By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

Attorney General Eric Schmitt rose above the crowd to win the
Republican nomination for United States Senator after a bruising campaign that
some suggest might split Missouri Republicans.

Schmitt won more than 45% of the vote among 21 Republican
candidates to succeed United States Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican who is
retiring. Schmitt defeated Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, who came in second,
and former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who was making a political comeback bid.
Greitens accused Schmitt of running a smear campaign against him.

Northern Missouri Congressman Sam Graves, a Republican, says
despite the cost and rancor of the campaign, it won’t ruin party unity.

“I don’t see as much of a fissure as some people might like to
point out,” Graves tells KFEQ/St. Joseph Post. “I think it’s going to be fine.”

Still, some suggest the contentious campaign, especially
between Schmitt and Greitens, might split the party, making the seat vulnerable
in November.

Graves doesn’t feel the seat is vulnerable.

“It’s sad to see Sen. Blunt leave, but now we’re looking at
who those new candidates are going to be and I think it’ll turn out just fine.”

Democrats targeted Kansas last election cycle, though
unsuccessfully. Graves isn’t sure whether Democrats will use similar tactics in
Missouri.

“That’s hard to tell,” Graves says. “There’s a lot of money
out there and, obviously, the control of the United States Senate is at stake.
So, I think you’re probably going to see a lot of money flow into the state.”

There might be a lot of money spent during the General
Election campaign. Democrats wager they have a better shot, since it is an open
seat. Graves is confident Schmitt will win in November.

“Missouri is a conservative state,” Graves says. “I wouldn’t
necessarily say Democrat or Republican, but it’s a very conservative state and
that’s what people are going to be looking at when it comes to the election in
November.”

Schmitt will face Trudy Busch
Valentine, a nurse and philanthropist who defeated Marine veteran Lucas Kunce
and nine others in the Democratic primary. Republican leaders have long feared
that a Greitens win would jeopardize a red state Senate seat in the November.
Greitens resigned four years ago. The resignation followed a sex scandal, two
criminal charges that were eventually dropped, and the risk of impeachment.
This year, his ex-wife accused him of abuse.

There is a wild card in this
race. John Wood, a Republican running as an independent, could siphon votes
away from Schmitt. Wood has some money behind his campaign. He has the backing
of a PAC funded mostly by former Republican Sen. John Danforth.

Sen. Blunt, a Republican,
announced last year that he would not seek a third term.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.