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A lesson for Virginia Democrats, from Missouri Republicans

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 07: Eric Greitens Founder and CEO, The Mission Continues speaks at the Robin Hood Veterans Summit at Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum on May 7, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for The Robin Hood Foundation)

Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens

As the Democratic Governor and Lt. Governor of Virginia insist on staying put despite scandals involving, respectively, racism and sexual assault, Republicans in the state are breathing a huge sigh of relief. For a decade, Virginia has been moving from purple to blue. In a cycle where Donald Trump managed slim wins in Florida, the Midwest, and Pennsylvania, Virginia still went for Hillary Clinton by more than 5 percent. And yes, a portion of that may have been the Tim Kaine factor except … was there really a Tim Kaine factor? Anywhere? For anyone? Democrats have held every state wide office in Virginia for over five years and that looks like a trend that’s only solidifying.

Now Politico reports that Republicans are feeling extremely excited about the troubles of the two Democrats at the top of state offices. They’re even flipping around their 2020 funding priorities, looking to make Mark Warner’s seat a target for a possible GOP Senate pick-up. According to Republican officials, the political climate in Virginia “is is totally and completely different,” than it was just two weeks ago, and Republicans stand to benefit.

Well… Missouri begs to differ. On January 20, 2018, published accounts indicated that Missouri Governor Eric Greitens was under investigation by the FBI.  With word that a local television station was about to launch a story, Greitens admitted to an extramarital affair with his hair stylist, declared it a mistake, and claimed that it was something he and his wife had already dealt with “privately.” But as more reports emerged, they included accusations of bondage games, nude photos, and plain old blackmail.  In February came an indictment. Greitens denied it all, and above all refused to resign. He held on through February, through March, through April, all the time with the news blaring revelations and tawdry details of his actions every day. It took until May 29 before Greitens walked in front of the cameras again to announce he was leaving.

This was just six months before the 2018 election. The one in which Claire McCaskill lost her Senate seat, Republicans handily kept all their House seats, and the state legislature remained solidly under Republican control despite a blue wave that tumbled House seats and legislatures across the nation.

Missouri is a state that, like Virginia, was previously purple. But as Virginia has been trending left, Missouri has been sliding ever more to the right. Greitens’ problems didn’t seem to affect that movement one iota. But why? Why did the spectacle of a Republican governor foundering in office, complete with stories of handcuff-play, blindfolds, and extortion fail to move the results? 

Because from the beginning, there was very little division among Missouri Republicans — they wanted him to go.

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