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Republicans prepare for 2022 losers to take another shot at winning

Midway through 2022, a number of far-right candidates secured primary victories with the backing of former President Donald Trump – only to blow key races with a general electorate that viewed them as too extreme.

And now Republicans are nervously preparing for many of them to run again.

At least four of those candidates who ran and lost in 2022 let it be known that they are interested in running again in 2024 – or have already announced nominations. They test the party’s commitment this cycle to emphasizing “candidate quality” and offering Democrats a silver lining as they navigate a tough Senate map and a narrow field of swing house races.

Jim Marchant, the failed GOP secretary of state in Nevada, recently launched his campaign to challenge a Democratic Senate incumbent. Kari Lake, who narrowly lost his Arizona gubernatorial bid last fall and continues to lose court battles challenging the results, is set to join him in a 2024 Senate bid.

Many party leaders breathed a sigh of relief Thursday night when Doug Mastriano, a far-right senator from Pennsylvania who decisively lost his gubernatorial race last year, announced he would not launch campaign in the Senate.

But at the House level, Republicans Joe Kent in Washington and JR Majewski in Ohio — two MAGA-aligned candidates who hugged Trump but failed in districts where Republicans were favored — have already launched their next offers. Others may soon join us.

All of these candidates have placed Trump’s bogus claims of a stolen election at the center of their campaigns, helping them through contested primaries but putting them at a disadvantage to independents in the general election. Their defeats have led some party leaders to suggest they could take a more active role in the primary process.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., chairman of the Republican National Senate Committee, told NBC News in an interview last month that Republicans must appeal to voters “beyond the Republican base” in order to secure victories. next fall – something he says will build in part on a campaign about “looking into the future, not looking in the rear-view mirror or the past”.

“Winning elections is about addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division,” he said. “And so that’s something that every candidate has to look in the mirror and say, ‘Am I a candidate who can rally the Republican base first and also extend an appeal to independent voters? This is the recipe.

Recently, Lake met with Daines and six other Republican senators to discuss his potential Senate bid, a national Republican strategist said. Daines said he asked potential candidates to share with him a plan for how they could win both a primary and a general election.

Daines, who backed Trump last month, thinks the former president will come in handy with who he does or doesn’t support in the primaries. But last year it was Trump who helped elevate many of those candidates through contested primaries with his endorsement sought.

Trump’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment on whether he would support any of those same candidates this time around.

Kari Lake speaks in National Harbor, Md., on March 5.Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images File

Terry Sullivan, who was campaign manager for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, said that while many candidates improve in a second run, there were “a lot of really shitty candidates in the last time”.

“And if you’re just a fundamentally flawed candidate the first time you run, you’re still a fundamentally flawed candidate the second time you run,” he said, adding, “You always have had some weird candidates running no matter what. And the difference now is they’re kind of getting more oxygen than they ever did in the past, and they’re actually winning primaries .

Rather, what concerns Republicans most about some of these candidates is, as Daines said, an insistence on re-running the 2020 (and possibly 2022) election.

That seems unlikely to change. For example, Lake announced on Tuesday that she would ask the Supreme Court to hear her latest case seeking to overturn her 2022 loss at the hands of Katie Hobbs, then Democratic Secretary of State for Arizona.

“I think if Kari could recalibrate her message away from stolen campaign claims, she has enough raw political talent to make this race competitive,” the Republican national strategist said.

But that was not transferable to other 2022 losers seeking Senate seats this cycle.

“No,” this person replied. “I think it’s specific to Kari Lake.”

In a statement, Lake said, “Electing Republicans from the top down is undoubtedly what is needed to save our great nation,” adding a “stay tuned” request for a “major” announcement in the weeks.

Marchant did not respond to a request for comment.

Democrats have mostly remained silent on the developing GOP primary field, but outside groups have left the door open to promoting more extreme candidates they see as easier to beat, just as some Democrats have did the previous cycle. In Nevada, Democrats have already started targeting Marchant, pointing to comments he made on a webcast earlier this year that appeared to endorse military intervention in the 2024 vote.

“There has never been a greater gap between the type of candidates Republican primary voters are asking for and the types of candidates general election voters will accept,” said Democratic strategist Rich Luchette. “Republicans underperformed midterm because they nominated people who want to curtail women’s reproductive rights, cut Medicare and Medicaid, and support right-wing political violence, including the Jan. 6 seizure of the Capitol. “

JR Majewski, Republican candidate for U.S. Representative for Ohio's 9th congressional district, speaks during a campaign rally in Youngstown, Ohio on Saturday, September 17, 2022.
JR Majewski in Youngstown, Ohio last year.Tom E. Puskar/AP File

Among competitive home races, few Republicans have been more frustrated than last year’s battle in Toledo, Ohio, where longtime Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur was seen as vulnerable in a 9th congressional district. redesigned to be more friendly with the GOP.

Majewski – an Air Force veteran who before winning his party’s nomination was best known for painting a Trump banner on his lawn – lost to Kaptur by 13 points, his campaign scuttled by a report from the ‘Associated Press that he misrepresented his military service. Others on the ground in the district complained of what they saw as a lazy and unruly campaign that failed to activate grassroots voters and take advantage of Kaptur’s weaknesses.

Undeterred, Majewski is aiming for a rematch in 2024. GOP leaders in Ohio and nationally are fretting over a scenario in which his recent familiarity with voters spells the fate of a crowded primary and the prevent you from landing a winnable seat.

“I can support a MAGA candidate who can win if he does something right, if he brings something to the table to help him get elected,” said an unaffiliated Republican official from the 9th District of Washington. ‘Ohio who requested anonymity to speak candidly. This person added that a Majewski nomination “unquestionably” locks in a GOP loss.

Another Republican agent involved in races across Ohio joked that it was time for Majewski to “repaint the lawn, not re-announce a campaign.”

Majewski did not respond to a request for comment.

FILE - Republican candidate Joe Kent waits before taking the stage for a candidates' debate Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 in Vancouver, Washington.  Kent is seeking election in Washington's 3rd congressional district in the November 8, 2022 election.
Republican candidate Joe Kent in Vancouver, Washington, last year.Rachel La Corte / AP file

In Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, Kent, who has promoted Trump’s bogus claims of a stolen election and suggested without evidence that his own defeat may have been illegitimate, thinks 2024 will be far more favorable to him than his latest bid. . Kent managed to defeat the then representative. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., in a primary last year after voting to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, only to lose to Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in a district leaning toward the right.

In a recent memo provided to NBC News, Kent’s campaign argued that his 2022 loss was because he spent heavily in the primary and because his general election opponent did not yet have a record in the Congress against which he could run. This time, he doesn’t have an incumbent to face in a primary and can go on the attack against a Democratic rival who has a record “to expose,” the memo says.

“Every hurdle I faced in 2022 has been lifted for 2024: running against a same-party incumbent, facing a deluge of establishment-backed attack announcements in the primary, running out of funding for DC Republicans in the general election, depress voter turnout for rural Republicans, and a Democratic opponent who didn’t have the radical voting record then that she has now,” Kent said via email.

He added that his narrow loss was well within the district’s typical right turn during presidential years.

“We have good reason to be optimistic for 2024,” he said.

That’s not the only thing about the presidential cycle that could work in favor of some of these candidates. As Sullivan said, a presidential cycle means many more reporters will focus on Des Moines and Manchester, New Hampshire, rather than Pittsburgh and Phoenix.

“You’re going to get a lot less media attention across the board,” he said. “The way it will be covered is fundamentally different.”


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