GOP optimistic about Senate chances despite Walker turmoil

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NEW YORK (AP) — Leading Republicans enter the final month of the midterm campaign increasingly optimistic that a Senate majority is within reach even as a dramatic family fight in Georgia obscures one of the biggest pick-up opportunities in the party.

And while some Democrats sing on social media of Republicans’ apparent setbacks, party strategists privately admit that their own shortcomings may not be compensated by the GOP’s mounting challenges.

The shifting outlook is tied to a harsh reality: Democrats have virtually no room for error in the face of the weight of history, widespread economic concerns and President Joe Biden’s weak reputation. There is broad agreement between the two parties that the summer momentum of Democrats in states like Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin has eroded just five weeks before Election Day.

“There are reasons to be concerned, not reasons to be gloomy,” said veteran Democratic strategist James Carville. “It seemed like at the end of August we had some momentum. I don’t know if we’ve regressed, but we’re not progressing in a lot of places.

The lukewarm prospect comes even as Republicans face a series of self-imposed setbacks in the states that matter most halfway through 2022, which will decide the balance of power in Congress and state houses. Across the country.

None have been more egregious than Herschel Walker’s struggles in Georgia, where the Republican Senate candidate’s own son accused him of lying about his personal challenges – including a Daily Beast report alleging the Anti-abortionist Walker had paid for a girlfriend’s abortion in 2009. Walker called the accusation a “brainless lie” and said he would pursue it, an action his campaign failed to take on Tuesday night.

“It was all a lie,” replied Christian Walker on Tuesday.

The Republican establishment, including the Senator Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, and former President Donald Trump himself remained firmly behind Walker on Tuesday in his bid to oust Democratic Senator Raphael’s first term. Warnock. The Walker campaign also reported a massive fundraiser that coincided with the latest allegations.

“If you’re in a fight, people will come to your aid,” said Steven Law, head of the Senate Leadership Fund and close McConnell ally, R-Ky.

Law said the race in Georgia has become increasingly competitive despite the Democrats’ focus on Walker’s personal life. And beyond Georgia, Law said the political climate is predictably shifting against which party controls the White House, as is usually the case in midterm elections.

“It certainly looks like voters are going back to a more traditional mindset in the medium term,” Law said.

If Republicans win even one Senate seat in November, they would gain control of the upper house of Congress — and with it, the power to control judicial appointments and policy debates in the last two years of Congress. Biden’s tenure. Leaders of both parties believe Republicans are likely to take control of the House.

Even in the face of such odds, it is far too early to predict a Republican-controlled Congress.

Democrats remain staunchly on the offensive and are spending heavily to try to overthrow Republican-held seats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina. Voters’ opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision this summer to strip women of their constitutional right to abortion has energized the Democratic base and led to an increase in female voter registration.

Republicans are mostly focused on Democratic incumbents in Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire and Nevada, though Republican officials believe disappointing Trump-backed candidates in Arizona and New Hampshire have dampened the party’s pickup opportunities.

“The Republican candidates they’re running are too extreme,” said JB Poersch, who leads the Senate’s pro-Democrat majority PAC. “I think that’s still an advantage for Democrats.”

Meanwhile, conditions in key battlefield states are rapidly changing.

In Pennsylvania, Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz faced tough new questions this week raised by a Washington Post article about medical products he endorsed as a daytime TV star. Another report from the Jezebel news site detailing how his research caused the deaths of hundreds of dogs has been posted on social media.

Still, Democratic officials acknowledge that the race has tightened considerably as the calendar has moved to October. And White House officials are concerned about Democratic nominee John Fetterman’s stamina as he recovers from a stroke in May.

“Senate Republicans had a very bad start to October, but we know that each of our races will be close and we will continue to take nothing for granted,” said Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, who leads the campaign arm of the Senate Democrats.

The latest challenges for GOP Senate candidates in Georgia and Pennsylvania dominated social media Monday and Tuesday, according to data compiled by GQR, a public opinion research firm that works with Democratic organizations.

Stories about Walker’s abortion accuser and Oz’s animal research have had the first and second highest reach of any story on Facebook and Twitter since they surfaced on Monday, topping the content related to the TV show “Sons of Anarchy”, another report on Planned Parenthood mobile abortion clinics and news on Kanye West. GQR used social listening tool NewsWhip, which tracks over 500,000 websites in over 100 languages ​​in near real time.

In swing-state Nevada, Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s rhetoric has become increasingly urgent in recent days as she fends off a fierce challenge from former state attorney general Adam Laxalt. There are serious concerns within the White House that she could lose her re-election bid, giving Republicans the only seat they might need to claim a majority in the Senate.

“We have a big problem, my friend,” Cortez Masto wrote in a fundraising appeal on Tuesday. “Experts say our Nevada race could decide Senate control – and right now the polls show me 1 point behind my Trump-endorsed opponent.”

Democrats and their allies continue to hope the backlash against the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling will help them overcome historic trends in which the party controlling the White House almost always loses seats in Congress. Democrats, who control Washington, also face deep voter pessimism about the direction of the country and Biden’s relatively low approval ratings.

The traditional rules of politics have often been broken in the Trump era. In recent years, Republicans may have abandoned Walker. But on Tuesday, they tied their arms behind him.

Law, of the Senate Leadership Fund, said he took Walker at his word that he did not pay for a former girlfriend’s abortion, despite apparent evidence of a “Get Well” card with Walker’s signature and a check receipt.

He said voters thought “Walker may have made mistakes in his personal life that affected him and his family, but Warnock made mistakes in public life in Washington that affected them. and their families”.

There were, however, some signs of Republican concern on the ground in Georgia.

Martha Zoller, a popular Republican radio host in North Georgia and former congressional candidate, told her audience on Tuesday that the latest allegations forced Walker to reset her campaign with a simple admission about her “personal demons” and what he did to overcome them.

“He must fall on the sword. ‘I was a dog. … And I asked forgiveness for that,” she said, detailing the kind of message she thinks Walker needs to give to voters. “It would be so refreshing if someone just told the truth.”

Veteran Democratic strategist Josh Schwerin has warned his party against delisting the Republican from Georgia.

“I wouldn’t say Walker is done. Over the past two cycles, we’ve definitely seen Republican candidates survive things that aren’t supposed to be able to survive,” Schwerin said. “There are a lot of close races and the dynamics of this election are hard to predict. Everyone expects multiple changes in momentum by Election Day.”

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Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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