With Republican Senate primaries from West Virginia to Montana promising to pit Trump-inspired insurgents against more mainstream candidates, Democrats are considering ways to step in and wreak some havoc. The idea: Elevate the GOP’s most extreme option in each race, easing Democrats’ path to victory in a range of states tilted against them.
At its most aggressive, the tactic could be a sequel to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s 2012 campaign against then-GOP Rep. Akin in Missouri. She actively intevened in the Republican primary with ads designed to boost the conservative Akin to the front of the pack. Once he became the nominee, a series of gaffes — led by his “legitimate rape” comment — and hard-line positions unraveled his campaign.
Possibilities abound to revive the strategy next year, Democrats say. They’re exploring states including Arizona, where Kelli Ward, a challenger to Sen. Jeff Flake, said Sen. John McCain should vacate his seat “as quickly as possible” after his brain cancer diagnosis. They’re looking at Nevada, where frequent candidate Danny Tarkanian — who once mused about “pretend[ing] we’re black,” referring to his African-American opponent — is running against Sen. Dean Heller.