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Eric Greitens Faces Ad Blitz and a Growing Threat to His Political Future

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If Eric Greitens, a retired Navy SEAL and former Rhodes scholar who resigned in disgrace 4 years ago as governor of Missouri, loses his bid for a Senate seat in next week’s Republican primary, his defeat will probably be a lesson that the laws of political gravity do, the truth is, still apply.

A late promoting onslaught highlighting Mr. Greitens’s past scandals blanketed the airwaves over the previous couple of weeks, funded by donors from his own party. The barrage of attack ads has taken the previous governor from a seemingly invulnerable lead within the polls to a position somewhere behind Eric Schmitt, the state’s attorney general.

Mr. Greitens, a political chameleon who first ran for office in 2016 as an anti-establishment outsider, only to lose his perch two years later, reinvented himself as an “ultra-MAGA” warrior as he sought to switch Senator Roy Blunt, who’s retiring.

But his past conduct and aggressive campaign posture have alienated many traditional conservatives in Missouri, while failing to draw their intended audience of 1: former President Donald J. Trump, who has not endorsed anyone within the bitterly contested Aug. 2 primary.

That call has left a vacuum that has been filled by Mr. Greitens’s many adversaries, who pooled their resources in a last-ditch try to end his political profession once and for all. Local donors enlisted Johnny DeStefano, a Kansas City-bred political operative who worked in Mr. Trump’s White House, to steer Show Me Values, a brilliant PAC whose negative ads appear to have done real damage to Mr. Greitens’s standing with voters.

Rene Artman, the chairwoman of the St. Louis County Republican Central Committee, said Mr. Greitens’s biggest liability was his treatment of ladies, after allegations of abuse from his ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, and a former hairdresser with whom he had a sexual relationship.

Ms. Artman and other female Republican leaders within the state had tried and did not pressure the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party to return out more forcefully against Mr. Greitens’s candidacy.

“We will not be to face in judgment, but marriage vows are essentially the most sacred,” she said. “If you happen to can’t keep those vows, if you have got betrayed those vows, how can I think any guarantees you make to me as a senator?”

In response, Mr. Greitens has lashed out against his perceived enemies, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, whom he accused without evidence of scheming in Washington to defeat him; Karl Rove, a former political adviser to President George W. Bush who has quietly encouraged donors and political operatives in Missouri to make sure that Mr. Greitens is defeated; and his own ex-wife, who finalized their divorce in 2020 and moved to Texas, where she is now searching for to relocate the continued battle over custody of their two children.

She has made sworn allegations of domestic abuse which have reverberated throughout the campaign, underscoring Mr. Greitens’s image in Missouri as a person with a history of violent behavior.

Asked for comment, Mr. Greitens’s lawyer within the custody dispute said only that “Eric’s primary focus is on protecting the youngsters” and pointed to a press release from March that questioned Ms. Greitens’s motives.

Dylan Johnson, a spokesman for Mr. Greitens’s campaign, said, “Governor Greitens has received tremendous support from the grass-roots,” adding, “Now we have seen biased and faux polling throughout U.S. Senate races in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and these same pollsters are playing the identical game in Missouri.”

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Until the previous couple of weeks of the campaign, Mr. Greitens looked as if it would have weathered scandal after scandal. These included lurid accusations that in 2015, he tied up a girl within the basement of his house, threatened to blackmail her with a nude photograph and compelled her to perform oral sex on him against her will.

Mr. Greitens has publicly denied all wrongdoing and has insisted that the encounter with the girl, in addition to subsequent ones, were consensual, however the allegations helped fuel an impeachment inquiry by Republicans within the state Legislature that culminated in his resignation on June 1, 2018.

4 years later, Mr. Greitens mounted an improbable comeback — and it looked as if it would work at first. Running in Mr. Trump’s mold against “snakes” and “RINOs,” a derogatory acronym that stands for “Republicans in Name Only,” he led the polls for greater than a 12 months while his opponents, who also include Representatives Billy Long and Vicky Hartzler, squabbled amongst themselves.

The race drew in two men seen as possible presidential candidates in 2024: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who campaigned for Mr. Schmitt, and Josh Hawley, Missouri’s other senator, who endorsed Ms. Hartzler.

But to Mr. Trump’s evident irritation, Ms. Hartzler declined to completely back his conspiracy theories in regards to the 2020 election or embrace his falsehoods in regards to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol. In a press release on July 9 that demonstrated Mr. Trump’s ability to bend Republican primaries to his will, he said he didn’t think Ms. Hartzler “has what it takes to tackle the Radical Left Democrats.” Her poll numbers soon plummeted, while Mr. Schmitt’s rose.

