Big News Regarding Missouri Senate Race as Independent Candidate John Wood Bows Out

Source: RedState

In the run-up to Missouri’s primary, the GOP race for the U.S. Senate seat Republican Roy Blunt will be vacating at the end of this term was hotly contested. While there were twenty-some-odd candidates vying for the GOP nomination, the top three consistently were Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, former Governor Eric Greitens, and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt. Polls consistently had the three neck-and-neck, although Schmitt seemed to be pulling ahead in the closing weeks. That was borne out when Schmitt won the nomination handily, winning by 23 points and surpassing the vote totals for Hartzler and Greitens combined.

However, prior to the primary, there were concerns among many in the GOP that Greitens might secure the nomination and thereby render the seat vulnerable to a Democratic challenge in November, due to his significant baggage.

Enter former U.S. Senator Jack Danforth, who vocally threw his support behind “independent” candidate John Wood. Per the Missouri Times:

Danforth had spent months trying to recruit a Republican to run as an independent because he felt every GOP candidate seeking the nomination was too extreme.

In addition to supporting Wood publicly, Danforth created a super PAC to support his candidacy and vowed to raise $20 million to get Wood elected.

To reiterate: Danforth’s claim was that every GOP candidate seeking the nomination was too extreme — including Attorney General Schmitt, Congresswoman Hartzler, Congressman Billy Long, and Missouri Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Schatz. Starting to get the sense that Danforth might be the one out of step with the party?

Moreover, there were legitimate concerns raised about Wood’s candidacy. As RedState’s Joe Cunningham noted last week:

This is all part of a larger NeverTrump effort in Missouri. Another politician in the state, Sen. John “Jack” Danforth, made it a point to push and endorse Wood’s independent run back when it looked like disgraced former governor Eric Greitens (whose campaign was being run by President Donald Trump’s future daughter-in-law Kimberly Guilfoyle) might win the Republican primary. Danforth is one of the most NeverTrump politicians in the state, but even though Greitens lost the primary to Schmitt, he’s not letting up.

The political action committee backing independent Senate candidate John Wood is “in it to win it,” former Sen. Jack Danforth said a day after the PAC spent another $750,000 on TV ads to run before the Aug. 2 primary.

Danforth contributed $5 million on June 6 to Missouri Stands United, and by June 24 ads featuring Danforth talking about the need for a new path were on the air in Springfield, St. Louis and Kansas City.

The ad buy on Monday, bringing television spending by the PAC to $2.2 million, was entirely in Kansas City and St. Louis markets. The PAC has spent more than any candidate committee and is third in TV spending in the Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt.

Danforth says it’s not a spoiler race, but that’s clearly what Wood’s impact could be.

Wood was senior investigative counsel for the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol prior to his decision to run for the Senate.

The path to victory for Wood, Danforth said, is to make the future of democracy the main issue.

The ads from Missouri Stands United emphasize that democracy is at risk from extremism in both major parties.

That message transcends views on any particular issue and can unite Republicans, Democrats and independent voters, Danforth said.

Well, fret no longer. On Tuesday, Wood announced that he would not be pursuing his candidacy further and would be withdrawing from the race:

“I made the decision to run for the United States Senate when Eric Greitens was the favorite for the Republican nomination,” Wood said in an email to supporters. “That would have been unacceptable, embarrassing, and dangerous for my party, my state and my country.”

Missouri “no longer faces the risk of Greitens as our next U.S. Senator,” Wood said.

While he acknowledged significant differences of opinion with both Republican nominee Eric Schmitt and Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, “it has become evident there is not a realistic path to victory for me as an independent candidate.”

To be frank, Wood, who is largely unknown in Missouri, did not have a realistic path to victory even if Greitens had secured the nomination, particularly given his ties to Liz Cheney and involvement with the J6 Committee. However, he may well have played spoiler — pulling votes from right-leaning moderates and Republicans who refused to vote for Greitens — and thus handed the seat to Valentine.

With Wood’s exit, that leaves Schmitt and Valentine to focus on one another, setting up an interesting contrast between the Anheuser-Busch heiress and the Attorney General. The two crossed paths at the Missouri State Fair last week.

Per the AP:

Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine met for the first time and shook hands at the Governor’s Ham Breakfast, a longstanding tradition that is considered a must-attend for Missouri candidates.

After winning a competitive GOP primary Aug. 2, Schmitt this week launched his first attack ad slamming Valentine for aligning with Biden on what congressional Democrats call the “ Inflation Reduction Act.” Biden signed the bill into law Tuesday.

Valentine, a 65-year-old heiress to the Anheuser-Busch fortune and retired nurse, on Thursday said she supports the legislation, particularly the Medicare cost cap.

Schmitt’s ad said Valentine “endorsed Biden’s socialist agenda lock, stock and barrel” and supported his “wasteful spending that created this inflation crisis.”

As Schmitt noted during his victory speech on the night of the primary, “I don’t come from billions — I come from Bridgeton.” Wood’s exit will enable Schmitt’s campaign to focus on hammering home that contrast.