(NewsNation) — Democrats are spending tens of millions of dollars in Republican primaries. The plan, as the Wall Street Journal reports, is to portray fringe GOP candidates as ultra conservative so that after winning the primaries, they’ll lose the general election to swing voters in November.
Joe Walsh, a 2020 presidential candidate and former Illinois congressman, told Leland Vittert such an approach is probably, “smart politics.”
“I suppose they could get burned by it — to run against the most extremist Republican for Governor,” he said.
But this game of political chess is not new. Helping a firebrand conservative win the Republican primary only to turn the tables in November has worked in the past for Democrats.
In 2012, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill’s reelection campaign spent $1.7 million on an ads during the GOP primary focused on the conservative credentials of Republican candidate Todd Akin.
After trailing for the majority of the primary season, Akin’s numbers shot up in the last two weeks of the campaign as McCaskill blitzed the airwaves across Missouri. While he ended up winning the primary, he lost to McCaskill in the general election by a landslide.
The same is being seen by Democratic pockets in primaries across the country: they believe running against the most right-wing candidates is the path to victory come November.
“The Republican party is now a Trump-y party. I think the Roe decision on Friday is going to hurt Republican candidates when it comes to suburban vote and Republicans were beginning to turn that vote around,” Walsh said Monday.
With the June 28 GOP primaries around the corner, here are the three instances this has happened/is happening around the country:
According to Politico, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking GOP primary candidate Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania earlier this year.
Much like McCaskill, the media blitz was a magnet to conservative voters, as it platformed niche, far-right conservative views, like skepticism about the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
Shapiro’s campaign spent $840,000 — a whopping $370,000 more on TV ads compared to Mastriano — marketing him as too conservative for voters and calling him “one of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters”.
The result? He’ll face Shapiro in November.
June 28th’s primaries in Colorado will put the strategy to test again, this time with sights set on conservative state representative Ron Hanks. NPR says a progressive super PAC in Colorado began running ads highlighting his politics in recent weeks, including his undermining the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
At the beginning of the race, Ron Hanks had reportedly raised $57,473 and had $16,165 cash on hand for his U.S. Senate campaign. Democratic ads on Hanks, however, have been upwards to $3.5 million.
His moderate contemporaries have caught on to the ploy. Joe O’Dea, a moderate, released a statement accusing “far-left dark money groups” of “propping up” Hanks before the election.
The Illinois governor’s race is on pace to become the most expensive campaign for a nonpresidential office in American history.
GOP Illinois State Sen. Darren Bailey is arguably as fringe as a GOP candidate can be, as he not only represents the downstate district of farms and forests along the Indiana border, but was endorsed by former President Donald Trump Saturday.
Bailey is pro-gun rights, opposes abortion rights and sued to challenge Gov. Pritzker’s stay-at-home orders during the beginning of the pandemic and won.
“Darren Bailey: southern legislator, farmer, very pro-life, very pro-gun — that doesn’t play in Illinois,” Walsh said.
“You’ve got Chicago, you’ve got the suburbs, you’ve got downstate. Darren Bailey will win downstate, he’ll get destroyed in this city and he’s going to lose the suburbs,” he continued.
Which is exactly why a Democratic incumbent like Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association are spending an estimated $32 million labeling Bailey, as “too conservative for Illinois.”
It’s a plan that’s upended the $50 million backing by Illinois Republican billionaire Ken Griffin, who founded and runs the hedge fund firm Citadel. His money is behind conservative Mayor Richard C. Irvin — a former prosecutor and the first Black mayor of Chicago’s largest suburb.
“Griffin put his money behind a candidate who had no fit in a Republican primary in Illinois,” Walsh said. “The guy wouldn’t would hardly speak to voters, he hardly ever spoke to the media, he wouldn’t answer questions. It was a waste resources. Irvin was a lousy candidate period,” he said.