Why does it seem like Republicans have such a hard time recruiting Senate candidates who actually live in the states they want to run in? We’re discussing this strange but persistent phenomenon on this week’s edition of “The Downballot.” The latest example is former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, who’s been spending his time in Florida since leaving the House in 2015, but he’s not the only one. Republican Senate hopefuls in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Montana, and Wisconsin all have questionable ties to their home states—a problem that Democrats have gleefully exploited in recent years. (Remember Dr. Oz? Of course you do.)
Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap special election primaries in Utah, where an anti-Trump Republican might win, and Rhode Island, which saw something of an upset on the Democratic side. They highlight an unusual ad from Gov. Andy Beshear emphasizing an issue Kentucky Democrats rarely discuss—abortion—as well as unexpected spending by Republicans to attack the leading Democrat in Louisiana’s race for governor. And they run down developments in major redistricting cases in Alabama and Florida that both saw new rulings in favor of Black voting rights.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
David Beard: Hello and welcome. I’m David Beard, contributing editor for Daily Kos Elections.
David Nir: And I’m David Nir, political director of Daily Kos. “The Downballot” is a weekly podcast dedicated to the many elections that take place below the presidency, from Senate to city council. Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts and leave us a five-star rating and review.
Beard: Well, it’s post-Labor Day so I think that means it’s campaign season.
Nir: It sure is. We are going to be starting off with recaps of two special election primaries—one in Rhode Island, the other in Utah. Then we have some good redistricting news that’s favorable for Black voters and Democrats in both Alabama and Florida. Then there have been some interesting developments on the campaign trail in terms of ads that are getting run and ad dollars that are getting spent in Kentucky and Louisiana. And finally, Republicans have landed a notable candidate for Michigan’s open Senate race, but he has a problem that lots of other Republican candidates running for Senate have this year. It’ll be a very familiar one. We are going to dive right into all of these stories, so let’s get moving.
Beard: In a bit of an odd timing, we’ve just come off the Labor Day weekend. But we had two special election primaries for a couple of congressional seats that took place the Tuesday after Labor Day—one in Rhode Island and one in Utah—so we’re going to talk about the results from each of those. Nir, why don’t you get us started with Rhode Island?
Nir: Absolutely. Well, “Downballot” listeners, we hope you had a great holiday weekend. We know for a fact that Democrat Gabe Amo had a particularly good capper to his Labor Day. In something of an upset, he won the Democratic primary for Rhode Island’s vacant 1st Congressional District. This is the dark-blue seat in the eastern part of the state, and also part of the city of Providence that Congressman David Cicilline left open when he resigned from Congress earlier this year. Amo is a former aide to both Joe Biden and Barack Obama who won the primary with 33% of the vote. The second-place finisher was former State Rep. Aaron Regunberg, who took 25% of the vote.
Very interestingly, we only had one recent poll of the race, and it was an internal poll from the Amo campaign that actually had him trailing Regunberg by a 28-19 margin. And you see a poll like that and you wonder what is the thinking behind that? Why would you release numbers like this showing you in second place by almost double-digits? Well, it may have actually had the effect of framing the contest as a two-way race between Amo and Regunberg, which was quite a change from the posture of the race, really, just a few weeks prior to that when Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos had looked like the front-runner. But her campaign was badly derailed by a scandal involving signature collection to get her on the ballot. It didn’t wind up affecting her placement on the ballot, but it led to weeks and weeks of stories that were pretty negative for her campaign and allowed Regunberg to replace her as the front-runner.
Regunberg was running as the most vocal progressive in the race. He had endorsements from Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, though interestingly his uncle is Congressman Brad Schneider, who is a very moderate Democrat from the Illinois delegation, and Regunberg said he’d actually relied on his uncle for advice. But Regunberg’s emergence as the late front-runner also meant that it became his turn for all of his rivals to attack him, and they started gunning for him. And in particular, he was hit over the fact that his father-in-law had contributed $125,000 to a super PAC that had been boosting his campaign. And in a really weird twist, the Democratic Socialists of America—their local chapter—issued this bizarre anti-endorsement of Regunberg, saying to voters that they shouldn’t vote for him, but they didn’t actually say who they should vote for. So it seemed like maybe Regunberg had a little bit of difficulty consolidating the left as much as he needed to.
