Greitens drops to third place in Missouri Senate GOP primary after domestic abuse allegations

But just one month after an anti-Greitens super PAC formed to blanket the airwaves with new allegations of domestic and child abuse made by his ex-wife, the group has become the top TV spender in Missouri’s Senate race, buying up more than $6 million worth of ads. Greitens has handily lost his months-long status as frontrunner, according to multiple recent public polls, and another candidate is in a prime spot for a potential Trump endorsement: Eric Schmitt.

Polling released Monday by the Trafalgar Group shows Schmitt, Missouri’s attorney general, in the lead at 27 percent, followed closely by Rep. Vicky Hartzler at 24 percent, with Greitens at 20 percent. Another poll out on Monday from Missouri Scout, a subscription-based political news outlet in the state, found Schmitt at 32 percent, Hartzler at 25 percent and Greitens at 18 percent. The poll was conducted over the weekend by Remington Research, a firm affiliated with Schmitt’s consulting group, Axiom Strategies. The Trafalgar poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points and the Remington poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

“I think it’s a case of the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Gregg Keller, a Republican strategist in the state working with a pro-Schmitt super PAC. “I think Missouri Republican primary voters have, and rightly so, a lot of skepticism about what they read in the press.

“But at some point, when Missouri’s former first lady comes forward and says Greitens beat her when they were married, and says the same thing about his young son, voters think, ‘The number and the seriousness of the charges against him are just too much for me. I’m tapping out.’”

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Greitens’ ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, testified under oath in an affidavit this spring that Greitens had previously assaulted her and their 3-year-old son, leaving the child with visible injuries. Greitens has denied her claims made as part of ongoing child custody proceedings, insisting they were politically motivated.

The new polls out Monday aren’t the only ones to show Greitens falling to third place. An early July survey by The Tarrance Group, conducted for the anti-Greitens super PAC Show Me, had the three ranked in the same order. And a July 20 memo sent to Hartzler donors and obtained by POLITICO, meanwhile, also included recent polling showing Greitens in third place. The OnMessage poll found Schmitt at 26 percent, Hartzler at 24 percent and Greitens at 21 percent, with a 2.8 percentage point margin of error.

In a statement to POLITICO on Monday, Greitens’ campaign said the recently released polling was inaccurate, but did not release their own data showing otherwise.

“Fake poll numbers peddled by grifters are an albatross in the political world and Governor Greitens will become the next U.S. senator from Missouri,” said Greitens’ campaign manager Dylan Johnson.

Unlike the explosive allegations in 2018 that Greitens tied up his hairstylist in his basement and sexually assaulted her, ultimately leading to his resignation from office, the more recent claims by his ex-wife — coupled with millions of dollars in attack ads highlighting them — have proven persuasive with Republicans who had long held out for Greitens.

That puts Schmitt in an enviable position for an endorsement from Trump, who earlier this month publicly bashed Hartzler, declaring she would not receive his endorsement. Schmitt, meanwhile, has had allies continuing to lobby the former president to endorse him, including former Trump officials Pam Bondi and Matt Whitaker. Schmitt on Monday afternoon appeared with Bondi and Whitaker on a panel at a think-tank event organized by former Trump White House officials, where Trump himself is scheduled to speak on Tuesday.

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The appearance — and Greitens’ declining poll numbers — come after Trump in an interview that aired July 8 called Greitens “the one the Democrats legitimately want to run against” and “a little controversial,” but added he has “endorsed controversial people before.”

Greitens, who drew national attention last month after releasing an ad showing him bursting into a home with a rifle in a “RINO hunting” SWAT raid, has sought to soften his rhetoric in recent days. Greitens released a video montage of black and white photos from his campaign, accompanied by the note “This movement in Missouri is fueled by love, not hate.”

Donald Trump Jr. and his fiancée Kimberly Guilfoyle, a Trump aide who serves as an adviser to Greitens’ campaign, have continued in the last week to push for Trump to endorse Greitens, according to two people with knowledge of their efforts. Their pitch, however, is complicated by Greitens’ declining poll numbers, which have made their way to the former president.

“I’m happy I was wrong,” said James Harris, a Republican strategist in the state who previously believed a Greitens nomination looked inevitable. “I thought at first Greitens would be tough to be defeated, or a group wouldn’t really materialize and go after him. What we’ve seen is Show Me Values PAC has had lead on Greitens, and he’s been declining in any poll you’ve looked at over the last couple weeks as they’ve educated people.”

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The super PAC is running ads featuring a female narrator reading directly from affidavits recently filed by Greitens’ ex-wife.

Harris noted the significant backing Schmitt has received from outside groups. That includes ads from Save Missouri Values, a super PAC supported by donors overlapping with the separate anti-Greitens PAC Show Me Values, along with Americans For Prosperity and Crypto Innovations. A recent ad from Save Missouri Values features Trump’s post on Truth Social this month attacking Hartzler, telling voters they “can forget about Vicky Hartzler for Senate from the Great State of Missouri.”

Trump and Schmitt’s relationship dates back to his becoming Missouri attorney general in 2019, but the two met in person for the first time in 2020, when Schmitt attended a White House event but was invited alone into the Oval Office. While Rep. Billy Long, who is polling in a distant fourth-place in the Senate race, held a congressional fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago prior to launching his Senate campaign, Schmitt is the only candidate in the race to have held an event at Trump’s Florida resort.

On a Monday morning Columbia talk radio show, Long maintained it would have been “a completely different race” if Trump had endorsed him “early on.”

Predicting that Schmitt and Sen. Josh Hawley would be “two young bucks fighting for TV time” in the Senate, Long conceded there was a longshot of him pulling off a win. He said the momentum appears to be behind Schmitt now.

“It looks like it’s his to lose at this point.”


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