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Cruz backs Missouri attorney general Schmitt in competitive Republican Senate primary

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EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is taking sides in Missouri’s crowded Republican Senate primary in the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Roy Blunt.

Cruz, the two-term conservative firebrand lawmaker and runner-up in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination race, is endorsing Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

“I’m proud to endorse Eric Schmitt for U.S. Senate in Missouri. Eric is a fighter who will hold China accountable, defend religious freedom, take on Big Tech, and he will protect American jobs,” Cruz said in a statement that was shared first with Fox News on Wednesday.

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In announcing the endorsement, Schmitt praised Cruz as “a conservative leader and fighter who has never been afraid to fight back against the Left…. We need more fighters in the United States Senate like Sen. Cruz, and I’m honored to have his support.”

Schmitt, who’s won two statewide elections in Missouri – for treasurer and then attorney general – has made headlines over the past year filing lawsuits against the Biden administration. He is one of 10 Republicans vying for their party’s nomination in the state’s Aug. 2 primary.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Eric Schmitt team up on the campaign trail in 2016.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Eric Schmitt team up on the campaign trail in 2016.
(Eric Schmitt Senate campaign)

Among the other major GOP contenders are former Gov. Eric Greitens – who left office in 2018 amid multiple controversies – Rep. Vicky Hartzler in Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, in the predominantly rural west-central part of the state, Rep. Billy Long in the state’s 7th Congressional District in southwest Missouri, and Mark McCloskey, the St. Louis attorney who along with his wife grabbed national headlines during the summer of 2020 for holding guns outside their home to warn off Black Lives Matter protesters.

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Schmitt’s backing by Cruz, who remains popular with many conservatives, comes right after Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri’s junior senator and another firebrand on the right, backed Hartzler. That sparked an angry response from Long, who sought Hawley’s endorsement.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a candidate for the 2022 GOP Senate nomination in his state, speaks with Fox News at CPAC Dallas, on July 10, 2021, in Dallas, Texas.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a candidate for the 2022 GOP Senate nomination in his state, speaks with Fox News at CPAC Dallas, on July 10, 2021, in Dallas, Texas.
(Fox News)

But the biggest GOP endorsement remains elusive.

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To date, former President Trump remains neutral in the primary battle. An endorsement by Trump, who remains extremely popular and influential with Republican base voters as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in party politics and repeatedly flirts with another White House run in 2024, would have a major impact on the Missouri contest, as it would in other competitive Republican primaries in this cycle.

Former state Sen. Scott Sifton, former Marine Lucas Kunce and former congressional nominee Gena Ross are among the six Democrats who have launched campaigns. 

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Missouri was once a competitive state but has trended Republican in recent decades.

President Clinton in 1996 was the last Democrat to win the state in the race for the White House, and then-Sen. Claire McCaskill’s 2012 victory was the last time a Democrat won a Senate election in the state. Trump won the state by 18 points in 2016 and 16 points last November.

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