Republicans didn’t want to start the year like this.
Missouri head of state Roy Blunt on Monday became the fifth Republican senator to announce he does not want to be re-elected, a wave of retirement that will mean a nasty campaign season next year and give Democrats new hope of keeping the unshaven Senate majority.
History suggests that Republicans are still in a good position to reclaim at least one chamber of Congress next year. But officials on both sides agree that the leap in the GOP’s departure will make it harder to challenge Republicans in the Senate.
“Any time you lose a person in office, that’s bad news,” said Republican strategist Rick Tyler, who has worked briefly with Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin for nearly a decade. – Missouri is not necessarily a safe state for Republicans. Democrats won there. ”
The departure of 71-year-old Blunt is reminiscent of how the nation’s politics have shifted since Donald Trump’s rise. Blunt and his retiring GOP colleagues from Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Alabama represent an old guard who fought for conservative politics but sometimes resisted the deeply personal attacks and uneven governance that dominated the Trump era.
Their departure will leave gaps that are likely to be filled by a new generation of Republicans who are more willing to accept Trumpism – or Democrats.
Many Missouri Republicans are expected to seek a nomination to replace Blunt, but none will be more divisive than former Governor Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 amid the sex scandal and the failure to conduct an ethical investigation. The Missouri Republican base has since rallied behind him, believing that he has been unfairly prosecuted.
Greitens was already considering starting the GOP nomination before Blunt announced it. He is expected to announce his candidacy on Tuesday morning.
Two leading Missouri Democrats, former Senator Claire McCaskill and a 2016 Senate candidate for the Senate, both say they are not running for the vacancy.
Prior to Greitens ’announcement, some Republicans worried they could jeopardize the Senate seat if he appeared as a candidate for the party.
Steven Law, one of the key allies of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and CEO of the Senate Leadership Fund, warned that Republicans could start repeating the mistakes of 2010 when the GOP lost the Senate majority by embracing the wrong far-right candidates.
Law specifically quoted Greitens ’threatening announcement.
“We have the opportunity to regain a majority,” Law said. “But in 2010, that opportunity was lost on the side of the Senate because of the non-elected candidates they nominated.”
Back in 2010, tea shop favorite Christine O’Donnell defeated the GOP’s longtime congressional representative in the Delaware Senate pre-election before losing ground in the general election over reports of personal financial hardship, questionable use of campaign funds. witchcraft.”
Two years later in Indiana, Richard Mourdock defeated six-year-old Senate Richard Lugart in the 2012 GOP pre-election, but reported after a debate in which he said rape-induced pregnancy was “God’s intention”. In Missouri, Republican candidate Akin lost after insisting on a local talk show that women’s bodies have a way to avoid pregnancy in the event of “legal violence”.
In the decade since the fall of Akin, Missouri’s policy, like that of the nation, has evolved to provide opportunities for both sides.
States like Missouri, Ohio and Iowa, which are recently considered swinging states, are moving away from Democrats. At the same time, former red states like North Carolina and Georgia are moving away from Republicans.
Missouri has not elected a Democratic senator since McCaskill beat Akin in 2012. Trump bore the state by 15 percentage points last November. Trump took Ohio by 8 percentage points, where Republican Senator Rob Portman does not want to be re-elected next year. The former president won by the same margin in Iowa, where 87-year-old Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is considering retiring.
Democrats are expected to be more competitive in North Carolina, where Trump won by just 1 percentage point, and in Wisconsin, where Republican Senator Ron Johnson follows the campaign’s promise not to earn more than two terms.
Democrats have not lost one of their retirement officials, but are protecting vulnerable incumbents in Georgia and Arizona, among others.
They have no margin of error. Republicans are demanding a majority in the Senate in the last two years of President Joe Biden’s term if they get another seat next November.
The White House party has traditionally suffered significant losses in the first mid-term election of a new president. For example, President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party lost 63 seats in the Senate in 2010 and six seats.
Democrats hope Trump will become an involuntary ally in 2022. The former Republican president has vowed to play an active role in the middle ground, especially by supporting pro-Trump candidates in the primary election. This leaves little room for well-established Republicans such as Blunt, who are popular throughout the country.
“For Republicans, the challenge will be the bottom-up race in the Republican pre-election,” said Morgan Jackson, North Carolina’s leading Democrat strategist. “It’s not about what you say, it’s about how loud and angry you say it.” This is a completely different view of the world. “
Jackson says “it’s a sure bet” – Republicans will win a majority in the House, but are optimistic that Trump’s intervention in the Senate pre-election will help limit Democrat losses.
“Maybe there won’t be a good cycle, but maybe there won’t be a bad cycle,” he said.
JB Poersch, who heads the PAC of the majority of the Alliance of Senate Democrats, noted that Republicans are focusing on the nation’s cultural wars, while Democrats are sending billions of dollars to workers-Americans affected by the pandemic. That opposition will help Democrats, he said.
“There’s a working-family economic argument that Democrats can continue to formulate in the middle of the country, in places like Missouri and Ohio, and stay competitive,” he said.
Meanwhile, at a news conference on Monday, Blunt predicted political success for Republicans in Missouri and beyond. He also reflected on the 2010 election, when Democrats across the country were punished after accepting Obama’s fiscal stimulus and health review.
“I think 2022 will be a great year in the country and I think it will be a beautiful year in this Senate race,” Blunt told reporters. “The Republican Party will be fine.”