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Mitch McConnell’s Nightmare Scenario

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The names Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell have been lost to history, consigned to the dustbin of Beltway barroom trivia. For Mitch McConnell, however, they remain an all-too-fresh reminder of opportunities squandered.

McConnell became Senate majority leader in 2015, but had it not been for those four flawed and ultimately defeated Republican candidates, he might have reached his dream job years earlier. Now McConnell is trying to regain that powerful perch, and a slate of similarly problematic contenders in key states may be all that stands in his way.

On paper, Republicans have a prime opportunity to recapture the Senate majority this fall. They need to pick up just a single seat to break the current 50–50 tie, and the political environment is tilting heavily in their favor. President Joe Biden’s approval rating is mired in the low 40s, inflation is rampant, and the Democratic majority rests on a trio of vulnerable incumbents in states—Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada—that the president carried by fewer than 60,000 votes combined in 2020.

Yet the GOP may be stuck with candidates whose pockmarked, and in a few cases, scandal-filled, résumés could render them unelectable—or at least they would have in an earlier era. In Missouri, a state that should not be attainable for Democrats, the Republican nominee could be Eric Greitens, a former governor who resigned in disgrace over sexual-misconduct allegations and whose ex-wife has accused him in court filings of abusing her, as well as their son. The likely GOP nominee in Georgia, Herschel Walker, is a former NFL star with his own stormy past. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed celebrities making their first runs for office, J. D. Vance in Ohio and Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, whose reversals on key issues—including, in Vance’s case, Trump himself—offer ripe targets for critics on the left and the right. The lone vulnerable Republican incumbent, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, has campaigned against COVID-19 vaccines and has seen his popularity plummet in a state that Biden narrowly won two years ago.

McConnell is well aware of the GOP’s good fortunes this year—and how easily the party could blow it. “How could you screw this up?” the once and perhaps future majority leader mused recently in Kentucky. “It’s actually possible. And we’ve had some experience with that in the past.”

He was referring to the GOP’s missed chances in 2010 and 2012, when Akin, Mourdock, Angle, and O’Donnell suffered their ignominious defeats. Akin and Mourdock each lost winnable races in Missouri and Indiana, respectively, after they both drew nearly universal condemnation for comments defending their opposition to abortion even in cases of rape. (Akin suggested that women who were raped somehow could not get pregnant, while Mourdock said that a pregnancy caused by rape is something “God intended to happen.”) Angle, a Tea Party favorite in Nevada, made plenty of head-scratching remarks of her own as she lost her bid to oust Harry Reid, then the Democratic majority leader. O’Donnell, trying to win Biden’s old Delaware Senate seat, ran a TV ad in which she said the following words verbatim: “I’m not a witch. I’m you.”

In previous years, Democrats might have rejoiced at the prospect of facing Republicans such as Greitens, Walker, Vance, and Oz. But in the Trump era, no one knows where, or whether, voters will draw a line on candidates who might have been unacceptable in the past. “The situation has really changed since 2012,” former Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota told me. Heitkamp won a close reelection race that year, before losing her seat in 2018. She said it was “an open question” whether the comments that doomed Akin and Mourdock would cost Republicans a seat in the current climate.

Like so much else about modern politics, Trump is the root of the shift. He won in 2016 despite countless liabilities, most notably the October release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape. And as Heitkamp noted, he brought in a whole new cohort of white, male voters who might be more forgiving of badly behaving men.

Trump is also largely the force propelling this year’s roster of GOP hopefuls. McConnell had tried to recruit more experienced, more establishment Republican governors for the marquee Senate races, but partly because of Trump’s continuing influence within the party, several of them passed. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu cited the highly partisan culture of the Senate in declining a campaign, while Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is considering a 2024 presidential bid instead. In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey stayed out of the Senate race after angering Trump with his refusal to back attempts to overturn Biden’s 2020 win there.

Trump “has been a fly in the ointment for them getting the level of candidates they want,” J. B. Poersch, the president of the Democrats’ top campaign super PAC, Senate Majority PAC, told me. “It’s in the way of everything, and it seems to keep getting in the way.”

