Politico ran a scorcher of a story about Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley this week. Headlined “GOP golden boy mails it in,” it made the Republican U.S. Senate candidate out to be a lazy, preening poser who pumps iron and shops for wine in the middle of the day. Whether you support him or not, that’s wildly unfair.
It depicts him as someone who never really wanted to make this run against Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, and who is letting the GOP down because he can’t be bothered to bestir himself.
Only near the end of the piece does it mention the name Eric Greitens. But it’s Hawley’s willingness to take on his fellow Missouri conservative that some Republicans are holding against him.
And their real beef is that in investigating the governor, Hawley is doing the job he was elected to do. Which at the moment includes investigating Greitens’ use of a donor list from the charity he founded, The Mission Continues. The governor has been charged with felony computer tampering and accused of illegally using the list to raise money for his campaign.
Hawley has revealed evidence that Greitens knowingly filed a false campaign report and has investigated the governor’s use of social media for alleged Sunshine Law violations. He’s also looking into Greitens’ use of the self-destructing text message app Confide.
National GOP donors in particular seem to be rallying around Greitens and ticked off at Hawley, though the White House and the Republican Governors Association distanced themselves from the former Navy SEAL months ago.
One Greitens and Hawley donor who feels otherwise, and has dropped the governor — “Greitens is over; he’s done!” — said Hawley “is not always able to be out there” while investigating the governor. “It’s not only that it’s harmful for him to be seen with (Greitens) but it’s also unseemly. Josh is just trying to do the right thing. How does any of this help him?”
It doesn’t. Hawley has raised only a fraction of the money that McCaskill has. His struggle on that front has required him to spend even more time dialing for dollars, sometimes at the expense of candidate events.
Hawley would be pilloried whether he stood by Greitens or called on him to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct, as he has. But he can’t both be going after Greitens in service to his own ambitions, as the governor’s legal team has argued, and not much care about his senatorial race.
“The politics of this change by the hour,” Hawley said in a phone interview, so “you’re going to tie yourself in knots” trying to stay even with public opinion. Instead, his view is that “I took an oath and have to do my job. We’re prosecutors, and it may or may not be popular.”
There’s no sign he’s enjoying this duty: “This is an incredibly sad situation for our state, and I feel terrible for the families.”
It’s true, as Hawley says, that the effect of his criticism of and investigations into Greitens on the senatorial race is unknowable. But the irony of those punishing Hawley for his perceived lack of party loyalty is that they’re hurting the Missouri GOP a lot more than he is.
The governor they’re rallying around is the one they should blame, but won’t, for their current divisions.