For months, Republicans at the state and national level have worried that Donald Trump would endorse disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens in Missouri’s U.S. Senate primary. Many GOP leaders have concluded that Greitens is a dangerous radical who might put this red state seat in play, and support from the former president could very well make the difference in the crowded Republican race.
And so, party officials have invested considerable time and energy trying to convince Trump not to back the former governor. The Washington Post reported that Florida Sen. Rick Scott, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was still lobbying the former president as recently as yesterday, urging him not to back Greitens.
Did those efforts pay off? In theory, that should be an easy question to answer: Either Trump backed the scandal-plagued candidate or he didn’t. In practice, however, this is proving to be far more complicated than expected. NBC News reported:
Former President Donald Trump injected some last-minute confusion ahead of Missouri’s Senate primary on Tuesday by endorsing “ERIC” in a Monday night statement. Eric who? Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens? State Attorney General Eric Schmitt? Or maybe even little-known Eric McElroy?
“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!” Trump said in a written statement.
Right off the bat, the wording of the Republican’s statement was unfortunate: The first part of the sentence made it sound as if Trump didn’t trust voters in other states, where he made explicit endorsements, to “make up their own minds.”
But given the circumstances, that’s really just the start of the trouble.
To be sure, the GOP field is quite crowded, and the differences between the candidates are slight. In March, Trump expressed some preliminary support for Rep. Billy Long, touting him as a “big, loud, and proud personality.” When the congressman nevertheless trailed in statewide polling, the former president seemed to look elsewhere.
More recently, he took an interest in Rep. Vicky Hartzler, before ultimately concluding — for reasons unknown — that the conservative congresswoman does not have “what it takes.”
And that left the Erics.
It’s no secret that Greitens maintains close ties with Team Trump. In fact, when the former president said yesterday that he was poised to make an endorsement in the Missouri race, Politico noted that he was “very likely to back Eric Greitens, the scandal-plagued former governor, who has strong ties to Don Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle.”
But in the face of intense partisan pressure, Trump backed off, endorsing “Eric,” while refusing to tell anyone which Eric he supports. As for yesterday morning’s vow, the former president apparently couldn’t follow through — since telling voters they should pick their favorite among competing choices is not an “endorsement.”
Perhaps most striking of all was watching Schmitt and Greitens, apparently unconcerned with any sense of pride or dignity, pretend — publicly, but separately — that Trump really did their individual candidacy, despite the fact that he didn’t actually pick either of them.
Primary Day in the Show Me State is today. Watch this space.