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Wisconsin governor latest to aid Missouri's bipartisan get-out-the-vote effort

Eric Greitens, Missouri's GOP candidate for governor, embraces Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker during a get-out-the-vote rally in Chesterfield.
Jo Mannies/St. Louis Public Radio

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker headlined a parade of Missouri Republican candidates who exhorted local allies Sunday to do all they can to help generate a GOP sweep on Nov. 8.

“If you’re going to turn the country around, first off, you need to do it in the states,” said Walker, who was campaigning primarily on behalf of Eric Greitens, Missouri’s GOP nominee for governor. Greitens is locked in a tight contest with his Democratic rival, Attorney General Chris Koster.

Walker traveled Sunday with Greitens and other Missouri candidates to the state’s most-populous regions – Springfield, Kansas City and St. Louis. The blitz came about 48 hours after Vice President Joe Biden held a St. Louis rally aimed at energizing Democrats.

With just over a week to go, both major parties are focused on GOTV – “get out the vote.” Their attention is less on wooing new voters and more about energizing their bases of support.

That’s why Missouri is attracting a number of big-name political figures in the final days of campaigning, from Biden and Walker to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz,  R-Texas.

Cruz, popular among social conservatives, is due to be in the GOP stronghold of southwest Missouri shortly to whip up support for Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.  Blunt is battling for re-election against Democrat Jason Kander, currently Missouri’s secretary of state.

Biden’s chief objective Friday was to promote Kander.

Koster is slated this afternoon to address the largely union workforce at Boeing Co. in Bridgeton, as part of a series of campaign stops scheduled this week.

Trump lauded, Clinton lambasted

Sunday’s GOP rally, held at the Doubletree hotel in Chesterfield, was particularly noteworthy because the rally –  organized by and for Greitens – also featured all of the state’s Republican  statewide contenders.

Such a rare display signaled the state GOP’s bid to show its ticket as a bloc.

That may be due, in part, to the fact that polls indicate that most of the state’s Republican statewide candidates are garnering less support than their man at the top of the ticket, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

If Greitens and Blunt were capturing all of the Trump supporters as well, both would have decent leads over their Democratic rivals. They do not.

The GOP also is trying to lump all of Missouri’s statewide Democrats together as well, largely so the Democrats can be tied to their presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, who Republicans expect to lose –at least in Missouri.

Republicans hope the Clinton link will be particularly potent since Friday's bombshell that the FBI is examining recently unearthed emails that may or may not be linked to the earlier federal probe that dealt with her private internet server and whether she had inappropriately handled classified materials. She was not charged.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, compared the new FBI examination to the Wizard of Oz, and recalled the scene where Dorothy’s dog pulls back the curtain on the ordinary man pretending to be the powerful wizard.

“We had the curtain pulled back by a little dog called the ‘Wiener dog,’ " the U.S. representative said, referring to former New York congressman Anthony Wiener, on whose laptop the emails were discovered. Wiener is the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Eric Greitens, Missouri GOP nominee for governor, blasts his Democratic opponent, Chris Koster, at Sunday's Republican rally in Chesterfield.
Credit Jo Mannies/St. Louis Public Radio
Eric Greitens, Missouri GOP nominee for governor, blasts his Democratic opponent, Chris Koster, at Sunday's Republican rally in Chesterfield.

The FBI has yet to examine the emails, and some agency officials say it’s unclear if any are tied to Clinton.

But Luetkemeyer asserted, “Hillary has finally been tripped up. … We really know what she’s been up to, how she thinks. At some point, she is going to get her ‘just due.’”

His audience cheered, with some launching into the “Lock her up!” chant that has been popular with some Republicans for months.

Several speakers, including Greitens, noted that a Clinton political action committee has donated $500,000 to aid Missouri’s statewide Democratic ticket.

Walker unpopular with labor

Walker, in office since he won in 2010, has been a polarizing figure in the labor movement. Among other things, he led the fight to put in place a “right-to-work" law in Wisconsin, which bars unions and employers from requiring all workers in a bargaining unit to pay dues or fees.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at Sunday's rally for Eric Greitens, GOP nominee for Missouri governor.
Credit Jo Mannies/St. Louis Public Radio
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at Sunday's rally for Eric Greitens, GOP nominee for Missouri governor.

Walker alluded to his efforts to curb labor rights indirectly Sunday. He contended that Wisconsin has a lower unemployment rate than Missouri – 4.1 percent to Missouri’s 5.2 percent – because of “a change a few years back.”

Walker said that Greitens holds similar views and will “clean up the mess in state government and make this state great again.”

Greitens called Walker “a perfect example of a strong conservative who stood against special interests, took on the status quo and got results for families.” Greitens added that, if elected, he'd commit to doing the same.

Greitens has repeatedly promised to sign a “right to work’’ law in Missouri. Gov. Jay Nixon has blocked several efforts by the General Assembly’s GOP majority to put such a measure into effect.

Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis contended in a statement Sunday that Walker’s own presidential bid fizzled because of “his anti-working people policies. ... I’m glad he is here. It clearly demonstrates that Eric Greitens is cut from the same cloth. Greitens policies would endanger our paychecks and our safety at work.”

At the rally, Greitens repeated his longstanding attacks against Koster, such as pointing out that a sizable chunk of Koster’s campaign money has come from unions.

Greitens has called Koster “corrupt" and  asserted Sunday that Koster’s counterattacks have been launched because Koster “is clearly desperate because his 22-year career in politics is coming to an end.”

Greitens and Walker slammed Koster’s support for expanding Medicaid in the state, as recommended by the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Walker also has blocked Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin.

Koster’s campaign replied, in part, “Scott Walker and Eric Greitens are a perfect pair. Just like Walker, Eric wants to cut funding for public schools, fight against fair wages for workers, and withhold resources from hospitals in need. Both have also shown they will do absolutely anything to feed their ambitions to climb the political ladder.”

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.