ST. LOUIS • President Donald Trump will travel to St. Louis in mid-March to host a high-dollar, invitation-only fundraiser with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley — an event that could shore up more than just Hawley’s campaign fund.
Hawley, widely viewed as the front-runner for this year’s GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has faced talk lately of party dissatisfaction with his campaign, which some say has failed to catch fire. Chatter in Missouri and Washington has included the possibility of pulling U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, into the race. An appearance by Trump at a Hawley event full of big-money donors presumably would tamp down such talk.
An emailed invitation obtained by the Post-Dispatch says the event will be in St. Louis on March 14, at a yet-undisclosed time and venue. According to the invitation, a “Host Committee Roundtable,” with a ticket price of $50,000 per person, will include one photo with Trump and attendance at a “VIP reception.”
The invitation specifies two other tiers of donation. For $25,000 per couple, attendees will get a photo with Trump and attendance at the reception. A donation of $5,000 per person will get just the reception.
The event apparently will not be open to the public nor the press. Hawley’s campaign declined to comment.
Hawley, currently Missouri’s first-term attorney general, faces three lesser-known candidates seeking the Republican Senate nomination in the Aug. 7 primaries: former Libertarian presidential candidate Austin Petersen, retired Air Force pilot Tony Monetti and anti-feminist provocateur Courtland Sykes.
Wagner, a longtime Republican establishment figure, had earlier considered getting into the race. She decided against it last year after several of the party’s heavy hitters, including Vice President Mike Pence and former Sen. Jack Danforth, R-Mo., backed Hawley, touting him as the GOP’s future.
But as McCaskill has traversed the state in past weeks conducting one town hall meeting after another, Hawley’s campaign has been far less active — and has raised far less money. A newcomer to elective politics, Hawley’s most visible national moment so far has been the controversy over his recent comments blaming human sex trafficking in part on the sexual revolution of the 1970s, an event many credit with advancements for women.
This month, Wagner has acknowledged she’s received numerous calls from party people asking her to get back into the race. Former Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo., has publicly warned that Hawley could lose to McCaskill if he doesn’t “gear it up.”
National Republicans view the seat as crucial in their battle to retain their Senate majority. McCaskill is considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats in the country this year, facing the same Missouri electorate that went for Trump by almost 20 percentage points in 2016.