(NewsNation) — Democrat-aligned groups spent tens of millions of dollars backing MAGA Republicans under the assumption that they would be easier to defeat in the general election. Now some of those same races are more competitive than they had anticipated.
In total, Democrats spent more than $53 million boosting right-wing candidates in nine state primaries this year, according to an analysis by the Washington Post.
More than 60% of that money, about $34.5 million, came from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker-aligned groups and went toward elevating Republican gubernatorial candidate — and repeated election skeptic — Darren Bailey, the Post found.
Pritzker is overwhelmingly favored to win his race, but other GOP candidates who received help from the left could have more success.
In Michigan, Democrats spent more than $400,000 on the campaign of John Gibbs, a Trump-backed candidate who has said it’s “mathematically impossible” the former president lost the 2020 election, in the race to represent the state’s 3rd congressional district.
As of Thursday, Gibbs has a 65% chance of defeating Democrat Hillary Scholten, according to Decision Desk HQ. A separate election model from FiveThirtyEight shows a tighter race and gives Gibbs a 44% chance of winning.
Experts say the political gamesmanship is nothing new.
“It’s definitely something that both parties have used in the past trying to interfere in the other party’s primary in order to get what they perceive to be a weaker candidate into the general election,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida.
Progressive activist Nomiki Konst believes Democrats should not be boosting Republican candidates.
“There’s an old rule in politics, never repeat your opponent’s message. And I’ll add to that, don’t use the well-earned donor money that you travel around the country raising all year round, to repeat your opponent’s message. We know in political science what works. It seems like the Democratic party is doing everything they can do at this moment, to not do what works,” Konst said on “Dan Abrams Live.”
In New Hampshire, the Senate Majority PAC aligned with majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., spent $3.2 million on ads helping Republican Don Bolduc defeat his more moderate GOP rival Chuck Morse.
This week, a Trafalgar/Daily Wire poll showed Bolduc with a 1-point lead over incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. Decision Desk HQ still gives Hassan a 67% chance of keeping her seat, but that’s down from 87% just one month ago.
Although the Washington Post did not find evidence that Democrats threw money behind Republican Kari Lake in the Arizona gubernatorial primary, the state’s Democratic Party did campaign against her more moderate opponent via an email blast.
Just weeks before the GOP primary, the Arizona Democratic Party sent an email thanking Lake’s more moderate opponent Karrin Taylor Robson for “years of funding Democrats.”
“It’s always a risk, it’s a gamble,” said Samara Klar, a political scientist at the University of Arizona. “If you’re trying to prop up the candidate you think is most dangerous … you are risking that candidate winning the general election.”
Arizona Democrats might learn that lesson the hard way.
“(Lake) was willing to debate anywhere and everywhere,” conservative radio host and podcaster Ben Ferguson said. “Her opponent refused to debate her in the last days. It made her look weak… and Democrats have been trying to figure out what we did wrong here. It’s not just one thing. They’ve been doing it wrong the entire time.”
Lake, who has repeatedly cast doubt on the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s victory, went on to win her party’s nomination and is favored to win next week’s general election.
Now, Democrats are hoping former President Barack Obama can help get them over the finish line.
Wednesday night in Arizona, Obama called out GOP candidates who have spread unfounded claims of widespread fraud during the 2020 election.
“If you do need one more reason to vote, consider the fact that our democracy is on the ballot and nowhere is that clearer than here in Arizona,” said Obama.
Republicans currently have a 54% chance of controlling the Senate and an 80% chance of controlling the House, according to Decision Desk HQ’s forecast model.