It’s too early to know exactly how much McConnell and his allies spent in their efforts to stop MAGA extremist Don Bolduc from winning the Republican nomination to face vulnerable Maggie Hassan, the weakest Democratic incumbent of the cycle. FEC reports, which aren’t up to date, show at least $4.6 million. McConnell’s more mainstream candidate, Chuck Morse, president of the New Hampshire state Senate, conceded last night, though this morning the count shows a contest within just over one percent.
Also in New Hampshire, the Democrats have a weak House incumbent, Chris Pappas, whose district was redrawn to make it much harder for a Democrat to win. The R+1 partisan lean is now R+9. Kevin McCarthy and his allies saw an opportunity— if they could prevent the nomination of a far right MAGA sociopath Karoline Leavitt, who was endorsed by the regular cast of congressional MAGA freaks (Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Gym Jordan, Ted Cruz…). They couldn’t. Despite spending around $4 million on a last minute ad blitz, Leavitt, who went on Tucker Carlson’s show to call McCarthy a “RINO impeachment defender,” beat McCarthy’s candidate by nearly 10 points!
And even in the safe Democratic district, Annie Kuster was made a little safer when mainstream conservative George Hansel was defeated yesterday by a random MAGA lunatic, Robert Burns, even though it was just by a handful of votes (32.9% to 30.3%).
Bolduc, Leavitt and Burns have something in common— they all appeal to extreme MAGA voters who dominated the Republican primary but who repulse normal Americans; none will be able to appeal to a broad coalition of voters in November… which is why McConnell and McCarthy were willing to spend as much as $10 million to defeat them in yesterday's primaries. Maggie Hassan, Chris Pappas and even Annie Kuster are all breathing a lot easier this morning as Bolduc yammers about abolishing the FBI and 17th Amendment (direct election of senators) and called the state’s popular Republican governor “a Chinese communist sympathizer.” Yesterday Chris Sununu won 111,812 votes compared to Bolduc's 51,858 votes. There are more independents in New Hampshire than there are Democrats or Republicans.
Writing for the Financial Times this morning, Ed Luce reported that “Nobody will be less delighted about [Trump’s latest embrace of QAnon] than Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, whose party’s chances of regaining Congress are waning by the day. Midterm elections are normally a referendum on the party in power, which ought to be bad news for Joe Biden’s Democrats. But history is an increasingly useless guide. There is nothing normal about today’s US politics. If, as McConnell dreads, this November’s elections are turning into a referendum on Trump rather than Biden, the party chiefly has itself to blame. This is especially true of the Senate, where a batch of Trump-endorsed candidates is befouling Republican hopes of the one-seat net gain it needs. The libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel has also played a role. His bets on controversial figures such as Arizona’s Blake Masters have made McConnell’s task harder.”
“Trump,” he wrote, “keeps hijacking the narrative, which is great for MAGA Republicans but bad for the party. It is sometimes forgotten that Trump has never won the popular vote. He lost by 3 million in 2016 and 7 million in 2020. McConnell wants the conversation to be about inflation and woke liberals. Trump wants it to be about Trump. The more Trump re-enters voters’ minds— with the help of the FBI and the Department of Justice— the worse are Republican prospects. In June Democrats trailed Republicans by more than two points. Now they are in the lead. Biden’s approval rating has likewise started to recover. He has been helped by falling petrol prices, mostly because of growth slowdowns in China and Europe. His party has also shown it can pass serious bills even in a 50:50 Senate. But Trump’s greediness for attention outweighs all else.”
Republican selection has been abysmal. Candidate quality matters a lot in statewide elections, less so in the gerrymandered (by both parties) House of Representatives, which Republicans are still likely to recapture. Take Pennsylvania. Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor, funded buses to take protesters to Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, and has vowed to ban abortion in his state. Mehmet Oz, the state’s Republican Senate candidate, has ten properties, and only one in Pennsylvania. Like Trump, who endorsed both candidates, Oz is a wealthy TV star. But he lacks Trump’s political genius. In an ad that went viral he complained that Biden was to blame for the fact that vegetable “crudités” were too costly.