The GOP’s recruitment struggle has made the race for Senate control far more of a wild card than the nationwide campaign for the House majority, where the biggest question according to most political observers is not whether Republicans will win, but by how many seats. Democrats could expand their Senate advantage even while losing the House—a reversal of the 2018 midterms, when they recaptured the lower chamber even as Republicans gained Senate seats. Democrats are defending seats only in states Biden won (albeit narrowly), and they have opportunities to oust Johnson in Wisconsin and snag seats in Pennsylvania and North Carolina left open by GOP retirements. The possibility that Republicans will nominate Greitens in Missouri and Vance or Josh Mandel in Ohio gives Democrats an outside shot at expanding the map even farther. A bullish Biden told Democratic donors in Oregon last week that he believes the party can gain two Senate seats in November. “McConnell is right to be worried,” Doug Heye, a veteran Republican strategist, told me. “We’ve seen that the political laws of gravity don’t exist the way that they typically have. But there’s also the reality that Donald Trump was able to do things that no one else had been able to do.”

Waves are more common in the House, where voters cast ballots based more on a party label than what they know about a specific candidate. By contrast, “there’s a really pronounced, clear pattern of candidate quality being important in Senate races,” David Bergstein, a spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told me.

Privately, however, Democrats worry that the pattern no longer holds. Heitkamp told me that during her victorious 2012 race, 20 percent of GOP voters told pollsters that they were willing to vote for a Democratic candidate. By 2018, when she lost, that number had dropped to just 4 percent. The prospect that polarization now supersedes candidate qualifications is even more worrisome for Democrats in the years ahead. If Republicans capture a comfortable Senate majority this year, they could position themselves to win a filibuster-proof 60 seats by 2024, when Democrats will have to defend incumbents running in red states such as Montana, West Virginia, and Ohio, along with several others in closer battlegrounds.

The possibility of a sizable Republican majority has even larger implications for a close 2024 election, when Trump could again be on the ballot and might try to pressure his allies in Congress to overturn a narrow defeat, as he did unsuccessfully in 2020. “It would be a disaster,” Martha McKenna, a Democratic strategist who spent several years at the DSCC, told me. “It would be a very dangerous situation for democracy.”

Such a GOP majority would also be different from the Republican majorities even of the recent past, filled with Trump loyalists and less likely to counter him in a potential second term as it did, at least on occasion, in the first. For that reason, Democrats are equally nervous as they are hopeful about going up against candidates such as Greitens, Walker, and Vance in the fall.

“I don’t think anyone is celebrating now,” Justin Barasky, a Democratic strategist who also worked at the DSCC, told me. “This is par for the course when it comes to Republican candidates.” The GOP, he said, “has become so radicalized that the Sharron Angles from 2010, the Christine O’Donnells, the Richard Mourdocks of 2012, the Todd Akins—those are the mainstream Republicans now. There are candidates who are even further to the right or even crazier than those folks, and a lot of them are going to be Senate nominees this cycle.” If the political winds keep blowing the GOP’s way, a lot of them are going to be senators too.

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BIDEN’S AMERICA: Mother Caught Hoarding Baby Formula to Feed Her Infants (VIDEO)

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Did you ever in your wildest dream think you’d see the day when mothers were hoarding baby formula to feed their infants in America!

A woman filmed a mother hoarding all of the baby formulae off of the shelves at a local store.

The mother confronted the woman after she took every last can of baby formula for herself.

Biden’s America.

TRENDING: WATCH: Trump-Endorsed Kari Lake DESTROYS Liberal Reporter – It Was So Devastating that the Most Biased Paper In Arizona History Didn’t Even Run the Story!

Via Midnight Rider.

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Biden’s Approval Hits New Low

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A new AP-NORC poll finds President Biden’s approval rating dipped to 39% — the lowest point of his presidency — with deepening pessimism emerging among members of his own Democratic Party.

Of particular concern for Biden ahead of the midterm elections, his approval among Democrats stands at 73%, a substantial drop since earlier in his presidency. In AP-NORC polls conducted in 2021, Biden’s approval rating among Democrats never dropped below 82%.

