I was just looking at the list of Pennsylvania members off Congress from 2006, when Blue America was just getting started. The last one still in Congress from then is Mike Doyle and he’s retiring and being replaced by Summer Lee. The rest all either all retired or dead and many of them left in disgrace. I’m happy to say that Blue America actively helped dispose of some of the worst, like Republican Curt Weldon (we helped Joe Sestak replace him that year), Blue Dog Tim Holden (we helped Matt Cartwright replace him in 2014) and, worst of all, Republican Don Sherwood (we helped Chris Carney replace him— and then helped get rid of Chris Carney). We gave Sherwood the endearing nickname The Choker after he was reported to the police for choking a female prostitute younger than his own granddaughter.
What made me think about The Choker today was an Ed Kilgore column, How Many Republican Chokers Is Trump Responsible For? Kilgore, of course, was thinking about a different kind of Republican choker— albeit starting with one in Pennsylvania as well, Mehmet Oz. Kilgore’s point is that a lot of Republicans are pissed off and blaming the non-wave on Trump’s shitty candidates.
“Instead of staying out of the news and letting voters forget he was the leader of the party that was hustling them to either vote Republican or stay home,” wrote Kilgore, “Trump did two things that affected the elections. First, he pursued an extensive candidate-endorsement strategy in the primaries and in the general election that had a big impact on who represented the GOP in November and how they were perceived. Second, he constantly fanned the flames of grievances over the 2020 election in ways that encouraged candidates to become election-denying extremists, which was another distraction from the desired party message. Trump’s endorsements are the main object of post-election finger-pointing. But some were clearly more important than others. Indeed, the majority of the ex-president’s 495 endorsements this cycle were for House GOP incumbents who were in no danger of losing; partly this was intended to pad his winning percentage but also to show he appreciated Republicans who didn’t cause him any trouble even if they weren’t shrieking MAGA bravos.”
There were some House candidates closely identified with Trump who won contested primaries and subsequently lost winnable races or may lose when all the votes are in. These include Ohio’s J.R. Majewski, the man who “first caught the eye of then-President Donald Trump after going viral for painting his lawn into a massive ‘Trump 2020’ banner,” as the Toledo Blade explained; New Hampshire’s Karoline Leavitt, Trump’s former assistant press secretary; Washington State’s and Joe Kent, who with Trump’s backing purged pro-impeachment Republican incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler and is now trailing Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez as results slowly come in. Perhaps the most conspicuous Trump misstep was his backing of Sarah Palin in a special election in Alaska, which she promptly lost to Mary Peltola, the first Democrat to represent the state in the U.S. House since 1973. Now Palin is trailing Peltola in the race for a full House term. Of course, she’s weighed down by baggage that predates Trump’s political career by a good while.
The newsiest Trump misfires involve U.S. Senate candidates who have apparently failed to flip that chamber. Let’s look at a few and assess Trump’s culpability.
While Mehmet Oz built the celebrity that he traded on in entering Pennsylvania politics from a TV career originally sponsored by Oprah Winfrey, there’s no question Oz’s surprise endorsement by Trump lifted him to the U.S. Senate nomination over his wealthy rival David McCormick, who unlike Oz was actually from Pennsylvania (though he left to make his fortune in Manhattan). He beat McCormick by an eyelash, and despite his anodyne political background, he ran a relatively MAGA-ish general-election campaign, ranging from his demagogic attacks on an allegedly pro-crime, pro-open-borders John Fetterman to his Trump-like cruelty in mocking his opponent’s struggle to overcome the effects of a mid-campaign stroke.
When Trump endorsed Oz, he said, “Women, in particular, are drawn to Dr. Oz for his advice and counsel. I have seen this many times over the years. They know him, believe in him, and trust him.” According to the exit polls, Fetterman trounced Oz among women by a 57-to-41 margin.
Trump fully owns this loser.
Herschel Walker: Trump’s friend and stooge but also a ruined hero.
To be clear, Herschel Walker may well be the junior U.S. senator from Georgia in January; he faces Democrat Raphael Warnock in a December 6 runoff after finishing (at this count) less than a point behind the incumbent. But since Walker ran nearly 5 points behind his ticket mate, Republican governor Brian Kemp, and failed to win the majority that every other statewide GOP nominee got in Georgia, he has clearly been a suboptimal candidate in a crucial contest.
Trump’s culpability here is real but not complete. He has been Walker’s patron for much of the brilliant ex-athlete’s adult life, signing him to his first professional-football contract in the early 1980s and later making him a compelling figure on Celebrity Apprentice. And Trump clearly talked him into leaving his Texas home to return to Georgia and run for the Senate; the ex-president announced Walker’s candidacy before the candidate did.
But in urging Walker upon Georgia Republicans, Trump was clearly pushing on an open door. Practically from the moment of Warnock’s election, Peach State Republicans began yearning for Walker as a unifying candidate in a party that might otherwise be torn apart in a divisive Senate primary. And when the state’s agriculture commissioner, Gary Black, ran against Walker and warned that the Heisman Trophy winner would soon be damaged goods after his background of questionable behavior toward women came out, most Republicans (including Mitch McConnell) dismissed these concerns and backed Walker to the hilt.
