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Don’t Sleep on the MAGA Mania in Missouri

Eric Greitens and the Missouri Senate race won't be outdone on the crazy.
by Jim Swift
December 8, 2021
Don’t Sleep on the MAGA Mania in Missouri
Eric Greitens on February 22, 2017 in University City, Missouri. (Photo: Michael Thomas/ Getty Images)

The Buckeye state has Josh Mandel versus J.D. Vance in their race to the bottom. Pennsylvania has traded alleged abuser Sean Parnell for TV huckster Dr. Oz.

But the Show Me State might have them both beat.

Formerly a bellwether state, Missouri has trended red and traded fairly normal politicians, such as Sen. Jim Talent, for people a little more Edge Lordy. Such as Sen. Josh Hawley.

The field looking to replace outgoing, old school Republican Roy Blunt is crowded and crazy.

For starters, there are two go-along, get-along MAGA Congressmen, Billy Long and Vicky Hartzler. They’re both pro-Trump, but neither of them are, you know, nuts about it. So at least one of them will probably drop out before the filing date to keep their seat in the House. (My money would be on Long hitting the eject button first.)

Then, there’s Mark McCloskey, the Brooks Brothers lawyer who got famous for pointing an assault rifle at peaceful protesters. McCloskey thought that maybe he could parlay his MAGA fame into politics just because the Missouri Republican establishment covered for him. But he seems to have mistaken knee-jerk lib triggering for party support, as evidenced by this failed attempt at a rally.

With a slight lead in the polls is Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who took over Josh Hawley’s old job. Once upon a time, he was supposed to be the sane candidate in the race. But then Schmitt joined Texas in trying to overturn the 2020 election, filed a class action lawsuit to prevent mask mandates in public schools, and pulled prosecutors from crime cases in an attempt to not help enforce federal gun laws.

But wait, there’s more!

Schmitt also filed suit against the Biden administration to build the wall (don’t worry that MAGA thinks it was already built; consistency, hobgoblins, etc.). And he sought to get charges against his opponent Mark McCloskey and his wife dismissed. (Don’t worry, they got pardons.) Schmitt is so all-in that he’s suing both the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party. Good luck with that, counselor.

But even with all of that, Schmitt has another candidate nipping at his heels.

Eric Greitens.

You may remember Eric Greitens as Missouri’s disgraced former governor. And Lordy, is he something.

Greitens is not part of the Missouri Republican old guard. In fact, up until 2015, he was a Democrat. After he switched parties and then won the governor’s race, serving from 2017 to 2018, when he was forced to step down because of an affair with his hairstylist.

His brief tenure was memorable mostly two things: Greitens signing an historic right to work law, which was later repealed by a statewide referendum. And his affair.

On his second marriage, Greitens had earned a bit of a reputation as a boy scout. For instance, deployed in a support role to Thailand, he witnessed SEAL platoon members engaging in prostitution and doing drugs. He reported them and quickly made enemies in the Navy SEAL community, as folks were court martialed, and others’ tours of duty extended.

But then Greitens had an affair and he didn’t just cheat on his second wife: He allegedly took photos of his paramour as a sort of ransom, while his stylist’s hands were taped and face was masked, in his posh Central West End basement workout / sex dungeon. And then he threatened to share these photos if she ever revealed their tryst.

The stylist alleges that Greitens said:

You’re not going to mention my name. Don’t even mention my name to anybody at all, because if you do, I’m going to take these pictures, and I’m going to put them everywhere I can. They are going to be everywhere, and then everyone will know what a little whore you are.

It may come as no surprise that Greitens’ second marriage has now ended in divorce.

There were other scandals. Greitens also faced questions about campaign finance fraud, allegedly using a charity’s donor list to hawk funds for his campaign, a charge investigated by then-Attorney General Josh Hawley.

And the military stuff.

Greitens faces pushback from former members of the Navy’s SEAL community, which Greitens relied on heavily in his campaigns, and the books he wrote leading up to his first campaign.

During his successful run for governor, Greitens was criticized for exaggerating his record in the military. There’s a lot of parsing here, but it’s not hard to see how this would make for a devastating ad.

Since Greitens was in the Navy Reserves, and not active duty, he wasn’t court martialed. But after his scandal, guess who helped get him square with the Navy? The office of Vice President Mike Pence, the guy who won’t be alone in a room with another woman unless others are present. Pence’s office pushed back on the reports, but FOIA records obtained by the Kansas City Star fingered them.

And complicating matters even further is that GOP über donor Richard Uihlein, the Wisconsin-based industrial supply company owner who funds the Federalist, is backing Greitens. Which gives Greitens a pretty good claim to being the One True MAGA in the race.

If history is any guide, Eric Schmitt and some of his opponents will start a social media duel, to prove to voters that they’re the craziest son of a bitch in the race.

After all, they don’t call it the Show Me State for nothing.

Jim Swift

Jim Swift is a senior editor at The Bulwark.