Former President Donald Trump finally issued his long anticipated endorsement in Missouri’s crowded GOP primary for U.S. Senate Monday night.
But it’s anybody’s guess which candidate he supports.
In a statement from his campaign, Trump endorsed “Eric,” without specifying whether he meant former Gov. Eric Greitens or Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
“I am therefore proud to announce that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Trump’s statement read.
Every major candidate in the primary has worked to win over Trump, who twice won Missouri by double digits and whose endorsement was considered a potential game changer in the crowded race.
Each made the trek to Mar-a-Lago to woo Trump, and each tried to varying degrees to tailor a campaign message they hoped would convince him to weigh in on their behalf.
But after Trump publicly admonished U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, the other candidate considered a frontrunner in the campaign, it was widely assumed the coveted endorsement would go to either Greitens or Schmitt.
In the end, it appears the former president decided against deciding.
That didn’t stop Greitens from quickly jumping on the statement and tweeting out: “Honored to have the support of President Trump! We will MAGA!”
He followed up soon thereafter: “I’m honored to receive President Trump’s endorsement. From the beginning, I’ve been the true MAGA Champion fighting against the RINO establishment backing Schmitt.”
Schmitt’s campaign also claimed the endorsement.
“It is truly an honor to have President Trump’s endorsement in the Senate race.”
Greitens campaign is more in need of a Trump boost, as the scandal-plagued former governor has seen his poll numbers begin dropping as a political action committee — largely funded by a Schmitt donor — began running millions of dollars worth of TV ads this month highlighting the accusations from his ex-wife that he abused his children.
The beneficiary of Greitens’ polling drop appears to be Schmitt, who has led most recent polls.
Hoping for a political comeback after resigning as Missouri governor in 2018 to avoid impeachment and settle a felony charge, Greitens has worked harder than any of the other candidates to win over Trump.
He built his entire campaign message around Trump’s grievances, from spreading stolen election conspiracy theories to downplaying the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. He also surrounded himself with advisers who are close to Trump, most notably when he named Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is dating Donald Trump Jr., as the national co-chair of his campaign.
But Schmitt also pursued the endorsement vigorously.
Even before he officially launched his campaign for Senate last year, Schmitt joined in the failed legal effort seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election. And though he was never as open as some of his rivals in spreading Trump’s lie of a stolen election, he continued to hint at it in ads and public appearances, usually framed as a commitment to “election integrity.”
Schmitt’s attempts to convince Trump to endorse him seemed to culminate at an event in Columbia last week. After months of refusing to be pinned down on whether he agreed with the former president that Mitch McConnell should not be the GOP leader in the Senate, Schmitt finally relented.
“Mitch McConnell hasn’t endorsed me,” Schmitt told reporters, “and I don’t endorse him for leadership.”
Schmitt’s previous refusal to oppose McConnell had been cited by Greitens supporters as a reason for Trump not to endorse Missouri’s attorney general.
Meanwhile, the other candidates in the primary had fun at the “Erics’ expense following Trump’s statement.
“Congrats to Eric McElroy. He’s having a big night,” said Hartzler campaign manager Mike Hafner, referencing one of the far-lesser known people in the 21-candidate field.
Dave Schatz, president pro tem of the state Senate, tweeted: “Honored and humbled. Thanks President Trump.”
He signed off on his tweet with “Dave (Eric) Allen Schatz.”
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