Challengers against pro-impeachment Republicans smell blood in the water
Rep. Tom Rice’s (S.C.) loss to state Rep. Russell Fry last week marked the first primary defeat among the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump, invigorating other Trump-backed challengers as the political futures of four more incumbents who voted to impeach hang in the balance.
The marquee race will be Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) versus Trump-endorsed candidate Harriet Hageman, an attorney and former national committeewoman for the Republican National Committee who also has the support of more than 100 House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.).
But before the Cheney-Hageman race on Aug. 16, primaries on Aug. 2 in Michigan and Washington state will test the strength of Trump endorsements against Reps. Peter Meijer (Mich.), Dan Newhouse (Wash.) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.).
Fry’s outright win of the vote in the solidly red South Carolina district encompassing Myrtle Beach came as a surprise to some political observers. Rice outraised Fry and spent nearly three times what Fry did on his campaign. Internal surveys from the Fry campaign and a Trafalgar poll showed Fry with double-digit leads over Rice, though not enough to avoid a runoff. But on primary day, he won 51 percent of the vote.
That could be a good sign for MAGA challengers in the four upcoming races, all of whom can point to bright spots in polls. But not all are well-positioned in terms of fundraising.
A January poll of Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District sponsored by the Democratic abortion rights group EMILY’s List found former Trump political appointee John Gibbs with an initial 13 percent support to 26 percent for Meijer, who was elected in 2020.
But after being informed of Meijer’s impeachment vote and Trump’s endorsement for Gibbs, Gibbs shot to the lead with 37 percent support to 19 percent for Meijer.
Getting that message out, however, takes money, and Meijer — a member of the wealthy and recognizable family whose name is that of an eponymous supermarket chain — is in a better financial position. He had $1.5 million in cash on hand at the end of the last reporting period on March 31, compared with $81,935 for Gibbs.
Still, the Gibbs campaign is “incredibly confident,” campaign manager Taylor Frasier said in a statement.
“Like Tom Rice, Peter Meijer has been a rubber stamp for RINO Republicans his entire SHORT career,” Frasier said.
Meijer, who will face a more Democratic-leaning district if he wins his primary, focused on his military service and legislative resume in his first campaign ad released last week, and is projecting confidence about the race.
“Every district is different, every challenger is different … But we’re very mindful of what we’ve seen in other races,” Meijer told CNN following Rice’s loss last week.
Loren Culp, a former small-town police chief in Republic, Wash., is also severely lagging in fundraising in his race against incumbent Newhouse, despite an endorsement from Trump. Newhouse, who was first elected in 2014, had $928,319 in his campaign account as of the end of March, while Culp had just $23,544.
But internal polls from the Culp campaign make him optimistic about a path to victory.
The most recent poll from April by Spry Strategies found Culp leading the primary field with 28.1 percent support and Newhouse in second place with 22.6 percent support. That would push them to the general election due to Washington’s nonpartisan top-two primary system. Head-to-head, Culp led Newhouse 38.3 percent to 37.3 percent, with a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.
“The electorate is moving to the right and becoming more conservative in this already very conservative district,” Culp said in a statement. “This presents a problem for Mr. Newhouse because he’s lost his base voters who supported Mr. Trump in the 2020 election.”
“Tom Rice’s race is very informative of what is going on across the country — including right here in Washington State,” Culp added.
Newhouse has mostly stayed out of the national spotlight and steered away from Trump-related topics. In a campaign video posted on the front page of his website, he used footage from an April appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show talking about a bill to stop China from buying U.S. farmland.
The Trump-backed challenger in the other Washington race is in a much better financial position.
At the end of the last fundraising reporting period on March 31, retired Green Beret Joe Kent had $1 million, while Herrera Beutler, who was first elected in 2010, had $2 million.
A May poll from the Trafalgar Group found Kent leading the primary field with 27.6 percent to 21.9 percent for Herrera Beutler.
The Cheney-Hageman race will be the most watched and most expensive.
Two recent polls from PACs opposing Cheney show Hageman with a strong lead among likely Wyoming GOP primary voters.
A May 24-25 WPA Intelligence poll sponsored by Club for Growth PAC found Hageman with 56 percent support to 26 percent for Cheney. A June 1-2 poll by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates from Wyoming Values PAC similarly found Hageman at 56 percent support and Cheney at 28 percent.
Cheney, however, has been a fundraising giant. She raised $10.1 million for her race as of March 31 — the seventh-highest sum of all House candidates — and had $6.8 million in her campaign account.
Hageman has raised enough to be very impressive in a typical House race, but lags behind Cheney with $2 million raised and $1 million in the bank at the end of March. She is also being supported by several outside PACs, including the House Freedom Caucus’s PAC.
This month, Cheney aired her first television ads, featuring testimonials from voters calling her a “statesman” and praising her commitment to working on legislation.
Hageman’s ads have focused mostly on her Wyoming roots and President Biden rather than on her opponent.
One GOP member who voted to impeach Trump, Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), did not have a Trump-endorsed primary challenger. Results for his June 7 top-two nonpartisan primary are still being counted, but he is currently in the lead among Republicans to face Democrat Rudy Salas in the general election.
Four of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach are not running for reelection: Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), Fred Upton (Mich.) and John Katko (N.Y.).
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