Meanwhile, Amo leaned very heavily into his association with both Obama and Biden. He’d worked on both of their presidential campaigns. He worked in both of their White Houses, and his ads were just all about that experience. And for all the consternation that you see just nonstop in the traditional media about how Democratic voters are supposedly worried about Biden running again, he’s still really popular with the base. Polling from Civiqs has Biden with an 84-10 favorability rating among Democrats, and I think it made a ton of sense that Amo leaned into that. It clearly worked for him. He’s also almost certainly going to make history: Amo is Black. His father is an immigrant from Ghana. His mother immigrated from Liberia. So in the very likely event that he wins the Nov. 7 general election, he will become the first person of color to ever represent Rhode Island in Congress.
Beard: Yeah, that’s certainly a great accomplishment, assuming he does in fact win that general election. A couple of things that struck me about this race is of course the way in which primaries play out so differently than general elections. We spend a lot of time looking at general elections, looking at the presidential race and the midterms and Novembers, but so many elections in America are decided by these primaries and the ways in which they can become very messy when they have a lot of candidates like this. I’m reminded often of the 2016 Republican primary for a North Carolina House district that Ted Budd won with 20% of the vote. Ted Budd, of course, is now a U.S. senator, and he never had to get more than 20% of that vote in that first primary, which led to him becoming a congressman, which led to him of course becoming a senator.
And so these primaries can be so important, but they’re decided with so few votes and they can be decided by the quirks of things like the DSA anti-endorsing what seems to be the most progressive candidate in the race, and the fact that one other candidate had signature-gathering problems. They’re just very strange. They’re often not ideological in the ways that you think about general elections. So that was really interesting to me.
And the other thing I noticed is that of course Rhode Island has a long history of conservative Democratic machine politics. It’s something that’s been an ongoing fight for a number of years as progressives have started to make inroads in some areas in the state legislature to a degree. But I think there’s been a lot of splits and problems within the left, and I think we saw this with Regunberg here where the fact that they couldn’t consolidate in the end ended up dooming him. I think it’s very possible if he had really been the candidate of the broad left, he could have won this. But instead of a leftist nominee here, you have a Biden Democrat, so he’ll be very much in the middle of the Democratic caucus. And I think slot in well; obviously, he has experience in D.C. so he’ll be able to hit the ground running.
Nir: We of course had that other primary, [the] Republican primary, across the country in Utah. And there is a good chance that by the time you listen to this, we will know the results even though we do not exactly know the final outcome right now.
Beard: Unlike in Rhode Island where there were a dozen Democrats on the ballot all spreading the votes everywhere, there were only three Republican candidates in this primary over in Utah’s second district, which has part of the Salt Lake City area and then goes off to the southwest portion of the state. The result was extremely close. We haven’t had a winner called, as Nir mentioned. There may be a winner called in the next day or two; we’ll have to see.
But the three candidates were Celeste Maloy, a former staffer for Rep. Chris Stewart, and the GOP delegates’ nominee to replace the outgoing congressman. She’s very much the conservative establishment choice here. Then we’ve got former state Rep. Becky Edwards. These are the two candidates who are very close at the top. Edwards is a really interesting figure: She’s a Republican but she was opposed to Trump. She said that she voted for Joe Biden in 2020. She ran against Sen. Mike Lee in the GOP primary in last year’s Senate primary ,so a very different figure than your average Republican congressional candidate. And then bringing up the rear in third place was Bruce Hough, a businessman and longtime Republican and a vaguely Trump-ist figure.
Now, Edwards held the early lead on Tuesday night, but Maloy overcame this late in the evening, and at the end of the night, narrowly led about 38% to 36% with Hough, as I mentioned, further back. Now, there are still Edwards-friendly votes outstanding as we’re recording this on Wednesday afternoon, but it doesn’t seem likely that there are going to be enough votes to retake the lead at this point. So we’ll just have to wait and see. Of course, you may already know, but we here on Wednesday afternoon are still waiting with bated breath for the final votes to be tallied.
