Donald Trump's much-discussed CNN “town hall” may have drawn cheers from his deplorable MAGA base, but congressional Republicans are already shedding tears over it.
Not only did Trump's gross display of misogyny-laden grievances arm Democrats with 70 minutes’ worth of attack ads on both Trump and Republicans, it's also killing the Republican Party's ability to recruit candidates with any reasonable shot at winning over swing voters, according to Politico.
In Colorado, House Republicans are currently trying to recruit construction executive Joe O'Dea to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo in a swingy district that went for Joe Biden by 5 points in 2020. In Pennsylvania, Senate Republicans are urging former hedge fund manager David McCormick to make a bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.
The two Republicans have a lot in common. O'Dea was much ballyhooed in 2022 for his moderate crossover appeal to swing voters, but still lost to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett by a whopping 15 points. "Joe O'Dea lost BIG!" celebrated Trump, who was irked by O'Dea's refusal to say the 2020 election was stolen.
O'Dea would face two serious deficits in a Republican primary: his refusal to back Trump's stolen election lie about 2020 and his pretzel-twisting on reproductive freedom. But even if O'Dea somehow survived the Republican primary, Trump's MAGA brand in blue-leaning Colorado will likely be toxic—just like it was when O'Dea face-planted in last cycle's Senate race. After all, just last week, independent candidate Yemi Mobolade won the race for Colorado Springs mayor, becoming the first Black mayor in the conservative city’s history and ending decades of Republican-only rule.
One O'Dea ally laughably posited: “The question is: Does the party want to move on and win and govern or do they want to look backwards?”
Judging by this recent poll from Morning Consult on the 2024 Republican primary, a majority of Republican voters are not ready to move on just yet. Trump’s domination is largely unchallenged, winning 58% of the vote with No. 2 Ron DeSantis trailing Trump by 38 points at 20% (consistent with other recent surveys).
McCormick, who made a midterm run for the Keystone State's open Senate seat, was the Mitch McConnell-wing's preferred candidate but didn't even make it past the primary. Instead, Trump's handpicked candidate, TV huckster Mehmet Oz, edged out McCormick by a razor-thin .1% (951 votes) before losing to the Democrat John Fetterman in the general election.
Trump's death grip on the Republican Party arguably sealed the fate of both candidates. Now, as congressional Republicans go back to the well, both candidates share the same chief concern: Donald Trump, the scourge that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies failed to neutralize when they had the chance following his impeachment for stoking the Jan. 6 insurrection. The CNN special served as a trenchant reminder of the mountain they will have to climb in 2024 to prevail.
For McCormick, Trump is "the only thing that they’re talking about,” one Republican close to the campaign anonymously told Politico.
Not issues, not policy ideas, just Trump.
One Republican willing to talk on the record was anti-Trumper and former Rep. Barbara Comstock, a onetime Republican rising star whose career was kneecapped in 2018 when she lost her battleground suburban district in the blue-wave backlash to Trump.
“Some people have asked me, ‘Should I run next year?’ If you’re in a swing district, I said, ‘No,’” Comstock advised. “If he’s going to be the nominee, you are better to wait and run after he washes out. Because you won’t have a prayer of winning.”
In fact, Politico noted some Republican operatives are telling candidates to take a pass on this cycle and instead opt for a 2026 run "when Trump may be done seeking elected office."
It's almost as if Republicans, who keep hoping Democrats would neutralize Trump for them, have set their sights on a possible criminal conviction to save them from their cowardice two cycles down the road.
In the meantime, Trump is still killing another cycle for Republicans—even in a year when the Senate map should be rife with Republican pickup opportunities.
Hell yeah! Democrats and progressives simply crushed it from coast to coast on Tuesday night, so co-hosts David Nir and David Beard are devoting this week's entire episode of "The Downballot" to reveling in all the highlights. At the very top of the list is Jacksonville, where Democrats won the mayor's race for just the second time in three decades—and gave the Florida Democratic Party a much-needed shot in the arm. Republicans also lost the mayor's office in the longtime conservative bastion of Colorado Springs for the first time since the city began holding direct elections for the job 45 years ago.