Campaign Report — The shrinking list of pro-impeachment Republicans
Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, tracking all things related to the 2022 midterm elections. You can expect this newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday leading up to November’s election.
Trump gets his revenge on impeachment
The 2022 midterms aren’t getting any easier for the group of House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump last year.
Of the 10 GOP members who broke party lines to vote for Trump’s impeachment in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, most won’t be heading back to Washington next year.
Four – Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), John Katko (N.Y.), Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio) and Fred Upton (Mich.) – opted not to seek reelection. June saw Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) lose renomination to South Carolina state Rep. Russell Fry, who carried Trump’s endorsement.
And just last week, Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), a first-term congressman who had barely taken his oath of office before casting his impeachment vote, was ousted by John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official who campaigned on his support for the former president.
Another one bites the dust: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) became the latest House Republican who voted to impeach Trump to lose a primary on Tuesday when she conceded to her Trump-backed rival Joe Kent a week after Washington State voters cast their ballots.
So far, only two pro-impeachment House Republicans have survived their primaries: Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and David Valadao (R-Calif.), though the latter still faces stiff competition in the November general election.
Not over yet: The track record for those Republicans who bucked their own party line in the impeachment vote isn’t good, and it appears likely to get worse next week, when Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) will go before voters in Wyoming.
She’s facing a Trump-backed challenger in Harriet Hageman and the polling doesn’t look good for Cheney. A Casper Star-Tribune poll released last week showed Hageman with a commanding lead in the race – 52 percent to 30 percent.
Also on the ballot next week is Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump on the impeachment charges and the only one of those seven to go up for reelection this year.
Of course, she’s likely to face a much easier path to the general election. Alaska’s new election rules created a ranked-choice voting system in which the top-four candidates will advance to the November election, meaning that she doesn’t have to defeat her Trump-backed opponent Kelly Tshibaka outright to move past the primary.
Regardless of the outcomes, though, one thing is clear: Trump is almost guaranteed to have fewer detractors in Congress next year.
Republicans stumble on unified messaging
With less than three months to go ahead of November, Republicans are finding themselves in an unlikely position: grappling with how to form a more unified front and more unified messaging in what should be a favorable political environment for them.
As Max Greenwood and Caroline Vakil write, recent months have complicated the dynamic for Republicans given a recent string of wins for Democrats ranging from an impressive July jobs report to recent data suggesting inflation has tamped down to close special elections in Nebraska and Minnesota.
Meanwhile, the GOP is seeing some divisions playing out publicly within their party, including high-profile primaries with former President Trump and other Republicans like former Vice President Pence, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and others backing opposite candidates.
And while Republicans have sought to hammer home bread-and-butter issues like inflation and the economy, not all candidates seem interested in sticking to that messaging, with some pointing back to the 2020 election.
Key quote: “I don’t think the message has been as sharp as it needs to be,” one longtime Republican strategist said. “It’s about drawing a clear contrast. Now, I think there are folks trying to do that. But some of the other stuff — the election denial stuff, abortion — it all kind of muddles the argument.”
Those close primaries are energizing some Democrats who say not to underestimate their party’s performance in November. Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright said what it “tells me is that there is a tremendous opportunity for us to expand our voting bloc in this election, and bring in some, I would say nontraditional allies and partners this election cycle and build on that.”
But, but, but: That doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy next couple of months for Democrats. They still have to grapple with President Biden’s lagging approval ratings, inflation that is still at a decades-high and the historical precedent that the president’s party generally suffers some losses in the midterms.
HAWAII PRIMARY PREVIEW
Hawaii will be holding its primary on Saturday following a busy Tuesday which saw primaries in Connecticut, Vermont, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
On the gubernatorial side of things, a slew of candidates are vying to replace term-limited Gov. David Ige (D). The governors’ race, which has been rated “solid Democrat” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, includes Democratic challengers such as Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele, former Hawaii first lady Vicky Cayetano and Lt. Gov. Josh Green.
On the GOP side, some of the Republicans running for the top seat in Hawaii include former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, federal postal judge Keline Kahau and businessman Gary Cordery, among others.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) is also up for reelection, though he only faces one Democratic opponent, an independent conflict resolution consultant named Steve Tataii. A handful of Republicans are also vying for the Senate seat, including businessman and retired U.S. Marine Timothy Dalhouse, televangelist and Hawaii Republican Party District 26 chair Asia LaVonne and state Rep. Bob McDermott, among others.
Cheney’s closing message: Things aren’t looking good for Cheney, but she’s making one last appeal to voters. In a new campaign video released on Thursday – just five days from her Aug. 16 primary – the embattled Wyoming Republican went directly after Trump, reminding voters of what she dubbed his disdain for “the rulings of our courts and the rule of law.”
“America cannot remain free if we abandon the truth. The lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen is insidious. It preys on those who love their country,” Cheney opens in a campaign video released Thursday. “It is a door Donald Trump opened to manipulate Americans to abandon their principles, to sacrifice their freedom, to justify violence, to ignore the rulings of our courts and the rule of law.”
“This is Donald Trump’s legacy, but it cannot be the future of our nation. History has shown us over and over again how these types of poisonous lies destroy free nations.”
Lockdown politics: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign is out with the second statewide ad of his reelection bid touting a familiar message. “When other states shut people down, Florida lifted people up,” a narrator says in the spot. “We make decisions based on facts, not fear. But some want to take it all away. We cannot stop fighting. This November, let’s show the world freedom is here to stay.”
You’ll recall that even in the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic, DeSantis bucked the advice of public health experts and officials on lockdowns, earning him praise from many conservatives who saw coronavirus-related restrictions as a matter of government overreach. DeSantis’s first reelection ad also touted his anti-lockdown policies. The fact that he’s including the issue in his second spot – which was paid for by the Republican Party of Florida – underscores the extent to which DeSantis plans on making his handling of the pandemic a central theme of his reelection bid.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Campaign page for the latest news and coverage. See you next week.