Nir: And the general election for that one, we should note, will actually take place on Nov. 21, so a different day than the Rhode Island special election. So this seat will not be filled in D.C. until sometime after that date.
Beard: Yeah. And Edwards, as I mentioned, is a very unusual candidate. It would’ve been really interesting to see her in D.C. I think Maloy will more fade into the background and just become part of the Republican caucus if she wins this primary and then the election.
Nir: Yeah, Edwards definitely would have been trouble for the GOP. Maybe she still will be, like you say. She just seems like the kind of candidate who reporters would love to talk to, to get her takes. So yeah, to the extent I ever root for a Republican, I’m rooting for her.
Beard: We are all familiar with the fact that Joe Manchin gets quoted in every article where they want somebody to complain about Democrats, so it’s about time Republicans have one of those.
Nir: Let’s move on to Alabama, where we also got some big news on Tuesday. The federal court hearing the ongoing dispute over the state’s congressional map unsurprisingly ruled that the GOP’s latest attempt once again likely violates the Voting Rights Act, only there’s a big difference this time: They are not giving lawmakers another bite at the apple. In fact, the three-judge panel sounded very pissed. They said they were “deeply troubled that the state enacted a map that the state readily admits does not provide the remedy we said federal law requires.”
So let’s translate that. As you’ll recall, the first time the court told Alabama it could no longer use its congressional map, it said that the legislature had to create two districts with a Black majority (or something quite close to it) in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act. The VRA is really clear: You can’t simply split up racial minorities between districts to dilute their voting power if they could otherwise form a majority in a district. And the plaintiffs in this case very clearly proved that Black Alabamians could easily form a majority in a second congressional district.
So what did Republicans do? They continued to split up Black voters. In their old map, they had merged the cities of Birmingham and Montgomery, both of which have sizable Black populations, into a single district, the 7th District, in order to keep the state’s six other districts white and therefore safely Republican. In the new map that they passed this summer, they split up Birmingham and Montgomery, but they added white areas to the new Montgomery district in order to ensure that it still would not have a Black majority, and Republicans had this cockamamie claim: They said that they were required to do this because otherwise they would have to impermissibly split up communities of interest, and the court just completely rejected that argument.
And the plaintiffs have proposed a ton of maps at this point that would allow Black voters to elect their preferred candidates in not one but two districts. One would still be a Birmingham district. That’s the district currently represented by Democrat Terri Sewell, who is Black. The other would unite Montgomery with Black neighborhoods in the city of Mobile that’s along the Gulf Coast. And we’ll probably wind up with a final district that looks a lot like one of the plaintiff’s proposals. We’ll drop a link in the show notes to show you what those maps might look like.
So what happens next is all going to happen very quickly. The court appointed an expert, attorney Richard Allen, to come up with three remedial plans by Sept. 25. Though, actually, they asked him to finish work earlier if possible. There’ll be a hearing on Oct. 3 if necessary. The judges are moving fast because the Republican secretary of state previously said that Alabama would need a new map in place by early October in order to be able to use it next year. And these judges do not want to give the Supreme Court yet another excuse to step in and go, “Yoink, sorry, the next election is too close. Can’t order any changes,” which we know the Supreme Court loves to do.
Speaking of the Supreme Court, Republicans have already appealed, but as you’ll recall earlier this year, the court ruled 5-4 against Alabama Republicans and allowed the plaintiffs to proceed with their claim under the Voting Rights Act. And in that 5-4 majority were both Roberts and Kavanaugh. It’s very hard to see them changing their minds now. I strongly suspect that they would like to nuke this provision of the Voting Rights Act, but this just doesn’t seem like the right case for it.
Beard: Roberts and Kavanaugh are political animals, as much as they might publicly deny being anything of the sort. And particularly Roberts understands that when they make these unpopular conservative rulings, they are expending political capital if you will; making themselves less popular in order to achieve conservative ideological goals. And so the fact that they decided not to do that in this case earlier this year seems like a decision that they proactively made. And the idea that just months later they’re going to come back and the Alabama Republicans will be like, “No, we really, really need this gerrymander.” And they’re going to be like, “Oh, well, if you really need this gerrymandered, then let us go back and now pass a ruling that’s going to make us even more unpopular” seems very unlikely to me.
