With Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) announcing he won't run for re-election in 2022 -- joining four other GOP incumbents who have already announced they will be stepping down -- Republican campaign consultants are worried about more Senate losses after losing control during Donald Trump's last year in office.
In an interview with U.S. News and World Report, one Republican insider looked at some of the potential candidates expected to run for the open nominations and worried they might be unelectable.
In addition to Blunt's seat in Missouri, Republican-held Senate seats in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Alabama are also opening up meaning the Republican Party will lose the built-in advantage of incumbency, meaning more work and money will have to flow into the races than normal.
Case in point, Missouri, with GOP campaign consultant Rick Tyler stating, "Any time you lose an incumbent, it's bad news. Missouri's not necessarily a safe state for Republicans. Democrats have won there."
"Several Missouri Republicans are expected to seek the nomination to replace Blunt, but none will be more divisive than former Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 amid the fallout of a sex scandal and ethics investigation. Missouri's Republican base has since rallied behind him, believing he was unfairly prosecuted," the report states. "Greitens was considering running for the GOP nomination even before Blunt's announcement. He is expected to announce his candidacy as soon as Tuesday morning."
Steven Law, CEO of the Senate Leadership Fund and an advisor to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated he is worried Republicans will repeat the mistakes they made in 2010 when they missed a chance to take control of the Senate.
"We have an opportunity to win back a majority," Law said. "But in 2010, that opportunity was lost on the Senate side because of unelectable candidates who got nominated."
Most vexing to campaign consultants would be a slate of candidates who win primaries by catering to supporters of ex-president Donald Trump.
The report goes on to note that the five GOP senators who have already announced they won't seek re-election may see their ranks swell as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is hedging his bets and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has refused to say what his plans are.
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Members of the Louisiana Republican Party received a "fiery speech" from GOP Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser on Saturday, The Advocate reports.
"In an interview afterward, Nungesser also said his office is being probed by the FBI -- apparently over grants made by his office -- an investigation he claims was ignited by fellow Republicans who see him as a rival," the newspaper reported. "The speech came at the Republican State Central Committee, which comprises the state GOP's infrastructure, in downtown Baton Rouge."
"He blasted the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority, run by U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and Attorney General Jeff Landry, for 'crucifying"'fellow Republicans, and suggested Landry can't win election as governor in the current open primary system because he is too far right on the political spectrum," the newspaper reported. "Nungesser said later his comments were aimed at the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority, which Landry and Kennedy operate with the goal of moving the state Legislature to the right."
How general election nominees are selected is a major source of the disagreement.
"Tensions between Nungesser and Landry -- both of whom are considered likely candidates for governor in 2023 -- have long been simmering, especially over the issue of closed primaries. Louisiana has a unique open primary system that Nungesser wants to preserve. Landry wants to ditch it in favor of a system where Republicans and Democrats separately choose their candidates for the general election," the newspaper explained. "The fight between proponents and opponents of the move has crept into public view in recent months. But Nungesser's speech is the most visceral example to date of the bitterness of the dispute. Nungesser indicated he will run for governor in 2023 as long as Congressman Steve Scalise of Jefferson is not a candidate."
Read the full report.
Efforts by a Georgia Republican to distract from the party's growing racism scandal were fact-checked on MSNBC on Saturday.
"Controversial Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) lashing out in a new statement over attacks of her new effort in Congress that one of her colleagues is labeling the Ku Klux Kaucus," MSNBC's Yasmin Vossoughian reported.
"Ali, I want to start with you because it doesn't seem like Marjorie Yaylor Greene is denying that this exists, just that it's being misrepresented," Voosoughian said to reporter Ali Vitali.
"Yeah, she's not denying it," Vitali replied. "And in fact, she's passing the blame in that statement that you read a piece of, she basically goes on to say that this is not a document that she saw, that it was staff level from an outside group, really passing this off on to her staff, but you also saw that colorful statement, went after the media,that's a narrative that her own spokesman began right after the folks at Punchbowl News broke this document."
Vossoughian also interviewed Punchbowl co-founder John Bresnahan.
He said, "we provided the document to Congresswoman Greene's office before we ran our story. They knew exactly what we were writing and we provided the document to them. They never denied having a role in this group, and they didn't say anything about the document itself."
'We've got vials and vials in our freezer': pro-Trump counties have alarmingly low vaccination rates
On Saturday, The New York Times published an analysis of counties across the United States, revealing a sharp correlation between rates of COVID-19 vaccination and support for former President Donald Trump.
"Using survey data collected in March, the federal government recently created new estimates of hesitancy for every county and state in the United States," reported Danielle Ivory, Lauren Leatherby, and Robert Gebeloff. "In more than 500 counties, at least a quarter of adults might not be willing to get vaccinated, according to the estimates, and a majority of these places supported Mr. Trump in the last election. In the 10 states where the government projected that residents would be least hesitant to get a Covid-19 vaccine, voters chose Mr. Biden in the 2020 election. Mr. Trump won nine of the 10 states where the most residents said they would probably or definitely not get the vaccine."
Many individual cases of vaccine refusal are running rampant in pro-Trump counties, noted the report, are stark.
"In a county in Wyoming, a local health official asked the state to stop sending first doses of the vaccine because the freezer was already stuffed to capacity with unwanted vials," said the report. "In an Iowa county, a clinic called people who had volunteered to give shots to tell them not to come in because so few residents had signed up for appointments. In a county in Pennsylvania, a hospital set up a drive-through in the park, stocked with roughly 1,000 vaccine doses. Only about 300 people showed up."
And health officials are alarmed. "I just never in a million years ever expected my field of work to become less medical and more political," said Natrona County, Wyoming health department officer Hailey Bloom, herself a registered Republican. Sweetwater County, Wyoming health officer Dr. Jean Stachon agreed, saying, "It pains me to think that the governor of Michigan is begging for vaccines, and we've got vials and vials in our freezer."
Polling has found that vaccine hesitancy is strongest among Republicans, especially Republican men.
Trump himself helped put funding into developing the vaccines and was vaccinated himself, but has historically championed anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and spent most of last year downplaying the risk of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hostility to vaccines is now so ingrained in many pro-Trump communities that when Ivanka Trump posted a photo of herself being immunized earlier this week, her Instagram comments were filled with angry people rebuffing her call for people to get the shot.
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