GOP factions warred at Trump’s golf course ahead of crucial endorsement
The former president, facing down Tuesday’s primary election with only hours left to make an endorsement that could have an impact on the race, issued a statement Monday evening declaring his support behind the campaign of “ERIC”, without specificying which frontrunner he meant: former Governor Eric Greitens, or current Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
Instead, he urged votes to “make up their own minds”, writing: “I trust the Great People of Missouri, on this one, to make up their own minds, much as they 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!”
But according to Politico, the real reason for his indecision was not trust in the voters of Missouri. Instead, he faced an intense battle for his favour from warring GOP factions who pressed their cases at his Bedminster resort and golf course in New Jersey on Monday.
Championing the former governor, who remains accused of both physical and sexual assault (both of which he denies), was the former Fox News personality and current fiancee of his eldest son, Kimberly Guilfoyle. Ms Guilfoyle, in front of party boss Ronna Romney McDaniel, reportedly accused the GOP establishment of suppressing Mr Greitens’ campaign and pressuring the former president against endorsing him.
It wasn’t clear who spoke specifically in Mr Schmitt’s favour, though Politico also reported the former president spoke with longtime Greitens rival Josh Hawley, who is set to become the state’s senior senator with the retirement of Roy Blunt later this year.
Ms McDaniel, according to the news outlet, argued against endorsing altogether and suggested it would have little effect.
But eventually the president settled on a strategy that would involve him endorsing both candidates — or, more realistically, neither one — while still appearing to put his thumb on the scale and extending his favour to two out of the three candidates most likely to become the party’s nominee in November.
That plan apparently was meant to be pulled off without the knowledge of either Mr Schmitt or Mr Greitens. It isn’t clear if either candidate learned about it ahead of time through leaks from Mr Trump’s talkative inner circle, but Politico reports that Mr Trump told both men in private conversations that they were receiving his support while making no mention of his plans to endorse one of their top rivals as well.
Both candidates named Eric celebrated the former president’s endorsement in duelling tweets.
The former president has leaned fully into his role as GOP kingmaker since leaving office, though he has suffered a number of embarrassing setbacks with his failures to unseat GOP state leaders in Georgia who opposed his attempts to overturn the 2020 election as well as the collapse of the campaign of Sean Parnell, once a frontrunner for the Republican US Senate nomination in Pennsylvania.
Missouri’s Senate race is favoured to be won by a Republican in November, though Democrats are hoping the nomination of Mr Greitens could provide an opportunity given his unpopularity within the state.
Elsewhere in the country, Trump-backed Senate candidates are trailing their Democratic opponents. Dr Mehmet Oz is trailing John Fetterman by a substantial margin in Pennsylvania, according to a recent Fox News poll, while polling of Georgia’s Senate race shows Sen Raphael Warnock pulling ahead of his flailing challenger Herschel Walker.