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One Eric Reaps in Missouri as Another Eric Sows

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Voters here in this languid Mississippi River town, famous as the childhood home of Rush Limbaugh and for its history of devastating flooding, sent an undeniable message on Tuesday: They love Eric.

Eric Schmitt, yes.

The Missouri Attorney General fought the man widely seen as his main rival, Eric Greitens, the disgraced former governor, despite some last-minute high-ranking Donald Trump jokes. With a chaos-inducing puckishness that baffled Republicans and local agents alike, the former president had his bets capped and “ERIC” approved — just Eric, no last name — for the Senate seat now occupied by Roy Blunt, who is retiring.

It was a Solomonic, baby-splitting move without precedent, but it reflected Trump’s real-life dilemma and a fierce debate within his camp about which Eric was the real “MAGA” stalwart. Was it Greitens, the retired Navy SEAL, humanitarian Rhodes scholar who once openly admired Barack Obama? Or Schmitt, the mainstream Republican who reinvented himself as a fighter against masks and vaccines in preparation for this week’s win?

Friday night, Trump still asked aides, “What should we do with Missouri?” His son Donald Trump Jr., and Trump’s younger fiancée, Kimberly Guilfoyle, had lobbied fiercely on behalf of Greitens, even claiming after Monday’s ambiguous endorsement that the elder Trump For real intended to elect the former governor, not the attorney general. The 45th president himself has never provided clarity, a hedge through which he could claim victory no matter what.

Guilfoyle, according to two people who heard stories about her lobbying efforts, tried to convince Trump that Greitens was really leading the race. At one point they said, she quoted: Polling big penguin, a little-known outfit that has a lively Twitter presence but doesn’t reveal the full names of its owners. Trump blasted the polls of the Remington Research Group, a research firm associated with Jeff Roe of Axiom Strategies, who led Schmitt’s campaign. But Remington’s numbers turned out to be much more accurate than Big Penguin’s.

In the end, more than 45 percent of Republicans in Missouri had, by early evening, Eric No. 1, while about 19 percent Eric No. 2 — a humiliating end for a man once viewed by some Republican donors as America’s first Jewish president in the making.

It was also a victory for the incumbent Republicans in Washington as they compete (often unsuccessfully) for control of the party with Trump’s vast alumni network, which has spread across the country to support one candidate or another.

Before eventually starting work as a Republican, Greitens considered a career as a Democrat. For example, he urged friends to meet with Senator Claire McCaskill and even traveled to the Democratic National Convention in Denver in 2008 to see Barack Obama become the Democratic presidential candidate.

Leading up to his surprise win in the 2016 governor’s race, Greitens sought and gained national attention, despite never having been in office for a day. He sat down for interviews with Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart to promote his books, which are now read with uncanny irony in light of his subsequent fall from grace.

In “Resilience: Hard-won wisdom for a better life”, a 2015 book that became a New York Times bestseller, offers Greitens kernels of wisdom such as “Resilience is cultivated not so that we can perform well the first time, but so that we can live full and thriving lives.”

A blurb for the book was by Admiral Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the day of the attack on Osama bin Laden’s property – an operation conducted by an elite unit of Greitens’ former Navy counterparts. SEALs. “Eric Greitens offers a brilliant and courageous course of action to help navigate life’s roughest waters,” Mullen wrote.

There was more. JJ Abrams, the filmmaker, called Greitens “one of the great Americans of our time.” Tom Brokaw called him “my hero,” while Joe Klein, the former writer of Time magazine, devoted half of an entire book, “Charlie Mike,” to Greitens and his military exploits. “Saying that ‘Charlie Mike’ glorifies Greitens is like saying God looks good in the Bible,” a former colleague of Klein wrote in a damning reassessment of Greitens after his resignation.)

Awards came easily in a media climate that glorified warriors with doctorates – and Greitens was an unusually charismatic figure whose charitable work earned him national recognition and lucrative speaking contracts. Time magazine named him on its list of ‘100 most influential people’ (Mullen wrote the short bio, in which he called Greitens “one of the most remarkable young men I have ever encountered”); Fortune magazine rated him as one of the 50 greatest leaders in the worldwedged in at number 37 behind Joko Widodo, then the governor of Jakarta, Indonesia, and Wynton Marsalis, the jazz musician.

Greitens’ relentless self-promotion angered some of his fellow Navy SEAL alumni, who began distributing a video highlighting what they believed to be discrepancies between his account of his military service and his actual record.

By the end of this campaign, however, Greitens had alienated all of his former admirers. Even Ken Harbaugh, a former close friend and early contributor to his ailing veterans charity, The Mission Continues, recorded a video urging him to stop.

Greitens also made some strange choices during the campaign, including his participation in a Christian baptism ceremony (he’s Jewish) and a sudden trip to Finland on the weekend of July 4, where he took part in a 400-meter running race that he described as a quintessential feat of athletic prowess. Breitbart’s glowing race report noted that he “finished just deciseconds behind third and fourth in the United States,” without adding that he placed 22nd out of 25 competitors.

The Defeat of Eric No. 2 was a rare win for Senator Mitch McConnell, whose allies quietly funneled “about $6.7 million into the anti-Greitens TV blitz”. according to Politico’s Alex Isenstadt.

McConnell concealed his involvement throughout the race, remembering Greitens’ penchant for political jujutsu. The minority leader’s political advisers, who were usually quick to call or text, were silent for weeks. A super PAC set up to run television ads highlighting the former governor’s history of scandals highlighted his Missouri roots, while refusing to disclose out-of-state donors.

Less than a week before Election Day, Eric No. 2 that they would not vote to make McConnell majority leader if Republicans took the Senate this fall — a reflection of the anti-establishment fervor among GOP grassroots.

The victory of Eric No. 1 was also a relief to the dozens of Republicans in Missouri who spent months trying to overcome Eric No. 2 to insure.

As Scott Faughn, the plug-in publisher of The Missouri Times, a conservative political outlet focused on state politics, put it in a farewell commentary on Schmitt’s victory party Tuesday night, “We’re crazy, but not Eric Greiten’s crazy.”

  • In Pennsylvania, Nevada, and now Arizona and Michigan, Republicans who are challenging the legitimacy of the 2020 election and threatening to undermine the next are on their way to gaining decisive control over the way elections are held, Jennifer Medina, Reid Epstein and Nick Corasani write.

  • Republican candidates and conservative news outlets seized on reports of voting trouble in Arizona on Tuesday to reaffirm their case that the state elections are broken and due for reform, even as state and county officials said the complaints were exaggerated, Stuart reports. Thompson.

  • Will Senator Kyrsten Sinema Support the Democrats’ New Climate Accord? As usual she says no. Emily Cochrane takes a look.

  • In The New York Times Magazine, Elisabeth Zeofsky has detailed coverage of the Claremont Institute, a conservative California think tank that has become a nerve center of the American right.

— Blake

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