I am glad to see this three-judge court go after the brazenness of Alabama Republicans, who basically ignored what they were instructed to do by the courts and basically said, “We don’t actually have to do that. You may have told us that we had to draw a second Black-majority district, but we don’t really have to do that, and here’s why. And it’s totally unrelated to what you said, but we’re just going to go with this anyway.” And that’s not how the judicial system is supposed to work. You’re supposed to take court orders and follow them to the best of your ability.
And I was glad to see that the judges did not just do a generic ruling, but they went after Alabama Republicans for this brazenness. And we’ve been seeing it more and more with this Trumpist influence of just ignoring or rejecting courts and what they’ve said, and it’s important that these things get enforced.
Nir: Absolutely. And it’s especially notable that two of the judges on that panel were in fact appointed by Donald Trump. So we also had some other good legal news on the redistricting front from a case down in Florida that we were talking about on “The Downballot” recently.
Beard: Yes. This was a case that took a really long time to get moving, but now that it is moving has started moving pretty quickly. Like you said, just a few weeks ago, we talked about this. To briefly recap it, the two sides reached a stipulation agreement where the plaintiffs agreed to drop almost all of their claims—all of the claims around intentional racial discrimination and partisan gerrymandering—and proceed only around a single claim of racial diminishment for this one North Florida district. And meanwhile, the state agreed to admit that racial diminishment did happen, and to only argue that the whole rules around racial diminishment were actually in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Now, of course, the circuit court judge rejected that constitutional argument, which meant that by definition with the stipulation agreement, he ruled that the racial diminishment did occur as both parties had agreed to that. And as I said, ordered the lawmakers to redraw the district.
So if this ruling stands, we’re likely to see the reinstatement of something like the old 5th District that Democrat Al Lawson represented that went from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. But of course, the state has already said that it’s going to appeal to the very conservative majority-DeSantis-appointed Florida Supreme Court. So while they should uphold this amendment that has previously been used and upheld, who knows what a bunch of conservative Florida judges might do? And because the case now hinges on the U.S. Constitution, it’s also possible to see a further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after the appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.
Nir: Yeah, I read the ruling and it just has Republicans dead to rights. And any honest appellate judge would uphold it, even a conservative. You really would have to be a partisan hack to decide that this ruling was somehow incorrect, that this provision of the Florida state constitution violates the United States Constitution. But that’s exactly why we scream about the importance of state supreme courts, and that is exactly why that 2018 Florida gubernatorial election was such a heartbreaker. It was so, so close. But DeSantis has now appointed five justices on that state supreme court. It is a far-right partisan supreme court that is very probably going to do what he asks them to do. Maybe they’ll surprise us, but then if they do, then we’d be relying on the United States Supreme Court to also surprise us and uphold a favorable ruling there. So look, we got a really good ruling from the trial court that actually heard this case, but I am not optimistic about our chances on appeal.
Beard: Yeah, the best way I think this comes out is that the Florida supreme court decides they have bigger fish to fry, and they’d rather rule really conservatively on some other issues and just ignore this one, but I’m not counting on that. We won’t know until this gets resolved. I don’t think we can count on this. Even though as you said, it’s very, very clear that this does violate the law and the district should be redrawn, we’ll just have to wait and see what the Florida supreme court decides.
Nir: Now, let’s talk about a couple of 2023 races that are on the docket, where we had some interesting developments on the airwaves recently.
Beard: Yes, it’s after Labor Day, so the ad wars are in full effect anywhere where there’s a competitive expensive November election, and there’s nowhere that’s more the case than in Kentucky. Now, anyone who’s paid attention to U.S. politics in recent decades knows that a pretty strong rule of thumb has been that red-state Democrats don’t want to talk about social issues. They try to avoid them or defuse them in some way and pivot over to economic issues where they feel like they’re on safer ground.
