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Trump's visit expected to bolster bank account, and hopes, of GOP Senate candidate Josh Hawley

U.S. President Donald J. Trump delivers his remarks to a crowd of invited guests in St. Charles, Missouri on November 29, 2017.
Kae Petrin I St. Louis Public Radio

The fact that President Donald Trump has chosen Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley as the first GOP Senate candidate to get presidential help this year says a lot about the importance of the state’s Senate race.

And of Trump’s continued popularity in Missouri.

“The main objective of a presidential visit is to raise money,’’ said former Missouri Republican Party chairman John Hancock, now a GOP consultant.

Missouri Republicans generally support Trump, Hancock added, so they’re likely to be generous when the president stops by the region Wednesday to headline a money-raising event for Hawley.

The attorney general is seen by the party’s establishment as their best hope to oust U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat seeking her third term in November.

Both major parties see Missouri’s Senate race as pivotal nationally in determining whether Republicans or Democrats control the chamber in 2019.

The Hawley money-raising event is private. It is being held at the Frontenac Hilton.

Although polls have been mixed, Hawley has undoubtedly been trailing McCaskill when it comes to money-raising. Their last campaign-finance reports, filed in late January, showed the Democrat with a bank account of $9.1 million – more than seven times Hawley’s total of $1.2 million.

Trump had promised to help Hawley after endorsing him during the last presidential visit to the state last fall, which featured a rally in St. Charles, deemed a GOP stronghold.

Hawley, in turn, is highlighting his support for many of Trump’s policies – notably the federal tax cut – during a traditional fly-around today to formally kick off his Senate bid.

McCaskill also is promoting Trump’s support of Hawley. In a fundraising missive emailed Monday, the senator referred to herself as “Trump’s Number One Target.”

Boeing visit planned

The president also is expected to first hold a brief business roundtable at Boeing Co.’s offices, situated just north of St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The White House is providing no details about the Boeing event.

None of the state’s top GOP officials are expected to join the president while he is in the St. Louis area. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican, is remaining in Washington to focus on Senate business, a spokeswoman said.

There’s also no mention of embattled Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens joining the president.

Trump will be visiting the St. Louis area Wednesday on his way back to Washington after traveling to California. The president was in the Golden State to look at prototypes for his long-sought wall along parts of the nation’s southern boundary with Mexico.

Trump has campaigned for other candidates – most recently the GOP nominee in Tuesday’s special congressional election in Pennsylvania. But Hawley is the first U.S. Senate candidate to attract such presidential interest since Trump’s foray last fall to help GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore, who lost a special-election bid in Alabama.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.