The long-awaited bid to prevent Eric Greitens from becoming the Republican nominee for the Missouri Senate is finally getting underway. The big question is whether it’s too late to stop him.
According to five people familiar with the project, a hefty, well-funded Republican campaign will launch Friday to highlight Mr Greitens’ personal scandals — including allegations of domestic and sexual abuse — involving at least $1 million. to paid television advertisements.
Politico first reported the arrival of the new super PAC, Show Me Values, which is headed by Johnny DeStefano, a former campaign manager and White House aide to former President Donald J. Trump.
The leaders of the drive to stop Mr Greitens, led by a coalition of local donors backing his two biggest rivals, hope to fundamentally change the dynamics of a race that has been stagnant for months by sounding a drumbeat. allegations of disturbing and erratic behavior by the former governor of Missouri.
But as they try to avoid endangering what is likely a safe Republican Senate seat, they face a tight timeline ahead of the August 2 primary in Missouri, and it’s unclear if any new details about the alleged behavior of the Mr Greitens will resonate with GOP voters. There is also a major X factor in the race: Mr Trump’s stance, who has yet to support one candidate in the primaries.
The history of Mr Greitens has long been the subject of investigation – and new allegations are steadily being added.
He resigned as governor in 2018 after allegations that he sexually assaulted a hairdresser with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Mr Greitens denies the allegations, which the woman made in an affidavit during an impeachment inquiry led by fellow Republicans in the state.
His ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, a scholar in Asian geopolitics, left him after those allegations came to light and moved to Texas, and the couple are now in a bitter custody battle over their elementary school-age children.
In an affidavit released in April, Ms Greitens accused her former husband of a pattern of abuse, including allegedly “cuffing our then 3-year-old son in the face” and “pulling him around by his hair”. An attorney for Ms Greitens, Helen Wade, did not respond to a voicemail message on Thursday.
The former governor has denied all wrongdoing and on Thursday his campaign pointed to an earlier statement to DailyExpertNews by Tim Parlatore, a lawyer for the candidate. The alleged abusive behavior “never happened,” Mr Parlatore said, accusing Ms Greitens of lying.
In a court hearing on Thursday, Ms. Wade said Ms. Greitens had received death threats this week after Mr. Greitens released a violent new political video showing him storming a house armed with a shotgun in search of “RINOs,” or Republicans only. in name, along with what appears to be a SWAT team wielding military-style rifles.
“She’s scared,” Mrs. Wade said, according to The Kansas City Star. “This has never happened before. This video suggests the use of force against all RINOs.”
So far, there has been no television commercial in the Senate primary campaign detailing Ms Greitens’ most recent allegations. One of Show Me Values’ new ads will focus on her allegations, saying Mr Greitens has had “scandal after scandal,” according to two people familiar with its content.
Most voters were not even aware of the details of the hairdresser’s allegations, according to a poll conducted months ago by a rival campaign.
For now, Mr. Greitens is ahead of his closest opponent, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, by about 3.5 percentage points on the race show poll averages.
Mr. Schmitt is backed by Save Missouri Values, a super PAC funded by Rex Sinquefield, a wealthy retired investor who is a major player in state politics. Mr Sinquefield is also the main funder of Show Me Values, the new super PAC.
mr. Greitens doesn’t want to be attacked. This week, he drew widespread condemnation for the political video about chasing RINOs.
“Join the MAGA crew,” said Mr Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, in the video, which was not televised. “Get a RINO hunting license. There is no limit on baggage, no limit on tagging, and it does not expire until we save our country.”
Hanging above the primary is whether Mr Trump will jump in with an endorsement.
Allies of both Mr. Schmitt and Representative Vicky Hartzler, another Senate candidate who closely follows Mr. Schmitt in most polls, have warned Mr Trump and his allies not to support Mr Greitens.
“With Katie Britt’s big ALABAMA win tonight, I’m pleased to announce WE (MAGA!) are 12 WINS & ZERO LOSS in the US Senate primary races this cycle,” wrote Mr. Trump on Truth Social, his Twitter-like social media site. He made no mention of having previously supported Mr Brooks, before remaining silent on his candidacy when it became clear he was losing.
In Missouri, Mr. Trump’s notoriously chaotic decision-making process is complicated by the fact that his son Donald Trump Jr. and his fiancée, Kimberly Guilfoyle, support Mr. Greitens.
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The younger Trump has advised his father to let the primary evolve before endorsing anyone, according to two people familiar with his thinking. Allies of Mr Greitens want to link any attempt to attack him with Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader who has been a frequent target of Mr Trump’s wrath. A Trump spokesperson said that, to his knowledge, an approval was not “imminent”.
Republicans in Washington worry that if Mr. Greitens manages to win the primary, he would saddle their party with an embarrassing and expensive candidate who could throw the seat to Democrats.
Ms. Guilfoyle is the National Finance Chair of Mr Greitens’ campaign. Despite her help, according to the most recent campaign finance reports, his campaign has struggled to raise funds, leaving him almost exclusively dependent on one Republican donor — billionaire shipping magnate Richard Uihlein, who has given at least $2.5 million to support a super PAC. of Mr Greitens’ candidacy.
Both Mr. Uihlein and Mr. Sinquefield contribute to the Club for Growth, the influential anti-tax group that has been embroiled in several Republican primaries this year with Mr. Trump’s candidates.
Another super PAC that some expected to be a player in the race, a pro-Hartzler group called Secure Our Freedom Action Fund, which is led by Chris Cox and David Lehman, former National Rifle Association officials, has yet to a dime in the race. Mr Cox did not respond to an email asking for comment on Thursday.
Rounding out the bottom of the colorful field is Representative Billy Long, a long-running candidate backed by Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s former White House adviser and campaign manager; Dave Schatz, a businessman and state senator who operates as a neo-Reaganite; and Mark McCloskey, a former personal injury attorney best known for a 2020 incident in which he was photographed brandishing an AR-15-style rifle in his front yard as Black Lives Matter protesters paraded past his ornate home.
Now, with just under six weeks to go before Election Day, Republicans in Washington and in the camps of Mr. Greitens’ rivals are getting nervous.
Ms. Hartzler’s campaign began this week with a new ad promoting support for Senator Josh Hawley, a close ally of Mr Trump who has been one of the main proponents of his claims of stolen elections.
“There are many Republicans running for the Senate,” Mr. Hawley said in the ad. “I know them all.”
Mr. Hawley was the attorney general of Missouri, while Mr. Greitens was governor, and the two men are bitter rivals.
In 2018, Mr. hawley mr. Greitens of abuse of his veterans charity’s donor list and requested that he resign over the allegations involving the barber. The move helped Mr. Greitens, a potential rival for the other Missouri Senate seat, which Mr. Hawley took on after defeating Claire McCaskill, the incumbent Democrat, in 2018.
For weeks, Missouri political circles have been awash with more than their usual mix of rumours, weaponized political gossip and intrigue. The dominant question posed by enemies of Mr. Greitens in St. Louis and Jefferson City: When, or Ever, Will the Cavalry Come?
Democratic activists in the state have openly debated whether or not to aid Greitens in the primary, theorizing that he would be an easier opponent in the fall.
But it’s been many years since Democrats were viable in statewide races, others have warned. Mr. Trump carried Missouri by more than 15 percentage points in 2020.
“Political Russian roulette,” said Jeff Smith, a former state legislator and Democrat. “Not in this Missouri. The stakes are too high.”