I’m of two minds about this. As is every other Never Trumper.
My pal Guy Benson got in hot water on Twitter last night when he tweeted his disgust at Meijer’s defeat and the Democratic cynicism that contributed to it.
Very disappointing. I have deep admiration for @RepMeijer, who will leave office with dignity. Dems chose to pour big $ into this race on behalf of Gibbs — weaponizing Meijer’s ‘country over party’ (by their standards) vote against him. And enough R voters went along. https://t.co/HxFXYwp7hI
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) August 3, 2022
It’s true, Democrats did pour money into the race to help Gibbs — much more money, in fact, than Trump spent on the MAGA candidate. “The DCCC’s ad buy was more than Gibbs raised over the entire duration of his campaign,” Meijer complained in an op-ed a few days ago. “It was also nearly 100x the support Donald Trump himself offered to Gibbs (a single $5,000 contribution from the Save America Super PAC).”
The ad that the DCCC ran promoting Gibbs also conspicuously didn’t highlight his nuttier aspects. To the contrary, it mainstreamed him.
There’s nothing in there about election crankery or accusing Democrats of Satanic rituals. The strongest hint that Gibbs is fringy is that he’s endorsed by Trump. Which, as much as it grieves me to say so, isn’t “fringe” in a Republican primary or in America writ large. A guy who got 74 million votes in 2020 is firmly mainstream.
This wasn’t a case, in other words, of Democrats playing up the kook factor and then daring GOP voters to support it. This was the DCCC presenting Gibbs as a respectable conservative choice to undecideds who may not have been thrilled with Meijer’s impeachment vote but were otherwise open to supporting him.
I don’t know of a single Never Trumper who supports what they did. The strategy *was* successful in elevating a Republican whom it’ll be easier for Dems to beat this fall…
I've seen enough: Trump-endorsed John Gibbs (R) defeats pro-impeachment Rep. Peter Meijer (R) in the #MI03 GOP primary and will face Hillary Scholten (D) in November.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) August 3, 2022
…but the right’s Trump critics don’t want to see a Democrat win that seat. They want to see Meijer hold it, and not just because that would prove that supporting Trump’s impeachment wasn’t a career-ending vote. America needs many more public servants like Meijer who’ll do the right thing when it’s obviously the right thing to do, whatever the consequences for his career. He deserved to win. Democrats made it harder. And the margin was close enough (3.6 points) that a plausible argument can be made that their intervention really did meaningfully affect the race.
Adam Kinzinger ably articulates the Never Trump reaction to Dems this morning. Disgust, plain and simple:
“Democrats own that."
Rep. Adam Kinzinger on the GOP primary defeat of Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican who voted to impeach President Trump.
“The DCCC needs to be ashamed of themselves," he says. pic.twitter.com/7Pul80RvJM
— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) August 3, 2022
As David Axelrod put it a few days ago, the DCCC made itself an instrument of Trump’s vengeance against a pro-impeachment Republican. This afternoon the NYT is running an editorial describing the strategy as “A Cynical New Low for Democrats.” At this point I’d give the DNC 50/50 odds of running pro-Trump ads in the 2024 primary if Ron DeSantis looks like he stands a real chance to win.
So yeah, Benson’s right that Democrats have behaved contemptibly.
Trump critics aren’t in the mood to hear how it’s the left’s fault that the GOP base continues to support election truthers, insurrectionists, and cranks various and sundry. Three different “stop the steal” candidates won in Arizona last night — Blake Masters, (probably) Kari Lake, and secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem — and I’m not aware of Democrats running ads for any of them. Doug Mastriano was likely already en route to victory in Pennsylvania before his Democratic opponent, Josh Shapiro, aired an ad on his behalf. *Maybe* the DCCC’s ad for Gibbs succeeded in mainstreaming him among GOP voters who don’t normally vote for fringe populists.
But maybe it didn’t matter. Maybe the fact that Meijer voted to impeach the cult leader was all the voters in his district needed to know to toss him out. There never has been and, God willing, never will be an impeachment vote against a president as righteous and justified as the one Meijer cast on January 13 of last year, yet the GOP voters of his district punished him for it by taking away his job. That’s not a function of Democratic chicanery or GOP voters “going along” with it. It’s proof of Republican moral rot.
"enough R voters went along" whine about the DCCC all you want, the core problem is that candidates like Gibbs are what Republican voters want https://t.co/xIAv3hNISP
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) August 3, 2022
Exactly. Both things can be true.
1. It was wrong/gross for Dems to boost Gibbs against Meijer, a decent, sane Republican.
2. Republican voters don’t want sane. They chose Gibbs fair and square because he was the Trumpiest. Dems aren’t reshaping the GOP. GOP voters are. https://t.co/6Ik7Gc6tSb
— Sarah Longwell (@SarahLongwell25) August 3, 2022
radical lunatic candidates are winning because gop voters want radical lunatics and want to punish anyone who won’t indulge them. you can’t buy that with money, only with power.
that said, trying to buy it anyway is a real dipshit move.
— kilgore trout, death to putiner (@KT_So_It_Goes) August 3, 2022
Despite the Democrats’ bankrolling of Gibbs, Meijer and his allies still handily outspent the challenger. In the end it didn’t matter, as his status as a Trump enemy was insurmountable.
Remember that Liz Cheney has been raking in cash this year, much of it from Democrats, for her own primary against Harriet Hageman. As of two weeks ago, Hageman had around $1.4 million in the bank to spend on the race; Cheney had $7 million, easily an all-time record for a Wyoming House race. Yet she’s going to be obliterated anyway in her primary two weeks from now. Money just doesn’t matter (much) anymore, as all of the Democrats who raised gigantic sums in 2020 and then got destroyed in their Senate races might tell you. If you’re a Republican who’s made yourself a well-known enemy of Trump, your career is almost certainly over regardless of how much you or your opponent spends.
Christian Vanderbrouk makes a smart point in reply to those who blame Meijer’s defeat on Democrats. Where was the establishment Republican support for Meijer to help counter Gibbs’s support from Trump and the DCCC?
Meijer lost primarily because he was abandoned by his own party.
Who were his top campaign surrogates? Did GOP leaders rally to his support? Any Fox News stars or conservative influencers? https://t.co/9g84KkX8ug
— Christian Vanderbrouk 🇺🇸🇺🇦🌻 (@UrbanAchievr) August 3, 2022
Kevin McCarthy’s PAC did kick in $10,000 to Meijer’s campaign but I’m unaware of any prominent surrogates visiting his district to campaign for him or promoting him in conservative media. Brian Kemp saw a number of big-name GOPers lend a hand in his primary against Trump-backed David Perdue, like Mike Pence to Doug Ducey to Chris Christie. But as much as Kemp enraged Trump, Kemp never cast a vote against him. He defended his certification of Biden’s victory in Georgia as something he was required to do by statute, not something he was eager to do. And he never, ever criticized Trump. Prominent figures like Pence and Ducey were willing to be seen with him, calculating — correctly — that the MAGA base would conclude that Kemp’s actions in 2020 weren’t a political capital offense.
But Meijer’s were, so no one had the balls to come to his aid. He got no help and now he’s headed out of Congress, replaced either by a crank or a Democrat. That’s on the GOP.