Way back in November, I posed the question of whether the old rules of politics still apply.
If you recall, and let’s be honest I can barely recall myself, Sean Parnell was leading the PA Senate primary polls despite serious allegations of spousal and child abuse. After Parnell lost his custody battle, though, he decided to drop out of the race.
That left unresolved the question of just what would happen if a candidate faced similar accusations but refused to quit their campaign. Well, it looks like we’re going to find out after all.
Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens is confronting not one but two abuse scandals. In 2018, a former mistress accused Greitens of taking naked photos of her without her consent, threatening to leak them if she ever revealed the affair and then sexually assaulting her. As if all that wasn’t enough, now Greitens’ ex-wife has filed her own sworn affidavit alleging that he abused her and their son.
Despite widespread calls to drop out of the race, Greitens went on Steve Bannon’s show and asserted that this was all a plot hatched by Mitch McConnell to get rid of him.
“You’re gonna be able to connect the dots directly to Mitch McConnell,” Greitens says of his ex-wife’s sworn claims. “You’re gonna be able to connect the dots directly to the RINO swamp that always does this.”
Apparently, that line of attack is working on one particularly influential former office holder. A month ago, Greitens met with Donald Trump at Mar-A-Lago in the hopes of eventually scoring an endorsement. Just such a prospect is sparking panic among the GOP, as a Greitens nomination could turn an otherwise solidly red seat into a potential toss-up.
One factor that is reportedly weighing on Trump’s mind is Greitens’ standing in the polls. The former Governor is leading in most of the polls but the most recent survey, conducted after the legal filing by Greitens’ ex-wife, has him in second place with 21%.
Instead they found Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt out in front at 24%. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler and Congressman Billy Long finished third and fourth with 19% and 9% respectively.
Not only is Schmitt neck-and-neck with Greitens in the polls, he may also be able to keep pace with him financially. While Greitens has billionaire executive Richard Uihlein bankrolling a pro-Greitens Super PAC, Schmitt’s got his own billionaire supporter in the form of Peter Thiel.
Additionally, Schmitt is making his own bid for Trump’s support, plunking down cash to hold his own fundraiser at Mar-A-Lago.
All the while Rep. Hartzler, who scored the support of Sen. Josh Hawley, is looking for her own breakthrough moment. Last month, she released an ad attacking a transgender athlete for competing in women’s swimming.
“Women’s sports are for women. Not men pretending to be women,” Hartzler asserts.
A tweet promoting the video with the aforementioned statement got her suspended from Twitter, which she inevitably sought to capitalize on with another ad.
“They don’t just want to silence me, they want to cancel you,” she claims.
Over in the Democratic primary, Anheuser-Busch heiress Trudy Busch Valentine jumped into the race this week. State Senator Scott Sifton dropped out and endorsed Valentine, leaving her as the establishment favorite going in.
Valentine’s candidacy is particularly awkward given that one of Schmitt’s biggest supporters has been her brother August Busch III.
Her main opponent in the Democratic primary will likely be former Marine Lucas Kunce, who’s won the backing of progressive groups like the League of Conservation Voters and VoteVets.
Finally, there’s the issue of whether either of these Democratic candidates could actually win in Missouri, even if Greitens is the Republican nominee.
Six years ago, Democratic Senate nominee Jason Kander was considered one of the cycle’s rising stars but fell 2.8% short. Then in 2018, incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill lost by nearly six points amid a favorable national environment. Given how fast the state is trending red, Trump won it by 15% in 2020, both Kander and McCaskill decided to pass on this race.
All of which suggests that, no matter what the old rules may say, Greitens really could win in November. We’ll begin to find out when Missouri holds their primary on August 2nd.