Commentary: If Republicans want to reclaim Congress, run electable candidates

The GOP doesn't need to rebrand; they need to run strong men and women who won’t say or do silly things.

U.S. Capitol Building. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The 2024 Iowa caucuses are nearly 1,000 days away, yet C-SPAN began their “road to the White House” coverage in March.

I am thinking more short-term — like 17 months — and a chance for the GOP take back the U.S. House and maybe the U.S. Senate to stem the Biden administration’s radical agenda.

With Tommy Tuberville now ensconced as Alabama’s junior senator, we forget the deep red state had a Democrat senator the prior three years. Why? Steve Bannon’s cadre defiantly stood behind alleged sexual assaulter and pedophile Roy Moore through 2017 to an unthinkable loss.

This shows it doesn’t matter how conservative a state; Republicans can still lose with unelectable people.

The infamous 2012 Senate elections, where Todd Akin led incumbent Claire McCaskill in Missouri until he said pregnancy rarely occurs as a result of “legitimate rape,” is another example.

“We need to avoid nominating fools like Akin, and of course, Moore, whose shortcomings as a human being were legendary,” Republican fundraiser Eric Levine told Alpha News. “These were seats we never should have lost but gave away because the fringe had their way on primary day. The message is critical, but not enough; the messenger matters as well.”

As he often does, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell successfully fought back in 2014 with a stellar group of Republican nominees — Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst and Tim Scott among them — who won nine seats and reclaimed control in the largest Senate gain by any party since 1980.

Good maps also helped the GOP maintain their advantage in 2016 and 2018.

With a tough map in 2020, and expectations to lose a net of 4-6 seats, Republicans exceeded expectations and only lost a net one (easily triumphing where polls predicted closer races in Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Texas) on election night, until two months of former President Donald Trump’s conspiratorial antics led to losses in both Georgia Senate runoffs.

Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio lean a tad right, but popular incumbents (Roy Blunt, Richard Burr and Rob Portman) are retiring next year.

Eric Greitens (Missouri), Josh Mandel (Ohio), J.D. Vance (Ohio) and Lara Trump (North Carolina) may potentially excite folks, but can they win? Sen. Ron Johnson, who Democrats are salivating to challenge in Wisconsin, probably cannot; I’d suggest a young, dynamic conservative like Marine Corps vet and current U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher.

Greitens notoriously embroiled himself in a scandal that ended his governorship in 2018, when he admitted to having an affair with his hairdresser; she claimed Greitens threatened to release compromising photos if she mentioned their liaisons.

A larger field helps the former governor. But the 47-year-old is already embracing unsavory folks like Bannon, and named controversial Kimberly Guilfoyle his national chair. He’s likely the lone Missouri Republican candidate who could lose to a Democrat.

As for pickups, Arizona and Georgia had special Senate elections last fall, so Democrats Mark Kelly and Raphael Warnock are up again. Kelli Ward proved multiple times she cannot win across the Grand Canyon State. An electable person, perhaps a Hispanic conservative vet, can. In Georgia, a Navy SEAL or former football star are attractive early options.

Two other seats Republicans must hold are Florida and Pennsylvania. The Keystone State will be tough, though appealing options have emerged. As Florida moves right, with continued popularity of their governor, Marco Rubio is in good position for a third Senate term, especially since he’s kept the populist wing happy.

It’s not necessarily about “owning libs”; it’s about cogent messaging. The GOP doesn’t need to rebrand; they need to run strong men and women who won’t say or do silly things.

Pinpointing issues where Democrats are failing, like ill-conceived economic policies, the rising cost of consumer goods, odious anti-Semitism, more violent crime, flawed COVID policies, cultural decay, woke left-wing educational nonsense, and the worsening border crisis are a crucial start.