Concern is growing among Republicans that Trump-aligned candidates who failed to cross the finish line last year may come back to haunt them in 2024, costing the GOP another chance to regain power in Washington.
Carrie Lake, who ran for governor of Arizona in November and lost to Gov. Katie Hobbs (D), is considering bidding for Sen. Kirsten Sinema’s (I-Ariz.) seat, while Penn State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) is considering a race against Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn) after the GOP commissioned the governor’s mansion last year.
The list goes on: Republican Joe Kent is seeking a rematch against Rep. Marie Glusenkamp-Perez (D-WASH) after narrowly defeating him in 2022; Majewski, who collapsed the House campaign last year after his military service misrepresentations were exposed, has thrown another challenge to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio); Bo Haynes has already filed to run again for a North Carolina House of Representatives seat he lost in November.
The growing list of Trump loyalists considering running for Congress has Republicans now wary of being written off as potential GOP candidates again.
“There are people who just won’t go away,” said one Republican strategist familiar with the Senate campaigns. “All the people out there who want to say, ‘Oh, they’re nobody, they don’t care’ — they need a reality check. Carrie Lake doesn’t speak for the whole party, but she’s loud; she knows how to get attention. And to some extent at least, It hinders the rest of the party.”
Lake, Mastriano and other candidates are among a group of Trump-aligned Republicans who have questioned or espoused unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election. And while they triumphed in their own primaries, it ultimately cost their nominations key party races in the general election in swing states like Arizona. and Pennsylvania in a midterm year that was supposed to favor the Republicans.
Concerns about the quality of the GOP’s nominee ahead of November’s midterms were brought to the fore by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who cited it as a reason for his downward stance on the GOP’s chances of regaining control of the upper house. But the time has come after many of the party’s primaries have already concluded.
Those same concerns linger as the GOP now stares at the possibility of many of those same candidates running again. Some Republicans warn that it would be wrong for them to launch new campaigns.
“Some of these people are just a glutton for punishment,” said Barrett Marson, an Arizona-based Republican strategist.
“The only thing worse than being a loser is being a loser twice. People like Carrie Lake and Doug Mastriano didn’t resonate with a wide swath of the electorate, and there is nothing in the months after the election where they changed or realized their flaws and changed their strategy or message.”
In Pennsylvania, Republican strategist Vince Galko noted that members of the state’s Republican Party have also expressed concern about Mastriano’s Senate bid.
There is definitely a lot of tension among party leaders, donors, and the political establishment with the idea of Doug Mastriano running for the US Senate “because he starts with “a strong name identifier and a very strong base and if he should be on the same ticket as former President Trump, that also probably gives him a leg up.” .
“I think I, like many Republicans — you have to get to the point where you want to win, right?” Galko added.
The screen split between candidates aligned with Trump and more institutional Republicans has been evident not only at the national level, but at the state and local levels as well. Last month, Christina Karamo, another candidate aligned with Trump who questioned the results of the 2020 election and lost her Secretary of State in the Michigan race in the last cycle, was elected to the presidency of the Michigan Republican Party last month.
In Colorado, former state Rep. Dave Williams—an election denier who tried to get the anti-Biden phrase “Let’s Go Brandon” as part of his name on the ballot and lost the GOP primary against Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.)—was elected in Colorado. Chairman of the Republican Party earlier this month.
While Republicans believe national groups could choose to work with state parties in key races, some concede that having pro-Trump populists as heads of state parties could cause unnecessary headaches for viable candidates.
“The fact that the chairmen of some of these parties can go on TV and say crazy things and then force candidates to respond to those crazy things, well, that’s damaging,” said a Western-based GOP adviser who asked not to be identified to speak frankly. .
Heading into 2024, both the campaign arms of the Senate and House of Representatives have indicated that they are approaching the GOP primaries differently, with the Republican National Senatorial Committee (NRSC) already running in the Indiana Senate primary while the GOP Congressional Committee National (NRCC) indicates that it will remain out of the primaries.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), also agreed to stay out of safe Republican districts with open primary seats after reaching a deal with the conservative growth club amid McCarthy. Bid to become a speaker earlier this year.
“Chairman Daines has been clear that he is willing to do whatever it takes to nominate candidates who can win both the primary and the general election,” said Mike Berg, NRSC Director of Communications.
Some Republicans say they would like the House campaign arm to participate in some of the House primaries.
“Of course they’re going to be on the offensive in a lot of areas around the country as well as trying to retain incumbents, but I think they should … consider running in some, maybe not all, of the primaries,” said Dick Wadhams, former GOP chair. in Colorado. “But there are clearly some that make a huge difference.”
Waddams was concerned that a repeat of the pro-Trump candidates who lost last year’s midterm elections could “disenfranchise the Republican majority in both the House and Senate.”
But other Republicans believe some of these concerns can be addressed at the recruiting level.
“There’s no point in losing sleep over this,” said a House Republican strategist, using Representatives Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ) and John James (R-Mich.) as examples.
In general, many Republicans point out that the party and its candidates need to provide a forward-looking view to the electorate and not focus on past elections.
“Elections are always about the future,” said Dallas Woodhouse, a longtime Republican operative and executive director of the South Carolina Conservative Policy Council. “And I think people who put forward a forward-looking, optimistic vision of the future will be in a much better position. Voters are eager for that, I think, without question.”
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