While Trump remains responsible for his friend and stooge’s candidacy, he probably didn’t know about the full extent of Walker’s baggage, particularly the allegations that, in the not-distant past, he repeatedly impregnated women outside of wedlock and on occasion urged (and even financed) their abortions. So the ex-president is only partially to blame if Walker fumbles this winnable Senate election.
Adam Laxalt: The golden boy adopted by Trump.
Adam Laxalt, the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in Nevada, may yet beat Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto. But if several projections are right and he loses, some blame will be directed toward Trump since Laxalt has been a staunch MAGA supporter who actually ran the former president’s narrowly unsuccessful 2020 campaign in the state.
He was hardly unknown before Trump hit the scene, though. He’s the grandson of former Nevada governor and U.S. senator Paul Laxalt and the product of an affair between Laxalt’s daughter and Pete Domenici, the longtime Republican U.S. senator from New Mexico. He was elected attorney general of Nevada in 2014 before losing a gubernatorial bid in 2018. If he loses, Trump is only partially responsible, like a stepdad dealing with a stepson’s misadventures.
Blake Masters: A child in joint custody.
Arizona’s Blake Masters is currently projected to lose his challenge to Democratic incumbent U.S. senator Mark Kelly, though the race hasn’t been called and a lot of votes are still out. He’s running several points behind the even Trumpier gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake. But while Lake has preternatural political talents that have led some to consider her a possible successor to Trump as MAGA chieftain, Masters is a strange dude who entered politics as a protégé and employee of rogue Silicon Valley mogul and proto-authoritarian Peter Thiel. Like his fellow Trump-Thiel joint-custody child J.D. Vance of Ohio, Masters received a crucially timed Trump endorsement during the primary season that elevated him over a crowded field of rivals who were battling for the MAGA vote.
If Masters loses, give Trump at least half the blame, which is probably as good an assessment as you will get of his overall responsibility for the Republican disappointments of 2022.
A surly and combative Trumpanzee used yesterday to mount a full-bore attack on Mitch McConnell, trying to shift the blame for GOP failure onto him. But it wasn’t just Trump’s atrocious Senate candidates that have the Republicans feeling suicidal this week. MAGA gubernatorial and secretary of state candidates crashed and burned everywhere.
Josh Shapiro beat Trumpist walking freak show Doug Mastriano by neatly 15 points
Gretchen Whitmer beat Trumpist Tudor Dixon by over 10 points
One the the looniest of the Trump SoS candidates, Kristina Karamo, lost to Jocelyn Benson by 14 points
Very vulnerable incumbent Tony Evers beat Trumpist Tim Michels by over 3 points
The SoS race is still too close to call but Democrat Doug La Follette is leading Trumpist crackpot Amy Loudenbeck
Trumpist Joe Lombardo’s small lead is evaporating as more mail-in-votes are counted
The leader of the national MAGA Secretary of State insurrectionists Jim Marchant is lagging the Republican ticket and is Downey a point and a half as more mail-in-ballots get counted, pushing his margin lower
Janet Mills dispatched Trumpist Paul LePage by 13 points
Kathy Hochul, as weak a candidate as you’ll find anywhere, beat Trumpist goon Lee Zeldin by almost 6 points
Tim Wall beat Trumpist Scott Jensen by nearly 8 points
Democratic SoS candidate Steve Simon trounced over-the-top MAGAt Kim Crockett by nearly 10 points
Hardcore MAGAt Darren Bailey was trounced by JB Pritzker by nearly 11 points
Alexi Giannoulias beat MAGAt Dan Brady by almost 10 points
Maura Healey eviscerated MAGA fanatic Geoff Diehl 63.5% to 34.9%
In the SoS race William Galvin beat Republican Rayla Campbell 67.5% to 29.6%
Gov Michelle Lujan Grisham beat Trumpist Mark Ronchetti by over 7 points
Particularly crazy MAGA SoS candidate Audrey Trujillo was beaten by incumbent Maggie Toulouse Oliver by about 12 points
Potential Trump 2024 running mate Kari Lake is still losing to Katie Hobbs by over a point
Trump’s lunatic fringe SoS candidate Mark Finchem is down by 6 points
Wes Moore knocked off Trump’s MAGA fanatic Dan Cox 61.1% to 35.8%
There was no secretary of state race but the Trumpist fanatic running for attorney general lost to Anthony Brown, a very mediocre candidate, with just 38.6%
On the other hand, in Georgia, Trump nemesis Brian Kemp was elected governor by almost 7 points and Secretary of State Brad Raffenperger was reelected by about 9 points. And in New Hampshire, anti-Trump Gov. Chris Sununu was reelected in a landslide while all the MAGA candidates for federal office were defeated.