Candidate quality matters

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Ivanka Trump said her father can “be a little rough with people” but praised his hiring of women. (Screen shot)

Candidate quality matters

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Republicans began Tuesday night needing to gain just one net seat in the Senate and five in the House. The only risky Senate seat the party had to maintain depended on beating a literal stroke victim who had pulled a shotgun on an unarmed black jogger. The three most likely pickups included the states suffering some of the worst inflation in the country: Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia.

And yet, for a second election cycle in a row, Republicans seem slated to leave control of the Senate in the hands of the Biden administration.

BLAME TRUMP FOR WEAK REPUBLICAN PERFORMANCE

The crisis at the close of the wee hours of election night is not Donald Trump’s hand-picked political neophytes lagging behind in Arizona and Georgia but rather his hand-picked political neophyte who just handed a Republican Senate seat to stroke victim John Fetterman. And unlike Herschel Walker, who got to ride the vast coattails of victorious incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp — whom Donald Trump repeatedly smeared after losing the presidency in 2020 — Dr. Oz was stuck on a ticket with Doug Mastriano, a fellow Trump-endorsed candidate with none of the telegenic charm and all of the conspiracy theorizing that cost Republicans both Georgia Senate runoffs in 2020.

By all available metrics, the midterm elections ought to have been a blowout for Republicans. Inflation is at its worst point in four decades, an even worse recession impending, and violent crime is top of mind for voters across the political spectrum. As evidenced by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio flipping deeply diverse districts such as the Miami metro into blood-red territory, the popularity of the GOP agenda is not the problem. Neither DeSantis nor Rubio ran away from the culture wars or tough talk that have taken over the post-Trump Republican Party. Rather, candidate quality is the issue.

In what should be a runaway victory for Republicans in the Rust Belt, why run a multimillionaire television star who actually lives in New Jersey? On a ticket with one of the most popular governors in America, why run a celebutante at risk of CTE who already, before the allegations of demanding that multiple of his mistresses get abortions, confessed to aiming a gun at his ex-wife? Why, in wide open primaries with all the potential of a historically unpopular president and impending stagflation, risk Republican electoral prospects with candidates who cut their teeth with one credential only, bending the knee to the candidate who lost the GOP the Senate the last time?

It’s too soon to say how the House will play out or if, by some miracle, two of the crucial three potential Senate candidates win. But one thing is for sure: Candidate quality, more than fealty to the fringe of the party, makes an election.

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