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Cruz rallies Schmitt supporters as Senate primary campaign nears final week

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, places his hand on the shoulder of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Saturday during a rally for Schmitt's Senate campaign at Piazza Messina in Cottleville.
Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, places his hand on the shoulder of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Saturday during a rally for Schmitt's Senate campaign at Piazza Messina in Cottleville.

As he neared the end of his speech in a packed St. Charles County banquet hall on Saturday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz emphasized that he has specific criteria when endorsing candidates in Republican primaries.

Cruz said they have to be conservative and have a chance to win. Attorney General Eric Schmitt checks both of those boxes, he said.

“If you're really a conservative, you will bear the stripes. You will bear the scars, because you have been in the fight,” Cruz said. “I'm supporting Eric Schmitt, because he has been standing up and fighting for the men and women of Missouri over and over and over again.”

Cruz praised Schmitt for his lawsuits against elements of President Joe Biden’s agenda and school districts that implemented COVID-19 mandates. He also said a Schmitt win on Aug. 2 will guarantee that the Missouri Senate seat up this year will remain in Republican hands.

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Supporters of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is running for the state's open U.S. Senate seat, cheer during a rally Saturday with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

“When Eric wins a week from Tuesday, I think the Democrats will be so demoralized that they’ll pull the money out of the state,” Cruz said. “Because they know they can’t beat Eric in November.”

Even though Missouri has trended sharply toward the GOP over the past few election cycles, some Republicans are worried that if former Gov. Eric Greitens wins the primary it will put the seat in jeopardy. Greitens had a scandal-ridden tenure as governor, and he’s fending off fresh attacks over accusations he abused his ex-wife and son — which he has denied.

“The stakes couldn't be any higher. We need the majority,” Schmitt said. “But we also need people who are going to go there and be disruptors and fight for you and never back down. And that's why I'm running. I am not interested at all in being the most popular person in Washington, I don't care about going to the cocktail parties. I'm going to fight for you.”

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speak to supporters on Saturday in Cottleville.

Greitens’ supporters have pushed back against the idea he can’t win a general election, saying that GOP insiders are actually worried that Greitens will get a national platform for his criticism of Republican Senate leadership.

Both Greitens and U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler have stepped up attacks on Schmitt’s record from his tenure in the Missouri Senate. Among other things, they’ve criticized Schmitt’s advocacy of a so-called China hub aimed at increasing international trade at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

“There's others in this race who talk like they're tough on China,” Hartzler said Friday during a campaign stop in Lake Saint Louis. “But they've really been soft on China.”

After Cruz’s speech, Schmitt dismissed that criticism.

“Those attacks have totally misrepresented my record,” Schmitt said. “I’m going to continue to fight for an America First agenda — for American jobs, energy dominance, more exports.”

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Protesters yell, “Blood is on your hands,” to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Saturday during a rally in Cottleville for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

Protesting Cruz and Schmitt

Two protesters interrupted Cruz’s speech, yelling, “Ted Cruz has blood on his hands” before being escorted out of the event. Cruz then said, “There's actually an easy way to keep angry leftists out of a room, you just hand them a job application” and continued his remarks.

Several dozen protesters decrying both Cruz and Schmitt’s position on abortion rights lined up outside in nearly 100 degree temperatures.

Missouri prohibited most abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Schmitt signed paperwork putting the previously passed state law into effect.

“I do believe there’s going to be backlash, because there’s going to be a lot of people out voting to try and change things back to where it used to be,” said one of the protesters, Manchester resident James Robinson.

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Tari Sanders, 49, of O’Fallon, Mo., protests a campaign event including Missouri Attorney General and Senate-hopeful Eric Schmitt and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Saturday outside of Piazza Messina in Cottleville.

T.J. Moe, a former University of Missouri-Columbia football player and Schmitt supporter, alluded to the protesters outside during his introductory speech.

“I don't know if you notice the protesters outside, but they are there specifically because six minutes after Roe was overturned, our attorney general declared Missouri the first pro-life state,” Moe said. “I mean, the worst thing you can accuse Eric Schmitt of doing during his time in office is trying to save America.”

The three major Democrats who are running for their party's Senate nomination, Spencer Toder, Trudy Busch Valentine and Lucas Kunce, have all criticized the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Toder and Kunce want to get rid of the Senate’s filibuster so that Congress can pass legislation legalizing abortion everywhere.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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