How Democrats Quietly Meddled in GOP Senate Recruitment

Trump gloated. “Smart move, Doug,” he said in a statement.

By the time their vicious primary season ended, Republicans had nominated five political novices backed by Trump: Blake Masters, a hard-edge venture capital executive, in Arizona; Don Bolduc, a far-right retired Army officer, in New Hampshire; Herschel Walker, a troubled former football star, in Georgia; Mehmet Oz, the celebrity surgeon, in Pennsylvania; and J.D. Vance, the “Hillbilly Elegy” author, in Ohio.

All struggled to raise money, build campaign infrastructures or appeal to independent voters. Only Vance won outright, with Walker’s race heading to a runoff next month.

In August, McConnell griped publicly about the “quality” of the candidates that Trump had saddled him with, amid a running feud with Scott over tactics, strategy and money.

Republicans are now having a public throw-down about just whose fault it is that they lost the Senate. Conservative elites are blaming Trump; his allies are blaming McConnell; Scott and McConnell’s allies are blaming one another.

There’s plenty of grist for each side, but the case against Trump and his collection of “goofball” candidates, as McConnell privately called them, seems stronger.

In the first nine months of 2022, Republicans in eight battleground states raised $140 million less than their Democratic counterparts. That forced the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC close to McConnell, to try to pull the G.O.P. candidates’ “chestnuts out of the fire,” as Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana put it, with nearly $260 million in spending across eight states.

Even so, Democrats were still outspending Republicans in most battleground races — and lashing them with attack ads portraying them as venal, phony and extreme on abortion.


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