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Eric Greitens to face new GOP attacks in Missouri Senate race

The long-awaited effort to prevent Eric Greitens from becoming the Republican nominee for Missouri Senate is finally underway.

The big question is whether it is too late to stop it.

A robust, well-funded Republican campaign to highlight Greitens’ personal scandals — which include domestic and sexual abuse allegations — is set to begin Friday, starting with at least $1 million in paid TV ads.

Politico first reported the arrival of the new super PAC, Show Me Values, which is led by Johnny DeStefano, a longtime aide to Rep. John Boehner of Ohio who has become a powerful figure in the White House from Trump.

Leaders of the Campaign to Stop Greitens, which is led by a coalition of donors in the state, hope to fundamentally alter the dynamics of a race that has stalled for months by sounding a drumbeat of allegations about the disturbing behavior and erratic former governor of Missouri.

But as they seek to avoid jeopardizing what is most likely a secure Republican Senate seat, they face a tight schedule ahead of the Aug. 2 Missouri primary, and it’s unclear if any new details on Greitens’ alleged conduct will resonate with GOP voters.

Greitens’ story has long been the subject of scrutiny – and new accusations have regularly emerged.

In 2018, he resigned as governor amid allegations that he sexually abused a hairdresser with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Greitens denies the charges, which the woman detailed in sworn testimony during an impeachment inquiry by other Republicans in the state.

His ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, a scholar of Asian geopolitics, left him after the allegations came to light and moved to Texas. The couple are now in a bitter legal battle for custody of their school-aged children.

In a sworn affidavit released in April, Greitens accused her estranged husband of abusive behavior, including allegedly “handcuffing our then 3-year-old son across the face” and “pulling him by the hair.”

The former governor has denied any wrongdoing, and on Thursday his campaign pointed to a previous statement provided to The New York Times by Tim Parlatore, an attorney for the candidate. The alleged abusive behavior “never happened,” Parlatore said.

During a hearing on Thursday, a lawyer for Sheena Greitens, Helen Wade, said her client had received death threats this week after the former governor released a violent new political video that shows him armed with a rifle. hunting and storming a house in search of “RINOs,” or Republicans in name only, as well as what appears to be a SWAT team wielding military-style rifles. Wade did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment on Thursday.

So far, Greitens is ahead of his closest opponent, Eric Schmitt, the Missouri attorney general, by about 3.5 percentage points, the race show’s polling averages.

Schmitt has the backing of Save Missouri Values, a super PAC funded by Rex Sinquefield, a wealthy retired investor who is a dominant player in state politics.

Sinquefield, who is also the main funder of Show Me Values, the new anti-Greitens super PAC, is best known for his dedication to three “idiosyncratic passions,” according to a 2014 critical profile in Politico Magazine: “promoting chess , dismantling the traditional public school system and eliminating income taxes.

So far in the Senate primary campaign, no television commercials have aired exposing Sheena Greitens’ latest allegations. One of the new Show Me Values ​​ads will be about his accusations, claiming Eric Greitens has faced “scandal after scandal”, according to two people familiar with its content.

The most effective hit on Greitens with likely Republican primary voters in Missouri, according to a poll conducted by a rival campaign, might seem a little surprising.

This was to inform them that he had previously identified as a Democrat and had traveled to the Democratic National Convention in 2008 to hear from a young, progressive senator named Barack Obama to accept his party’s nomination for president.

The president’s approval could be decisive – and everyone knows it.

Allies of Schmitt and Rep. Vicky Hartzler, another Senate candidate who trails Schmitt closely in most polls, have warned Trump and his allies against backing Greitens.

One argument that seems to resonate with the former president, according to people who spoke to him: Don’t risk upsetting your pristine approval record in the 2022 Senate races.

On Wednesday, after Katie Britt defeated Rep. Mo Brooks in a GOP runoff for a Senate seat in Alabama, Trump bragged that his scorecard had remained perfect in the Senate primaries this year.

“With Katie Britt’s big win in ALABAMA tonight, I’m happy to report that WE (MAGA!) are 12 WINS AND ZERO LOSS in the U.S. Senate primary races this cycle,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, his Twitter-like social media site. . He made no mention of the fact that he previously endorsed Brooks before downgrading his candidacy.

In Missouri, Trump’s notoriously chaotic decision-making process is complicated by the fact that his son, Donald Trump Jr., and Kimberly Guilfoyle, Don Jr.’s fiancée, support Greitens.

The young Trump advised his father to let the primary develop more before endorsing anyone, according to two people familiar with his thinking. A Trump spokesperson said he was not aware of an approval being “imminent” and that he had not seen any plans for an announcement.

Greitens’ allies are eager to tie any effort to attack him to Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader who is a frequent target of Trump’s ire. McConnell’s team did not return phone calls Thursday, but there is no evidence that his allies have any connection to the new super PAC.

Republicans in Washington fear that if Greitens manages to win the primary, he could impose on their party an embarrassing and expensive candidate who could cede the seat to the Democrats.

Guilfoyle is the national campaign finance chairman for Greitens. Despite his help, his campaign has struggled to raise money, according to the latest campaign finance reports, forcing him to rely almost exclusively on one Republican donor – billionaire shipping magnate Richard Uihlein, who gave at least $2.5 million to a super PAC supporting Greitens’ candidacy.

The allies argue that Hartzler, a House legislator from western Missouri, has the best chance of beating Greitens. They are counting on the influence of Josh Hawley, the arch-conservative freshman senator who holds the state’s other Senate seat.

This week, his campaign began running a new ad promoting the endorsement of Hawley, who capitalized on his opposition to certification of the 2020 election results to curry favor with Trump and build a local donor base. at national scale.

Polls show Hawley is the most popular politician in the state, and the Hartzler campaign hopes to use his fundraising prowess and his ubiquity on Fox News to move voters to the socially conservative outback of the state. ‘State. Hawley raised about $400,000 for the campaign over a four-day period, his aides said.

“There are a lot of Republicans running for the Senate,” Hawley says in the ad. “I know them all.”

To put it mildly: Hawley was Missouri’s attorney general while Greitens was governor, and the two men aren’t exactly friends.

In 2018, Hawley accused Greitens of abusing his veterans charity’s donor list and called on him to resign over allegations involving the hairdresser.

The move helped sideline Greitens, a potential rival for Missouri’s other Senate seat, which Hawley assumed after beating Claire McCaskill, the incumbent Democrat, in 2018.

“Fortunately for Josh,” Greitens replied at the time, “he’s better at a press conference than in court.”

  • The Jan. 6 committee revealed Thursday that a White House lawyer told Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department lawyer pushing a Trump-backed plan to overturn the 2020 election results, that he would be committing a crime. if he helped reverse the outcome. Follow our live coverage of today’s big audience here.

  • In a separate development, federal investigators conducted a pre-dawn search of Clark’s home as part of the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation into efforts to cancel the 2020 contest, reports Alan Feuer, Adam Goldman and Maggie Haberman.

  • The other big political news of the day: The Supreme Court struck down New York’s gun law, most likely limiting the ability of state and local governments to restrict guns outside the home. Hours later, the Senate introduced a bipartisan gun safety bill that responded to a series of mass shootings.

Thanks for reading. Well see you tomorrow.

— Blake

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