Midterm Memo: MAGA, not mega — Trump dips into campaign coffers
Former President Donald Trump has belatedly jumped into the midterm elections with financial support for Republican Senate candidates he vouched for in the primary but who have since struggled against their Democratic competition.
So far, Trump’s investment is modest as he continues to husband his vast resources, presumably for a 2024 White House bid (surprise, surprise).
Through MAGA Inc., a newly formed super PAC, the former president is scheduled to air $1.2 million worth of television advertising in Arizona for GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters, $954,000 in Georgia for Herschel Walker, $653,000 in Nevada for Adam Laxalt, $1.2 million in Ohio for J.D. Vance, and $829,000 in Pennsylvania for Dr. Mehmet Oz. Considering how late these advertising buys were and the premium outside groups pay for television time, this $4.8 million spend is particularly not a lot of money.
“While it’s great he’s helping someone other than himself, thus far, the investments this late are not that significant in the grand scheme of all the spending going on,” said Nick Everhart, a Republican strategist in Ohio. “This all feels forced and more about saying he did something versus doing something significant and meaningful, which his outside group could have done.”
GOP POLITICAL ALLIANCE WITH CORPORATE AMERICA ON THE ROCKS
Through Aug. 31, Save America, Trump’s primary political action committee, had raised $103.8 million for the 2022 election cycle and reported a war chest of $92.8 million. Under federal election law, there is nothing preventing the former president from spending that money on campaign advertising to boost his endorsed candidates.
Other than Laxalt, who looks strong against Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), the Senate candidates Trump propelled to the nomination earlier this year are still laboring to break free of their Democratic opponents despite a favorable political environment marked by President Joe Biden’s low job approval ratings, skyrocketing inflation, and rising crime.
Among the challenges facing Masters, Walker, Vance, and Oz: lackluster fundraising, hampering their ability to keep up with the Democrats on television. As such, the Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and, of course, the National Republican Senatorial Committee have been under particular pressure to fill the void.
MAGA Inc. spokesman Taylor Budowich declined to discuss the group’s strategy heading into the midterm elections or reveal future advertising purchases. But Budowich was confident that the former president was making a difference with his fresh involvement in GOP efforts to win the Senate majority in November and did not rule out providing more air cover for Trump-backed candidates during the final four weeks of the campaign.
“Republicans across the nation have benefited tremendously from the power of President Trump’s endorsement and his continued support of their campaigns,” Budowich said. “The efforts of MAGA Inc. in 2022 and beyond will ensure the continued success of his America First vision and deliver sweeping Republican victories at the ballot box.”
Now, to the field …
By the #s:
President Joe Biden’s job approval rating: RealClearPolitics — 43%; FiveThirtyEight — 42.4%
Generic ballot: RealClearPolitics — Republicans edging Democrats 46% to 45.3%; FiveThirtyEight — Democrats edging Republicans 45.7% to 44.7%
Direction of the country: RealClearPolitics — Right Track 27.1%/Wrong Track 66.9% (FiveThirtyEight average unavailable)
House ratings change: Per Cook Political Report, the race for the newly created Oregon 6th Congressional District, featuring Democrat Andrea Salinas vs. Republican Mike Erickson, moves from “Lean D” to “Toss Up.”
Utah Senate race. Sen. Mike Lee (R) is favored to fend off independent challenger Evan McMullin and win a third term in November. McMullin is a leading “Never Trump” political operative who mounted a quixotic presidential bid in 2016 to deny the former president 270 votes in the Electoral College.
In any event, despite Republican dominance in Utah and McMullin’s position in the race as the de facto Democratic nominee — Democrats did not field a candidate to make room for McMullin — the contest is interesting enough that Lee was compelled to appear on Fox News and ask Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), again, for his support. “As soon as Mitt Romney is ready to, I would eagerly accept his endorsement. He’s got a big family, and I would encourage all of them to go to LeeForSenate.com and make donations to my campaign,” Lee told host Tucker Carlson during the interview.
Romney, personally wealthy from his career in venture capital, has declined to endorse Lee.
The senator, the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, has said he is friends with both Lee and McMullin and does not want to take sides, publicly, between the two of them. This has piqued the ire of some Republicans, not to mention Lee. They are accusing Romney of stiff-arming his fellow Utah Republican because he is secretly rooting for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to remain in power — or something like that.
“Mike Lee is an outstanding Senator who has been abused, in an unprecedented way, by a fellow Republican Senator from his own State, something which rarely has happened in political History,” Trump said in a statement issued Wednesday.
But curiously enough, Romney is only following a pattern established by Lee. In 2018, when Romney was running for Senate, Lee would not endorse him. Even Trump endorsed Romney in that race. Lee also declined to endorse then-Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in 2012. #oops.
Rhode Island 2nd Congressional District. Republicans could be on the verge of winning a New England congressional district that has been in Democratic hands for years.
According to a new Suffolk University poll conducted for the Boston Globe, Republican Allan Fung led Democrat Seth Magaziner 45% to 37%, with 13% undecided. What’s behind Fung’s lead that has elected and reelected Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) repeatedly since 2000? The strong support he is receiving from independent voters, among other key demographics.
“Allan Fung has a lead in this race due to overwhelming support from men, independents, and older voters,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said in a statement. “He is competitive in the other demographics that he is losing, and the net effect is an 8-point lead overall.”
In the Oct. 1-4 poll, Fung led Magaziner 55% to 30% among men, 57% to 21% among independents, and 50% to 36% among voters ages 65-plus. Magaziner led 44% to 35% among women. The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.
Republicans only need to pick up a handful of seats, roughly, to capture the House majority on Nov. 8. A victory in a seat like this could portend a really good election night for the GOP.
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2024 watch. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) was in Georgia this week to provide reinforcements for Walker after 10 days of disastrous coverage at exactly the worst time as he seeks to unseat Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), a contest considered critical to GOP efforts to win the Senate majority.
Parachuting into Georgia to wave the party flag for Walker was no small thing for Cotton.
Walker, a former professional football player, has been under fire amid allegations he paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion years ago — Walker is a staunch opponent of abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. Having party stalwarts there to show that the GOP is embracing Walker nonetheless is considered critical to his prospects down the stretch.
Cotton’s travels down south are part of a broader effort on his part to boost Republicans on the 2022 ballot as he lays the foundation for a possible 2024 presidential bid. Last week, the senator was in Colorado to campaign for the party’s Senate nominee there, Joe O’Dea. Next week, he’s headed to Pennsylvania to stump for Oz.