Mr. Trump continued to waver on whether to back Mr. Greitens. The previous president’s decision was complicated by the undeniable fact that his eldest son’s fiancée, Kimberly Guilfoyle, is the chairwoman of Mr. Greitens’s Senate campaign. Days after calling Mr. Greitens “smart and hard,” Mr. Trump tempered the remark with the accurate remark that Democrats would probably prefer to run against the previous governor somewhat than a distinct Republican.

As governor, Mr. Greitens alienated leading members of his party, whom he often attacked as “corrupt” and out of touch. His lack of credible Republican allies has haunted him throughout the final stretch of the campaign, despite his appeal to elements of Mr. Trump’s base.

The role of Ms. Greitens has been a significant factor within the race. Missouri news outlets have covered her and Mr. Greitens’s custody case in intricate detail, including a sworn affidavit she issued in March that publicly aired her fears for his or her sons’ safety and accused him of several incidents of domestic violence.

Throughout the custody dispute, Mr. Greitens has responded by accusing her of lying and suggesting her motives are political. He has argued that she didn’t air those allegations privately throughout the course of marital therapy sessions the couple participated in throughout the weeks after his resignation.

But Ms. Greitens did raise her growing alarm about her husband in writing on the time, based on documents shared with The Recent York Times. In emails to the therapist, she expressed several “areas of concern” — drawing on her recollections, contemporaneous emails and a journal she kept to chronicle what she called “Eric’s behavior.” The records appear to trace the sworn allegations she made.

One memo attached to an email dated June 14, 2018, lists “a pattern of suicide threats and firearm confiscation” and describes her view that her husband on the time had a “volatile” temper.

“His fuse is largely nonexistent,” she wrote. “He goes from calm to physically offended in a flash.” Ms. Greitens declined to comment.

On July 20 of this 12 months, after months of negotiation and delay, Mr. Greitens sat for a five-hour deposition by which he fielded questions on his marriage under oath for the primary time. He also submitted his own affidavit formally responding to his ex-wife’s allegations. On the insistence of Mr. Greitens’s lawyer, the judge within the case has kept the documents under seal.

Should Mr. Greitens win on Tuesday despite all of the forces arrayed against him, it will not be the primary time he has escaped repercussions.

In 2018, a Republican-led special committee within the Missouri House produced a 75-page final report about his treatment of the hairdresser that included damning and humiliating details. Mr. Greitens refused to testify or otherwise take part in the inquiry, but many Missouri insiders thought he might give you the chance to survive the scandal through sheer force of will. He faced felony charges in reference to the scandal, but they were dropped.

When he announced his resignation on May 29, 2018, effective three days later, it shocked his closest aides. Many now rue the undeniable fact that he avoided criminal liability and that he has made it this far within the Senate primary by claiming he was persecuted for political reasons.

With Mr. Greitens’s inner circle shrunken to only a number of loyal but inexperienced political advisers, a few of his former allies are anxious about how he would handle a possible defeat.

His money has dried up: Billionaire backers like Richard Uihlein and Bernie Marcus have stopped contributing to a brilliant PAC supporting Mr. Greitens, though a little-known recent donor — a heavily muscled, tattooed motivational speaker and podcast host named Andy Frisella — got here forward in late June with a $1 million donation.

Through the campaign, Mr. Greitens has appealed to the outer fringes of the Republican Party. In a single online video that was widely condemned by fellow Republicans and removed by some social media firms, Mr. Greitens racks a shotgun as masked commandos wielding military-style rifles storm a house, supposedly trying to find “RINOs.”

The video alarmed a casual network of former Greitens aides who broke with him and still communicate with each other via text message. In interviews, which they granted under the condition of anonymity out of fear for his or her safety, several said they interpreted the video as a veiled threat to them personally and yet one more sign of Mr. Greitens’s erratic behavior.

The winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary will go on to face either Lucas Kunce, a retired Marine who has run as a Bernie Sanders-style progressive Democrat, or Trudy Busch Valentine, an heiress to the Busch family beer fortune who has plowed tens of millions of her own dollars into the campaign but has struggled to realize traction with voters.

Missouri has turned sharply Republican in recent times, leading most political analysts to discount the prospect that a Democrat could defeat even Mr. Greitens, despite his baggage.

But when Mr. Greitens loses — and it remains to be removed from guaranteed that he’ll — it will probably mean the ignominious end of a meteoric political profession that burned brightly for a time, then crashed.

On the very top of the dome of the Missouri State Capitol, up a steep series of staircases and hidden amongst hundreds of graffitied names of tourists who took the prolonged history tour of the century-old constructing, is the previous governor’s signature — written, based on a few of the former aides who were with him on that final day in office, within the wee hours of the morning, during a moment of eager for what might need been.

It reads: Eric Greitens, June 1, 2018.

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