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 ICYMI: Contested GOP Senate primaries could create headaches in 2024 [The Hill]

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The Hill: Contested GOP Senate primaries could create headaches in 2024
By Jared Gans
September 20, 2023

Key Points: 

  • Contested primaries in the GOP races for the Senate could cause headaches for national Republicans trying to improve candidate quality in 2024.
  • In Senate races like Arizona, Ohio and Nevada, the party is already contending with increasingly crowded primaries.

  • Republican strategists emphasize the need to avoid nasty primary fights, which could jeopardize the party and eventual nominee’s chances in a general election. But that may be easier said than done considering how the contests are shaping up.

  • Montana is one of several states with emerging GOP contests between leadership-backed and anti-establishment candidates.
  • Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) has been hinting at a possible Senate run, which would be his second after losing to Tester in 2018 by a few points. Rosendale … has a significant name recognition advantage over [Tim] Sheehy.

  • [Rosendale] has also picked up endorsements from many state lawmakers, including the state Senate president and state House Speaker.
  • A poll taken last month found Rosendale leading Sheehy in a hypothetical match-up by more than 30 points. 
  • In Nevada … [Sam] Brown now faces several candidates, most notably former GOP secretary of State nominee Jim Marchant and former U.S. Ambassador to Iceland Jeffrey Gunter. 
  • Marchant is a far-right candidate who has tied himself closely to Trump’s false claims of voter fraud stealing the 2020 presidential election from him. He has support from fellow far-right figures, like former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.).

  • [A GOP strategist] said if resources are largely spent in the primaries instead of the general election, Democrats would have an advantage with more time to organize and fundraise against Republicans. 
  • [Democratic] incumbents … will be able to focus on the general election instead of primary battles in these states.
  • Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Tommy Garcia said the NRSC’s strategy has “sparked a Republican rebellion in virtually every Senate battleground.”
  • “Their weak candidates and their brutal intraparty fights will lead them to defeat in 2024,” Garcia said.
  • Only one notable candidate has formally entered the Arizona Republican primary — Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb — but at least one other major candidate seems likely to join, and possibly a third.
  • Former Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake has strongly hinted she plans to run, while former GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters is reportedly also considering a bid. Both candidates ran closely aligned with Trump and as strong conservatives but were defeated in the 2022 general election. 
  • Polls have shown Lake, who has still refused to concede her loss to Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs (D), as the clear front-runner regardless of whether Masters runs. 
  • The challenge facing Republicans in Wisconsin is a lack of a clear choice to face the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Several notable potential candidates, including GOP Reps. Mike Gallagher and Tom Tiffany, have declined to run for the seat, leaving no major candidate declared yet. 
  • The NRSC tried to recruit Gallagher for the seat, but he announced his decision to turn it down. 
  • Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who has made many controversial comments and has been a close ally of Trump, has also floated his name as a possible candidate. Clarke slammed the NRSC last week for wanting “nothing to do with me” and that “they can’t control me.” 

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