By Moira Warburton and Alexandra Ulmer
(Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump had pledged to run the Republican nomination for the Missouri Senate race, a fierce battle between Eric Greitens, former governor of the state, and Eric Schmitt, the state attorney general. state.
On Monday, on the eve of the primary, Trump stunned political viewers by issuing a highly unusual statement in which he simply endorsed “Eric,” suggesting he was shielding his bets between the two candidates.
“We need someone who won’t shy away from the radical left-wing lunatics who are destroying our country,” Trump said in the statement. “I trust the Great People of Missouri to make a decision on this…I am therefore proud to announce that ERIC has my full and total approval!”
Asked for clarification on who supported Trump, spokesman Taylor Budowich said the statement “speaks for itself”.
A Republican political agent from Missouri told Reuters it was “clearly a double endorsement”.
However, both Greitens and Schmitt claimed Trump’s endorsement in Tweets sent just minutes apart.
“I am honored to have President Trump’s endorsement,” Greitens said first, adding criticism of his rival: “President Trump said it best when he characterized Schmitt’s campaign as ‘great dishonesty in politics.'”
About 11 minutes later, Schmitt posted that he was “grateful” for Trump’s approval. “I’ll take that fight to the Senate to SAVE AMERICA!” he added, mimicking Trump’s slogan.
Trump, who became a kingmaker in the Republican Party in the November midterm primaries, has backed some 200 candidates in 2022, with mixed results in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
But Trump, who is considering another White House run in 2024, regularly claims his approvals have been wildly successful, raising the question of whether he was trying to protect his record by the double approval in the hard-fought race.
“Trump is really concerned about taking a loss on this one,” the Republican Accountability Project, a conservative anti-Trump group, said on Twitter.
To be sure, there is one candidate Trump absolutely did not support: Representative Vicky Hartzler, who is also running for the Republican Senate nomination in Tuesday’s primaries.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Washington and Alexandra Ulmer in San Francisco; editing by Bradley Perrett)