Democratic Ratfucking Worked
Boosting weak candidates in the Republican primaries paid off.
Two months ago, in my post “Democrats Funding MAGA Primary Candidates,” I questioned the practice of the party pouring millions into boosting election deniers and crazies in Republican primaries, noting that I found it not only “odious and undemocratic” but a tactic that risked backfiring.
HuffPo’s Kevin Robillard reports that it did not.
On election night, those risky bets paid off. All six of the election-denying candidates on the ballot whom Democrats boosted ― three gubernatorial candidates, two House candidates and a Senate candidate ― lost, most of them resoundingly.
The strategy was met with scorn and incredulity from “never Trump” Republicans. Other Democrats from across the party’s ideological spectrum said the strategy was unwise, immoral or both. Thirty-five former Democratic elected officials signed a letter suggesting the party was playing with fire.
“Our democracy is fragile, therefore we cannot tolerate political parties attempting to prop up candidates whose message is to erode our dedication to fair elections,” the officials wrote in August.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Prtizker, a billionaire businessman, was the first to deploy the strategy, pouring tens of millions of dollars of his own money into the Democratic Governors’ Association, which aired ads boosting ultra-conservative state Sen. Darren Bailey in the primary. As of midnight on Tuesday, Prtizker was winning his race by roughly 14 percentage points.
Democrats used similar tactics to ensure Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Maryland state Del. Dan Cox would win gubernatorial primaries they were likely to win anyway. Both ultra-conservative candidates ran nearly nonexistent general election campaigns, and Democrats romped in the two mid-Atlantic states.
The most important involvement may have been in the U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire. After establishment Republicans began airing ads attacking retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, the main Democratic super PAC, Senate Majority PAC, began airing ads designed to boost him and attack Republican Chuck Morse.
Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan was considered vulnerable in the Granite State, but after hammering Bolduc for a variety of extreme comments and positions on everything from abortion rights to the FBI to the opioid epidemic, she ultimately cruised to an 11-point victory, a margin better than President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential win over Trump.
Finally, Democrats worked to get weaker candidates in two House seats. They pushed Bob Burns in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District, which covers the state’s western half and is the more Democratic of the two congressional districts. Rep. Annie Kuster ended up romping, with a 16-percentage-point lead as of 2 a.m. EST Wednesday.
The final district where Democrats interfered may have seen the most hubbub. Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), a military veteran and heir to a grocery store fortune who represented a district based around Grand Rapids, had become a darling of “never Trump” Republicans after supporting Trump’s impeachment. Democrats boosted his opponent, John Gibbs, with ads in the primary, spending more on the spots than Gibbs had managed to raise himself.
On Wednesday morning, The Associated Press called the district for Democrat Hillary Scholten.
Granted, we’re talking only six contests, two of which may well have gone the same way without Democratic interference. Still, that it not only didn’t backfire but could conceivably make the difference in retaining the Senate, makes it more likely to be a more common practice in future elections.