To be clear, Lisa Murkowski isn’t being left for dead in Alaska. The opposite, in fact — her first-round share of votes in the Alaska Senate primary against Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka was impressive enough that McConnell is calculating that she’ll win without needing further help. Dollars are scarce and PAC spending needs to allocated shrewdly; why spend on likely winner Lisa when you can spend on Mehmet or Herschel or J.D.?
Or Blake? Remember him? Blake Masters is the Arizona Republican who parlayed the financial backing of gazillionaire nationalist Peter Thiel into a Trump endorsement and then into the nomination of his party for Senate. He spent the primary endearing himself to populists by ripping on Mitch McConnell (“You know what he’s not good at? Legislating.”) and posturing as a pro-life warrior who equated abortion with genocide. Now that the primary’s over and he needs to compete for centrists, he’s decided that he’s only against late-term and partial-birth abortion. Oh, and he’s suddenly open to working with Mitch McConnell, the one man left in the party with the wherewithal to make a major difference in spending in Masters’s race. The NRSC can’t do it because they’re facing a cash crunch; Peter Thiel seemingly won’t do it because he’s tapped out; Trump won’t do it via his own PAC because he’s greedy and stingy.
Masters duly kissed the ring a few days ago, insisting that he believes McConnell will be reelected as caucus leader next year and adding that he hopes Mitch’s Senate Leadership Fund will swoop into Arizona and drop the same moneybomb on him that they recently dropped on J.D. Vance in Ohio.
Nope. The SLF is cutting Masters loose, at least for now.
The Senate Leadership Fund, which is aligned with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is scrapping roughly $8 million in ads — about half of its initial Arizona reservation — that were supposed to start in the early fall. The group’s ads are now set to begin in early October.
In November Masters will face Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who already enjoys a heavy financial advantage down the stretch. The super PAC’s move will exacerbate that Kelly edge as Republicans seek to net the one seat needed to take back Senate control. Republicans currently see Georgia and Nevada as potentially more fertile territory to flip than Arizona, and they also have to protect seats in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and beyond…
“We’re leaving the door wide open in Arizona, but we want to move additional resources to other offensive opportunities that have become increasingly competitive, as well as an unexpected expense in Ohio,” said Senate Leadership Fund President Steven Law. “We think the fundamentals of this election strongly favor Republicans, we see multiple paths to winning the majority, and we are going to invest heavily and strategically to achieve that goal.”…
Absent further GOP investment, the super PAC’s move will likely leave Kelly and his allies with a huge money advantage this fall. Kelly and Democratic groups have more than $40 million reserved for the fall, while Republicans had about $18 million before the super PAC shifted money away from the state, according to AdImpact.
So they’re not giving up on Masters entirely, or so they say. They’re just … reserving judgment as to whether he’ll truly be viable this fall. Except that, by doing so and depriving him of the ad money he needs to compete right now, they’re boosting the odds that he won’t be competitive. Hmmmm.
I’m trying to decide here whether I think McConnell is capable of bearing a grudge so intense that he’d be willing to sacrifice a Senate seat over it. My gut says no: Cocaine Mitch is the consummate bottom-line politician, forever focused on increasing the size of his caucus. If he thought Republicans could win a race by cutting a check to a populist running on an “I hate McConnell” platform, I bet he’d do it.
He may hate Masters for attacking him in the primary but he assuredly hates the thought of two more years in the minority more.
On the other hand, it’s hard to explain the SLF’s decisions as a purely rational matter. They just plowed *$28 million* into Ohio to help J.D. Vance in a state Trump won by eight points two years ago. Everyone who doesn’t work for Tim Ryan believes Vance will hold that seat based on the fundamentals of that race. Ryan has run an excellent campaign thus far while Vance has been underwhelming yet Vance is still a three-to-one favorite to win. Even if McConnell believes Vance will need help to make it over the finish line, why not divide that $28 million into, say, $14 million apiece for Vance and Masters? Masters is the one running in a 50/50 state, not Vance!
This is also curious:
Awkward? Per @LaleeIbssa – Sen. Mitch McConnell is hosting a fundraiser in KY tomorrow with Herschel Walker, Mehmet Oz and Ted Budd.
— Rick Klein (@rickklein) August 25, 2022
Why not bring Masters into that? He can’t be any more of a longshot than Dr. Oz is at this point. We’ve had one poll of Arizona recently and that put Democrat Mark Kelly up eight points; meanwhile, we’ve had multiple polls of Pennsylvania and Democrat John Fetterman is up by an average of eight points. Oz’s struggles are so alarming to the NRSC that they started planning paths to 51 seats that don’t involve winning Pennsylvania almost a month ago. But Oz is coming to the fundraiser while Masters seemingly isn’t.
Reeeeally hard to see the logic in giving up on Masters instead of Oz, at least in the near-term. Especially since he’s well-positioned as a populist to flog Kelly and Joe Biden for Democrats’ massive debt-forgiveness giveaway to the educated class.
But that’s not to suggest that McConnell owes Masters anything. If populists are mad that Mitch is backing away from Arizona, they can go whine to Trump to dig into his own pockets for once and start paying for ads for his boy. Or go whine to Thiel. He and Trump foisted these nationalist candidates on the party; now let them pony up and prove that they’re capable of winning.
Vance/Masters struggling is to my eye the most interesting candidate-specific story going on. Billionaire-backed effort to reverse engineer Trumpism without Trump, tons of free conservative and mainstream press, and no sign of it catching on with grassroots right or swing voters.
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) August 26, 2022
I’ll leave you with this. Masters can’t be a worse candidate than this guy, can he?
Fox News plays the clip of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying Republicans are more likely to flip the House than the Senate because of “candidate quality.”
Georgia GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker: “I didn’t hear my name in that comment.” pic.twitter.com/8fISjO6b8T
— The Recount (@therecount) August 26, 2022