By Jim Ellis
For background purposes, former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) received a great deal of media attention when he declared for the Senate during the latter part of March, just after incumbent Roy Blunt (R) announced his retirement. Much of the coverage dealt with Greitens’ 2017 sex scandal that forced him from office. Just days later, Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) went public with his plans to challenge the disgraced former governor for the 2022 Republican nomination.
With so much early attention being paid to the race, two pollsters fielded surveys during the same period, but their ballot test numbers drew very different conclusions. Fabrizio, Lee & Associates interviewed 400 likely Republican primary voters during the March 23-25 period. The Remington Research Group conducted their interactive voice response study within the same time frame, March 24-25, but their sampling universe was a much larger 1,041 Missouri likely Republican primary voters.
Fabrizio Lee puts Greitens in far better position than Remington Research. They see the ex-governor leading AG Schmitt by a whopping 48-11 percent margin with unannounced potential contenders Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) and Jason Smith (R-Salem) posting support percentages of nine and seven, respectively.
Conversely, Remington Research finds a very close race. Their ballot test finds Greitens leading AG Schmitt, by only a single percentage point, 40-39 percent. Adding the other potential candidates, Reps. Wagner and Smith along with Reps. Billy Long (R-Springfield), Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville) and St. Louis businessman John Brunner, we see a 31-18-12-9-8-6-2 percent division with Greitens and Schmitt leading the pack with Reps. Wagner, Smith, Hartzler, and Long trailing respectively. Brunner, who has previously lost two statewide races, tracks at only two percent support.
In the head-to-head pairing with Greitens and Schmitt, the geographic segmentation between the two candidates virtually mirrored the statewide 40-39 percent split in Columbia, Joplin, and Cape Girardeau. We see a much different result in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Springfield, the state’s largest population centers. Greitens built a 46-35 percent lead in Springfield and a 43-38 percent edge in Kansas City. Schmitt, however, had the advantage in his home area of St. Louis, 43-34 percent.
Severe breaks occur when an ideological prism is placed over the two candidates. Among those in the survey universe who self-identify as very conservative, Greitens has a 48-34 percent lead. For those who say they are somewhat conservative, the margin tightens: Greitens, 41-37 percent. When looking at the moderate-progressive segment, the outcome substantially flips: Schmitt, 51-21 percent.
The Remington Research pollsters then created separate three-way races to see how the contest changes. Among the four potential candidates that were individually added to the Greitens-Schmitt field, Rep. Wagner fares best. This three-way field breaks, 38-26-18 percent, which is a major change from the one-point difference in the head-to-head hypothetical race. As you can see, Wagner’s entrance comes almost wholly at the expense of Schmitt, since Greitens loses only two points from his previous total.
The break is similar if Rep. Smith were the third contender. The race would divide 36-29-16 percent, though Greitens fares slightly worse if Smith is in as opposed to Wagner.
The race between the top two gets a bit tighter if Rep. Long is the third candidate. If so, the early contest would segment 36-30-14 percent.
Finally, if St. Louis businessman John Brunner were the third entry, the result again changes. Here, we see that Brunner would begin in the worst position of all those tested against Greitens and Schmitt. With Brunner as the third man, the contest splits 38-30-10 percent.
Obviously, former Gov. Greitens begins with a very early lead in all configurations. The fact that he and Attorney General Schmitt, for example, break virtually even when the two are individually paired suggests that this potential race is yet undefined and could evolve in many different ways.