However, in the wake of the Dobbs decision last year and the backlash we’ve seen all across the country, that may be changing, on specifically the issue of abortion. So incumbent Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear put out an ad featuring a prosecutor in the state attacking his Republican opponent. We’re going to play it for you now.
Daniel Cameron thinks a nine-year-old rape survivor should be forced to give birth. Nobody, no child should ever have to go through that. Cameron believes rapists deserve more rights than their victims. That’s extreme and it’s dangerous.
Beard: Now, Beshear is a very good politician and he’s not a reckless one. So if his campaign is putting out an ad like this, they clearly believe that it’s A) not harming them with a majority of voters, and B) helpful for them with a subset of Kentucky swing voters. And of course, if you think about it, swing voters in Kentucky for a race like this overwhelmingly voted for Trump. So despite being these Trump voters, they still think that there’s an argument to be made here around reproductive rights.
Of course, we do have some pretty good evidence for what a majority of Kentucky voters think: Just last year, Kentucky voters rejected a constitutional amendment to strip any reproductive rights out of the state constitution by a 52-48 margin. So this is a pretty sharp change from what we’ve traditionally seen from red-state Democrats. Longtime political journalist Al Cross told the Louisville Courier Journal that this is the first statewide ad he knows of where a Democrat tried to make the GOP’s opposition to abortion rights and issue. So that’s a pretty big shift.
Nir: I think that Dobbs has allowed for that shift in a very particular way. Before Dobbs, when Roe was still law of the land and Democrats, and in particular, reproductive rights activists would argue and try to raise awareness about what exactly Republicans were intending to do, what the repeal of Roe would mean, most of those pleas fell on deaf ears. It was a real decades-long Cassandra experience. No one believed it. They thought, “Oh, Republicans don’t really mean it.” Republicans themselves would downplay it, and these warnings went unheeded. Now that we are living in this post-Dobbs nightmare, we are seeing the actual impacts, and Republicans and the people who carry water for them in the traditional media can no longer try to hide this stuff or pretend like it’s not happening.
And when we talk about horrifying things like what that prosecutor was talking about in that ad, people know that it’s real. It’s not just some hypothetical anymore. And to me, that just changes the calculus in ways that I think we’ve barely begun to reckon with. But the fact that Democrats feel that they can go on offense in a state as super-conservative as Kentucky on this issue, it suggests to me that Republicans still have a ton of pain left to experience over this issue for many years to come.
Beard: Yeah, and I think we’ve seen that among these middle-of-the-road swing voters that there’s this continuum where at various levels and with various reasons, the support for these specific examples of abortion rights rises or falls. And what Dobbs has done is, it’s taken all these examples where people very strongly believe by a wide margin that abortion rights should be legal, like the example mentioned in the ad, and they’ve brought them into the political sphere when previously, Roe prevented those from having any sort of discussion.
And what Republicans love to talk about are abortions later in pregnancy that are overwhelmingly about important health or medical issues, but they love to use those examples because middle-of-the-road folks are uncomfortable with them. And so now we’re seeing the opposite end of that where middle-of-the-road folks are deeply and understandably uncomfortable with this horrifying example, and Republicans are going to have to face up to that.
Now in another state that is also facing a 2023 gubernatorial election, Louisiana, the Republican Governors Association announced on Friday that it was launching an opening seven-figure TV and digital ad buy attacking Democrat Shawn Wilson’s record as state secretary of Transportation. Often so, that comes at a time when the Republican candidates in the race are mainly focused on hitting one another rather than Wilson. Now of course Louisiana has this unusual election system. They don’t like to have elections on normal days. So the first round of the all-party primary is taking place on Oct. 14, which we’re leading up to now. And then assuming no one gets 50%, which no one is currently close to, there’ll be a runoff in the middle of November that takes place between the top two candidates. So the Republicans are looking to claim that second runoff spot beside Shawn Wilson, who’s the only major Democrat.
And so they’re mostly infighting running ads, criticizing each other. And we saw back in 2015—back in 2019—the same GOP infighting helped Democrat John Bel Edwards win both of those races in those runoffs. So it’s likely that national Republicans are looking to take this action now, to spend this money now, to make sure Wilson doesn’t get to get through the first round unscathed, build up some popularity, and have a chance in the second round.
