Will Democrats funding Trump-backed candidates backfire?
Candidates for public office always hope to have weak competition – or none at all. Nothing surprising about that. Voters of one party have been known to cross over to vote for the weaker candidate in the opposition party – generally when their candidate is running unopposed. For the most part, such dirty tricks are marginal.
In recent years, the effort to influence the opposition party’s primary has taken on major proportions. This year all restraints appear to be off. Democrats are spending tens of millions of dollars to support candidates in the Republican primaries. That is “tens of millions of dollars,” in case you missed it.
In some races, Democrat Political Action Committees (PACs) and other party organizations – such as the Democratic Governors Association — are among the major funders. In a Michigan congressional race, Democrats spent more than $300,000 for independent expenditure commercials in support of former Trump administration official John Gibbs — running against incumbent Congressman Peter Meijer, who voted in favor of impeachment. Gibbs won.
As in the Gibbs case, the Democrat money is being used to support candidates endorsed by President Trump. Democrats believe that they will be easier to defeat in the general election. My guess is that Gibbs will win in November.
The Idea of overtly helping Republicans nominate candidates that Democrats believe are easier to beat is not entirely new. I recall the Chicago Democrat machine having their voters cross over to support the perceptively weaker GOP candidates. This was possible because Democrats ran slates of unopposed candidates in their primaries. They did not need the votes.
It was turned into a more established practice – including financial support – by former Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill. She had Democrat donors fund the campaign of GOP candidate Todd Akin — who had made a number of outrageous comments. Akin did win the Republican primary and was easily defeated by McCaskill. It was never clear, however, if the Democrat money changed the outcome.
Since then, the questionable (at least ethically) practice has evolved into a national strategy with hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in support of GOP primary candidates over the years – tens of millions already spent in the 2022 election cycle.
Will that strategy backfire?
The first issue is whether the tens of millions of dollars being spent by Democrats have tipped the elections in favor of the candidates they perceive to be losers?
The answer to that question appears to be in the eye of the beholder. A good argument can be made that the winners of the various primaries would have won without the Democrat funding. And a deeper look suggests that in many cases the Democrat would have won in the November election no matter who the GOP candidate was.
It has been reported that democrats spent more than $1 million in Illinois to throw the GOP primary election to the most conservative candidate, Darren Bailey. He won the primary but was expected to win with or without the Democrat funding. More importantly, it is almost certain that he will be defeated by the Democrat incumbent Governor J.B. Pritzker. Although there is some polling evidence that Bailey will fare better against Pritzker than the losing establishment – so-called moderate – candidate.
There are two issues that have upset many Democrat leaders. First is the obvious waste of money. Those on the left believe that the money would be better spent supporting pro-abortion activities across the country. Many donors complain that their money is being wasted on a dubious strategy with uncertain results.
Then there is the ethical issue. Some Democrats, like strategist James Carville, approve of the strategy – evoking the Democrats longstanding whispered strategy that “you do anything to win.” Others are not in agreement. A number of Democrat officeholders squirm when asked what they think of the strategy. Many call it out as “wrong.”
Many argue that the strategy of funding the opposition creates bad publicity. It just seems unethical to most of the voters – while not even providing the benefits.
And what about the anticipated results to be seen in November – the defeat of all those Republican candidates the Democrats funded? Or … have the Democrats helped pave the way for the election of a lot of Trump supporters?
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough issued that warning on his morning show. He cited 1994, when a lot of right-wing candidates, who did not have the endorsement of the GOP leadership, won both the primaries and the general election – giving the GOP control of the House. Scarborough was one of those candidates. (Yes, he was a conservative Republican congressman from Florida before the lure of New York media money led him into the darkness of his own political apostasy – and before Mika Brzezinski took him to progressive obedience school.)
Time will tell if the strategy works. But I lean to the belief that it will backfire. A lot of the candidates Democrats loath the most will be sworn in January of 2023. In their election night victory speeches, they would be remiss if they did not publicly thank the Democrats for all their support.
So, there ‘tis.