesday that “Senator Blunt is the most senior Republican in the state of Missouri. If he wants John Hancock to resign, John Hancock will resign.

“If John Hancock doesn’t resign, I will assume that’s because the senator does not want him to,” Steelman said.

Hancock has strongly denied accusations of anti-Semitism, but has admitted inaccurately telling others that former auditor Tom Schweich was Jewish. Schweich’s concern about an anti-Semitic whisper campaign apparently led him to take his own life Feb. 26.

Some Republicans have since called on Hancock to step aside because of his remarks.

Blunt’s role may be seen as critical.

To be absolutely clear: No one has remotely accused Blunt, a Southern Baptist, of any prejudice of any kind. Blunt’s wife Abby is Jewish.

But if he doesn’t force Hancock out — and if the state comes to believe he has the power to do so — Blunt’s own re-election campaign may become more complicated.

Even the smallest hint of lingering faith-based prejudice in the Missouri Republican party could draw attention as the Senate race unfolds. That chance could be magnified because Blunt’s likely opponent, Jason Kander, is Jewish.

Blunt has refused to comment on whether or not Hancock should go. Republicans say Hancock is digging in, unwilling to step aside.

But Steelman’s statement that Hancock’s future is up to Blunt has raised the stakes dramatically.

Blunt led the effort to force Rep. Todd Akin off the ballot in 2012.

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