Despite that, I think it’s still pretty surprising. I think folks broadly thought that Louisiana was the strongest state for Republicans of the three with gubernatorial races, Kentucky, as we mentioned, Mississippi, and Louisiana. So the fact that the RGA felt the need to spend $1 million here surprises me a little bit. Now, as I said, there’re a number of Republicans running serious campaigns here, but I think Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry remains the favorite to advance to that November runoff with Wilson, he’s led the sparse polling that we’ve seen. So we’ll have to see if any Republican can catch up to him between now and mid-October.
Nir: It can often be a little bit difficult to divine the motives behind this kind of spending. If you look back over the years, you’ll find both parties spending what seems to be large amounts of money in otherwise uncompetitive or not especially competitive races. And those races wind up remaining not super-competitive. So there are plenty of motivations why you might do that. If your war chest is really fat, then spending $1 million as an insurance policy? Yeah, that makes sense. Also, a lot of groups—they get money from deep-pocketed, motivated donors with particular agendas that want to see their money spent in certain ways, in certain races, or in certain states. And so sometimes you might see an otherwise inexplicable spending. Well, it could be because someone just particularly cares about that race and they had $1 million to pass through some other big political organization and let them take care of running the ads.
We can’t say what the situation is here. I would like to believe that Republicans are worried because like you said, Beard: 2015, 2019—two times in a row—GOP infighting completely screwed them in Louisiana. And Landry is certainly the most extreme candidate. He is probably going to wind up being their standard-bearer on a certain level: a Wilson-versus-Landry matchup in that November runoff. It’s not great for them. They’re still probably favored. So yeah, I hope they’re seeing some icky polling. That’s what I choose to believe.
Beard: Yeah, we’d love to see that. And of course, thanks to this system, we will see this first-round result. We’ll be able to compare it to what Edwards got back in 2015 and 2019 and see where Wilson shapes up comparatively. And that’ll give us some hint as to what we’re looking for towards mid-November.
Nir: So we’re going to wrap up by talking about a 2024 race. Republicans finally landed a notable candidate for Michigan’s open Senate contest, but like a lot of their other recruits, former Congressman Mike Rogers has a very familiar problem. He has weak ties to his state, and it’s really sort of amazing because Rogers represented Michigan in the state legislature and then Congress for two decades. So you would think that his connection to Michigan should be as tight as they come. The problem is that at some point after he left Congress, almost a decade ago, he moved to Florida. And here’s the thing: He still voted in Florida in 2022, just last year. So you know that if he’s the GOP nominee, Democrats are going to make a huge issue of this, and they have a ton of experience doing so.
Beard: And it’s very common for people from Michigan or other Midwestern states to retire to Florida. That’s fine, but I don’t think they usually then fly back to Michigan and pretend to still be a Michigan resident and then run for Senate. So it’s a little strange. I mean, if he wants to be an elected official, again, there are lots of seats in Florida that will elect a Republican, so he should just run for one of those.
Nir: Yeah, I guess he’s un-retiring back to the upper Midwest. But it’s amazing that this just keeps happening with Republicans. Obviously, everyone remembers Dr. Oz last year and how John Fetterman owned him every single day for trying to run for the Senate in Pennsylvania, despite the fact that he lived in a mansion in New Jersey. But Republicans still cannot seem to find local candidates. And amazingly, as we talked about on a recent episode of “The Downballot,” they’re up to the same thing in Pennsylvania. Once again, rich guy David McCormick left Pennsylvania years ago for Connecticut. He only came back to the state in time for his first Senate bid last year. He still hasn’t announced whether he is going to run again. He still apparently spends much of his time in Connecticut and owns or rents very expensive property there.
In Montana, Tim Sheehy—we’ve talked about him on the show before too. He’s the NRSC’s golden boy recruit, but he only moved to the state from Minnesota in 2014. And Montana is the kind of place where having local roots really, really matters.
And we know this because in 2018, John Tester absolutely sandblasted Matt Rosendale, who had moved to the state from Maryland, and Rosendale in fact is looking likely to run again. You have this funny potential GOP primary between the guy from Minnesota and the guy from Maryland. All the wrong M states.
