Analysis: Are Republicans about to blow a Senate seat?

Donald Trump won the state by 15 points in 2020 and by almost 19 points in 2016. The last time a Democrat won a Senate race in the state was a decade ago.

But not everything is at it seems in Missouri — largely due to the candidacy of Republican Eric Greitens.

Greitens is the former governor of the state who resigned in May 2018 after a series of ethical lapses and accusations of sexual assault. He did not admit to any legal wrongdoing, and criminal charges against him were dropped.

He has since staged a political comeback, touting himself as a Trump-style conservative fighting against the liberal media and other “woke” forces in the country. That positioning, plus his residual name identification from his time as governor, has made him a leading candidate in the race to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt. (Several other GOP candidates are running, including Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long, and state Attorney General Eric Schmitt.)

Greitens’ campaign was a problem for Republicans even before the events of the past few weeks. Greitens’ ex-wife has accused him of physically abusing her and their children.

“In early June 2018, I became afraid for my safety and that of our children at our home, which was fairly isolated, due to Eric’s unstable and coercive behavior,” Sheena Greitens said, according to court records filed last month. “This behavior included physical violence toward our children, such as cuffing our then three-year-old son across the face at the dinner table in front of me and yanking him around by his hair.”
And CNN reported Tuesday that in a separate court filing, Sheena Greitens said she has photos and other documentation of her ex-husband’s abusive behavior. Eric Greitens’ lawyers have denied Sheena Greitens’s allegations of abuse.

The whole thing is a mess — and one that lacks an easy solution for Republicans.

Establishment types within the party — led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — have been very clear that they have to avoid nominating candidates who may not be able to win a general election. In an interview with Punchbowl News last week — before the latest news on Greitens fully broke — McConnell warned that the Missouri Senate race “could end up being competitive,” adding: “You better nominate a fully capable, credible nominee or you’re in trouble.”

The problem? McConnell may not be able to stop the potential disaster of Republicans picking Greitens in the August 2 primary.

Greitens has cast himself — from the start of the race — as an outsider in the mold of Trump. He has publicly said that, if elected, he would not support McConnell for Senate GOP leader, referring to the Kentucky Republican as a “RINO” — or “Republican In Name Only” — in a recent tweet.
That stance has endeared him to Trump, as Politico reported last month. Here’s the key bit:

“Trump, who in the past has privately criticized the former governor over the scandal that led to his downfall, is telling people he’s open to endorsing Greitens — despite fears among other powerful Republicans that the Missouri Republican is the only GOP candidate who could potentially lose the seat in November.”

Since sticking it in McConnell’s eye (and the eye, more broadly, of the party establishment) appears to be one of Trump’s main preoccupations these days, it’s hard to categorically rule out the former President getting involved in the primary on Greitens’ behalf.

For many national Republicans, this feels — to quote famed philosopher Yogi Berra — like deja vu all over again.

Back in 2012, shortly after winning the Republican nomination to face Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, then-Rep. Todd Akin claimed that victims of “legitimate rape” very rarely get pregnant because their body stops it from happening.

A national controversy ensued that led to Akin being badly hamstrung for the remainder of the race. McCaskill easily defeated him 55% to 39%, despite the fact that Mitt Romney comfortably carried the Show Me State at the top of the ticket.

At the moment, it appears as though Missouri Republicans could be recreating that disaster again. Greitens is showing absolutely no signs of getting out of the race and is working to paint the latest allegations as part of a plot by the establishment to defeat him.
A Trump endorsement could be consequential here. If the former President backs Greitens, it’s likely game over for the primary. But if Trump wades in on behalf of another candidate — he praised Long in a statement last month — that could swing momentum away from Greitens.

Does Trump really want to help out McConnell? If past is prologue, the answer is “no.”

Quoted from Various Sources

Published for: The Bloggers Briefing