GOP struggling to find 2022 Senate candidates as Trump looms over election: report
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Mande Ngan/AFP)

According to a report from the Washington Post, any hope that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has of regaining control of the Senate is being imperiled by the GOP's inability to find what one Republican consultant called "top-notch candidates" to run in what they see as winnable seats.

While the path for Republicans retaking the House appears easier, the split 50-50 Senate appears a tougher nut for Republicans to crack and is being made even more difficult by possible strong candidates staying away because of the undue influence of former president Donald Trump who wants to play kingmaker.

According to the WaPo's Shane Goldmacher, "Senate Democrats are expressing a cautious optimism that the party can keep control of the chamber in the 2022 midterm elections, enjoying large fund-raising hauls in marquee races as they plot to exploit Republican retirements in key battlegrounds and a divisive series of unsettled G.O.P. primaries."

That optimism is warranted because, with the election only a year and a half away, Republicans have been unable to recruit strong candidates, particularly in four key states.

"Four Senate Democratic incumbents are up for re-election in swing states next year — making them prime targets for Republican gains. But in none of those four states — New Hampshire, Nevada, Arizona and Georgia — has a dominant Republican candidate emerged to consolidate support from the party's divergent wings," Goldmacher reported. "Out of office and banished from social media, Mr. Trump continues to insist on putting his imprint on the party with rallies and regular missives imposing an agenda of rewarding loyalists and exacting retribution against perceived enemies. That does not align with Senate Republican strategists who are focused singularly on retaking the majority and honing messages against the Democrats who now fully control Washington."

According to GOP campaign strategist Alex Conant, "The only way we win these races is with top-notch candidates," before lamenting, "Are Republicans able to recruit top-notch candidates in the Trump era?"

Case in point: New Hampshire.

"The party is still trying to find compelling Senate candidates in several states, with Chris Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire, considered the highest priority for recruitment, to challenge Senator Maggie Hassan, a Democrat who raised $3.25 million in the last three months. A bevy of Republican senators have lobbied Mr. Sununu to enter the race, and Senator Rick Scott of Florida, who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, went so far as to ask activists at a conservative conference last week to 'call Chris Sununu' and urge him to run," the report states.

McConnell, for his part, has his own plans but will likely butt heads with Trump who is more interested in people loyal to him than he is in the GOP gaining seats.

According to McConnell, "The only thing I care about is electability," however Goldmacher reports, "Mr. Trump, who is often at cross-purposes with Mr. McConnell, has appeared especially engaged in the Arizona and Georgia races, largely because of his own narrow losses there."

Republican strategist Brian Walsh was blunt in his appraisal of the 2022 election, saying, "The map tilts slightly toward the Democrats just based on the seats that are up," before offering a glimmer of hope to conservatives by adding, "But the political environment is the big unknown, and the landscape can shift quickly."

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