Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Tuesday won the Republican nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R), dominating a crowded field and trouncing his two nearest competitors — Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and scandal-tainted former Gov. Eric Greitens (R) — by an unexpectedly wide margin. Schmitt will face Anheuser-Busch beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine, who beat progressive Marine veteran Lucas Kunce in the Democratic primary.
John Wood, a Republican former U.S. attorney and top investigator on the House Jan. 6 committee, is also running as an independent, backed by up to $20 million from former Sen. John Danforth's (R-Mo.) political action committee. Schmitt is the heavy favorite in November. If Greitens had won the GOP nomination, as polls suggested until a few weeks ago, Democrats believed they had a shot of flipping the seat.
The polls started shifting away from Greitens after his ex-wife alleged in court papers that he had physically abused her and one of their young sons. Greitens resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair and facing a criminal investigation into allegations he had tied up his hairdresser-mistress in the basement and taken nude photos he used to blackmail her into silence. Those charges and a second set of criminal charges about misuse of donations to his charity were dropped after he resigned from office.
Former President Donald Trump had been lobbied hard to support both Greitens and Schmitt, and he decided to ambiguously endorse "ERIC" on Monday night. Both Schmitt and Greitens announced that Trump was endorsing them — though a third Eric, comedian and Navy veteran Eric McElroy, was also on the GOP ballot. Tuesday's Late Show skewered Trump's "ERIC" endorsement.
Valentine, 65, is a philanthropist and the daughter of August Busch Jr., the longtime head of St. Louis-based Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch. She said she entered the race after witnessing the "division in our country and the vitriol in our politics," pitching herself as an outsider. "After hundreds of career politicians, it's time for a nurse in the Senate," she said in a victory speech.