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Highlights from The Downballot: Primary recaps and ‘a double whammy of BS’ in New York

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All eyes were on North Carolina this week, where a prominent U.S. Senate Republican primary contest saw Rep. Ted Budd easily defeat former Gov. Pat McCrory, by about 59% to 25%. This ended up not being a close race at all, Beard noted. In November, Budd will face former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who narrowly lost reelection in 2020 by about 400 votes. “She is primed to go forward and take on Budd there. She had very nominal primary competition and won in a huge landslide,” Beard added.

In North Carolina’s 13th District, which lacked an incumbent, both parties had primaries. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Wiley Nickel easily defeated former state Sen. Sam Searcy, 52% to 23%. The Republican contest featured a plethora of candidates, but one candidate, former North Carolina state football player Bo Hines, managed to eke out 32% of the vote—just above North Carolina’s 30% barrier to avoid a runoff.

Looking over at the opposite coast at Oregon, Nir and Beard highlighted another incumbent who is, as of right now, on track to lose: Blue Dog Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader in Oregon’s redrawn 5th District. Schrader once infamously dissented on impeaching Donald Trump, likening his impeachment to a “lynching.” He is currently trailing progressive attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner. As Nir explained, as of recording this episode on Wednesday evening, Schrader was down 61-39% with around 40,000 votes counted. However, a very large number of votes remain untallied in what is more or less his home base of Clackamas County, and those ballots are going to be slow to be counted. However, the back-of-the-envelope consensus, Nir notes, is that Schrader has way too much ground to make up and that McLeod-Skinner is going to be the likely winner: “If [McLeod-Skinner] is [the winner], either way this remains a somewhat competitive district. It leans blue. It got a little bit bluer, in fact, in redistricting, thanks to Democrats, but the real news will be replacing a moderate like Schrader with a much more progressive alternative.”

At this point, Nir and Beard welcomed Sudbay to the show to discuss some of the bigger pieces of news to come out of the recent primaries.

Sudbay started with Pennsylvania, where a gubernatorial race exposed the chaos happening among Republicans. On the Democratic side, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro ran unopposed. For Repubicans, however, things look very different, as Sudbay elaborated:

They have elected, they have nominated one of the craziest, most extreme politicians that we have seen in a very, very long time. He’s basically a Christian ideologist nationalist. I mean, Doug Mastriano was at the January 6th event. He is really Trumpier than Trump, which, that’s kind of getting out there. But this guy, I’ll tell you one of the ways I knew Republicans were freaking out … A lot of Republican donors said if Mastriano wins, they’re going to support Shapiro. The other thing that happened is there was this frenzied effort to try to maybe back Lou Barletta, who used to be a member of Congress; before that he was the mayor of Hazleton. [Barletta is] one of the most extreme anti-immigrant politicians around—well, I mean, he’s just normal now for the Republican Party, but he used to be extreme in the GOP. He lost the Senate race by about 13 or 14 points in 2018. That’s how desperate they were—they decided maybe Lou Barletta would be their savior. So they’ve got Mastriano now.

Turning to the Republican primary in North Carolina’s 11th District, which garnered a storm of media attention due to a steady drumbeat of media coverage of incumbent Madison Cawthorn’s past indiscretions, the hosts shared their thoughts on how the Republican establishment—in a rare moment for today’s GOP—succeeded in pushing back against growing extremism in their party. As Sudbay put it, “It was interesting, because every time there was a new revelation—and there were numerous revelations over the past few weeks about him—[Cawthorn] would tweet, ‘The Libs are trying to destroy me.’ No, dude. It was the Republicans that were trying to destroy you, and the Republicans did.”

The trio also revisited Oregon, where, thanks to population growth, Democrats won a new House seat in reapportionment, leading to the creation of the blue-leaning 6th District, a brand-new open seat. Andrea Salinas won the Democratic primary here. “Democrats unexpectedly had a completely bonkers, out of control and, I will say, obscene primary that really should never have happened. But the good news is the good guys won. So what went down?” Nir asked.

