HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Republicans have had success in Democratic strongholds like Maryland and Massachusetts when they have fielded moderate candidates who could appeal to voters from both parties. With Democrats facing headwinds this year, Republicans had hoped that strategy could pay off once again.
But Republican voters have nominated former President Donald Trump loyalists in several Democratic states, including Maryland and Connecticut, making the GOP’s odds of winning this general election even longer. Massachusetts will face its own test next month as GOP voters decide between a Trump-backed conservative and a more moderate Republican for the party’s gubernatorial nominee.
“It can’t go on,” said former Connecticut U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, a moderate Republican and Trump critic, referring to the GOP’s election of pro-Trump candidates. “One of the things that’s going to happen is that a lot of Trump’s nominees who won the primaries are going to lose the general election. And there are a lot of unhappy Republicans in office now who believe the Senate is now in danger of remaining Democratic. . “
Trump’s influence was on full display earlier this month when his last-minute endorsement helped propel Leora Levy, a member of the Republican National Committee who opposes abortion rights, to victory in a Republican United States Senate primary in Connecticut over the party’s endorsed candidate, former House. Minority Leader Themis Klarides. Klarides supports abortion rights and said she did not vote for Trump in 2020.
“Sad day for CT…” Brenda Kupchick, Fairfield’s first elected Republican woman and former state representative, tweeted after the Aug. 9 race was called for Levy. Days earlier, after Trump endorsed Levy over the loudspeaker at a GOP picnic, Kupchick tweeted, “How is this useful in the general election in CT?”
Kupchick’s tweets drew criticism from both Republican camps. Trump supporters accused Klarides of not being a “true conservative.” Moderate Republicans predicted Levy’s nomination ensured Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal would cruise to victory in November, despite a Quinnipiac poll in May showing his lowest job approval since taking office in 2011. .
The last Republican to represent Connecticut in the United States Senate was Lowell P. Weicker Jr., who served from 1971 to 1989, although Connecticut has elected a moderate Republican governor in 2006, with M. Jodi Rell .
Levy, who has never held elected office before, maintains his message of reining in high inflation and energy prices, stopping “government intrusion between parents and children” and tackling crime will resonate with a wide range of voters .
A similar dynamic has played out in liberal Maryland, where Dan Cox, a far-right state lawmaker endorsed by Trump, won the Republican primary for governor over a moderate challenger backed by outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, a Trump critic. And in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, Republican voters casting ballots in the state’s Sept. 6 gubernatorial primary will choose between Geoff Diehl, a former Trump-backed state representative, and Chris Doughty, a moderate businessman. Centrist Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, a critic of Trump, decided not to seek a third term.
Democratic candidates in Maryland and Massachusetts are considered strong favorites to flip the governor’s mansions in those states.
Trump’s support has also propelled his candidates to victory in key races in battleground states, boosting Democrats’ optimism of winning the general election. In Arizona, former TV news anchor Kari Lake, who has said she would not have endorsed President Joe Biden in 2020, defeated attorney and businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson, who had been endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence and outgoing GOP Gov. Doug Ducey. In Wisconsin, Trump-backed businessman Tim Michels beat former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who had been endorsed by Pence and the state party. Both Michels and Kleefisch, however, falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
In Connecticut, Levy’s nomination is already being used as a rallying cry for Democrats, who say he is out of the mainstream for a state where Republicans are outnumbered by unaffiliated voters and Democrats. In addition to opposing abortion rights, reversing his years-old stance of supporting abortion rights, Levy has spoken out against COVID-19 vaccine requirements and transgender rights work related Levy profusely thanked the former president during his acceptance speech, promising, “I will not let you down.”
A day after the primaries, Blumenthal’s campaign sent out a fundraising message warning: “The primary results are in, and I’m officially running against Trump’s handpicked candidate in the general election: a Radical Republican who will be nothing more than a rubber stamp on Mitch McConnell’s disastrous agenda.”
Levy, in turn, has linked Blumenthal to Biden, casting him as a “rubber stamp” for the Democratic president’s “failed policies” as president and blaming Blumenthal for playing a “key role in creating virtually every challenge facing our country today.”
“Dick Blumenthal wants this election to be a referendum on a president. Donald Trump is not on the ballot in November, but Joe Biden is,” he said in a press release issued after the primaries.
Shays, who now lives in Maryland, said he believes a Trump endorsement is disqualifying. He said he contributed to the campaign of Wes Moore, the Democrat who ran against Cox in Maryland, and that he would vote for Blumenthal if he still lived in Connecticut.
“I will vote against anyone who seeks Donald Trump’s endorsement because that says a lot to me about their character and what they intend to do if elected. That’s the bottom line for me,” Shays said.
Ben Proto, chairman of the Connecticut Republicans, dismissed any suggestion that Levy’s primary victory signaled a political evolution within the state GOP. Rather, he said, this year’s party has “candidates at every level who have different views on particular issues.”
But what they have in common, he said, is the goal of controlling inflation, making Connecticut more affordable, tackling crime and allowing parents to be the “primary actors” in their children’s lives.
“At the end of the day, the issues that are important to the people of the state of Connecticut, we’re pretty solid,” he said.
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