Schmitt defeats Greitens for Missouri GOP Senate nod

Missouri state Attorney General Eric Schmitt is projected to win the state’s Republican Senate nomination on Tuesday, defeating former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens in a primary that had long been the subject of hand-wringing among top GOP officials.

The Associated Press called the race at 10 p.m. ET.

Greitens, who resigned from the governor’s mansion in disgrace in 2018, led the Republican field in polling for much of the past year. That frontrunner status stirred concerns among prominent Republicans who believed that Greitens’ many controversies could put an otherwise safe Senate seat at risk in November.

But Schmitt gained ground in the final weeks before the primary with the help of outside groups that sought to weaken Greitens. One such group, Show Me Values PAC, launched an ad blitz highlighting allegations of domestic violence against Greitens. A poll released last week from The Hill and Emerson College showed Schmitt in the lead and Greitens 17 points behind in third place.

Greitens, a one-time rising star in the GOP, saw his political career collapse in 2018 amid allegations he carried on an affair with his hairdresser and threatened to blackmail her with nude photos he had taken of her if she revealed their relationship. Greitens has acknowledged the affair but has denied the blackmail allegations.

He later faced felony charges related to the alleged blackmail scheme, as well as over accusations that he improperly took a donor list from a nonprofit he had founded to use in his gubernatorial campaign.

And his ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, testified under oath this year that the former governor had assaulted her and their 3-year-old son.

While the criminal charges against Greitens were eventually dropped and his custody case with his ex-wife isn’t settled, the scandals left him politically damaged and isolated by many in his party.

Schmitt, on the other hand, has expanded his conservative profile nationally in recent years with several attention-grabbing lawsuits. He filed a class action lawsuit last year against schools in his state attempting to enforce mask mandates, was one of 10 attorneys general to sue the Biden administration over its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers and backed a baseless legal challenge to President Biden’s 2020 victory.

The Senate primary became even more chaotic in its final day after former President Donald Trump endorsed an unspecified “ERIC” in the race, prompting both Greitens and Schmitt to claim the endorsement for themselves.

With the nomination locked up, Schmitt will head into the general election as the heavy favorite to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) next year. 

Once a key bellwether state, Missouri has lurched to the right over the years, making it a tough win for Democrats, especially at a time when the political tides are working against them.