If we’ve learned anything about Republican politics in the last few years, it’s that it’s amazing how potent a combination of no-holds-barred partisanship and a complete lack of shame are in warding off political scandal. Rep. Duncan Hunter coasted to reelection in 2018 despite having already been indicted on an open-and-shut case of campaign finance fraud. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s hobnobbing with out-and-out white nationalists, past embrace of looney-tunes conspiracies, and assorted other embarrassments didn’t prevent her from breezing through her primary this year. Rep. Matt Gaetz, reportedly under investigation for sex trafficking (a charge he denies), seems likely to do the same. You may be able to think of other examples.
But a few races this year have seemed to suggest an outer limit to that strategy. In May, Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s eye-popping blizzard of cornball scandals proved just enough for an establishment-backed state senator to knock him out in his North Carolina primary. And now, two weeks before Missouri Republicans go to the polls on August 2, the same fate may befall former governor and Senate candidate Eric Greitens.
Comparing Greitens to Cawthorn only goes so far. The basic gripe about Cawthorn, the youngest serving member of Congress at 26, was that he was an unserious goofball in over his head. The behavior of which Greitens has been accused is far more sinister. There was the lurid scandal that drove him from office in the first place, an extramarital affair involving alleged coercion and blackmail. Greitens—admitting the affair but denying the blackmail—resigned in 2018, impeachment hot on his heels. (Greitens faced a campaign-finance scandal around the same time, but while his campaign was slapped with a six-figure fine, an ethics commission ultimately found no evidence of wrongdoing by him personally on that front.)
Since then, Greitens has somehow managed to attract still more alarming claims: His wife Sheena filed for divorce in 2020 and has since accused him in sworn testimony of becoming physically abusive toward her and their two children as his career unraveled.