On Monday, the day before the primaries, Trump stunned political observers by issuing a highly unusual statement in which he merely endorsed “Eric”, suggesting he was hedging his bets between the two candidates.
“We need someone who will not back down from the crazies on the radical left who are destroying our country,” Trump said in the statement. “I am therefore proud to announce that ERIC has my complete and total support!”
Asked who Trump was supporting, spokesman Taylor Budowich said the statement “speaks for itself”.
A Republican political operative in Missouri told Reuters it was “clearly double support”.
However, both Greitens and Schmitt claimed Trump’s support in Tweets sent within minutes of each other.
“I’m honored to have President Trump’s endorsement,” Greitens said first, adding a critique of his rival: “President Trump said the best when he called Schmitt’s campaign of ‘great dishonesty in politics’.”
Some 11 minutes later, Schmitt posted that he was “grateful” for Trump’s support. “I will take this fight to the Senate to SAVE AMERICA!” he added, echoing Trump’s slogan.
Trump, who became a Republican kingmaker in the primaries for November’s midterm elections, has backed some 200 candidates in 2022, with mixed results in states including Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
But Trump, who plans to run for the White House again in 2024, regularly touts his sponsorships as resounding successes, raising the question of whether he’s been trying to protect his record with this dual sponsorship.
“Trump is really scared of losing on this one,” the Republican Accountability Project, a conservative anti-Trump group, said on Twitter.
To be sure, there’s one candidate Trump definitely hasn’t backed: Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who is also in the running for the Republican nomination for the Senate in Tuesday’s primary.