By Jim EllisMarch 21, 2022 — In 2016, retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens was an upset winner in the Missouri governor’s contest and was quickly looked upon as a rising national Republican political star, but the glow would soon fade. Nineteen months later Gov. Greitens would resign his office in disgrace as a pre-election extra-marital affair came to the forefront followed by associated criminal charges relating to actions toward the woman and alleged campaign finance violations.
Later, the criminal charges were dropped because the prosecuting St. Louis District Attorney’s proven corrupt actions transformed into official prosecutorial misconduct. The embarrassing details that surfaced around the Greitens affair, however, underscored with him having a pregnant wife at home, ruined his previously stellar reputation.
Despite his tarnished personal image, Greitens was not finished with electoral politics, and decided to enter the open US Senate race after Sen. Roy Blunt (R) chose not to seek re-election to a third term. Speculation had been rampant earlier in the cycle that Greitens was even considering launching a primary challenge against the veteran politician if Sen. Blunt had run again. Had such a contest come to fruition, Greitens was viewed as having little to no chance of pulling an upset victory.
When the resigned governor entered the open seat Senate campaign, many Republican leaders began expressing trepidation that if he won the nomination the door would open to the party losing the general election against the eventual Democratic nominee. With virtually any other Republican standard bearer, the Missouri race would be considered safely Republican.
The new Trafalgar Group survey (March 9-13; 1,075 likely Missouri Republican primary voters, live interview, interactive voice response, online and text) gives credence to the previous analysis. Paired individually with two Democrats, Greitens only ties former St. Louis area state Sen. Scott Sifton, 45-45 percent, and holds the smallest of leads, 46-45 percent, over Iraq/Afghan War veteran Lucas Kunce.
In contrast, US Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Columbia) would defeat Sifton, 57-37 percent, and Kunce, 56-39 percent. Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) would also easily top the two Democrats (against Sifton: 54-40 percent; opposite Kunce: 55-40 percent).
However, a previous February Trafalgar poll (Feb. 22-24; 1,026 likely Missouri Republican primary voters) posted Greitens to a 31-23-17 percent Republican primary lead over Schmitt and Rep. Hartzler, respectively.