Last night, David Weigel took a look at the battered GOP establishment crawling from the wreckage of their disastrous primary strategy, which continued crashing around their ears on Tuesday in New Hampshire where 3 unelectable MAGA-extremists were nominated despite McCarthy’s and McConnell’s millions of dollars spent to bolster mainstream conservatives and warn primary voters about their fascist opponents. Weigel kept a straight face while reporting that the radicalized MAGA base of the GOP picked standard-bearers who embraced Trump’s false election claims, while emulating his combative style and promoting the QAnon-like conspiracy theories that have come to replace a party platform. He wrote that McCarthy and McConnell “wasted millions of dollars and expended considerable political capital trying to defeat candidates who triumphed.”
Here’s one of the ads McConnell ran against Bolduc, now the GOP’s candidate against the weakest Democratic incumbent top for reelection, Maggie Hassan: “Bolduc lost his first race. He accused President Trump's team of election rigging and said no person of honor could work for Trump. Bolduc endorsed Joe Biden's disastrous withdraw from Afghanistan and said the U. S. Should team up with the Taliban. Don Bolduc even accused Governor Sununu of being a Chinese communist sympathizer and a supporter of terrorism. Don Bolduc’s crazy ideas won't help us defeat Maggie Hassan."
McCarthy’s attack ad against Leavitt, the MAGA extremist, as “a ‘woke’ candidate who had been ‘mooching off her parents.’… Bolduc and Leavitt responded by bashing the ‘swamp’ for trying to stop them, and promising to stand up to McConnell and McCarthy when they got to Washington.”
Hassan’s first post-primary ad, which began running Wednesday, linked Bolduc to McConnell and warned a Republican majority would “push for a nationwide ban on abortion.” The day of the primary, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had rolled out a 15-week abortion ban with limited exceptions; McConnell told reporters that “most members of my conference” did not support it.
Democrats said Wednesday that the primaries had widened their path to keeping the majority, after the Supreme Court’s summer abortion ruling and a flurry of legislative wins in Washington had improved the party’s standing.
But before Bolduc’s win, Republicans were already strategizing around Senate nominees who have lagged Democrats in funds raised and have trailed the party’s other 2022 nominees in polls— including Herschel Walker in Georgia, Blake Masters in Arizona, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, and J.D. Vance in Ohio. Both major parties are still spending heavily in those races, and Democrats pushed back against the idea that right-wing GOP nominees meant guaranteed wins in November.
Jennifer Rubin’s column this morning was dedicated to basically the same topic, but focused on Pennsylvania rather than New Hampshire, emphasizing how the state is a lesson in how the Republicans are blowing 2022. Remember Rubin is a conservative ex-Republican who was turned into a normal person by Trump’s excesses.
“Pennsylvania,” she wrote, “is the proverbial swing state. It went for Republican Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton in 2016, and for Democrat Joe Biden in 2020. The state’s seats in the U.S. Senate have been split between the two parties since 2007, and the House delegation is evenly split as well. In November, when Pennsylvanians will vote for their next governor and for the person to replace outgoing Sen. Patrick Toomey (R), the state will once again serve as a barometer of which party has become unpalatable for middle-of-the-road voters. And so far, it seems Republicans have turned off a substantial share of the electorate.”
It is not hard to figure out why Oz is doing so badly in a state where Biden’s approval rating is underwater. For starters, even Oz’s voters don’t like him that much. The CBS poll reports that only 15 percent are voting for him, as opposed to against Fetterman (54 percent). Fetterman’s numbers, by contrast, show 56 percent are voting for him because they like him.
In addition, Fetterman’s message that Oz is a phony and an outsider from New Jersey have stuck. Only 29 percent believe Oz says what he means, and only one-third think he’s been in the state long enough to run for Senate. Meanwhile, Oz’s attack on Fetterman’s health after he had a stroke in May has flopped. Fifty-nine percent of voters don’t buy it, including 40 percent of Republicans.
…The descent of the GOP into unelectable extremism is nowhere more vivid than in the gubernatorial race. As the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board writes, “Mastriano’s relentless efforts to thwart the results of the 2020 presidential election, spread Donald Trump’s election lies, and suppress votes in future elections amounts to a 10-alarm fire for anyone who believes in a functioning democracy.” Mastriano’s ties to White Christian nationalist groups and his attempt to play down his extreme abortion views also make him an easy target in a pro-choice and increasingly diverse state (the White population has fallen 4.7 percentage points in the last decade to 74.8 percent).
While Mastriano has tried to avoid talking about abortion, his rigid views and declaration that abortion would be a crime in the state if he is elected are well-known. That’s a problem for a large majority of voters in the state. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: “According to a Franklin & Marshall College poll, support for abortion among registered Pennsylvania voters reached an all-time high in the weeks following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health [Organization] that overturned a federal constitutional right to an abortion.”
Even 42 percent of Republicans wish they had nominated someone other than Mastriano, the CBS poll found. His candidacy is a powerful example of how the most extreme portion of the electorate in a low-turnout primary election can saddle a party with an embarrassing nominee.
The mainstream media’s fixation with our supposedly “polarized” politics obscures what has been going on. While Democrats have remained relatively stable in their center-left outlook, the darlings of the MAGA movement endorsed by their cult leader are so extreme that, in the case of Mastriano, he is losing 20 percent of Republicans.
If Republicans lose the races for governor and the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, they will have every reason to blame their own primary voters and Trump. The triumph of the GOP’s MAGA wing over so-called mainstream or establishment Republicans may have been good for Trump and his cohorts. But the midterms might prove that a party dominated by delusional conspiratorialists and reactionary right-wingers is less than ideal when it comes to winning over swing voters
Can MAGA-extremists turn things around in 6 weeks? Maggie Astor looked at how one of the most radical of the kooks is already trying to, just 2 days after winning his primary. “Like a driver making a screeching U-turn,” she wrote, “Don Bolduc, the Republican Senate nominee in New Hampshire, pivoted on Thursday from his primary race to the general election, saying he had ‘come to the conclusion’ that the 2020 presidential election ‘was not stolen,’ after he had spent more than a year claiming it was.” That sounds more like a craven flip-flop than a pivot. ‘I’ve done a lot of research on this, and I’ve spent the past couple weeks talking to Granite Staters all over the state from every party, and I have come to the conclusion— and I want to be definitive on this— the election was not stolen’, Bolduc said in an interview on Fox News. He continued to falsely claim there had been fraud in the election but acknowledged that the outcome was not in question. ‘Elections have consequences, and, unfortunately, President Biden is the legitimate president of this country,’ he said.”
I wonder if anyone lets Trump know. Hassan’s campaign has already told the press that “Bolduc is desperately trying to run from years of spreading the Big Lie, but he can’t hide from the video receipts.”