Analysis: How Republicans can still screw up 2022

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And yet, Mitch McConnell is still nervous.

‘People are thinking: Is there a way to screw it all up,’ said Senate Minority Leader said tuesday. “Well, it’s always possible. And so part of my job is to try to keep us from screwing it up by nominating people for the Senate who can win the primary, but not the overall.”

He’s not wrong ! And there are plenty of relatively recent stories that McConnell can cite as evidence of the dangers of picking the wrong candidate.

In 2010, Delaware Republicans opted for an unknown conservative named Christine O’Donnell over longtime GOP politician Mike Castle as their nominee. O’Donnell, who ran an infamous ad declaring she was “not a witch”, lost to Democratic Senator Chris Coons by a wide margin in the general election.

Two years later, Republicans in Missouri chose the then representative. Todd Akin as their contestant. Akin quickly disqualified himself with comments about “legitimate rape”. Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill easily won the general election.

Missouri — past and present — is probably on McConnell’s mind these days. With Republican Sen. Roy Blunt retiring, the current poll favorite in the race is former Gov. Eric Greitens.
The problem? Greitens resigned under pressure in 2018 after admitting an extramarital affair and facing blackmail allegations, which he denied.
“It’s not conservative to tie up a woman in your basement and assault her,” said Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who is also running for the seat, referring to the Greitens scandal. (Greitens told CNN in a recent interview that he did “absolutely” nothing wrong.)

Republicans have expressed concern that if Greitens is their Senate nominee, they could well lose a seat that, based on recent presidential voting patterns, should be easy for them. But many of those same Republicans admit they may not be able to stop Greitens from winning.

While Missouri is clearly the stickiest wicket for McConnell — and Republicans more generally — the disputed primaries in Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina all present some level of political peril for McConnell, depending on who the party chooses to appoint.

Above it all looms former President Donald Trump, who has made it clear he plans to actively participate in the 2022 primary season. Trump and McConnell are already at odds in the Alaska Senate race, per example, McConnell supporting Senator Lisa Murkowski and Trump supporting challenger Kelly Tshibaka.

Point: Things look very good for McConnell and Senate Republicans. But Trump and the grassroots GOP voters loyal to him represent a huge x-factor that could seriously complicate the party’s calculations.

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