With the Missouri GOP Senate primary now less than 40 days away, a new Republican group called Show Me Values began airing its first ad Friday highlighting the several scandals Greitens faced when he served as the state’s governor. CNN’s Michael Warren reports the group is spending more than $1 million on the ads.
A separate outside group, led by former Missouri GOP Sen. John Danforth, is also ramping up its activity, as CNN’s Sara Murray reported this week. Danforth said the super PAC has raised more than $5 million in an effort to recruit an independent candidate into the Missouri Senate race should Greitens win the Republican nomination.
This all came on the heels of the news that John Wood would be leaving his post on the House select committee investigating January 6 this week, which is earlier than expected. Some Missouri Republicans have encouraged Wood, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who also previously worked for Danforth, to enter the race as an independent conservative alternative.
Greitens’ shortcomings as a candidate have long been clear. He resigned as Missouri governor in 2018 after a series of ethical controversies and accusations of sexual misconduct. (Greitens did not admit to any legal wrongdoing, and criminal charges against him were dropped.) Still, he has been a leading contender in the crowded Senate primary field.
But earlier this week, he crossed yet another line for many in the party, releasing a video in which he was depicted as hunting “RINOs” (Republicans In Name Only).
The flurry of activity from Republicans this week to slow Greitens speaks to how, even in a political environment that broadly favors their party, they have little margin for error in the battle for the Senate.
Given the Senate’s current 50-50 split, Republicans only need a net flip of one seat to take control of the chamber. While there are plenty of competitive races on the map, there aren’t any layups for them — in fact, the Senate seat CNN ranks as most likely to change hands in November, Pennsylvania, is currently held by the GOP. So they can ill-afford to risk a seat in a reliably Republican state like Missouri.
And even though base voters are fired up to vote in November, Republicans know they can’t alienate moderate and suburban voters — especially with the public’s attention increasingly turning to topics such as abortion and guns that often put the party on the wrong side of public opinion.
Democrats made clear they are going to try to make abortion a top campaign issue after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday. And Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell cited appealing to suburban voters as part of his rationale for bucking most members of his party and voting in favor of the gun safety bill Congress passed this week.
The Point: Nominating a candidate like Greitens would only further heighten the risk for the GOP of turning away key swing voters — which would have implications for the party well beyond Missouri.