The mental antics of Herschel Walker— endorsed by Trump against the party’s preferences— also stretch credulity. Walker’s supposed advantage is that he is a black sports star running against the African-American Raphael Warnock, a Democratic pastor, for a Georgia Senate seat. Walker struggles to produce coherent thoughts. He claims that global warming is caused by bad air from China and that the existence of apes disproves the theory of evolution. A critic of fatherless families, Walker had [at least] three children out of wedlock. The one quality Trump likes about such figures— their devoted loyalty— is what gives McConnell ulcers.
As if this wasn’t enough to crush poor old McConnell’s spirits, yesterday Lindsey Graham made himself look good in the eyes of the MAGA extremists by introducing a national abortion ban. That flies in the face of the official— albeit disingenuous— GOP line that abortion policy should be left up to the states. This morning Graham’s stunt was backed by Mike Pence, who reminded Americans just how extreme he is when he said “I welcome any and all efforts to advance the cause of life in state capitals or in the nation’s capital. And I have every confidence that the next Republican president, whoever that may be, will stand for the right to life. It is imperative that Republicans and conservatives resolve, here and now, that we will not shrink from the fight.”
As the votes were still being tabulated in New Hampshire early this morning, NBC published a piece by Jonathan Allen, Marc Caputo and Allan Smith on the Republicans’ anti-Choice woes. While characters like Graham and Pence dig in their heals, party strategists “are racing to limit self-inflicted damage— and trying to blunt Democrats’ edge on the issue— before November’s midterm elections… Republican pollsters warn that the issue has serious traction in competitive races for the House and the Senate after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and that GOP candidates have been too slow to address Democratic attacks. By 51% to 32%, battleground state voters say Republicans are more extreme on abortion than Democrats, according to polling exclusively provided to NBC News by WPA Intelligence, a GOP political consulting firm. The poll showed 41% of likely voters surveyed said the Dobbs decision, which did away with constitutional protections for abortion, made them more likely to vote for a Democrat; 24% said it made them more likely to back Republicans. Asked which group they identified with in the abortion debate, 54% said ‘Pro Choice,’ compared to 39% who identified as ‘Pro Life.’ The findings are consistent with those of another recent survey shared with NBC News, conducted by the firm OnMessage Inc., which consults for Senate Republicans. It suggests ‘Pro Choice’ voters outnumbered ‘Pro Life’ voters by a similar margin of 17 percentage points, triple what it was before the Supreme Court’s ruling.”
Back to the low quality candidates for a moment. More than half the Republicans nominated for statewide positions are anti-democracy election deniers. In over half the states, Republicans running for governor, attorney general or secretary of state, are dangerous characters who would seek to change the nature of American democracy. “Campaigning on lies and conspiracy theories, Election Deniers are now seeking these positions across the country in a coordinated attack on the freedom to vote. The stakes for democracy are as high as they were on January 6, 2021.”
Take Arizona. The report emphasizes that “In the Arizona general election, there are three Election Deniers running for governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Arizona is one of just three states where an Election Denier is running for all three positions with election oversight. These candidates, who deny the unquestionable results from 2020, are vying for offices with election administration power. The people elected to these positions will be responsible for running, overseeing, and protecting future elections… At the same time, Election Denier allies in the Arizona state legislature are trying to change how elections are run. Arizona has had 35 bills introduced, and three already enacted, that would politicize, criminalize, or interfere with election administration. It’s all connected, and any American who cares about the freedom to vote should be very concerned.”
The situation is very similar in Michigan, where all three statewide candidates that the Republicans are putting up are certifiable crackpots and anti-democracy extremists, appealing solely to MAGA/QAnon voters and not to normal Americans or even moderate Republicans.
And, clearly, that has resulted in polls showing Tudor Dixon so far in the rear that she is endangering other Republicans up and down the ballot. The Democrats are realistically hoping to recapture the state House of Representatives thanks in great part to the extremism of Dixon and the other statewide Republican candidates and their likely reverse coattails.