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Missouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race

Republican legislators in Missouri are floating a last-minute plan to create a runoff election after next year’s primary for an open U.S. Senate seat in what appears to be a move aimed at blocking a controversial candidate from winning the party’s nomination.

In a late maneuver just days before the end of the regularly scheduled legislative session, state Sen. Bill Eigel (R) proposed a measure to force a runoff if no candidate wins a majority of the vote in next year’s primary election.

The bill would move the initial primary from August to June and force an August runoff between the two top vote-getters.

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The bill has just hours to pass both chambers and head to Gov. Mike Parson’s (R) desk. But it seemed like an obvious shot at former Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who left office in disgrace after allegations of sexual abuse, blackmail and violence in 2018.

Greitens is trying for a political comeback, and he has support from top allies of former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE. Kimberly GuilfoyleKimberly GuilfoyleEric Trump buys .2M home near father's golf club in Florida Missouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP draws line on taxes; nation braces for Chauvin verdict MORE, Donald Trump Jr.’s partner and a former top official during his reelection bid in 2020, is backing Greitens.

The number of Republicans vying for retiring Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler launches Missouri Senate bid Cryptocurrency industry lobbies Washington for 'regulatory clarity' Bipartisan group prepping infrastructure plan as White House talks lag MORE’s (R) seat also includes Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and most Republicans expect the field to grow even more in the coming weeks and months. Reps. Jason SmithJason Thomas Smith Sunday shows preview: Infrastructure expected to dominate as talks continue to drag Missouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run MORE (R), Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerMissouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - House GOP drama intensifies; BIden sets new vax goal MORE (R), Blaine LuetkemeyerWilliam (Blaine) Blaine LuetkemeyerMissouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run Keeping fintech's promise: A modest proposal MORE (R) and Billy LongWilliam (Billy) H. LongMissouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run Missouri Republicans eying Senate bids to hold fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago MORE (R) are all said to be considering runs for the open seat.

State and national Republicans are concerned that if Greitens captures their nomination, Democrats would have a shot at winning a Senate seat that should otherwise reside safely within the GOP column.

“If Greitens is the Republican nominee, Democrats have a shot at this Senate seat,” said Gregg Keller, a senior Republican strategist in Missouri who has not picked a candidate yet.

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Greitens’s team sees the measure as a direct challenge — and evidence that their candidate leads the Republican field.

“Gov. Eric Greitens is dominating this race and everyone knows it. He’s going to win and there’s nothing that politicians in [Jefferson] City can do to change that,” said Dylan Johnson, Greitens’s campaign manager. “This is just a sad, desperate attempt by the swampy establishment to try to subvert the democratic process. They will fail miserably.”

Missouri Republicans have been burned by a divided primary field before. In 2012, then-Rep. Todd Akin (R) won the GOP primary with just 36 percent of the vote ahead of former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R) and businessman John Brunner (R) — and with the help of then-Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Jan. 6 commission vote delayed; infrastructure debate lingers into June Missouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run MORE (D), who took the unusual step of advertising against Akin during the primary, labeling him the “most conservative” candidate in the race, a de facto boost ahead of an election in which each candidate was trying to paint themselves as the most conservative.

McCaskill went on to beat Akin by a 15-point margin, the last time a Democrat won a Senate election in an increasingly Republican state.