Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt plans to occupy what is likely to be a crowded pro-Trump lane in the Republican primary for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat – and he’s already emphasizing his fights “alongside” the former president early in the race.
“I’ve spent my time as attorney general fighting alongside President Trump and defending the America first agenda,” Schmitt, who jumped in the race to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., last month, told Fox News.
“If the pro-Trump Republicans are looking for a candidate I certainly would be the one because I’ve been in those fights,” he added. “That’s been my record.”
Schmitt during his time as Missouri’s attorney general has gained notoriety for several high-profile legal actions he’s taken.
In this Aug. 6, 2020 file photo, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speaks during a news conference in St. Louis. Schmitt announced Wednesday, March 24, 2021, that he’s making a bid for retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s seat. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File) ((AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File))
These include suing China over the coronavirus pandemic; filing a brief in support of the gun-toting suburbanites Mark and Patricia McCloskey after their confrontation with protesters last year; challenging President Biden’s regulatory authority; and leading 17 states in a brief supporting the ill-fated Texas case at the Supreme Court that sought to essentially invalidate the presidential elections in four states.
A bevy Missouri Republicans has either been speculated about or expressed interested in running for Blunt’s seat. But Schmitt’s most high-profile contender is likely to be former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens – who is also trying to appeal to Trump’s base.
“I’m the MAGA candidate in this race. I’m the front-runner who has the support of so many folks like Rudy Giuliani, like Seb Gorka, like Ryan Zinke, like Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova,” Greitens said in an interview with Fox News. “I’ve been there through the fights and I’m a fighter and I’m going to fight for the people of Missouri in the U.S. Senate.”
Greitens resigned as Missouri’s governor in 2018 amid allegations of campaign finance violations and sexual assault.
Greitens admitted to an extramarital affair but denied the other allegations. Since his resignation, the assault charges were dropped largely owing to alleged misconduct by an investigator. And the campaign finance violations were settled with an ethics panel finding “no evidence” Greitens knew of the issues, despite his fundamental responsibility over the matter.
But many Republicans worry Greitens’ baggage could be used against him by Democrats in a general election and put the Missouri Senate seat at risk for Republicans. Schmitt apparently alluded to this in a statement when he announced his campaign, saying “we also need a leader who can hold this Senate seat in firm Republican hands without giving Democrats any chance to take this seat back.”
Eric Schmitt, Missouri attorney general, speaks during a news conference outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Schmitt is aiming to occupy the pro-Trump lane in the 2022 Republican primary for retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blunt’s seat. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
In response to a question on Greitens past, Schmitt pointed to recent slim victories by Republicans in Missouri Senate races.
“Look at the last two Senate races,” he said. “Missouri [Republicans] won those seats by approximately three points and six points. And that is as Missouri has turned in to be more and more red.”
Blunt won his 2016 election by just three points, while Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., beat former Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., by six points in 2018. McCaskill entered the Senate in 2012 on the coattails of a poor race run by Republican Todd Akin.
Schmitt said that if elected he will focus on fighting against “radical” policies supported by Biden and Democrats in Congress.
“Now I’m spending my time as attorney general pushing back against this radical agenda that the Democrats and Joe Biden are pushing, which really is seeking to tear down all the good things that were built by the president four years earlier,” Schmitt said, referring to Trump’s policies.
“You see what’s happening at the border. You see what’s the threat to energy independence,” he continued. “So we’re front and center and really leading the charge and taking a blowtorch to this agenda, whether it’s filing suit on the social cost of greenhouse gases, which is going to cost millions of jobs and make everything more expensive… I think we need fighters right now in the Senate.”
As for what he would support should Republicans manage to get unified control of government in the 2024 election, Schmitt said he’d back lower taxes, cuts to the regulatory state and building up border security.
Other Missouri Republicans considering jumping into the Senate race include a significant chunk of the state’s congressional delegation: Reps. Ann Wagner, Jason Smith and Vicky Hartzler, among others.
Schmitt said that with unified Democratic control of the federal government – at least through the 2022 elections – he is the person to serve as a bulwark against further left-leaning changes in the U.S.
“What it feels like right now is that things are slipping away – from a … cultural perspective for us, for a policy perspective. And all the levers of power are controlled by the Democrats,” he said. “Missourians deserve to have a fighter in that office. And I’m a fighter as attorney general. I intend to take that fight to the United States Senate.”