GOP Senate race holdouts get hard sell after Virginia flips red

The day after the Democrats of the Blue States were beaten in the election – they lost the governorship of Virginia and almost lost in New Jersey, where Governor Phil Murphy had fought for re-election by a thin margin – the Republicans redoubled their efforts to get the map of the Expand Senate by persuading several hesitant candidates for the senior Senate to run in 2022. This time around, the recruiting pitch came with a powerful new record from the off-year elections.

“We have great candidates in our races,” said Senator Rick Scott (Fla.), Chairman of the National Republican Senator, on Wednesday. “I bet there are more people who want to get in because they see there is a way.”

Hogan is part of a trio of GOP governors who are high on the party’s wish list, alongside New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. They all had long struggled to convince them to run against Democratic senators in 2022.

Senator John Thune (SD), the second senior Republican, noted that Tuesday’s election results confirm that there is a way for “right-wing conservatives” like Sununu, Ducey and Hogan to win next year in Senate races.

Sununu said he is still considering a decision to run for the Senate, but is widely expected to announce that he will run for Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan. Ducey said earlier this year he had no plans to run, despite minority leader Mitch McConnell publicly hinting that both Ducey and Sununu would be his preferred candidates.

Hogan hinted to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt last month that he too had heard about running from McConnell and Scott. Hogan and Ducey are limited in time.

“I think Governor Hogan is a somewhat unique political force who would perform extremely well,” said Dirk Haire, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. “If he runs I think he would win. I know my views are widespread across the spectrum of political leadership. “

Hogan has been raising his national profile in recent years by being one of the most prominent Republican critics of former President Donald Trump and blowing him up on topics like his pandemic response and failure to admit the 2020 election.

And while President Joe Biden was 33 points clear of victory in Maryland last year than in Arizona or New Hampshire, Hogan is now more popular than the Democratic president in his blue state. according to a survey by Goucher College released last week.

The poll shows that Hogan has a 68 percent approval rating in Maryland, compared with 53 percent for Biden.

Ducey, Hogan and Sununu advisors downplayed the notion that Tuesday’s elections might change governors ‘thinking or more likely encourage them to run, saying the surprising results alone are unlikely to have much of an impact on governors’ decisions .

In a recent conversation with reporters, Scott, the former Florida governor, said the trio of governors still had time to compete in Senate races, noting that he did so only in April 2018, ahead of his fall election.

In Virginia, the road to Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory was to keep Trump at a distance while remaining in his good grace. This balancing trick won’t be that easy for Ducey and Hogan, who already crossed the former president. Her strained relationship with Trump, who commands grassroots loyalty to the GOP, raises questions about how far Trump would go to try to prevent either of the two governors from running successfully for the Senate.

For months, Scott has patiently tried in numerous meetings to warm Trump up to the idea of ​​a Ducey run, but the former president has none of it, according to three sources that were informed about the discussions or have knowledge of them. Trump has been publicly criticizing the Arizona governor for almost a year for Ducey’s refusal to embrace false election fraud conspiracies.

Methodical Scott comes to his Trump meetings armed with a three-ring folder, separated by tabs for each race. But when the topic comes to Ducey, Trump was adamant, the sources say.

“Trump just isn’t happy with Ducey, and while he likes Senator Scott, it’s not enough,” one of the sources said.

The sources say Trump privately considered supporting one of the current Republican candidates in the Arizona Senate race – or even encouraging Republicans not to vote for Ducey – but those familiar with his mindset say he just gives air.

Ducey was elected statewide three times in Arizona, first as the state treasurer in 2010 before being successfully elected governor in 2014 and 2018.

Kirk Adams, former chief of staff to the governor, said that while the Virginia victory was meaningful to Republicans, Youngkin was simply copying an approach that had previously worked in Arizona.

“I think Youngkin followed the Ducey playbook,” said Adams, referring to Ducey’s 2018 re-election campaign that focused on education and jobs.

A statewide poll conducted last month by HighGround, a Republican-style political advisory firm in Phoenix, found Ducey’s approval rating nationwide to be 42 percent, roughly the same as Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly (Ariz.), who is looking for his first full membership term after winning a special election in 2020. Ducey’s approval among the GOP voters was just under 65 percent.

The Republican field in the Arizona primary already includes several candidates seeking Trump’s support, making it likely that Ducey would face attacks from the right for not hugging the former president adequately.

“It’s already a circular firing squad,” said Chuck Coughlin, an Arizona Republican strategist. “That would only take a few more steps.”

Marc Caputo and Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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