Sudbay recalled that the entire race saw a basically unprecedented amount of money being spent by Sam Bankman-Fried, a crypto billionaire who was financing Carrick Flynn, an artificial intelligence researcher with no prior electoral experience:

Oh my God. The amount of money that was spent in this race by, I call him a crypto brother, who had a super PAC to elect a … I’m just going to call him sort of a no-name Democrat. And also the other thing that really struck me on this one: this crypto bro super PAC is spending money in a bunch of places. And like you said, fortunately, Andrea Salinas won. She will be the first Latina to represent Oregon.

But the other thing that happened was the House Majority PAC decided to invest in this race against her, well, for the other Democrat, which I know I keep not mentioning his name, but I am just so amazed that this was the race they chose to get into. And it really pissed off the … the Democratic House congressional caucus, because they were spending money to defeat a woman who’s … a great Democrat. She’s been a state rep, she worked for Harry Reid, and it’s like, where did that strategy come from? I just don’t get it. I don’t get that amount of spending … it was just bizarre to watch.

“It was totally bizarre,” Nir agreed, noting that “our guests from HMP came on before we learned about their decision to put $1 million in this race.” What’s more, he explained that there has been a lot of speculation that HMP made that investment because Sam Bankman-Fried, the crypto billionaire, actually runs an ‘exchange’ for cryptocurrency, and that he had possibly offered to give a donation to HMP in exchange for them getting involved on behalf of his favorite candidate. “We won’t know until Friday at the soonest, which is when the next financial reports are due for super PACs like that, but it will cast a cloud over this race, no matter what,” Nir added.

The total spending for Carrick Flynn came close to $15 million for only around 15,000 or so votes—meaning that he spent $1,000 per vote. The race has not been called yet, with Salinas leading Flynn 36-18%, as Nir said: “I hope we don’t see this kind of thing happen again. I’m not optimistic but this is a pretty humiliating outcome for the $15 million gang.

In New York, the court-appointed expert released a new congressional map earlier this week that makes radical changes to existing districts. Right after this map dropped, Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney announced that instead of running in the district where three-quarters of his constituents currently live, he would run one district to the south, where only a quarter of his constituents live and where three-quarters of the constituents are represented by a progressive Black freshman, Mondaire Jones. “What the hell is Sean Patrick Maloney thinking?” Nir wondered.

Sudbay replied:

I think Sean Patrick Maloney thinks about Sean Patrick Maloney first and foremost and only. And that sounds kind of harsh, but that’s just who he has been. As you mentioned, he chairs the DCCC, which should be solely focused on expanding the Democrats’ margin this year. And instead, he put himself first. I saw a tweet today from Jake Sherman, who does Punchbowl News, which I refer to as one of … the Capitol Hill gossip publications. But he said, ‘Sean Maloney allies are spreading the message that Jones would be ideologically better suited for another district.’

Richie Torres, another member of Congress from New York, retweeted that and said, ‘The thinly veiled racism here is profoundly disappointing. A Black man is ideologically ill-suited to represent a Westchester County district that he represents presently and won decisively in 2020? Outrageous.’

Nir added that Maloney’s move could have ripple effects, as there are a couple of other ways this “really selfish move” could affect his colleagues:

First off, and this one is, in a way, the most important to me, is that by abandoning New York’s 18th Congressional District—instead wanting to run in the 17th—he’s making it more likely that we’ll lose the 18th. And that’s completely unforgivable. But just as unforgivable is that he wants Mondaire Jones to run in the 16th District. Well, that district is also represented by a first-term, progressive Black man, Jamaal Bowman. Maloney is trying to both risk a vulnerable seat, the 18th, and reduce representation among Black progressive men, by pushing them into a primary against one another. It’s really a double whammy of BS.

The Downballot comes out every Thursday everywhere you listen to podcasts. As a reminder, you can reach our hosts by email at thedownballot@dailykos.com. Please send in any questions you may have for next week’s mailbag. You can also reach out via Twitter: @DKElections.

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