Former President Donald Trump on Monday backed “ERIC” in Missouri’s high profile and combative GOP Senate nomination race, on the eve of the state’s primary.
After teasing hours earlier that he would be making an endorsement in the race, Trump declined to choose between two of the three front-runners in the primary – Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.
Instead, Trump gave his support to both of them.
“I trust the Great People of Missouri, on this one, to make up their own minds, much as they did when they gave me landslide victories in the 2016 and 2020 Elections, and I am therefore proud to announce that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” the former president wrote in a statement released by his Save America political action committee.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on May 28, 2022 in Casper, Wyoming. The rally is being held to support Harriet Hageman, Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary challenger in Wyoming. (Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)
Schmitt, who’s won two statewide elections in Missouri — for treasurer and later for attorney general — has made headlines over the past year and a half, filing numerous lawsuits against President Biden’s administration. He’s topped the latest surveys in the race.
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who left office in 2018 amid multiple controversies, was once the clear front-runner in the primary race, but for months has been fighting allegations from his ex-wife that he abused her and their child. Greitens denies the claims.
GOP Senate candidate and former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens speaks with Fox News at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida on Feb. 24, 2022 (Fox News)
There’s a long list of Republicans who fear that Greitens’ political baggage could put what should be a relatively safe GOP seat in jeopardy in November. An anti-Greitens super PAC has spent more than $6 million this summer to run ads targeting the former governor.
The two Erics, along with Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who represents Missouri’s 4th Congressional District in the predominantly rural west-central part of the state, top a field of over 20 Missouri Republicans vying for the party’s Senate nomination, in the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blunt.
Among the others in the Republican race are Rep. Billy Long in the state’s 7th Congressional District in southwest Missouri, and Mark McCloskey, the St. Louis attorney who, along with his wife, grabbed national headlines during the summer of 2020 for holding guns outside their home to ward off Black Lives Matter protesters.
Greitens quickly took to Twitter after the release of Trump’s statement, saying “I’m honored to receive President Trump’s endorsement.”
He also claimed that “from the beginning, I’ve been the true MAGA Champion fighting against the RINO establishment backing Schmitt.”
RINO stands for Republican in name only.
Schmitt also took to Twitter, writing “I’m grateful for President Trump’s endorsement. As the only America First candidate who has actually fought for election integrity, border security & against the Left’s indoctrination of our kids—I’ll take that fight to the Senate to SAVE AMERICA!”
Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt of Missouri, a leading contender for the state’s GOP Senate nomination, greets voters at the Texas County and Shannon County Lincoln Days gathering, on June 11, 2022 (Eric Schmitt Senate campaign )
Greitens, Schmitt and Hartzler all worked to land the former president’s endorsement. But Trump said earlier this summer that he wouldn’t support Hartzler.
Harzler, in an interview with Fox Digital on Monday, touted that she’s the one “who’s been fighting for [Trump’s] America First agenda in Washington, that worked alongside the president to get our economy going… I am the true conservative in this race. I’m the one with a track record of competency and getting things done.”
The winner of Tuesday’s GOP primary will likely face off in November against either Trudy Busch Valentine, a philanthropist and beer family heiress, or Lucas Kunce, a former Marine who’s running an aggressive populist-style campaign. The two candidates are the polling front-runners in a crowded field of 11 Democratic contenders.
Missouri was once a competitive state but has trended Republican over the past decade, and the winner of the GOP Senate primary will be considered the favorite in November’s general election.
Former President Clinton in 1996 was the last Democrat to win the state in the race for the White House, and then-Sen. Claire McCaskill’s 2012 victory was the last time a Democrat won a Senate election in the state. Trump won the state by 18 points in his 2016 presidential election victory and by 16 points in his 2020 re-election defeat.
Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.
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