Republicans are seeking wealthy, self-funding candidates to help the party win a Senate majority in 2024, report says
- GOP leaders are seeking out wealthy Senate candidates to counter Democratic fundraising successes.
- As Republicans look to 2024, they could face another cycle where Democrats vastly outraise them.
Republicans thought 2022 would be their year.
With a cascade of polling that showed President Joe Biden's approval ratings largely mired in the 40s and voters dissatisfied with the direction of the country, most observers felt a "red wave" was imminent.
But it didn't materialize.
While Republicans flipped the House of Representatives — albeit narrowly — they came up short in the Senate, losing key races in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.
But as the GOP looks to 2024, party leaders are seeking out wealthy, self-funding candidates who can go up against the robust fundraising operation that helped Democrats win control of the upper chamber in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles, according to Politico.
Per the Politico report, at least ten GOP candidates are weighing launching self-funded Senate candidacies in competitive swing states after being encouraged to do so by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines, the chairman of the NRSC, is putting a focus on potential candidates who can either spend money on their own campaigns or possess strong fundraising abilities, according to a source with knowledge of the senator's thinking who spoke to Politico.
"It's helpful," Daines told the news outlet. "We've got some work to do to catch up."
Scouting for self-funding candidates is not a new phenomenon for either Democrats or Republicans. But high-profile Democratic candidates like Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock and New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan easily outpaced their opponents in fundraising, which helped them define their own candidacies and buttressed them against Biden's less-than-stellar approval ratings.
Warnock raised $180.9 million in his successful reelection bid, while his GOP opponent, former NFL star Herschel Walker, took in $73.2 million, according to OpenSecrets. Hassan raised $41.6 million for her winning campaign, while Republican Don Bolduc only raked in $4.2 million.
Last year, Democratic Senate nominees in the six most competitive races outraised their GOP counterparts by $288 million, per Politico.
And Republicans, who have come to rely heavily on super PACs in recent years, are adjusting accordingly to recruit candidates in states where they'll need to knock off vulnerable Democratic incumbents to win back the Senate.
'Won't be solved overnight'
In Montana, Republican leaders want Bridger Aerospace chief executive Tim Sheehy — a former Navy SEAL and multimillionaire who could self-fund his own campaign — to challenge three-term Democratic Sen. Jon Tester next year, Politico reported. And the outlet reported that GOP officials are also hoping to convince wealthy West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to run against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
Manchin, a moderate who sometimes breaks with the Biden administration on energy and environmental issues, recently indicated that he won't announce any reelection plans until December.
Republican leaders are also interested in former hedge fund chief executive David McCormick potentially running for the Senate in Pennsylvania again after he narrowly lost the 2022 GOP nomination to Dr. Mehmet Oz, Politico reported. (The incumbent Democrat, Sen. Bob Casey Jr., has not yet announced if he will seek a fourth term in office.)
Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and former talk show host, appealed to many GOP donors last year due to his ability to self-fund his campaign. The well-known doctor poured $26.8 million of his own funds into his unsuccessful Senate campaign, according to OpenSecrets.
But in the general election, Oz was still unable to beat now-Democratic Sen. John Fetterman, who ran a populist campaign and performed strongly in cities and suburban areas across the state.
And in Ohio, state Sen. Matt Dolan, whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians, entered the GOP Senate primary after losing last year's party primary to now-Sen. JD Vance. Dolan, who put more than $10.5 million into his 2022 Senate bid, could face Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Other names the outlet reported being floated as potential candidates in other states include: Karrin Taylor Robson, an Arizona attorney who lost the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination to former journalist Kari Lake, and Eric Hovde, a Wisconsin real estate executive.
Republicans know they'll likely face a well-oiled Democratic fundraising juggernaut in 2024, which could be amplified by Biden's potential reelection campaign, and are seeking quality candidates across the board. And with the possibility of former President Donald Trump once again heading the Republican ticket in 2024, GOP candidates may also have to navigate the former president's conduct on the campaign trail with their own campaign messages.
Democratic politicians like Sens. Brown, Tester and Casey, along with Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, were all solid fundraisers during the 2018 cycle, with each lawmaker raising at least $21 million in their respective races, according to campaign finance data. Still, Brown and Tester will face electorates that have a decidedly conservative bent; Casey and Baldwin, if they run in 2024, would run in states that have been more hospitable to electing Democrats statewide in recent years.
During a recent interview on the conservative podcast "Ruthless," Sen. Daines warned that Republicans would need to win the Senate contests in Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia or the party would be "in the minority" through the rest of the decade. The Montana lawmaker reiterated the importance of nominating candidates who can win primaries and appeal to the broader electorate.
Other Republicans are also echoing Daines' calls for the GOP to put forward more viable candidates.
"Republicans face an existential crisis that won't be solved overnight, but we still need to figure out how to mitigate the damage in the short term," former NRSC executive director Kevin McLaughlin told Politico. "Recruiting strong candidates who can both self-fund and win general elections is a great first step."
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