Disorganized primary elections could disrupt Senate races

Messy Primaries Could Impact Senate Races

Messy Primaries Could Impact Senate Races

Good morning, Early Birds. The shortest day of the year is this week. Maybe that means we’ll have a short working day, too.

Senate Control at Stake

Democrats face an uphill battle in their quest to keep control of the Senate, but Republicans are involved in messy primaries that could upend their chances at taking control. Primaries remain unsettled more than 10 months before Election Day — which is normal — but national Republicans have been trying to correct the mistakes of the past and avoid GOP candidates who can’t win a general election.

Republicans caught a break when Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) decided last month against running for reelection, meaning they are certain to win his seat. Democrats’ path to holding the Senate is not easy: They must win every seat they hold, and President Biden must win reelection so Vice President Harris maintains her tiebreaking vote in a 50-50 Senate. Even with the odds in Republicans’ favor, there is much room for error.

Poor Past Candidate Quality

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s (Ky.) mantra: “Candidate quality matters.” He blames subpar Republican candidates for costing the GOP control of the Senate in 2010, 2012, 2020 and 2022. Republicans didn’t get involved in primaries those years, and primary voters elected candidates who were too extreme to win statewide.

This cycle, Republicans are fielding candidates in seven states that Democrats are trying to protect, including the red states of Ohio and Montana and the swing states of Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Primary Vulnerability for GOP

Democrats see the primary process as a huge vulnerability for the GOP that could help their effort to maintain control of the Senate. “Oftentimes in those primaries, the most right-wing, most extreme candidate wins the Republican primary,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in an interview last week. “They also tend to be damaged, and their flaws are quite apparent to voters once they get through a contentious primary.”

“The biggest question is: Do Republicans get quality candidates? And that’s still a big question,” said Jessica Taylor, editor for Senate and governors races at the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter.

Complicated Primaries Ahead

Republicans are facing potential complicated primaries in Michigan, Ohio, Montana, Nevada and Wisconsin. “When I look at the primaries, Montana is the most consequential primary, but I think Michigan has the chance to be the messiest,” said Taylor, the Senate race handicapper.

If Republicans’ preferred candidate, Tim Sheehy, doesn’t win the primary, it could blow the party’s best pickup opportunity in a state that voted for former president Donald Trump by 16 points. Sheehy is already running, but hard-right Rep. Matt Rosendale is threatening to jump in. While he won’t have as much money, he is liked by the base. Rosendale has won statewide primaries before but has never won a statewide general election. A Democratic-aligned super PAC, Last Best Place, engaged in the Republican primary this month, trying to tilt it to Rosendale. This is the only open seat Democrats are contesting as Sen. Debbie Stabenow is retiring. Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin is the favorite, but she does face a handful of primary challengers, including from actor Hill Harper. But the primary for Republicans is threatening to fracture the vote.

National Republicans are backing former representative Mike Rogers. But at least three other candidates are complicating his efforts, including former one-term congressman Peter Meijer, who lost his primary last cycle because of his vote to impeach Trump.

Two other candidates, a former head of the Detroit police, James Craig, and Sandy Pensler, a wealthy businessman who is likely to self-fund, are also in the race and will pull from the Trump base. Pensler, however, will probably have more money to run a competitive race.

“The Democrat primary is far messier than the Republican primary,” Daines said in defense.

Opportunities for Democrats

In Ohio, the other red state that is one of Republicans’ top pickup opportunities, three candidates are vying for the Republican nomination to run against Sen. Sherrod Brown. National Republicans say they are supportive of any of the three candidates: former car dealer Bernie Moreno, state Sen. Matt Dolan and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Dolan is running as the most centrist candidate, while Moreno is running the closest to Trump. A Trump endorsement could boost a candidate.

Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen is running for reelection in a state that Democrats insist is getting redder, and Army veteran Sam Brown is the clear GOP favorite. But he could face a challenge from election-denying, failed secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant or Jeffrey Gunter, Trump’s former ambassador to Iceland.

“Sam Brown is way out front, both in the polls and fundraising. It’s not even close,” Daines said.

Preferred Republican candidates, including Rep. Mike Gallagher, have passed on the race against Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Republicans are confident that self-funding candidate Eric Hovde will enter the race in the first quarter — but until he does that, Baldwin is coasting in a state that Republicans have targeted as an opportune pickup.

Arizona is also complicated. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat turned independent, has not announced whether she will run. Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego has announced a run. So has right-wing candidate Kari Lake, who lost the gubernatorial race last cycle. Lake struggles to attract general election voters, but Sinema could split the vote. Peters declined to say whether he would back Sinema over Gallego if Sinema decides to run.

“We have battle-hardened candidates and incumbents,” Peters said, adding that abortion will continue to play a major role. (Stay tuned! We’ll have more on the role of abortion later this week.)

Negotiations on Border Policy

Senate and White House negotiators spent a weekend hammering out a deal on border policy as part of a Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan supplemental spending bill. They continue to make “progress,” Sinema, one of the negotiators, told reporters. “We have lots of issues to work though,” she added. They haven’t agreed to a framework yet and will meet again Monday.

“We’re just staying at the table,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is keeping the Senate in session at least through today to allow negotiators time to work out a deal. The Senate also plans to hold votes on the remaining dozen military promotions held up by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and a short-term extension of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization.

Read More of this Story at www.washingtonpost.com – 2023-12-18 11:15:51

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