Primary night: Missouri GOP dodges a bullet, setback for Kansas pro-life cause

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

Looks like Republicans in Missouri — and in the US Senate — can breathe a sigh of relief. For a while this year, it appeared that scandal-drenched former governor Eric Greitens might ride a comeback wave that could imperil GOP efforts to hold the Senate seat now held by the retiring Roy Blunt. Instead, Greitens’ support collapsed in the stretch, and he finished a distant third to Attorney General Eric Schmitt:

Eric Schmitt has won the Republican nomination for Senate in Missouri, NBC News projects, ending a comeback bid by the state’s disgraced former governor, Eric Greitens.

Schmitt, the state’s attorney general, was leading Rep. Vicky Hartzler, with Greitens further behind in third place, according to early results. He will face the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Trudy Busch Valentine, a nurse and heir to the Anheuser-Busch beer fortune. NBC News projects that Valentine has beat out 10 other Democrats, including Lucas Kunce, a Marine veteran with national support among progressives, who earned a late endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. …

A Greitens victory likely would have made for a more competitive general election to succeed Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican who is not seeking a third term this fall. John Wood, a former investigator for the House Jan. 6 committee, launched an independent bid, partially out of concern for a Greitens nomination. A longtime Republican, Wood was heavily supported by former Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., who is bankrolling a pro-Wood super PAC.

The need for that effort has evaporated, but it still remains to be seen whether the effort itself will be abandoned. Schmitt got nearly half of the primary vote in a five-way race, winning more votes than Greitens and runner-up Vicki Hartzler combined. Schmitt has made his conservative cred known while in office but has been circumspect enough to keep from alienating either wing of the party.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all peaches and cream for conservatives last night. A referendum to add a pro-life constitutional amendment in Kansas after Dobbs lost by a wide margin. The “Value Them Both” amendment would have bypassed a state supreme court precedent requiring access to abortion:

Residents of Kansas have voted against an amendment to the state’s constitution that would have given lawmakers in the state the ability to regulate abortion, the Associated Press projects.

With Tuesday’s vote, Kansas became the first state in the nation to vote on an abortion-related issue since the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn federal protections for abortion granted under the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade.

The constitutional amendment, backed by a campaign named Value Them Both, would have given elected representatives the ability to pass legislation regulating abortion in Kansas, which was restricted after the state’s Supreme Court previously found the 1859 Kansas Constitution grants a “natural right” to abortion. At the time the AP called the race, voters had rejected the amendment by more than 20 percentage points.

Kansas has become a tough state for conservatives, but not a purple state — at least, not yet. This fight shows the difficulty that conservatives will have in such states in outlawing abortion altogether, at least without a lot more “hearts and minds” work on the ground. It should send off a few warning flares about the midterm elections, if not the 2024 cycle in Kansas, too.

Meanwhile, Arizona Republicans picked Blake Masters to run agains Mark Kelly for the Senate, while no one’s sure which Republican will get the gubernatorial nomination:

Masters to face Kelly for Senate: Trump-endorsed Blake Masters won the Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona in November, a key contest in the GOP’s attempt to take control of the Senate. Masters is a firebrand conservative who favors the impeachment of both President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and argues that when Republicans control the Justice Department that Biden medical adviser Anthony Fauci should be prosecuted for allegedly lying to Congress. Masters’ campaign has been effectively bankrolled through support from a super PAC backed by his former boss, venture capitalist Peter Thiel. But Kelly has been far-and-away the fundraising leader, helped by the lack of a competitive primary. Kelly had raised more than $54 million this cycle as of July 13, with Masters reporting $4.2 million. Masters was well ahead in the polling and received an additional boost among Republican voters from Trump’s endorsement over his closest rival, businessman Jim Lamon. Masters led Lamon 38 percent to 29 percent in the five-candidate field when the AP called the race at 12:34 a.m. Mountain time on Wednesday. State Attorney General Mark Brnovich came in third with 19 percent. The Senate race is rated a Toss-up by Inside Elections.

Trump backed Masters late in the cycle, so this is more a case of picking a winner rather than making one. That may not be true in the gubernatorial primary, which is still too close to call. As of this morning, Trump-back Kari Lake barely leads Karrin Robson, 46.22/44.45, with 88% of precincts reporting. Lake is winning everywhere except Maricopa, where 96% of precincts have reported. At the moment it appears that Lake has an edge, but this may take a few days — and a lot of recriminations — before the nomination gets settled.

The rest of the results last night went largely as expected. Most notably, Rep. Peter Meijer got bounced out of his primary after voting to impeach Trump, falling to a MAGA candidate that got Democratic backing in an Akin Strategy move that has become somewhat uncomfortable for Democratic strategists of late. Democrats might end up getting burned in this case if former HUD official John Gibbs can make the shift to a general-election campaign and turn attention from Trump to Biden for midterm voters.

Overall, this turned out to be a relatively good night for Republicans nationally. Missouri voters did them a solid by quashing Greitens’ comeback and preventing Democrats from making his scandals a national issue for other Senate candidates, and made it much more likely to hold Blunt’s seat too. That’s one less problem facing the GOP, and one less opportunity for Democrats.