Beard: Yeah, exactly.
Nir: And I’m not done yet. In Nevada, Sam Brown, another NRSC favorite: he also ran for the Senate last year unsuccessfully, but prior to that, he ran for the state House in 2014—in Texas. Last year when he was running for senate, the Club for Growth dug up audio from that old legislative campaign in which Brown said, “It will literally take an act of God to get me out of Texas. I want Texas to continue to be the greatest place in this country. I’m not going anywhere.” I’d like to know what the act of God was.
Beard: Yeah. The act of God was ambition, presumably because he wants to be a U.S. senator and he knew that was going to be tough sledding in Texas with two incumbent Republicans. Just pick up and move to Nevada. Of course, if there is a state that doesn’t mind that you’ve moved there recently, it probably is Nevada, but still, it’s still a little embarrassing.
Nir: There’s still more though. In Wisconsin, where Republicans still lack anyone substantial to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, they’re waiting on businessman Eric Hovde, who ran for Senate there in 2012. But ever since he seems to have spent an awful lot of time in Southern California. In 2018, he reportedly paid $7 million for a luxurious hillside estate in Orange County.
And a couple of years later, the Orange County Business Journal listed him as one of the 500 most influential people in the county. I mean, that makes me laugh. Five-hundred people in Orange County. How do you decide when you’re getting down into the three-hundreds and the four-hundreds? That’s a long list.
Beard: My understanding of how these lists are made is you decide by who submits their name and pays you some money.
Beard: That’s how you get 500 names.
Nir: Yeah. And that seems to be Hovde’s plan for running for Senate in Wisconsin: Submit your name and spend some money. I know people move around a lot in this country, and I would never say that people who move to a new state and find a home there shouldn’t run for office there. Absolutely not.
To the contrary, if you put down roots and really love your new home, then by all means you should seek to serve. But why do you want to run for office in a state you have minimal ties to? I just don’t get it. What drives these people? Sure, Beard, like you said: ambition. But why not run in a state that you actually have put down real roots in? Whether it’s the state you were born in or actually spend some time getting to know a state. Or maybe unlike schmucks like Mike Rogers, don’t bail on the state and then pretend to come back a decade later.
I mean, this is a country of 330 million people. Why can’t Republicans find candidates whose ties to their states are above reproach?
Beard: Democrats, of course, often get accused of elitism, and I’m not saying that there’s not certain issues there, but I think there’s a real issue within the Republican party of this sort of uber-wealthy elitism where they feel like the rules don’t apply to them.
Like, oh, David McCormick doesn’t live in Pennsylvania. That doesn’t matter. He’s really rich. He’s really rich so he doesn’t have to worry about rules like that. He’ll just spend a lot of money. Convince what they see as rubes in Pennsylvania to vote for him and then he’ll be a senator, as all truly rich Republicans ought to be.
And I think the attitude permeates all throughout the upper echelons of the Republican Party. And that’s why they go around thinking that they could run in whatever state is convenient for them.
Nir: I’m not ready to set out a marker on 2024 just yet, but this map should be even better for Republicans than the map was last cycle. They only need to win one to two seats to take back the Senate. Right now, man, I mean, they have targets, but God, I really just don’t think their chances look that awesome. Maybe I’m going to regret saying that a year from now by November of 2024. But boy, between their candidate recruitment problems, their fundraising problems, their Trump problems, their everything problems—yeah, I wouldn’t feel awesome if I were them.
Beard: Yeah, and of course, there are the three states we’ve talked about—Montana, Ohio, West Virginia—that are red states that Democratic incumbents are of course going to have a tough time in no matter what. But the biggest issue that Republicans have had is their inability to put any of these other purple or slightly blue states into play in a serious way.
And that’s where the candidate recruitment has been so bad. As we’ve talked about, states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona—states where you would think Republicans with strong recruits in a decent year could absolutely win those states. But it’s not really shaping up that way, at least right now. As you said, it’s 14 months away. Who knows what things will look like next year around this time? But they’re really relying on those three red states to carry them because they haven’t been able to do much anywhere else.
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