And nowhere is the downside of a beggar-thy-neighbour approach more potent for Republicans than in Pennsylvania. Former President Donald Trump is improbably openly trying to help Republicans in the state pass McConnell’s eligibility test more than the Republican National Senate Committee, most GOP senators, or the House Chief of minority itself.
Republicans have long assumed either Mehmet Oz or David McCormick would win in Tuesday’s primary. Half a dozen GOP senators said this week they hadn’t even heard of right-wing Pennsylvania Senate hopeful Kathy Barnette until they read POLITICO and the Philadelphia Inquirer stories about her rise .
“She’s apparently skyrocketing, that’s what I hear all the time, but I know Dr Oz. And I only know McCormick by reputation. I think one or the other might be elected in the general election,” the senator said. John Corny (R-Texas), former president of the NRSC. “I just don’t know her.”
Some of them endorsed Oz or McCormick, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is even campaigning for McCormick in stride. But no one is really sounding the alarm about Barnette’s questionable ability to win this fall, other than the former president.
Trump said in a teleconference for Oz on Thursday night that “the problem is nobody knows what she is, what she stands for, who she is. It’s very risky. When asked if he worried about Barnette’s win, McConnell simply replied, “We’re all watching with interest.”
The stakes are incredibly high in the battle to replace the Republican senator. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. If the Republicans lose, their path to a majority becomes much more complex, forcing them to win at least two seats elsewhere on a 50-50 Senate map filled with tried and true Democratic incumbents.
While it’s too early to compare the fate of the GOP to the 2010 and 2012 debacles that squandered competitive Senate races, there’s a growing sense of unease among party insiders that Republicans could end up with candidates that make it more difficult to take control of the Senate. Barnette is the most immediate worry, though former Gov. Eric Greitens in Missouri, state Rep. Ron Hanks in Colorado and the Wild West primary in Arizona are all seen as potential obstacles to a take. control of the GOP.
But there is no consensus on the right tactics to avoid this fate. As Trump attacks Barnette as ‘very risky’ in general election, NRSC chairman Rick Scott (R-Fla.) says he would be comfortable if Barnette is the nominee. For Scott, the hands-off approach in the primaries is personal after National Republicans gave him the cold shoulder in Florida’s 2010 gubernatorial race.
“Voters are more successful in picking the right candidate for their state than people in Washington,” Scott said in an interview. “Nobody supported me in 2010.”
The high-handed approach of Senate Republicans in 2010 didn’t quite work either: Just ask NRSC-endorsed Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-Democrat who lost his 2010 primary battle to the current senator. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Some party members want to try a different approach: Rather than choosing candidates in primary areas, they’d like to focus more on appealing at-risk Republican hopefuls. That way, the GOP could follow through on its promise not to nominate losers in the general election.
“Even though [Scott’s strategy] works, it undoes a decade of work and sets a new precedent for how we operate as a party,” said a person familiar with the work of the committee, who granted anonymity to speak candidly given the tension. between Scott and McConnell over Conservative campaign messages.
It’s the “singular” job of the Senate campaign arm to mitigate risk in the election and to sound the alarm on potentially worrisome candidates, argued a former high-ranking GOP campaign staffer, speaking anonymously for the same reasons.
NRSC spokesman Chris Hartline said in a statement for this story: “NRSC’s job is to protect incumbents and win the general election. Period. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves and disrespecting voters. Washington has an abysmal record of picking and selecting candidates.
Nonetheless, there are signs that the GOP establishment isn’t completely caught off guard. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) teamed with the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund to beat Rep. Mo Brooks in Alabama, a groped Republican state in 2017, according to The Hill. Republicans also back the senator. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) against a Trump-backed candidate.
However, neither state is considered competitive in general elections.
Scott sounded the alarm about Greitens, a scandal-tarred former governor whose abuse allegations against his wife are well known across the GOP conference. But Greitens may be the exception to the rule of not getting involved. Scott says as he examines the Senate map, “the only person people are worried about is Eric Greitens.”
Even as McConnell and his lieutenants discuss eligibility, there’s also disagreement among Republicans over whether candidate quality matters even to an increasingly polarized electorate and with the president’s sagging polls Joe Biden. Retired Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) argued yes: “Candidates matter. We want eligible candidates.
But sen. mike brown (R-Ind.) Said the weather is so good for Republicans that it’s less of a concern this cycle.
“Yeah, if you get somebody that’s just that far out there, we’ve gone through that before where you win the primary and lose the overall,” Braun said. Still, he added, the quality of candidates will matter “less because of the Biden administration’s performance to date.”
Like Barnette, Braun enjoyed a three-way race in 2018, ousting two feuding GOP congressmen in his primary as Republican leaders let things play out.
Sometimes, however, the party makes a different decision, like when it openly declared war on Kris Kobach’s ultimately unsuccessful 2020 Senate bid. Kobach was a proven loser, blowing up the 2018 gubernatorial race in a conservative stronghold.
Barnette is harder to assess because Republicans are still aware of her, a reflection of her late campaign.
“What do you know of her?” » Sen. Roger Osier (R-Miss.), a former president of the NRSC, interviewed a reporter. “I really hadn’t heard his name until Monday.”
Barnette wants McConnell to leave as leader, has targeted LGBTQ people and Muslims in his rhetoric, and refused to answer basic biographical questions. It also focuses on false claims of a fraudulent 2020 election, which Republicans have urged their candidates to avoid.
Yet despite all of this, Republicans for the most part refuse to condemn her. Some even think she could beat Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, the frontrunner in the Democratic primary. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the executive, supported Barnette, as did influential anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List.
Support from McCormick, the senator. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said of Barnette’s viability as a general election candidate, “I have no idea. I didn’t even know that was happening. »
“I don’t know what his background is,” Sen said. Kevin Cramer (RN.D.), which endorsed Oz. He admitted that staying out of the primaries is a risk – but so is doing something else.
Neutrality, he argued, is “the safe bet for the party, for the conference, for the NRSC.”