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ICYMI: Trump is sabotaging the GOP’s Senate prospects [National Journal]

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National Journal: Trump is sabotaging the GOP’s Senate prospects
By Josh Kraushaar 
June 8, 2021

Key Points:  

  • Former President Trump could have been an important asset for the GOP, turning out voters as it seeks to regain control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections. But out of office, he’s continuing his destructive behavior, endorsing weaker candidates in contested primaries, squelching the campaigns of erstwhile allies, and elevating not-ready-for-prime-time contenders in must-win Senate contests.
  • It’s leading to increasing Republican pessimism about their chances of retaking the Senate majority next year.
  • National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott made headlines in declaring that the party wouldn’t engage in competitive primaries, and he has said he hoped Trump would follow suit. But since then, Trump has picked his favorites with abandon, elevating a leading election denialist like Rep. Mo Brooks to front-runner status in Alabama, opposing party-backed Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, and urging a political novice like former NFL star Herschel Walker to run in a must-win Georgia contest.
  • “We can’t let this guy pick our candidates if we want to be in the Senate majority,” said a senior Republican strategist involved in Senate races.
  • At the least, Trump’s intervention is sparking a nasty round of party infighting, with McCrory suggesting former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, himself an ex-congressman from North Carolina, was responsible for orchestrating the endorsement decision. At worst, the elevation of a hard-right conservative lawmaker (one who signed an amicus brief on a lawsuit contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election) threatens to diminish the GOP’s prospects.
  • The North Carolina intervention is merely the latest sabotage from the former president threatening to upend the Senate landscape. Last month, he slammed Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, seen as a top contender for the state’s Senate race, as “lackluster” for not joining other state Republicans in entertaining conspiracy theories about last year’s election. 
  • His endorsement of celebrity supporter Herschel Walker in the Georgia Senate race all but froze the nascent field against Sen. Raphael Warnock, even as the former running back isn’t showing signs of laying the groundwork for the big-time battleground race next year.
  • These are all closely watched swing-state races where the quality of candidates typically means the difference between winning and losing.
  • Senate Republicans…lackluster recruitment so far has given Democrats a head start, largely thanks to Trump. Meanwhile, Democrats have their own opportunities to go on offense, aided by several retirements among GOP senators who were growing weary of the Trumpian direction the GOP was moving in.
  • Here’s the GOP dilemma: Republicans can’t win with Trump playing a central role in next year’s midterms, but they can’t win without him energizing the party base, either. Their strategy throughout the year was to keep Trump in the party tent, hoping to influence his behavior even if it meant indulging his worst excesses. But, so far, that plan isn’t working. 
  • Trump is more interested in reshaping the party in his own image than in helping the GOP win back control of Congress. If Republicans aren’t willing to fight for their own interests, they’ll end up surrendering not just to Trump, but to Democratic control of the Senate.

See also: Axios: Pro-McConnell PAC prepared to intervene in 2022 primaries; Charlotte Observer (Opinion): Donald Trump just threw NC’s U.S. Senate race into chaos. Democrats should be delighted

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