Trump splits MO Senate endorsement between Greitens, Schmitt

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Associated Press file photo

Former President Donald Trump hedged his endorsement in the Republican primary for US Senate in Missouri, giving his support to “ERIC,” without specifying which one — the scandal-plagued former governor or the state attorney general who appears to be leading in the polls.

After a day of speculation among political operatives in Missouri and Washington, DC, that Trump was poised to endorse either former Gov. Eric Greitens or Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Trump chose both in a statement shortly after 5 pm

The split decision came a little more than 12 hours before the polls opened — and set Trump up to claim credit if either candidate wins Tuesday.

Trump said he wanted a candidate who will fight for border security, “election integrity, the military and military veterans.”

“We need a person who will not back down to the Radical Left Lunatics who are destroying our country,” Trump wrote. “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!”

While the endorsement had been widely anticipated by Republicans, it is unlikely that Trump’s coy statement will have a substantial impact on the eve of the tight race, where he appeared unwilling to put his full weight behind any candidate.

Both Erics immediately moved to seize on Trump’s statement. Greitens posted a graphic to Twitter saying the former president had endorsed him. Soon after, Schmitt released a statement saying it was “truly an honor” to have Trump’s endorsement and calling himself the only “America First” candidate in the race.

Later Monday evening, each candidate said Trump called him about the endorsement. Greitens wrote on Twitter that he had a “GREAT” phone call with Trump.

Schmitt said he was appreciative of the endorsement. “I’m very proud of it. And when you look at the substance of the actual endorsement, somebody’s fighting for election integrity, border security, taking on the left indoctrinating their kids,” Schmitt said at his rally in Fenton. “That’s my record. Eric Greitens’ took a knee and quit on the state.”

Schmitt then talked about how Greitens faced allegations of sexual abuse and hitting his children. But he would not say what it meant that he split the Trump endorsement with someone he called a “predator.”

“I’ll leave that up to the pundits to figure out, I know he endorsed me,” Schmitt said.

Last month, Trump knee-capped US Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who has consistently polled as one of the top three candidates in the race, saying he would not be giving her the endorsement because he didn’t feel that she “had what it takes to take on the Radical Left Democrats.”

In March, Trump praised US Rep. Billy Long, but stopped short of endorsing him. Long never broke into the top tier of candidates in polling.

Polling in the race’s final weeks showed Schmitt gaining in the race, with several surveys showing him leading. Meanwhile, recent polls showed Greitens in third.

“He was smart for saying Eric. It was ingenious. That’s Trump!” said Rene Artman, chairman of the Republican Central Committee of St. Louis County.

Greitens has come under withering attack over past allegations of sexual assault and blackmail, which led him to resign as governor in 2018, as well as allegations by his ex-wife that he was physically and emotionally abusive towards her and their young children.

The split endorsement comes after Trump indicated he was upset by a poll conducted by Remington Research Group, a firm founded by Schmitt’s campaign consultant, Jeff Roe, that showed Schmitt winning the race with 34% of the vote. The poll also looked at the 2024 Republican presidential primary and had Trump with 42% of the vote, ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who had 18%.

After Breitbart, which has written favorably about Greitens throughout the campaign, said the poll was “fake” and underestimated Trump’s support in the state, Trump posted the outlet’s article on his site Truth Social, decrying “dishonesty in politics.”

This is a breaking story and will be updated

This story was originally published August 1, 2022 5:21 PM.

Profile Image of Jonathan Shorman

Jonathan Shorman is The Kansas City Star’s lead political reporter, covering Kansas and Missouri politics and government. He previously covered the Kansas Statehouse for The Star and Wichita Eagle. He holds a journalism degree from The University of Kansas.

Profile Image of Daniel Desrochers

Daniel Desrochers covers Washington, DC for the Kansas City Star. He previously covered politics and government for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky and the Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia.

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