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  • Jennifer Rubin

Not So Fast, GOP

The GOP shouldn’t count on retaking the Senate. Remember 2010 and 2022?

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March 26, 2024 at 7:45 a.m. EDT


Republicans, on paper, appear to have a golden opportunity to win back the Senate majority. Down just 49-51, the party figures it will easily win the West Virginia seat left open by the retirement of Sen. Joe Manchin III. Moreover, Republicans are eyeing the seats of Democratic incumbents in red (Ohio, Montana) and purple (Pennsylvania, Nevada) states, plus open seats in Michigan and Arizona. (Former governor Larry Hogan is running for the open seat in Maryland, but that seat continues to be rated as “likely Democratic” by most forecasters.) If Democrats don’t run the table on those seats and hold the presidency (giving them a 50-50 split with Vice President Harris to break ties), they will lose the majority.

But before Republicans start measuring the drapes in the majority leader’s office, they should take a hard look at their candidates.


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In Arizona, Republicans are bent on nominating MAGA maniac Kari Lake, who lost her gubernatorial bid in 2022. For their Ohio nominee, Republicans went with Bernie Moreno, the choice of four-times-indicted former president Donald Trump, who suggested his opponent was too sympathetic toward LGBTQ+ issues — and yet, according to an Associated Press report, Moreno had an account created under his email address in 2008 on a website for gay men seeking casual sex. (A former Moreno intern has said he created the account as a juvenile prank.) Republicans cleared the field in Pennsylvania for David McCormick, whose residency in Pennsylvania is in doubt — bringing back memories of Mehmet Oz, the New Jerseyan who never recovered in 2022 from gibes about his residence.

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By contrast, Democrats are running some of their savviest incumbents, each with a knack for ticket-splitting, such as Jon Tester in Montana, Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin. Tester, you might recall, won by four points in 2012 despite President Barack Obama losing the state by almost 14 points. Likewise, Brown won in 2018 by about seven points while a Republican won for governor by four points and House Republicans won 12 of 16 seats with 75 percent of all votes cast in House races in Ohio. And in Wisconsin, Baldwin won in 2018 by 11 points, running about six points above the Democratic governor at the top of the ticket.


In addition, Democrats have recruited for open seats rising stars well-suited to their states (such as Reps. Elissa Slotkin in Michigan and Ruben Gallego in Arizona). Unlike with the GOP, the most extreme elements in the Democratic Party do not dominate the Senate primaries. Democrats also caught a break when incumbent Kyrsten Sinema, an independent, decided not to run as a third-party candidate in Arizona.


With such a divergence in candidate quality, the contest for control of the Senate is taking on some 2022 vibes. Then, Republicans thought they would win the Senate going away. However, as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) let on, they suffered from a severe “candidate quality” problem. Election deniers and assorted weak candidates in Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Nevada doomed their chances. Democrats actually picked up a seat, nearly unheard of in a president’s first midterm.

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