Of the 14 GOP senators seeking re-election, five are facing potentially competitive primaries from challengers taking up the America First mantle.
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In todays GOP, however, it may not be enough for a politician to have simply not offended Trump or his supporters in order to be safe. Republicans might have to recast themselves in Trumps belligerent and often intentionally offensive image.
Hoeven is hardly the only GOP senator under threat in this election year, as the partys voters intensify their desire for MAGA warriors.
Of the 14 seeking re-election, a total of five are facing potentially competitive primaries from challengers taking up the America First mantle. They range from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a bona fide Trump critic, to Sens. Hoeven, John Boozman (R-AR), James Lankford (R-OK), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), each of whom has done or said little to run afoul of the party base.
None of the 12 Democratic senators up for re-election, meanwhile, have to worry about sweating a real primary.
Republican senators up for re-election who are facing Republican primary challengers. From left to right: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
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Pressed on the issues at play in his racewhere a MAGA-aligned ex-football star named Jake Bequette is mounting a primaryBoozman demurred, instead talking up his offices constituent services work.
I dont know why hes running, the low-key Arkansas senator ultimately said of Bequette.
But most senators are taking the challenges seriously. And there is evidence for that.
Although it is early in the election cycle, Lankford has already bankrolled TV ads in Oklahoma. Last week, Boozman put TV ads up in Arkansas too, after a mysterious super PAC dropped nearly $1 million on ads supporting Bequette.
Asked about the incumbent challenges, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), the chairman of the Senate GOPs official campaign arm, downplayed the threats, calling them part of the process.
The incumbents are all going to win, Scott said.
According to Spain, some of the challenges are so flimsy that they border on the absurd.
A lot of these incumbent senators have done a really good job when it comes to their policy records, Spain said, but the question that seems to be on the mind of Republican voters is how heavily you are engaged in the culture war.
On the issues section of his website, Becker, the North Dakota Republican, has COVID tyranny and Progressive Coercion (CRT, BLM, Genderism) listed along with Energy and Environment and Immigration.
More important for these challengers is outdoing incumbents with almost comical levels of fealty to Donald Trump.
Kelly Tshibaka, who is challenging Murkowski, might be the only challenger with a real case on that front. The Alaska senator has long bucked the GOP establishment, and Trump, having voted to convict him in his second impeachment trial.
Kelly Tshibaka, who is challenging Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
AP Photo/Mark Thiessen File
The others, however, are largely grasping at straws. Lahmeyer launched his campaign against Lankford because the senator initially planned to object to certifying Joe Bidens electoral votes on Jan. 6 and then voted to do so after the riotalong with nearly every other GOP senator.
The super PAC ads supporting Bequette in Arkansas claim that too many Republicans are too weak to stop Democrats, and show an image of Boozman with the phrase RINO Republican over it. The ads have never explained why, however, Boozman is a Republican in name only.
Jim Carlin, the Iowa state senator challenging Grassley, has made the 88- year old incumbents long tenure in office part of his case to unseat him. But he has also accused Grassley of not doing enough to get to the bottom of the nonexistent election fraud conspiracy of 2020.
There is perhaps some method to that madness. Any GOP candidate knows that an endorsement from Trump can be a game-changer, whether thats to quash a primary or to make a real challenge possible.
A close ally of Trumps, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), told ishonest on Wednesday he spoke with the ex-president recently about the 2022 picture. Cramer expects Trump will back most incumbents. These are people that worked with him and helped him and in his agenda, he said.
But Cramer did add that Trump likes the fighters and has some admiration for people who stick their heads out of the foxhole.
That personality trait, Cramer said, is something that a lot of people want in the rest of us.