ST. LOUIS — Former President Donald Trump, declining to make a single endorsement in Tuesday’s US Senate primary, announced he trusted Missouri voters to “make up their own minds” between former Gov. Eric Greitens and Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
In a statement posted after 5 pm Monday on Truth Social, a blogging site similar to Twitter, Trump wrote, “I trust the Great People of Missouri, on this one, to make up their minds, much as I 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.”
The late nod to two of the frontrunners in the Senate race represented an anti-climatic end to the sweepstakes in which Republican candidates sought to ingratiate themselves with the former president, who dominated the Democrats in his two elections here.
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Top Republicans had raced to tie themselves to the former president, betting his support would be the key to success in deeply conservative Missouri, where the former president has been widely celebrated.
Without an early endorsement, the candidates crisscrossed the state Monday, hoping to seal up support heading into Election Day.
The former president had been warming to Greitens, Politico reported in early March — weeks before Greitens’ ex-wife accused the ex-governor of spousal and child abuse in court documents.
After those reliefs, US Rep. Billy Long said Trump contacted him and talked about the allegations against Greitens, indicating concern from the former president about Greitens’ viability.
After the phone call, Trump issued a statement signaling he’d like to back Long, but wondered if voters had “been considering” Long, indicating Trump wanted to endorse a candidate with strong public support.
Greitens has been the subject of a multi-million dollar campaign financed by GOP donors and operatives to paint him as unfit for office. After leading the polls in the early going, Greitens began to fade, with Schmitt appearing to take the lead in the closing week.
Trump, on his social media website on Sunday, conveyed disapproval with Schmitt and Axiom Strategies, a political consulting firm working for Schmitt. Axiom’s polling arm, Remington Research Group, had released polls showing Schmitt leading.
On Sunday, Trump shared a link to a Breitbart article that accused Remington of underestimating Trump’s support in Missouri to boost the attorney general in polls.
“Wow, great dishonesty in politics,” Trump said in his social media post, with a photo of Schmitt below his statement. “Too bad!”
At a campaign stop in the St. Louis area, Schmitt was asked about a possible endorsement.
“I’d love to have it,” Schmitt said.
Trump made clear in early July there was one candidate he definitely wouldn’t endorse: US Rep. Vicky Hartzler, one of the leading candidates in the primary.
Trump said Hartzler called him for his endorsement, but he declined, saying she doesn’t have “what it takes to take on the Radical Left Democrats, together with their partner in the destruction of our Country, the Fake News Media and, of course , the deceptive & foolish RINOs.”
On Monday, Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, hosted a press conference in a St. Louis Lambert International Airport parking lot to criticize her two main competitors in the US Senate race.
To Greitens, she pointed out that he’s accused of abusing his family.
“That’s not conservative,” Hartzler said.
To Schmitt, she said he tried to use millions of dollars in tax credits to lure the Chinese to build a hub at the airport behind her.
“That’s not conservative,” Hartzler said.
And she criticized both of them for not sitting down for a debate.
“I guess they are afraid to fight a farm girl from Missouri,” said Hartzler, 61, describing herself as the “true conservative” in the race.
Nationally, political scientists, analysts and journalists are watching the race, to weigh Trump’s impact on mid-term elections.
Asked Monday about expectations that Trump still may endorse a Republican in the race, Hartzler shook off her non-endorsement, acknowledged the unpredictability of the former president.
“President Trump is going to do what he wants to do,” she said. “He may even endorse me.”
She left the airport, driving to other last-minute campaign stops in Rolla and southwest Missouri.
“We are getting a lot of support from every corner of the state,” she said.
On the Democratic side of the race, former Marine Lucas Kunce touted endorsements from US Sen. Bernie SanderI-Vermont, and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who served under President Bill Clinton.
Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, meanwhile, announced her election night watch party would be at the Sheet Metal Local 36 union hall in St. Louis.
On the GOP side, Greitens wound up his campaign with a statewide fly-around that included a scheduled stop at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield.
updated at 5:24 pm with Trump’s endorsement. This story will be updated.