Bret Baier, host of “Special Report,” discusses significant developments from Tuesday’s primaries on “Fox News @ Night.”
NEW Fox News articles can now be heard on audio! Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative, is one of President Joe Biden’s catchphrases from the campaign road. Less than 100 days before the 2022 midterm elections, it appears that people are doing just that: weighing each candidate according to their unique qualities. Republicans routinely trail Democrats in the polls and nominate candidates who are far beyond the mainstream, confirming the oft-repeated maxim that “candidates matter” to be true. Every candidate and battleground state matters in a U.S. Senate with an equally divided membership.
Here are three significant obstacles to the Republicans taking back control of the upper house this fall.
Just last month, fundraising figures for the second quarter were made public, and they show a stark contrast between the two political parties, with Democrats reporting “blockbuster” hauls while GOP candidates have largely failed. Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire are essential states for Team Red to win if it hopes to flip the senate, but the incumbent Democrats easily defeated their Republican opponents in these states. Arizona saw the greatest money disparity, with incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly raising $13.6 million during the quarter compared to Republican nominee Blake Masters’ $827,000 total.
In New Hampshire, challenger Chuck Morse, the president of the state Senate, raised just over $5 million in Q2 compared to incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan’s just over $5 million. Sen. Raphael Warnock raised nearly three times as much money, raising $17.2 million during the same timeframe, as Herschel Walker, a Trump supporter who handily defeated his GOP challengers in May.
At a Save America event in Perry, Georgia, Herschel Walker gives a speech. (Image through Herschel Walker’s campaign.)
In a midterm election year that may defy historical trends and headwinds, Democrats are on the offensive thanks to a number of GOP retirements in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina. Despite having the support of former President Donald Trump and winning the June primary, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz only raised $3.8 million in the Keystone State, compared to Lt. Governor John Fetterman’s $11 million haul. Tim Ryan, a populist Democratic congressman, also easily defeated J.D. Vance in Ohio last quarter, earning $9.1 million compared to just over $2.3 for the former author who is now running for senator.
The era in which Ronald Reagan’s “Thou shall not speak ill of another Republican” served as the eleventh commandment is long gone. Republican primary elections in 2022 were brutal, rife with political and personal insults, and marked by a savage gap between the contenders.
Prior to November, the winners of brutal primary contests in Ohio and Pennsylvania between Trump-backed candidates and more establishment-backed competitors are still trying to pick up the pieces. Recent polls in Pennsylvania show that Oz is trailing his Democratic opponent Fetterman by double digits. This is mostly because Republicans in the Commonwealth were unable to come together, notably by retaining supporters of Oz’s primary opponents David McCormick and Kathy Barnette.
Due largely to the former Trump’s support, Vance narrowly won the primary in neighboring Ohio in May. That support split the primary electorate, pitting Vance against Josh Mandel, the former treasurer of Ohio, who had the backing of the Club for Growth among others. In the end, GOP senate candidates who were fighting for the open seat spent more than $66 million, with the great majority of that money going into negative advertising particularly aimed at lowering Vances approval ratings.
GOP primary voters chose their senatorial candidates last night at the polls in Arizona and Missouri. In a difficult, hard-fought primary in Arizona, venture entrepreneur Blake Masters received just 39% of the vote to secure the GOP nomination. In a more contentious battle against former governor Eric Greitens and two serving Republican congressmen, Missouri’s current attorney general Eric Schmitt did better, garnering slightly over 45 percent of the vote. The majority of Republicans supported various candidates in both contests, and they have followed in the footsteps of those others mentioned above by engaging in some of the most divisive campaigning we have witnessed in GOP races, which ultimately only helps Democrats in November.
What Roe Means
Both political parties predicted that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs to reverse decades of precedent on abortion rights would only have an influence on a small number of crucial contests. However, a sizable portion of Republican voters cast ballots in the deeply red state of Kansas Friday night in favor of maintaining the constitutional right to abortion. This demonstrates that Dobbs is a much bigger concern for voters than previously thought. This vote, which took place in a state that Donald Trump handily won in 2020, shows that voters of both parties vehemently disagree with the anti-choice rhetoric coming from Republicans. Republicans will find it difficult to avoid this minefield in both close races and contests where they believe they have a bigger chance of winning. Voters, particularly women, are angry and are casting high numbers of ballots in order to be heard.
In politics, a hundred days is a lifetime, and Republicans could undoubtedly bounce back if their base started to coalesce around their candidates, if Democratic money dwindled, or if the economy’s major signs did not improve. However, as former House Speaker Tip ONeill famously observed, “all politics is local,” and the senate majority will be decided by voters who view their politicians as either/or options rather than in Washington, D.C., or by the decisions that are made there. I am optimistic about my party’s chances in November despite the Republican Party’s divided slate of underwhelming candidates.
Kevin Walling is a vice president at HGCreative, a former surrogate for Biden’s 2020 campaign, and a Democratic campaign strategist. @KevinPWalling , follow him on Twitter.