Baltimore Sun

Trump may hand Senate to Dems again

- Carl P. Leubsdorf

Nineteen months ago, Donald Trump’s fixation on unproven allegation­s of election fraud played a major role in the Republican­s’ loss of two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia and, with them, their Senate majority.

Now, the former president appears to be handicappi­ng the GOP’s effort to regain that majority. He has helped nominate several conservati­ve political neophytes with questionab­le general election prospects in the closely contested states that decided the 2020 presidenti­al election.

That dynamic was on display Tuesday when Arizona Republican­s chose Blake Masters, a self-styled culture war fighter who has adopted Trump’s combative style, to run against freshman Sen. Mark Kelly, one of the more vulnerable 2022 Democrats. Masters, with Trump’s backing, defeated businessma­n Jim Lamon and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

Polls have shown Kelly, one of the bestfunded Democratic incumbents, with a lead.

At the same time, the GOP may have gotten a break Tuesday in Missouri when the state’s controvers­ial former Republican governor, Eric Greitens, lost the senatorial primary to state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a more mainstream Trump backer who will be a heavy November favorite. Though Trump endorsed both Erics, many close to him backed Greitens, who resigned after a sex scandal in 2017.

Three months before the Nov. 8 midterm elections, Republican­s remain favored to upend the narrow Democratic majority in the House, though some recent polls show Democratic gains. But the Senate is far more in doubt.

A major reason is that Republican prospects are dimming in six key states, including four where Trump spurred the GOP to nominate conservati­ve newcomers. Besides Arizona, they include Ohio and Pennsylvan­ia, where the GOP is defending seats vacated by retiring Republican­s, and Georgia, where Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is trying to hold the seat he narrowly won in January 2021.

The other two are battlegrou­nd states where Trump strongly supports the GOP candidate — Wisconsin, where Sen. Ron Johnson is seeking a third term, and Nevada, where freshman Catherine Cortez Masto is regarded as one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, along with Kelly and Warnock.

Republican­s probably need to win four of those six seats to regain the majority they lost in those two Georgia elections.

In Ohio, Republican­s are increasing­ly concerned that author J.D. Vance, who

won the May GOP primary with Trump’s support, is being outraised financiall­y and out-campaigned by Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, a moderate who has long been critical of the Democratic Party hierarchy.

They are running to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

In Pennsylvan­ia, Republican­s fear television personalit­y Mehmet Oz is off to a slow start in his bid to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey.

A narrow primary winner, Oz has faced questions about his dual U.S.-Turkish citizenshi­p and whether his actual residence is in Pennsylvan­ia or New Jersey.

His Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, suffered a stroke on the eve of the May primary and was off the campaign trail until recently. But polls show him with about a 10-point lead.

Another Republican celebrity candidate encounteri­ng early problems is the former Heisman Trophy-winning University of Georgia football star, Herschel Walker, whom Trump recruited to oppose Warnock. Walker, who was living in the Dallas area until he started running, has given imprecise answers to questions

about his policy positions, personal relationsh­ips and number of children.

Polls show Warnock slightly ahead. Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who overcame Trump’s opposition in the GOP primary, is leading Democrat Stacey Abrams in their rematch of the 2018 race won by Kemp.

In Wisconsin, polls show Johnson, another outspoken Trump ally, in a close reelection race against Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. Barnes would be Wisconsin’s first African American U.S. senator.

Finally, in closely contested Nevada, another state that Trump narrowly lost in 2020 (like Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvan­ia), freshman Democrat Cortez Masto is trying to fend off former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt.

Senate races are not the only places where Trump’s strong GOP primary influence may be created general election problems for Republican­s.

In Michigan, Tudor Dixon, a conservati­ve media personalit­y backed by Trump, won the GOP primary but faces an uphill race against Democratic Gov. Gretchen


Two of three Republican House members apparently survived pro-Trump challenges stemming from their votes to impeach the former president after the Jan. 6, 2021. riot at the U.S. Capitol. Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state are both favored in November in their heavily Republican districts. The loser was freshman Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan.

In Kansas, Kris Kobach, a key figure in Trump’s failed voter fraud commission, won a comeback bid in a GOP primary for state attorney general. At the same time, Kansas voted overwhelmi­ngly to keep a state constituti­onal provision recognizin­g legalized abortion in the first major voter test of the issue since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

With a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll showing the issue is energizing Democratic voters, abortion looms as a potential problem for Republican­s in November. So does Donald Trump.

 ?? ROSS D. FRANKLIN/AP 2021 ?? Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., above, will face Blake Masters, who was backed by former President Trump, in November.
ROSS D. FRANKLIN/AP 2021 Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., above, will face Blake Masters, who was backed by former President Trump, in November.
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