Missouri auctioneer offers all to support Trump

Three months later, Long is still seeking the support of the former president. Ahead of the Congressional Thanksgiving holiday, Long visited Trump again, this time in Mar-a-Lago. Trump told the imposing 66-year-old that he was open to a lengthy approval but was in no rush.

“If he supports in this race, I don’t care who he supports. It’s finish. … And that’s what I’m trying to get him to understand, you know, “you have to get involved in this race and end it,” Long said in a 40-minute interview. “You look at the guy who has been with you since day one. Never ever left. I mean, look at this tie.

As it turns out, Long was wearing a tie that the then-candidate Trump signed five years ago, after the Missouri congressman spoke on his behalf in Nevada, when Trump emerged as a sure-fire loser in the election. general. This is just one more data point for Long’s sales pitch: he stands out, amid a sea of ​​House Republicans rushing to align with Trump, as a believer. before it was party orthodoxy.

Long’s Trump-OG approach is emblematic of the former president’s singular influence in the Republican primaries, where entire campaigns hinge on gaining the support of one man. It’s a new dynamic in American politics, where a man in the Trump position usually keeps his head down and lets things go in his party.

Built like a lineman, Long remembers in his thick ‘Missoura’ twang long anecdotes about everything from the $ 37 payment for that tie in Nevada to the handing over of home-printed $ 45 bills to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. . As a young boy, Long taught his dog to turn around and play dead when asked, “Would you rather be a Democrat or a dead dog?”

These days, he’s touring the state in what he calls the “Billy Bus,” adorned with an enlarged photo of Long in a cowboy hat. He once became a full-fledged auctioneer of a disruptive activist during a committee hearing.

“There is no pretext. He is not a person in public, a person in private. The way he presents himself now is always what I have known him,” said Senator Josh Hawley ( R-Mo.) From Long.

Long works closely with longtime Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, both because she is “brilliant” and because she is ready to accompany Long whenever he wants to speak to Trump: “J hope it would help me a bit, having Kellyanne on my team. He said Conway couldn’t get him approval, but that’s another way Long appeals to what often drives Trump’s thinking: loyalty.

“He was at meetings when we got together in very small rooms at the Capitol Hill Club. He was there, ”said another of Trump’s early supporters, Sen. Kevin Cramer (RN.D.), a former House member who jumped out of the chamber in 2018.

And the race for the Republican Missouri Senate is a mad race to win Trump’s favor. Long voted against certifying Trump’s defeat on Jan.6, as did Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Now one of her main opponents in the Senate. Hartzler’s campaign cites 538 figures showing that she voted with Trump slightly more than Long.

Then there’s Eric Greitens, who stepped down as governor amid a torrent of ethical issues and is now posing as the guy who would throw Mitch McConnell out of the top spot in the Senate GOP – harmonize directly directly with Trump’s repeated attacks on McConnell. Another GOP candidate, State Attorney General Eric Schmitt, has just visited the Mexican border. Not to mention Mark McCloskey, who followed his guilty plea for wielding guns against protesters in Missouri on his way to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to attend Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial.

With a filing deadline in March, Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) Could also still participate in the race; like Long, he has a close relationship with Trump.

“Every Republican in the Missouri Senate race thinks he has a way [former] The approval of President Trump. And a few of them actually do, ”said Gregg Keller, a Republican state strategist. Keller considers Schmitt, Long and Smith to have the best chances.

With the primary at more than eight months in August, things are already getting complicated. Summarizing the ground, Long says his opponents should “write revisionist history textbooks, because they are all revising their history with Trump.” He strikes Hartzler as inauthentic and insufficiently conservative; his campaign manager responded by citing Long’s campaign expenses: “Billy isn’t focused on fighting for Missouri, he’s just looking for his next big meal.

Long calls Greitens “Chuck Schumer’s candidate,” a reference to the GOP who fears his sex scandal is a general election liability. A Greitens spokesperson said that “Billy Long is a much better comedian than he is a candidate for the Senate.”

Still, Long draws the line somewhere as he competes for Trump’s favor. He won’t call for McConnell’s ousting from management, calling Greitens pressure a “talking point.”

A former radio host, Long isn’t on Fox News whenever he gets the chance, eschewing a common tactic by Republicans speaking to Trump over the air. Long estimates he’s only been on cable three times in his career. While he proudly recounts conversations with Trump dating back a decade to his first congressional member, Long is also wary of desperation.

“I have people who say, ‘Call him, call him everyday. Go sit at Mar-a-Lago and tell him you’re not leaving until he approves, ”Long said. “I’m smart enough to know this is not going to win Donald Trump’s favor.”

Long could have played it safe and stayed in his seat in southwest Missouri, where he was just re-elected with 69 percent of the vote. But an open Senate seat in GOP-friendly territory is a rare opportunity for any Republican looking to stand up, as the race to replace Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) also shows.

Even though he predicts Trump would clear up the crowded Missouri primary with an endorsement, Long says he won’t give up if the former president chooses someone else. It could prove difficult if he chooses to go forward against a Trump endorser such as Schmitt or Greitens, both of whom have won statewide races. However, most Republicans in Missouri don’t believe Trump will support Greitens.

In contrast, the Long Congressional District represents only one eighth of the state and is not focused on the state’s major media markets. He is fourth among the Republican primary candidates in fundraising. Still, he’s used to being an outsider.

“When he first ran for Congress, people generally didn’t think he would be the candidate, and he was quite comfortably the candidate,” said Blunt, the incumbent whose retirement opened the seat. “He was a Trump supporter early on, and they have a good personal relationship, I think. Trump’s approval would be important.

However, a high value does not guarantee victory. Several Trump-approved candidates lost the primaries, and Rep. Ted Budd (RN.C.) is in a bitter fight for the Senate nomination despite Trump’s backing.

No matter the recipient or the effect of Trump’s Imprimatur in Missouri, don’t expect Billy Long to change his tone as he tries to win it over.

“I can’t be a wrong person,” Long said. “I mean, I can’t win the race. And I can’t get the approval. But I’m going to do it my way.