FARMINGTON, MISSOURI – JULY 31: Missouri Attorney General and Republican Senate candidate Eric Schmitt speaks to supporters in Hall Pavilion at Englar Park on July 31, 2022 in Farmington, Missouri. Schmitt is holding campaign events on the last weekend before the August 2nd primary elections in Missouri. He is the front runner in the primary race that includes former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, to replace outgoing Senator Roy Blunt. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
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Eric Greitens, the scandal-tarred former Missouri governor who launched a comeback bid against the wishes of many Republicans, will lose the state’s GOP Senate primary, NBC News projects.
Eric Schmitt, currently the state’s attorney general, is projected to proceed to the general election, where he will compete with a Democratic nominee for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Roy Blunt.
The primary results mark a thudding defeat for Greitens, who fully embraced former President Donald Trump and fought against recent allegations of domestic abuse as he looked to claw his way back to the political fore.
Greitens had announced his Senate bid nearly three years after resigning from the governor’s office amid accusations that he blackmailed a hairdresser with whom he was having an affair. Greitens admitted to the tryst of her, but denied he had threatened to release her nude photographs he took of her if she revealed the affair.
He was charged with felony invasion of privacy related to the alleged blackmailing. Greitens was also charged with illegally using a charity donor list to help fund his 2016 gubernatorial campaign. Both charges were dropped around the time Greitens resigned in June 2018.
Eric Greitens, Missouri Governor, pictured at the Robin Hood Veterans Summit in New York City.
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Those and other scandals led mainstream Republicans to worry about a Greitens candidacy jeopardizing the party’s hold on a Senate seat in a state that otherwise reliably votes Republicans into high office. Democrats are desperate to keep their razor-thin majority in the Senate, but their control of the chamber is threatened by a challenging political environment, exacerbated by President Joe Biden’s unpopularity and recent economic turmoil.
Greitens had aligned himself completely with Trump during his Senate campaign, including echoing Trump’s false claims about widespread fraud tainting the 2020 presidential election. Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., joined Greitens’ campaign as national co-chair.
But the former president ultimately did not give Greitens a full-throated endorsement. Rather, he bizarrely endorsed “Eric” in the Missouri GOP Senate primary, where two of the top candidates are named Eric.
“I trust the Great People of Missouri, on this one, to make up their own minds,” Trump said in a social media post on the eve of the primary.
Both Greitens and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt touted Trump’s announcement as though it were a personal endorsement.
Polling averages from RealClearPolitics showed Greitens had a smaller lead over a top Democratic primary candidate than either of his two biggest competitors in the Republican primary.
After Sheena Greitens filed court documents in March alleging Eric Greitens abused her and their young son while they were married, numerous top Republicans called on Greitens to drop out.
“If you hit a woman or a child, you belong in handcuffs, not the United States Senate,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who had investigated Greitens when he was Missouri’s attorney general.
Blunt himself said that Greitens “should not be a candidate for the Senate” if Sheena Greitens’ allegations are true.