Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, joined at right by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, speaks with reporters Tuesday at the Capitol in Washington. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

WASHINGTON — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday he’s optimistic Republican primary voters will choose “fully electable” candidates in each of the key states hosting 2022 Senate campaigns this year.

But he also warned that Missouri, a red state that former President Donald Trump carried by 15 points in 2020, “could end up being competitive.” “You better nominate a fully capable, credible nominee or you’re in trouble,” he said during an event organized by Punchbowl News.

McConnell declined to comment on Eric Greitens, the former governor now running for Senate in Missouri, who has been accused by his ex-wife of physically abusing her and their children.

Greitens has forcefully denied the allegations and taped a video where he tells McConnell, “We are coming for you.”

But the Missouri primary, in which Greitens has held a polling lead, is on the top of McConnell’s mind, especially given the outcome of the 2012 race there, in which Rep. Todd Akin lost a challenge to former Sen. Claire McCaskill partly because of remarks he made about “legitimate rape.”

McConnell rattled off the names of four Republican candidates who cost the GOP seats during the 2010 and 2012 cycles: Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Akin.

While he hasn’t said it publicly, it’s presumed that McConnell thinks Greitens could fall into that category of Republican nominees who lost winnable races.

The Missouri primary isn’t until August. McConnell left the door open to getting personally involved in certain primary races.

“I might or might not, it depends,” he said. “Could I get involved? Yeah I could.” But he said the bottom line is that Republicans will benefit from President Joe Biden’s underwater approval rating.

Story by David Catanese, McClatchy Washington Bureau.