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ST. LOUIS – In the wake of his continued controversial comments regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, most Republican political candidates in the upcoming Missouri and Illinois primaries still covet an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

New polling data from Nexstar/Emerson College may show why the Trump factor is still important for voters.

One poll shows 62% of Ohio Republican voters are more likely to support Trump-endorsed candidates and 18% are less likely; 21% say there’s no impact.

Among Texas Republicans, 49% say they are more likely to support a Trump-endorsed candidate, 16% are less likely; 35% say there’s no impact.

“In Missouri, where there’s a wide field of Republican candidates (for the U.S. Senate) the endorsement probably matters more,” said Dr. Laurie Rice, a political science professor at SIU-Edwardsville. “It’s a signal primary voters can use about ‘Who should I vote for.’ It’s an easy signal.”

Nearly all of the Republican candidates for the Senate seat being vacated by Missouri U.S. Senator Roy Blunt have been in contact with the former president seeking his endorsement.

It is a crowded field, including current U.S. Representatives Billy Long and Vicky Hartzler, along with Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey, and Missouri State Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz.

Trump has already endorsed Congresswoman Mary Miller in the Illinois 15th District for the June primary. The endorsement is a bit of a blow to her opponent, Congressman Rodney Davis, who lives in the district while Miller does not.

“I co-chaired (Trump’s) campaign during the last election,” Davis said. “It’s disappointing but it’s one of those things you deal with in life; you deal with in politics.”

The impact of the former president’s recent comments on the Russian invasion of Ukraine is not yet clear. While condemning the invasion, Mr. Trump continues to paint President Joe Biden as inept and Russian President Vladimir Putin as smart and a genius.

“The problem is not that Putin is smart, which of course he’s smart, but the real problem is that our leaders are dumb, dumb, so dumb,” the former president said to cheers at CPAC over the weekend.

His comments were a subject of debate on the FOX 2 Sunday morning political show, “Hancock and Kelley.”

“It’s unfortunate to see all this dissent and taking petty shots at the administration,” said Democratic strategist Michael Kelley.

“(Trump) has tried walking those comments back,” said John Hancock, a Republican strategist. “There’s no defending those remarks. You can’t call Vladimir Putin a genius. He’s a thug.”

Dr. Rice points out the numbers for Texas actually seem low, with a majority of Republican voters, 51%, responding either “less likely” or “no impact.”

“For that support to be eroding in Texas might portend something else,” she said.

A Republican strategist told FOX 2 that former president Trump may endorse multiple candidates in the Missouri U.S. Senate race, which would drastically lessen any impact, according to Dr. Rice.