Opinion Columns & Blogs

After a summer in hiding, is former Gov. Eric Greitens already plotting a comeback?

This is going to shock you. So brace yourself.

Eric Greitens is taking a look at a political comeback. He’s made phone calls to deep-pocketed donors testing whether they have interest in backing him in another run for Missouri’s top office.

Unbelievable, isn’t it?

But there it was a few days ago on the Twitter feed of former Missouri state Sen. Jeff Smith who’s known Greitens for decades.

“Former Gov. Greitens has called at least one donor to test the waters re: a 2020 gubernatorial primary.”

The source: a hedge fund guy in New York City. The former governor also may have made other calls. Smith insists the information is as solid as a block of concrete.

On Twitter, he also says, “I’m surprised that it took him three months!”

Details are still scarce about this bit of news, although others close to the governor say that while they aren’t aware of the phone calls, they’re also not the least bit surprised. After all, they say, the notion that someone as driven as Greitens, who’s dreamed about running for president since grade school, is back at it should be expected.

The plan, surely, is to seek redemption and resume his White House quest in one fell swoop.

Not even four months have passed since an assortment of scandals and felony charges cut his ignominious tenure as governor very short. Facing allegations of criminal wrongdoing, corruption and sexual misconduct, Greitens resigned after just 16 months in office, complaining that he was the victim of a political conspiracy.

Since May, Greitens has disappeared from public view. So, Smith’s pronouncement is pretty intriguing, and that’s what makes it worth sharing. You can take it for what it’s worth.

You also can take former Sen. Smith for what he’s worth. He was a fast-rising star in the Missouri General Assembly and was thought to be on his way to Congress when he got caught up in a tangled scheme that involved some anonymous postcards aimed at undercutting Russ Carnahan, Smith’s 2004 Democratic rival for a St. Louis-area congressional seat.

Smith was wrong, and he broke the law. But in the world of big-time campaigns, this was minor-league misconduct. It put Smith behind bars, though. He later wrote a book and confessed his sins.

Whether Greitens would actually go through with it remains to be seen. Maybe he’s already been laughed off the phone, and he’s moving on. His plate is pretty full. His family life surely has absorbed a few torpedoes, and the former governor has to make a living, too.

But I’m intrigued by what so many of Greitens’ former allies have told me: They’re surprised that I’m surprised. Of course the former governor would consider another run, they say. He’s a one-time Navy SEAL who’s talked often about the value of moving through pain and suffering and how that builds character. That he’s crazy-competitive goes without saying. One writer noted that Greitens was known for seeking out “the most extreme tests of his abilities.”

This would be that, all right. Let’s be clear: He’d have no chance. But he would have that test of a lifetime, and he’d all but kill himself to master it. The impact on the Missouri GOP could be catastrophic, but Greitens wouldn’t view that as his concern.

The in-and-out-of-hot-water Scott Faughn, publisher of The Missouri Times, once said about Greitens and a possible comeback, “What we love more than a saint is a sinner come home.“