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EARTH CITY, Mo. – It’s being billed as one of the most important election battles in the country: the 2022 race to replace retiring Senator Roy Blunt. Blunt was in the St. Louis area on Thursday. FOX 2 attempted to get his feelings on the field of Republicans looking to succeed him.

Senator Blunt visited the new Plumbers and Pipefitters training center in Earth City because he believed in it and wanted to see it, he said. Although it was not a campaign event, Blunt’s visit still had a campaign feel. The senator donned a welding mask to visit with apprentice plumbers and pipefitters who were training with welders during his tour.

The soon-to-be 26-year veteran of Congress is certainly free to campaign for the candidate he wants to fill his shoes.

“I think it’s a dynamic where Republicans actually gain seats in both the House and the Senate,” Blunt said of the 2022 midterms. “I would expect a Republican to follow me in the Senate.”

Eric Greitens, the former Missouri Governor who resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct and campaign finance violations, has already announced his candidacy.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has declared for the race as well.

St. Louis County Congresswoman Ann Wagner is considering a run, as is St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey, who gained international notoriety when he and his wife brandished guns at protesters outside their Central West End home.

FOX 2 asked Blunt what he thought of the field thus far, and who among them had sought his blessing.

“I have talked to all of them. I will continue to talk to all of them,” he said. “I think I have answered that question.”

Blunt said his preferred candidate should expand apprenticeships beyond skilled trades to everything from running a bank to running a grocery store. During his time on the Senate’s Labor Appropriations Subcommittee, support for apprenticeships has more than doubled from to more than $185 million per year.

As for those who think he can be talked into running again with control of the Senate possibly riding on his seat, think again.

“I feel good about the rest of this year and all of next year. I feel good about leaving at the end of this term,” he said.

Any endorsement will have to wait at least until candidates officially file to run next spring, Senator Blunt said.