JEFFERSON CITY —Southwest Missouri's congressman got a shoutout from former President Donald Trump on Wednesday — but don't call it an endorsement.
Trump, who has regularly weighed in on Republican primaries around the country in an election year but has yet to officially endorse in Missouri's crowded field, released a statement suggesting that voters in the Show-Me State consider the Springfield auctioneer.
"Have the great people of Missouri been considering the big, loud and proud personality of Congressman Billy Long for the Senate?" Trump asked. "Do they appreciate what they have in him, a warrior and the first major political leader to say, 'you better get on the Trump train, it's leaving the station.'
"That was before I even announced I was running for President. This is not an Endorsement, but I'm just askin'?"
The statement marks the latest insight into the thoughts of the former president, who remains the largest name in Republican politics despite no longer holding the White House and whose endorsement could have a significant impact on the Republican field.
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It also invokes a popular talking point for Long, his early support of Trump, touted in an earlier campaign ad. That ad, which also focused on debunked election conspiracy theories, was later removed from YouTube for violating the website's guidelines.
Long is vying with former Gov. Eric Greitens, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, Mark McCloskey and Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz in the GOP primary. He has been among the most persistent in seeking Trump's endorsement, visiting his Mar-a-lago club on multiple occasions.
Trump's exact thoughts on the race thus far still aren't clear. In late February, he called both Hartzler and Long. The southwest Missouri congressman told the News-Leader then that Trump had earlier suggested that Long drop out and run for re-election in his House seat. (Long has been adamant that he will not.) Hartzler told the News-Leader on Monday she had not recently spoken to Trump but "appreciated his kind remarks" in an earlier conversation they had.
Reporting from POLITICO earlier this month alleged that Trump had been weighing whether to move to endorse Greitens, who early polling has indicated is leading the field. But the landscape could be changed in the wake of new abuse allegations leveled against the former governor by his ex-wife Sheena Greitens, according to court documents revealed Monday.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Trump floats support of Billy Long in Senate race, but no endorsement