Saturday, January 22, 2022

GOP Dysfunction on Display in Republican Primaries

Political pundits are suggesting that the odds are stacked against Democrats maintaining their slight majority in the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. They may be right. But a look at what is happening in Republican primaries indicates that the GOP might be constructing an uphill battle for themselves. 

The first line of defense for Democrats will be to hold on to seats that are currently rated as toss-ups. Those include races in Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona. Here's what's happening in those Republican primaries:

Georgia - Trump-endorsed and intellectually-challenged Herschel Walker has all but tied up the Republican nomination. Nuff said.

Nevada - Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt leads this race, but lost his bid for governor in 2018 to Democrat Steve Sisolak. Then in 2020, Laxalt was co-chair of Trump's Nevada campaign. He took the lead in supporting the former guy's Big Lie, suggesting massive levels of fraud in the Nevada election, only to fail to produce any evidence. Laxalt's introductory video draws on the Star Wars theme of painting Democrats as the empire (evil) and Republicans as the rebels (good). Divisive enough for ya?

Arizona - At this point, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich holds the lead in the Republican primary, but as CNN reported, "he doesn't seem to be putting together the resources needed for a top-tier campaign." Trump hasn't endorse a candidate in this race yet, but he did attend a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago for Blake Masters - COO of Thiel Capital. Masters not only continues to receive a paycheck from Peter Thiel, his boss has already donated $10 million to his campaign. The money has primarily gone to the Save Arizona PAC, which has produced ads like this one attacking Brnovich.

Arizona's primary isn't until August, so it will be interesting to see if these two fight it out to the bitter end. 

In addition to those races, there are five states in which the Republican incumbent will not seek re-election: Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Alabama. I've already discussed the race in North Carolina - where Cheri Beasley has a shot at winning. Here's what's happening in the other states.

Pennsylvania - There are a bunch of candidates running in the Republican primary. But since Trump's favorite - Sean Parnell - dropped out over allegations of abuse that surfaced during divorce proceedings, none of them seems to have an advantage. Democrats, who are also in a bit of disarray, need to get their act together on this one soon - because this is the bluest state at play for a flip right now.

Ohio - The former guy hasn't endorsed in this race yet, but Josh Mandel and J.D. Vance are duking it out to see who can be the most extreme Trumpian. Right now Mandel is leading the race, while Vance has access to the big money it could take to win. Sneaking up on both of them is former Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken. Not to be outdone by the men she's competing with, here is Timken's introductory video:

Missouri - While Trump won the state by over 15 points in 2020, this is the primary that is giving Republicans a case of heart burn. At this point, former governor Eric Greitens leads the race. Trump hasn't endorsed a candidate yet, but Kimberly Guilfoyle (Trump's future daughter-in-law) is co-chair of Greitens campaign. What makes Republicans nervous is that Greitens had to resign as governor in 2018 (after serving only a year and a half) just as the Missouri legislature began a special session to consider impeachment over allegations of sexual and campaign misconduct. For the GOP, all of that is too reminiscent of the time when Republican Todd Akin lost his bid to unseat Democrat Claire McCaskill after his remarks about how women who are the victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant.

Alabama - You might wonder why we even need to talk about a senate race in deeply red Alabama. At this point, there's not a serious Democratic candidate in the race. But the Republican primary is turning into quite a show. Leading the race is Mo Brooks, a congressman who played a central role in Trump's attempted coup. 

Brooks, who initially had a huge lead in the primary, has been losing ground dramatically as former Chief of Staff to Senator Richard Shelby, Katie Britt, gains steam. That seems to be why Brooks recently decided on a rather bizarre strategy: remind folks about what happened in the 2017 Senate special election between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. 
“Do you realize I’m the only Republican in this race who stood with 650,000 Republicans to vote against Doug Jones for the United States Senate in 2017?” Brooks said before a group of Republicans at a Mobile County GOP executive committee meeting. “That’s remarkable.”

Brooks told that he plans on continuing to hit on the 2017 election during the campaign ahead of the May 24 GOP primary.

As the opposition noted, that was Brooks's way of saying that he supported Roy Moore - an alleged pedophile. If you recall, that controversy gave Alabama its first Democratic senator since 1992 - Doug Jones. It is doubtful Alabama Republicans want to be reminded of that mess. Writing tongue-in-cheek, Dana Hall McCain referred to it as an existential hell.

I can’t wait to bask in the warm glow of the existential hell this created for conservatives who vote as we do for biblical reasons. It was so fun to make a horrendous choice between a candidate who reeked of moral hypocrisy and might vote the right way versus a man who seemed far more credible as a human but would vote the wrong way on some issues.
While I agree that, from a bird's-eye view, the 2022 Senate midterms don't look good for Democrats, it is when you get into the weeds of the Republican primaries that GOP dysfunction emerges as the story. Whether or not that gives Democrats the ability to hold onto - or build upon - their current majority remains to be seen.


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