The attempted political comeback of disgraced and discarded Missouri governor Eric Greitens looks like it will end in well-deserved ignominy when the state’s Republicans choose a U.S. Senate nominee on August 2.
Greitens led the large Republican field for the nomination (to succeed retiring senator Roy Blunt) in public polls as recently as May and June. But in two new polls this week, he has fallen into third place, trailing both Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Representative Vicky Hartzler. In the final Emerson survey, Schmitt has 33 percent, Hartzler has 21 percent, and Greitens has 16 percent. Emerson shows that 50 percent of likely primary voters hold “very unfavorable” views of the ex-governor.
Greitens’s campaign has been a savage MAGA crusade trading on his background as a Navy SEAL and “outsider” anti-Establishment pol, but he went too far when he combined the two themes in a noxious ad he ran in June.
In addition, a battery of ads from a super-PAC calling itself Show Me Values publicized allegations of violence against Greitens’s ex-wife and their child. This likely brought back memories of the sexual and financial misconduct that forced Greitens to resign in 2018 — less than two years into his stormy tenure as governor.
Greitens was clearly planning on a Trump endorsement and, until recently — with Kimberly Guilfoyle as his national co-chair and Guilfoyle’s fiancé Donald Trump Jr. whispering in his dad’s ear — it was a distinct possibility. But after the Show Me Values ad barrage hit and Greitens slipped in the polls, even Trump backed away.
Schmitt is now likely to receive the coup de grâce of a Trump endorsement in the next week, since the former president publicly ruled out giving Hartzler his support a couple of weeks ago. Schmitt has a bit of MAGA and right-wing street cred; he’s the candidate who has been endorsed by Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Ted Cruz.
It’s true that Greitens has looked like a political goner before. The most lurid revelation prior to his coerced resignation as governor involved allegations that he’d physically abused and blackmailed a hairdresser with whom he was having an affair. He was never brought to trial for his alleged criminal misconduct for complicated reasons, but he wasn’t exonerated either. The more recent charges by his ex-wife apparently represented the straw that broke this particular camel’s back.
Greitens’s apparent political demise may be good news for the people of Missouri, but it’s not so good news for Democrats, who had justifiably figured Greitens was despicable enough to give them a decent shot at a general-election victory in this heavily Republican state. Dems are holding their own highly competitive Senate primary featuring Lucas Kunce and Trudy Busch Valentine. Given the midterm political environment and Missouri’s red hue, any Republican not named Greitens would be strongly favored in November.