These Red States Could Be The Next Alabama And Republicans Are Freaking Out
Could the next Roy Moore be awaiting Republicans in Arizona or Mississippi? After a humiliating defeat in Alabama, panic-stricken Republicans are scrambling to prevent a blue tsunami in 2018.
Republicans have begun to refocus on a slew of potentially messy party primaries next year —where the challenge of recruiting and elevating candidates who can win in a general election is now more urgent than ever.
“We’ve learned from Tuesday’s results that candidates matter, and we can’t afford to lose Republican seats because of bad candidates,” said one Trump administration official. “The White House needs to be looking at opportunities to find better candidates that can be competitive in November.”
One key question: whether President Donald Trump, who ultimately endorsed Moore, will be in sync with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the
“It is imperative for Senate Republicans and the White House to be on the same page as quickly as possible in every one of these races,” said Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff and campaign manager to McConnell.
“The thought that (Trump) would engage in contested primaries early is oftentimes bad advice, as we saw in Alabama,” said one administration official. “What’s in the candidate’s best interest isn’t always in the President’s best interest.”
While Republicans are hoping to prevent another Alabama scenario in 2018, the “resistance” has gone far beyond taking to the streets to oppose President Trump. People in these five red states are poised to produce a blue tsunami in the 2018 midterm elections:
Some Republicans are hoping to stop a train wreck in the party primary, with insurgent candidate Ward expected to take on Rep. Martha McSally for the open seat.
Steve Bannon endorsed Ward in October at her campaign kickoff in Scottsdale, where he declared “open revolt” on Washington Republicans likely to oppose her.
One administration official noted that Ward has harnessed grassroots enthusiasm that would be difficult for Trump to ignore. But she is also widely viewed as a candidate who would be a liability to Republicans in the general election: The official also acknowledged, “Kelli Ward has said some crazy sh*t” and many fear she’s another Roy Moore disaster in the making.
The general election between the likely Democratic nominee, U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, and Kelli Ward, a former Arizona state senator who has closely aligned herself with Trump is already tilting blue. A recent HighGround Public Affairs survey had Sinema leading Ward 38 percent to 31 percent, with 32 percent of voters undecided.
You can’t get much redder than Oklahoma. Each of the 99 counties in the state voted against President Barack Obama twice and gave Trump the election in 2016. But since the election, Democrats have been winning special elections in districts where Trump won.
Jacob Rosecrants, a 39-year-old single father, won in a district that is 60 percent Republican. He’s just one of three Democrats who have won since Trump took office. Instead of running against Trump, the Democrats embraced his “outsider” language and touted their political independence.
An unpopular Republican governor can’t hurt either. Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) is so detested in the state, her approval rating (35 percent) earned her the honor of being fourth in the “least popular governor” list. Govs. Chris Christie and Sam Brownback were the only Republicans more unpopular than she is.
Democrats are gearing up for a fight in Texas. While it might be a while before Democrats can take back the legislature or score electoral votes, people are clamoring to run against Republicans.
For the first time in 25 years, no Congressional Republican will go uncontested by a Democrat in 2018. Texas’ demographics have been shifting and Latino voters have gotten more political in wake of racist policies and candidates. Last year, 28 of the state’s 36 seats went uncontested.
Moving on to Republican seats that are much more of a reach for Democrats — but maybe not completely safe for the GOP — there’s Ted Cruz’s seat in Texas, and the seat of retiring Sen. Bob Corker in Tennessee.
For years, Democrats have been dreaming of making serious gains in Texas — and for years, they’ve failed to do so, despite the growth in the state’s Hispanic population. In 2016, though, Donald Trump only won the state by 9 points, the worst performance for a GOP presidential nominee there in decades. And the senator up for reelection in 2018 is Ted Cruz, a controversial figure with many enemies, who currently has a weak approval rating.
This time around, Democrats have a charismatic and energetic challenger for Cruz in Rep. Beto O’Rourke (a former punk rocker who my colleague Jeff Stein interviewed earlier this year). O’Rourke very definitely an underdog — Texas is a conservative state, it’s an expensive state to compete in, Cruz is a formidable fundraiser, and O’Rourke is still little-known. Still, if the fired-up Democratic enthusiasm we’ve seen this year holds up, this race might end up being closer than many expect.
Next, there is the Tennessee seat currently held by Sen. Bob Corker (R), who is retiring. Donald Trump won Tennessee by a whopping 26 points, so this race is definitely a stretch for Democrats. But former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) has decided to jump into the race — and though he hasn’t run for office since 2006 and could be a bit rusty, he has won statewide before. The likely GOP nominee is Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a staunch conservative.
The other remaining GOP-held Senate seats are in such deeply conservative states that few would give Democrats more than an infinitesimal chance of winning any of them. Still, Doug Jones did just pull off his longest-of-shots upset, so let’s run through the remaining possibilities on the table:
There’s some intrigue around this seat, as 83-year-old Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) has been viewed as likely to retire but hasn’t confirmed his plans to do so just yet. If he does retire, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney will likely run for the GOP nomination. In either case, Salt Lake County Council member Jenny Wilson is running for the Democratic nod.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), who’s close to Mitch McConnell and serves on the GOP Senate leadership team, is running again. Bannon and his allies have mused about recruiting a wealthy conservative — like investor Foster Friess or Blackwater founder Erik Prince — to challenge him in the primary. For Democrats, Jackson Hole businessman Gary Trauner announced last week that he’ll run.
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) will be up for reelection. A conservative in a conservative state, Fischer has nevertheless had a difficult time adapting to the age of Trump — she called on him to leave the race last October after the Access Hollywood “grab ’em by the pussy” tape was released, but then said a few days later that she’d vote for him anyway. Businesswoman and Lincoln City Council member Jane Raybould is running for the Democratic nomination there.