Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Greitens is a political grievance peddler. Also like Mr. Trump, he saves his most concentrated bile for fellow Republicans. One of the most puerile ads of the midterms thus far has been Mr. Greitens’s “RINO hunting” spot, in which he leads a group of armed men in tactical gear as they storm a lovely little suburban home in search of G.O.P. heretics. “Get a RINO hunting permit,” Mr. Greitens urges. “There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.” Banned by Facebook, flagged by Twitter and trashed by pretty much everyone, the ad is pure political trolling.
It was around the time of the RINO hunting ad that the Show Me Values PAC was announced. Team Greitens responded with characteristic invective. “These swamp creatures and grifters know their time at the trough is finished,” said Dylan Johnson, the campaign manager. “That’s why they’re scared of America First champion Governor Greitens.”
Whatever its roots, fear is a powerful motivator. Show Me Values began gobbling up ad time like Skittles, becoming the race’s biggest spender on TV. The spots detailing the abuse allegations by Mr. Greitens’s ex-wife appear particularly devastating. It seems that, with the proper message — and money to drive that message home — even the most flamboyant MAGA candidates can perhaps be deflated.
Mr. Trump did not pioneer the brazen-it-out strategy being attempted by Mr. Greitens. But he perfected and popularized it, and under his reign, the G.O.P. has grown ever more willing to tolerate its politicians’ sketchy, creepy, violent and possibly illegal behavior, as long as they toed the line.
Just look at Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, who won his primary in May, putting him on a glide path to a third term. Republican voters stuck by him despite his having been under indictment on charges of securities fraud and other naughtiness since 2015 and, in 2020, having had multiple staff members ask federal authorities to investigate him for a smorgasbord of “potential criminal offenses.”
And for sheer MAGA shamelessness, it’s hard to top Representative Matt Gaetz, the Florida Panhandle’s trash-talking mini-Trump. It takes real moxie to fund-raise off the fact that one is being investigated by the feds on suspicion of child sex trafficking. But that is how Matt rolls, and his voters seem cool with it.