GOP upbeat about Senate chances despite Walker turmoil

Top Republicans enter the final month of the midterm campaign increasingly optimistic that a Senate majority is within reach, even as a dramatic family feud in Georgia clouds one of the party’s biggest pickup opportunities.

And as some Democrats lash out on social media at apparent Republican setbacks, party strategists are privately admitting that their own shortcomings may not be offset by the GOP’s growing challenges.

The evolving outlook is coupled with a stark reality: Democrats have virtually no room for error as they grapple with the weight of history, widespread economic concerns and President Joe Biden’s weak position. There is broad bipartisan agreement that Democrats’ summer momentum in states like Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin has eroded just five weeks before Election Day.

“There is reason to be afraid, not to be gloomy,” said veteran Democratic strategist James Carville. “It seemed like at the end of August we had a little bit of momentum. I don’t know if we have regressed, but we are not progressing in many areas.”

That tepid outlook comes even as Republicans face a series of self-imposed setbacks in states that matter most in the 2022 midterm elections, which will determine the balance of power in Congress and in states across the nation.

None were more striking than Herschel Walker’s runs in Georgia, where the Republican Senate candidate’s son accused him of lying about his personal challenges — including a report from The Daily Beast that claimed Walker was anti-abortion. paid for a girlfriend’s abortion in 2009. Walker called the accusation “an outright lie” and said he would sue, an action his campaign had not taken as of late Tuesday.

“It was all lies,” Christian Walker responded on Tuesday.

The Republican establishment, including the Senate Leadership Fund aligned with Sen. Mitch McConnell, and former President Donald Trump himself remained firmly behind Walker on Tuesday in his bid to oust first-term Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. The Walker campaign also reported a huge fundraiser that coincided with the latest allegations.

“If you fight, people will come to your aid,” said Stephen Law, head of the Senate Leadership Fund and a close McConnell ally, R-Ky.

Law said the Georgia race had become increasingly competitive despite Democrats’ focus on Walker’s personal life. And looking beyond Georgia, Law said the political climate is predictably shifting against the party that controls the White House, as it usually does in midterm elections.

“It certainly looks like voters are returning to a more traditional midterm mindset,” Lo said.

If Republicans win even one Senate seat in November, they would take control of the upper chamber of Congress — and with it, the power to control judicial nominations and policy debates for the final two years of Biden’s term. Leaders of both parties believe Republicans are likely to take over the House.

Even facing such odds, it’s too early to predict a Republican-controlled Congress.

Democrats remain firmly on the offensive and are spending heavily to try to flip Republican-held seats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina. Voter opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision this summer to strip women of their constitutional right to abortion has energized the Democratic base and led to an increase in female voter registration.

Republicans are more focused on Democratic incumbents in Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire and Nevada, though Republican officials believe Trump-backed nominations in Arizona and New Hampshire have limited the party’s pick-up opportunities.

“The Republican candidates running are very extreme,” said JB Poersch, who heads the pro-Democrat Senate Majority PAC. “I think that’s still a Democratic advantage.”

Meanwhile, conditions in the leading battleground states are rapidly evolving.

In Pennsylvania, Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz faced tough new questions this week raised by a Washington Post article about the medical products he endorsed as a daytime TV star. Another news report from the news website Jezebel detailing how its research caused the deaths of hundreds of dogs made waves on social media.

But Democratic officials admit the race has gotten pretty tight as the calendar has shifted to October. And White House officials are concerned about the stamina of Democratic nominee John Fetterman as he recovers from a stroke in May.

“Senate Republicans have had a very rough start to October, but we know every race will be tight and we will continue to take nothing for granted,” said Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, who is leading the Democratic Senate campaign. .

The latest challenges of GOP Senate candidates in Georgia and Pennsylvania dominated social media Monday and Tuesday, according to data compiled by GQR, a polling firm that works with Democratic organizations.

The stories about Walker’s abortion accuser and Oz’s animal research have had the first and second most shares of any news story on Facebook and Twitter since they broke Monday, top content related to the TV show “Sons of Anarchy,” another report on Planned Parenthood mobile abortion clinics and Kanye West news. GQR used the social listening tool NewsWhip, which monitors over 500,000 websites in more than 100 languages, roughly in real time.

In the state of Nevada, Democratic Sen. Kathryn Cortez Masto’s rhetoric has grown more urgent in recent days as she fends off a stiff challenge from former state attorney general Adam Laxalt. Inside the White House, there is real fear that she could lose her bid for re-election, giving Republicans the one seat they might need to claim the Senate majority.

“We have a big problem, man,” Cortez Masto wrote in a fundraising appeal Tuesday. “Experts say our Nevada race could decide control of the Senate – and right now, polls show me 1 point behind my Trump-backed opponent.”

Democrats and their allies continue to hope that the backlash against the Supreme Court’s abortion decision will help them buck historical trends in which the party that controls the White House almost always loses seats in Congress. Democrats, who control Washington, also face deep voter pessimism about the country’s direction and Biden’s relatively weak approval ratings.

The traditional rules of politics have often been broken in the Trump era. In previous years, Republicans might have abandoned Walker. But on Tuesday, they linked hands behind him.

Law, of the Senate Leadership Fund, said he takes Walker at his word that he didn’t pay for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion, despite the apparent evidence of a “Get Well” card signed by Walker and a check receipt.

He said voters believed that “Walker may have made mistakes in his personal life that affected him and his family, but Warnock made mistakes in public life in Washington that affected them and their families.”

However, there were some signs of Republican concern on the ground in Georgia.

Martha Zoller, a popular north Georgia Republican radio host and onetime congressional candidate, told her audience Tuesday that the latest allegations require Walker to relaunch his campaign with a clear admission of his “personal demons” and what has done to overcome them.

“He must fall on the sword. “I was a dog. … And I apologized for that,” he said, detailing the kind of message he thinks Walker needs to give voters. “It would be so refreshing to have someone tell the truth.”

Veteran Democratic strategist Josh Schwerin warned his party against writing off the Georgia Republican.

“I wouldn’t say Walker is done. Over the last couple of cycles, we’ve certainly seen Republican candidates survive things they’re not supposed to survive,” Schwerin said. “There are a lot of close races and the dynamics of this election are hard to predict. Everyone is expecting multiple shifts in dynamics between now and Election Day.”


Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *