In a 12-1 vote on Monday, the Missouri GOP executive committee decided to lift the rule prohibiting the Republican National Committee (RNC) from spending money on primary candidate Josh Hawley in the Missouri Senate election.
The committee’s move could jeopardize the campaign of Austin Petersen, who is running against Hawley in the Republican primary, which is scheduled for August 7.
The Daily Wire spoke with Petersen regarding the vote, as well as the fact that few polls have included him in any serious capacity, despite a seemingly strong campaign.
DW: Why do you believe the Missouri GOP lifted the rule on spending?
PETERSEN: I think it’s a sign of weakness. I believe that the Hawley campaign has posted lackluster fundraising numbers; the president, the vice president, [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment are uniformly supporting Josh Hawley, and they need to pull out all the stops. A lot of people have invested a lot of money in Josh Hawley, and they have to make sure those investments pay off next year.
DW: Aside from the poll from May that showed you ahead of both Hawley and McCaskill, it appears that no other poll has included you in any meaningful way. RealClearPolitics doesn’t even have you listed in the Missouri Senate polling section of the website. It’s simply Hawley versus McCaskill. What’s your response to that?
PETERSEN: That’s by design. The most recent poll that came out, I think two weeks ago, was just Hawley versus McCaskill, and Hawley was losing to McCaskill by six points overall – which is outside the margin of error.
[The poll was an internal poll conducted by Global Strategy Group, and paid for by Senate Majority PAC, a progressive political action committee.]
I think McCaskill is smart, and she knows that she has to go up against a candidate [against whom] she’s got the best chance of winning, which is why I think she wants to run against Josh.
At the moment, Josh is leading in the primary, no doubt about it, but I am a strong second – the only one who could actually beat Josh Hawley and Claire McCaskill. It’s been a two-man race for a long time, it’s just that the media has either not been picking up on it deliberately, or has been missing the story here in Missouri.
We better beat Josh Hawley, or Claire McCaskill is going to get another six years.
Hawley has proven he’s an extremely reluctant candidate. He hasn’t put in the work. Congresswoman Ann Wagner, who almost ran for this seat herself, refused to endorse Hawley in the primary when she was asked. He’s burned a lot of bridges. This move by the Republican establishment, to step into the primary and put their thumb on the scales, is all about voter disenfranchisement. Essentially, it’s the same thing the DNC did to Bernie Sanders. So, this is a Hillary Clinton-style tactic, and we saw how that turned out.
DW: You said Hawley is a “reluctant” candidate. What do you mean by that?
PETERSEN: The Politico article that came out about him, “GOP Golden Boy Mails It In,” when he was criticized and questions as to why he wasn’t campaigning and why his fundraising was lackluster compared to Claire’s, he got defensive, and said that he did not even want to do this.
DW: Was he recruited?
PETERSEN: Yeah, of course. He was Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence’s top Senate recruit this year. It’s a shame because there are still no “issues” on his website. We still don’t know what his beliefs are on very important topics, which is why I’ve been demanding a debate.
[Aside from a vague “about” section, Petersen is correct that the Josh Hawley website has no “issues” section.]
Petersen concluded by noting that “Claire McCaskill is wily. She may not be a good Senator, but she’s a fantastic politician.”
Hawley’s going to get into a battle of wits with McCaskill unarmed. He’s going to have a lot of problems with the grass roots now that they’ve alienated the people that they’ve alienated by the way that they’ve strong-armed them, as well as the voters, in this primary.
The Missouri Senate Republican primary will be held on August 7.