Senate Republicans backed a career insider over a tea party-aligned newcomer in an internal contest for a party leadership post, as lawmakers declined to elevate a member from the conservative flank into the key spot.
Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri was elected Tuesday to the No. 5 spot over Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson as the GOP conference’s vice chairman.
Both senators are completing their first year in the Senate, having just been elected in 2010. But Blunt is seen as the more seasoned politician, having served in the House GOP leadership.
Theirs was the only contested race in the elections which establish the leadership ranks for 2012. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will remain the GOP leader.
The rise into leadership is a comeback of sorts for Blunt who, as a House member, saw Rep. John Boehner of Ohio jump over him to become party leader.