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Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens speaks to supporters during a rally on May 23, 2017, outside the state Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens speaks to supporters during a rally on May 23, 2017, outside the state Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo.Jeff Roberson / AP, file

Eric Greitens’ GOP critics face difficult follow-up questions

As Greitens faces domestic violence allegations, GOP leaders are abandoning him. But the partisan cross-currents make the story a little more complicated.


In Missouri’s U.S. Senate race, Eric Greitens was already the most controversial candidate, but things took a more serious turn this week when the former Republican governor faced new allegations from one of his ex-wives.

Sheena Greitens claimed in court documents that Eric Greitens physically abused her and their children. The GOP candidate denied the allegations, but that did little to stop the pushback from other prominent Republicans. The Kansas City Star reported:

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt joined the calls Tuesday for former Gov. Eric Greitens to drop out of the U.S Senate race after allegations that he mentally and physically abused his ex-wife and children. “I think if the statements made to the court are true, he should not be a candidate for the Senate,” Blunt said.

In case this isn’t obvious, it’s Blunt’s Senate seat that Greitens is currently seeking. The retiring incumbent has, up until yesterday, been highly cautious about taking sides in the crowded Republican primary field.

Blunt has plenty of GOP company. “I don’t know why you would want to continue the race in this case,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune told reporters. “I mean, it just seems like with that, coupled with all the other scandals, it’s hard to see how he could be a viable general election candidate.”

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, a member of the GOP leadership team, made similar comments, while Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso added, in reference to the allegations, ‘It does seem the information that I saw in the paper today and the report — it does seem that would be disqualifying.”

At face value, all of this makes sense. After all, when Pennsylvania’s Sean Parnell was accused of strangling his wife and abusing his children, he denied the claims, but nevertheless felt compelled to end his campaign. It’s hardly outlandish to think Greitens would face related pressure.

But given the larger context, the partisan cross-currents get a little more complicated.

As we’ve discussed, Republican leaders have opposed Greitens’ Senate candidacy for months because they see him as potentially vulnerable in a general election. This naturally leads to questions about whether they’re calling for his withdrawal now because of the latest allegations or because they wanted him to quit anyway.

Similarly, let’s not forget that Greitens, during his 17-month tenure as Missouri’s governor, was accused of, among other things, blackmailing his former mistress following an encounter in which he taped her hands to pull-up rings in his basement.

Blunt said yesterday, “I think if the statements made to the court are true, he should not be a candidate for the Senate.” OK, but was the senator comfortable with him being a candidate before the statement from one of Greitens’ ex-wives?

Finally, there’s the Herschel Walker angle to all of this. As regular readers may recall, the Republican Senate hopeful in Georgia has faced related allegations: The Associated Press reported that his ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, secured a protective order against Walker, alleging violent and controlling behavior.

According to Grossman’s version of events, the former athlete pointed a pistol at her head and said, “I’m going to blow your f’ing brains out.” When she filed for divorce, she cited “physically abusive and extremely threatening behavior.”

At least for now, the Senate Republican leadership has endorsed Walker anyway, and there have been no indications that party leaders are planning to withdraw their support.

If Greitens’ alleged misconduct is a bridge too far for the GOP, perhaps the party can explain why Walker’s alleged misconduct is tolerable?