Dems make risky bets on Trump Republicans

If you gave money to the House Majority PAC, which is linked to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, you probably didn’t want it to help a far-right Trump defense attorney in California’s 22nd District who believes Trump would still be President if the 2020 votes had been “duly counted.”

Or another California Republican candidate in California’s 40th Circuit who traded anti-Semitic tropes while running for the House of Representatives there.

But Democratic PACs, the Democratic Party and fundraisers across the country — from California to Colorado, Pennsylvania to Illinois — are putting Democratic dollars behind far-right Republican candidates in hopes they’ll beat their more moderate Republican counterparts in the primary.

It’s a big gamble, based on the somewhat smug and almost amnestic belief that voters could not possibly support an extremist, racist, conspiratorial or inexperienced candidate – in other words, Trumpy – in a general election. It was the same calculation that Hillary Clinton made in 2016, assuming that elevating someone as “unlikely” and offensive as Trump in the Republican primary would make a general election a no-brainer.

I’ve long said that many in the media took the same approach. The over-reporting of Trump was not just because he was at best entertaining, or at worst genuinely newsworthy for his non-political and unorthodox campaign, but because there was this underlying assumption that the more we uncovered, the worse it would get.

We know how that turned out. So we’ve all learned our lesson, right? Obviously not.

Democrats have spent millions buying ads to push far-right candidates.

Her biggest gamble yet is Doug Mastriano, the Trump-supporting Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania.

In his primary against former Rep. Lou Barletta, Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro ran ads linking Mastriano to Trump, calling him “one of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters” and insisting, “If Mastriano wins, that’s it a victory for what Donald Trump stands for.” It was a clear attempt to elevate Mastriano and bring “Ultra-MAGA” voters to the polls. And it worked.

And it’s a strategy that Shapiro defends. Asked by CNN if it was “irresponsible,” he said, “What we did was start general election campaigning and demonstrate clear opposition…”

Democrats better hope it works. If Mastriano defies their calculation that Pennsylvania could not possibly elect him governor, the fall will be significant.

Among other things, Mastriano is calling for the state’s electoral rolls to be erased and for a state secretary to be appointed who could refuse to confirm elections. whoops

Elsewhere, the Dem plan is working… for now. In Illinois, a PAC supporting Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker is spending millions pushing far-right Senator Darren Bailey over more moderate Richard Irvin. Bailey currently leads that area code by 15 points.

In Colorado, Democrats are pushing Ron Hanks, who marched to the Capitol Jan. 6, over Joe O’Dea in that state’s Senate primary in hopes Hanks will run against Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Hanks is now trending on Google search and social media.

But in two California districts, Democrats’ efforts — and ad buying — have been wasted.

In the state’s 22nd district, the more moderate Rep. David Valadao, who voted to impeach Trump, defeated Chris Mathys. And in the 40th, the more moderate young Kim beat Greg Raths.

One hopes that Democrats will look at their cards very carefully as they venture down this difficult path.

A map from Daily Kos can be particularly revealing. It shows which counties in each state became redder or bluer between 2008 and 2020.

You would assume Democrats have spent money raising far-right candidates in districts and states that have turned bluer in recent years. But the numbers are mixed. For example, CA 22 has become bluer, while CA 40 has become redder.

In Colorado, five counties have turned bluer, while two have turned redder.

In Pennsylvania, a whopping 13 counties have turned redder compared to five that have turned bluer, perhaps good news for Mastriano.

And in Illinois, 12 counties have turned redder while only six have turned bluer.

That much, of course, depends on the population of those counties, but it’s not clear that Democrats have grasped the deep redness of certain parts of the country.

It also seems risky, considering a slew of Trumpy, extremist “fringe” candidates have been elected in recent years, to terrible effect. From Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene to Colorado’s Lauren Boebert to North Carolina’s Madison Cawthorn (recently ousted), there’s living proof that offense is no longer disqualifying.

It’s a dice roll with huge implications. Are their boys elected? Or will the Democrats personally have helped put some of the most extreme, anti-democratic, and dangerous candidates into elected office and positions in which they wield immense power? TBD.

SE Cup hosts SE Cup Unfiltered on CNN.

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