Democrats spent millions boosting ultra right candidates in midterms. The strategy worked.
Democratic groups and candidates spent millions on Republican primaries across the country to boost far-right, Trump-endorsed candidates in swing races. And the controversial strategy appears to have paid off for the party as nominees they promoted lost their races to a Democrat last week.
Banking that these far-right candidates would fail to capture the support of moderates and independents needed to win in November, Democratic political action committees and groups such as the Democratic Governors Association bought ads during party primaries earlier this year that highlighted Republican candidates' association with former President Trump.
The media buys also emphasized hard right positions from these Republicans' agendas, including stances on abortion and gun control legislation, calling several "too conservative" for their constituents as a ploy to appeal to the GOP base.
Although the approach drew criticism from some within their party who object to helping Trump-backed candidates no matter the reason, the results from Tuesday ultimately worked in Democrats' favor.
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Success in key congressional races
- New Hampshire Senate: The Democrat-affiliated Senate Majority PAC spent over $3 million in the New Hampshire Republican primary targeting GOP state Senator Chuck Morse, who had the backing of popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. Their funded attack ads helped drive voters towards election denier Don Bolduc, who lost in the general election to Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan.
- New Hampshire House: In another New Hampshire primary, the Democrats Serve PAC spent more than $500,000 on ads opposing Republican Robert Burns, who aligned himself closely with Trump. Burns lost to Democrat Ann McLane Kuster by more than ten points in the general election in a race analysts initially predicted would be a toss-up.
- Michigan House: John Gibbs gained attention — and Republican primary voters — after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent about $435,000 on an ad calling the Trump-backed House candidate "too conservative." Gibbs won the primary against incumbent GOP Rep. Peter Meijer but lost on Tuesday to Democrat Hillary Scholten.
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The strategy paid off in gubernatorial races too
- Illinois: Together with Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic Governors Association poured around $35 million into swaying the Illinois Republican primary. Though Trump-backed Republican Darren Bailey won that June contest, the far-right nominee was defeated on Tuesday by Pritzker.
- Maryland: The Democratic Governors Association spent over a million on an ad during the Maryland gubernatorial primary as well, targeting Republican and "Trump's hand-picked candidate" Dan Cox. In the general election, Cox got clobbered by Democrat Wes Moore who won by around 25 points.
- Pennsylvania: Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro spent around $840,000 in the Republican primary for an attack ad calling state Senator Doug Mastriano "one of Donald Trump's strongest supporters." After winning the Republican nomination in May, Mastriano went on to lose handily to Shapiro in the general election this week.
Some Dem. backed candidates never made it to Nov. 8
Despite the strategy's success in general election outcomes, not all Democrats' efforts to skew primaries resulted in the desired effect:
- Colorado: The strategy failed Democrats in three Colorado races, after they spent a total of around $7 million to target far-right candidates in the Republican primaries for governor, Senate and the 8th district House seat.
- Virginia: In the Republican primary for Virginia's 2nd district, the Democrat-affiliated Super PAC Patriot Majority spent over $300,000 on an ad to highlight Jarome Bell's connection to Trump. Bell lost in June to Republican Jen Kiggans, who went on to win the seat this week, defeating Democrat and incumbent Elaine Luria.
- California: The House Majority PAC, a group affiliated with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, spent over $110,000 on California's 22nd district trying to boost Republican Chris Mathys. The Trump supporter lost his primary race, though, to incumbent David Valadao.