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Trump baffles GOP by endorsing ‘Eric’ in the Missouri Senate primary — a race with three Erics

The Republican primary for an open Senate seat in Missouri includes former Gov. Eric Greitens, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt and little-known Eric McElroy.

Former President Donald Trump injected some last-minute confusion ahead of Missouri's Senate primary Tuesday by endorsing "ERIC" in a statement Monday night.

Eric who? Former Gov. Eric Greitens? State Attorney General Eric Schmitt? Or maybe even little-known Eric McElroy?

“I trust the Great People of Missouri, on this one, to make up their own minds, much as they did when they gave me landslide victories in the 2016 and 2020 Elections, and I am therefore proud to announce that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Trump said in a statement after he emphasized voters “must send a MAGA Champion and True Warrior to the U.S. Senate, someone who will fight for Border Security, Election Integrity, our Military and Great Veterans, together with having a powerful toughness on Crime and the Border.”

When reached for comment, Trump’s team did not provide any clarity, saying only that the “endorsement speaks for itself.”

Allies of Greitens and Schmitt separately argued that their candidate was the true recipient of the endorsement or that the other guy wasn't MAGA enough to win Trump's approval.

A Trump adviser said the internal bickering demonstrated the former president's enduring power and influence in the party.

“Instead of talking about Missouri, the Erics are debating what Trump’s endorsement means,” the adviser said. "Yes, it's an epic troll."

By not endorsing him, however, Trump could have sealed Greitens’ defeat.

“A Trump endorsement is a wild card Greitens needs. And if he doesn’t get it, it’s hard to see how he wins,” said John Lamping, a Republican former state senator.

Schmitt has led Greitens in most public polls, reaching about 30% support in the crowded GOP field, as Greitens tends to top out at 25%. U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler has statistically tied for second with Greitens in those surveys.

Greitens started to stumble after a withering assault of radio and TV ads from political committees financed by GOP establishment figures who savaged him for his sex scandal, the domestic violence allegations and a trade mission he took to China.

For months, Trump had considered endorsing Greitens but privately fretted to confidants that he was concerned about the sex scandal, which helped drive Greitens from office in 2018. And he was troubled by allegations this year from the former governor’s ex-wife that he physically abused her and their 3-year-old son. Greitens campaign manager Dylan Johnson at the time called the allegations “politically motivated” and “outright lies.”

Amid a recent lobbying campaign from Donald Trump Jr. and his fiancée, Kimberly Guilfoyle — who co-chairs Greitens’ Senate campaign — some Trump-watchers started to believe the former president would give Greitens the nod.

But Schmitt also had Trump allies in his corner, namely former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was part of Trump’s defense team for his first impeachment trial.

Trump’s mood toward Schmitt’s campaign appeared to sour Sunday when he began grousing on his Truth Social website that Schmitt’s pollster, Jeff Roe, had released a survey of Missouri Republicans that failed to show Trump’s dominance in a hypothetical 2024 presidential primary, particularly against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Trump won Missouri by more than 15 percentage points in 2020.

The winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary will face either former Marine Lucas Kunce or Trudy Busch Valentine, an heiress to the Busch family beer fortune, in November.

Meanwhile, independent John Wood, a Republican and a former investigator for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot, said Monday that he had submitted enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in the general election.