'A Bloody Republican Primary'
Newsweek|July 29, 2022
Missouri, which once elected a dead man to the Senate, is living up to its reputation for messy elections
By Steve Friess

AS ALLEGATIONS OF DOMESTIC ABUSE AGAINST the already scandal-ridden GOP front runner Eric Greitens roil the Republican field, things are looking up for Democrats in Missouri’s wild race for the U.S. Senate. That includes Lucas Kunce, a 39-year-old square-jawed war veteran with progressive views and a folksy manner, who wasted no time on a recent campaign tour insisting to skeptical crowds that, yes, against all odds in this deeply red state, he really can win—first, the Democratic nomination in Missouri’s primary on August 2 and then in the general election on November 8.

“We started 20 points behind Eric Greitens, and in a Republican poll a couple months ago, we were just 1.9 points behind him,” Kunce bellowed at a midday rally last month in scorching 100-degree heat during a swing through the state’s rural southeast Bootheel region. “And that was before the child abuse and spousal abuse allegations came out.”

Kunce, dressed in a simple tee-shirt that suited both his populist image and a physique honed by 13 years in the Marines, then added: “Our message is making a difference. It’s actually reaching people.”

Maybe. Or maybe, as many political observers say, Kunce’s rising popularity in the polls is due in large part to the messy drama that is the Republican field—the latest development being the launch of a super PAC by GOP insiders designed to thwart former governor Greitens’ bid to be the party’s nominee. By all signs, no Democrat should have a serious chance of becoming the next Show-Me State senator, especially not with the national mood so sour about President Joe Biden’s handling of the economy. Missouri, after all, went for Donald Trump by double digits in both 2016 and 2020. Yet analysts familiar with state politics agree that Kunce or one of the other 10 Democrats running for the Senate has a real shot.

“If you would have asked me six months ago, would a Democrat win this seat, I would say gosh, no, especially in a midterm election year where Biden’s popularity is low and inflation is high,” says Anita Manion, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “But the way the race has shaped up, there is a window for Democrats.”

The Greitens Factor

Former Missouri Governor Greitens, who resigned his office in 2018 amid campaign finance improprieties and allegations of sexual assault, still leads the polls for the August 2 GOP primary—and against Kunce in the general election, should both men win their party’s nomination next month.

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