The concern has grown so serious that former President Donald Trump and those in his orbit have heard from Republicans inside and outside Missouri, who warns that Greitens would be the only GOP candidate who could lose to a Democrat, according to someone familiar with the talks.
Republican leaders say they don’t rule out taking aggressive steps to deter Greitens from winning the nomination, including a harsh publicity campaign against him. Party officials – from members of the Missouri congressional delegation to Mitch McConnell’s political operation – shared their concerns about the former Governor and spent the week talking about the situation, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The Senate Leadership Fund, the main Republican super-PAC, has held talks on how to prevent the former governor from compromising his influence on a secure seat, given Missouri’s strong conservative stance. People close to the National Republican Senatorial Committee have expressed concern over Greitens, although the organization is not expected to dive into open-seat primary elections.
Missouri Republicans have now begun to think about how to prevent a fragmented field of candidates from developing that could show Greitens a path. Top Republicans say they don’t need to come up with a plan to deal with the former governor just yet, given the primaries don’t take place until August 2022, but stress they are keeping an eye on him.
“Greitens is a clear and present danger of botching the GOP race,” said Scott Reed, the former senior political strategist with the US Chamber of Commerce.
Senate Republicans have a tight path to win a majority in 2022. Each party has 50 seats in the current Senate, and while the GOP has some opportunities to fill democratically held seats, they play defense in more states.
Senate GOP leaders have waged similar battles against potentially problematic lead candidates. In the 2017 Alabama special election, they failed to stop accused child molester Roy Moore, who won the GOP nomination before losing to a Democrat. They fared better in 2020 as they defeated controversial Kansas Republican Kris Kobach in the primary and paved the way for a general election victory.
Some Republicans are skeptical that Greitens will be able to gain ground, saying that given his sizable baggage, he will have a cap on assistance. But others think they are going to face a fight. A poll of likely Republican primary voters conducted by the Remington Research Group in December found that Greitens Blunt is only 43 to 32 percent behind, suggesting that he maintains a base.
Greitens is also benefiting from what is expected to be a wide-open field of Republican candidates, raising concerns that they will split the vote and give the ex-governor a large number. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft – the son of John Ashcroft, the former Bush-era governor, senator and attorney general – was seen as someone who could have cemented the party but decided against running.
“There is great concern in official Washington as this was originally a seat that would be in Republican hands to stop the left,” said Gregg Keller, a longtime Republican strategist from Missouri. “The easiest way to give a Biden acolyte this seat is to have a divisive Republican elementary school followed by someone incredibly damaged, like Eric Greitens, who is running for the general election.”
But Greitens would also face major challenges. Some of the former political lieutenants who led his successful campaign for governor in 2016 are unlikely to help him this time around a list that These include campaign manager Austin Chambers and pollster Dave Sackett. The ex-governor called the staff to put a team together.
Greitens has also lost some of its biggest contributors, including wealthy businessman David Humphreys, who donated more than $ 2 million to his campaign in 2016. Humphreys said there was “no chance” that he would support an offer by the Greitens Senate, adding that he stood by his 2018 statement calling on the former governor to resign.
Greitens’ problems began in January 2018 when reports surfaced that his hairdresser had accused him of sexual misconduct. The woman later testified In 2015, when he was preparing to run for governor, Greitens took her to a basement, blindfolded her, tied her hands and forced her to have oral sex. The woman said Greitens took a picture of her naked and threatened to release it if she told anyone about the encounter.
She also testified that Greitens beat and grabbed her, knocked her to the ground and called her a “whore” at various points in their relationship.
Greitens admitted to being involved in an extramarital affair, but denied blackmailing, violent or coercing the woman. He resigned in June 2018 after signing a deal with the St. Louis District Attorney that in exchange for his resignation, charges would be dropped for setting up a veterans charity he founded to raise funds for his gubernatorial campaign to collect alleged violation of campaign funding laws.
It was an amazing fall for an aspiring politician who was once seen as a potential future White House contender. But Greitens, a 46-year-old Oxford-trained Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL veteran, is now trying to make a comeback.
Greitens, a Democrat who switched parties before running for governor, saw himself as the victim of a liberal conspiracy and a sloppy investigation involving a St. Louis Law Office officer Kim Gardner, who was charged with perjury. He has also reinvented himself as a loyalist to former President Donald Trump.
Greitens was a frequent guest on former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon’s podcast and is encouraged to lead by Trump allies, including the former NYPD police commissioner Bernard Kerik and former White House advisor Andrew Giuliani, son of Trump attorney and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Boris Epshteyn, another ex-Trump aide, recently took to Twitter to ask about Greitens a “MAGA Champion.”
“Governor Greitens is proud to stand for America First values with President Trump. Eric has always fought for other people – as a Navy SEAL and as a governor,” said Dylan Johnson, a Greitens spokesman. “Eric is talking to friends and enthusiastic supporters about how he can continue his ministry.
Those who have spoken to Greitens say that it is obvious that Greitens seeks redemption and is convinced that he can win.
“If Eric wants to get back to politics at this point, what does he have to lose?” said Travis Brown, a seasoned Republican lobbyist in the state.
But Trump advisors say it’s hard to imagine the former president going to support Greitens, especially when other Trump allies enter the race. Republican MP Jason Smith, a staunch Trump loyalist, is considering an offer, among other things.
Greitens has an even bigger obstacle to gaining Trump’s support: Republican Senator Josh Hawley. As attorney general, Hawley was among the prominent Republicans who called on Greitens to resign, and the former governor was widely known for despising Hawley examine him.
Hawley, who was elected to the Senate in 2018, has since become one of Trump’s closest allies. After Blunt announced his resignation, ex-President Hawley called to brief him on the race and to discuss the list of potential candidates, which includes Reps Ann Wagner and Billy Long and Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
During the call that Punchbowl News first reported, Trump and Hawley discussed who Trump should support and agreed to keep in touch. Hawley, who has been extensively contacted by potential candidates and has become a Trump supporter favorite after objecting to the 2020 election certification, generally does not support races and has remained neutral so far.
Despite all the challenges Greitens faces, Republicans do not sleep easily.
“We’re talking about a man in Eric Greitens who we have every reason to believe is a bully for the Missouri Senate, ”said Keller. “It’s very worrying.”