The 2018 election map looks marvelous for Republicans. The Republicans only have to play defense in Nevada, and can put the Democrats on defense across the map. Out of the 25 Democrat-held Senate seats up for re-election, President Trump won ten of the states and lost two more by razor-thin margins. Surely the Republican Party is gearing up for a monumental election season. Surely the Republican elites are preparing to challenge Democrats in all twelve of those states. Surely the establishment is saving its money and wisely spending it to target Democrats. Lest we forget, these are D.C. Republicans?
On Tuesday, the Alabama electorate sent shockwaves through the Republican establishment elites of the nation. The underfunded challenger, Judge Roy Moore, soundly defeated the cash-rich incumbent, Sen. Luther Strange, in the Republican primary by over nine points. Strange didn’t just raise more money, he had the entire establishment behind him, including a few very powerful PACs.
The Senate Leadership Fund is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) personal PAC. For this race, it doled out over $7.9 million for Strange according to Issue One, a nonprofit that analyzes money spent on elections. In total, over $30 million was spent by outside groups and the RNC to re-elect the establishment incumbent. This begs the question, why would Republican-leaning groups spend millions in a Republican primary?
For some unknown reason, it was believed that Moore would have a tough time in the general election. This is the same man that was twice elected to the Alabama Supreme Court. This is also in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat state-wide since 2008 and hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992.
Now that the primary is over, surely we can all get along?
The McConnell fund issued the following statement, “We are proud to have fought alongside President Trump and the NRA in support of a dedicated conservative who has loyally supported this President and his agenda. Senator Strange can hold his head high knowing that he played a critical role in cleaning up the corruption in Montgomery, confirming President Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, and strongly supporting the President’s priorities on border security and repealing Obamacare. While we were honored to have fought hard for Big Luther, Judge Roy Moore won this nomination fair and square and he has our support, as it is vital that we keep this seat in Republican hands.”
Despite the statement of support, McConnell’s fund still has negative stories about Judge Moore on its website, so it’s kind of hard to take them seriously.
If McConnell does wish to be taken seriously, we can expect millions to be poured into the state for Moore. After all, according to leadership, it’s going to be a tight race.
Aside from wasting millions, Republican leadership now has another problem. Because McConnell went negative against fellow Republicans, the damage must now be undone. McConnell constantly pushed negative stories about Moore and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) from uber-liberal progressive news sources, in effect doing the work of the Democrats. McConnell attempted to poison the electorate to get the win. Now other PACs must come in behind leadership and spend money to rehab the image destroyed by the Republican elites.
At this point, donors have to be asking themselves, “Is my money being well spent?”
Aside from the race being a fiscal disaster for the Republican elites, the defeat has changed the landscape for the remaining incumbent Republican Senators.
In a statement, Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning blasted the development, saying, “Republican primary voters are sick of the do-nothing status quo which is leaving Obamacare intact, and sitting Republican Senators will face the brunt of this intraparty anger as we’ve already seen.”
Chris McDaniel is looking at Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Kelli Ward is looking at Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Danny Tarkanian is looking at Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). Are Republican leaders willing to spend more money defending incumbent Senators from primaries in safe Republican seats than winning new seats?
The 2018 election map does look great for Republicans unless you are an incumbent. If an incumbent Senator is supported by McConnell and Republican leadership, that Senator is seen as part of the problem by the grassroots. The millions being doled out by leadership funds are seen as a signal to the base, that person is part of leadership. Republican leadership should recognize how their base feels about them and spend their money wisely. Concentrate on winning new seats, and let the primary process play itself out, otherwise, your one-million-dollar donation to an incumbent will do more harm than good.