Missouri's disgraced ex-governor leads its GOP Senate primary — despite major 'baggage'

Missouri's disgraced ex-governor leads its GOP Senate primary — despite major 'baggage'
Eric Greitens in 2011, Wikimedia Commons

Although Democrats struggle in statewide races in Missouri, that deep red midwestern state isn't a lost cause for them: Democrat Claire McCaskill, now an MSNBC pundit, won two U.S. Senate races in Missouri before losing to now-Sen. Josh Hawley in 2018. And some GOP strategists, according to Politico's Natalie Allison, fear that a Democratic victory is possible if far-right Republican Eric Greitens stays in Missouri's 2022 U.S. Senate race.

The 47-year-old Greitens, who was a Democrat until 2015 but is now a far-right MAGA extremist, comes with a lot of baggage. A former Missouri governor, Greitens resigned halfway through his first term after a woman accused him of sexual assault. Greitens was indicted on felony charges of computer tampering in April 2018, but the charges were dropped the following month.

But despite all that, Greitens has his share of ardent supporters in MAGA World.

"Greitens is a formidable presence in the race, armed with a solid base, right-wing media savvy and a billionaire backer," Allison explains. "But the scandal-plagued Greitens is also viewed by many Republicans — both nationally and in Missouri — as the candidate most likely to jeopardize a GOP-held Senate seat. With the Senate majority in sight in next year's midterm elections, the prospect of blowing the opportunity weighs heavily on party minds."

Greiten's critics in the GOP view him as a political opportunist, pointing out that he was a Democrat until 2015. But that hasn't stopped some prominent figures in MAGA World from endorsing his campaign.

"Greitens has…. brought Trump World luminaries like Rudy Giuliani and former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to campaign for him in Missouri," Allison observes. "He signed on numerous Trump associates to assist his bid, among them his national campaign chair Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., and Tony Fabrizio, a Trump pollster. Former Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon regularly invites Greitens to appear on his 'War Room' podcast."

Allison points out that although Greitens and Hawley have had a "strained" relationship, Hawley "has so far declined to publicly take a stance on" the GOP primary in Missouri's 2022 U.S. Senate race. Greitens is campaigning for the seat presently held by Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, who opted not to seek election.

"Other candidates campaigning for the seat include current Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Rep. Billy Long and Mark McCloskey, a lawyer who drew national attention last year after he and his wife were photographed pointing guns at anti-police protesters outside their St. Louis home. Rep. Jason Smith, a Trump ally, is still considering getting in the race…. Multiple polls released so far in the primary show Greitens leading with roughly 35% support."

A Republican activist in Missouri, presumably interviewed on condition of anonymity, has nothing good to say about the state's 2022 GOP Senate primary.

The activist told Politico, "To call it a clown show is an underestimation of the chaos, the pandering, the disingenuousness of the candidates. You cannot overestimate how bizarre this primary is shaping up to be."

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