Last week’s primary victory by conservative Republican John Gibbs over anti-Trump incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI) was a first step in the Democrats’ strategy to retake the seat.
An extreme Republican could be elevated, which would help the Democratic candidate in the November election. It’s also possible that it’ll fail miserably.
Dave Wasserman, a self-proclaimed “elections prophet” and pollster, tweeted on election night that he expected “Trump-endorsed John Gibbs” to defeat Meijer in the primary and changed the race’s rating from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democrat.”
This was a concrete example of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s long-held belief that supporting Gibbs in the primary would increase the likelihood that their candidate, Hillary Scholten, would win the general election.
As far as election experts were concerned, Gibbs’ victory did exactly that. It was the decisive factor in the election, giving the Democrats a chance at a House pickup in a year when such opportunities were otherwise scarce.
However, the Democratic Party’s interference comes with serious danger. One reason why Gibbs might prevail is this: For example, if Democrats help elect a hard-right, election-denying conspiracy theorist with a history of Islamophobic remarks instead of a moderate Republican who voted to impeach Trump, Trump’s supporters in Congress could be held responsible.
Some Republicans, too, had doubts about the decision. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said it was “disgusting” in a CNN interview.
Don’t come to me asking, “Where are all the good Republicans?” after funding a candidate who denies the results of the last election, he warned.
For another, Democrats have already angered some members of their base by using DCCC money to boost an extremist Republican in some puckish bankshot gambit; this is money that could have been used to defend seats already held by Democrats, which may cause donors to question the allocation of their funds.
Worry over the seat has only made victory more urgent.
Now, the Democrats are making a final push to ensure Scholten’s victory.
Scholten, an attorney, ran against Meijer in 2020 but came up short by a margin of 6 points. Republican politicians like Gerald Ford used to be beloved fixtures of the western Michigan district, but Scholten is running against Gibbs this cycle because she believes she can appeal to the more “compassionate, moderate” base of Republicans there.
In a phone interview with The Daily Beast on Thursday, Scholten said, “The contrast could not be starker between me and my opponent—and, you know, the consequences of who wins this election more severe.”
Meijer’s loss is a huge boon to Scholten’s efforts to win over moderate and swing voters, as Wasserman’s revised projections demonstrated. In the past week, Scholten says she has seen support from people who previously backed Meijer.
“We had over a dozen emails by noon the morning after the election from Peter Meijer supporters saying that they wanted to get involved in our campaign,” she said.
When asked what exactly Scholten is trying to promote, she mentioned abortion as one of her primary concerns. While Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the state’s judiciary, and a law that has been on the books for nearly a century play figurative five-dimensional chess over whether or not abortion access will be maintained in Michigan, the future of abortion in the state remains uncertain.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade was “great news for women and for protecting innocent babies,” according to Gibbs, who is staunchly opposed to abortion.
AnneMarie Schieber, a spokeswoman for Gibbs’ campaign, told The Daily Beast in a statement, “John has been out meeting [and] talking [to] voters, and the issues that come up over and over are inflation, gas prices, and the recession.” Fighting crime and securing the border are also crucial. When people talk to Gibbs, they believe he is on the side of sanity despite the fact that the country is facing a truly bizarre period. In November, that will be the deciding factor.
Experts on the Democratic Party say there’s more to the seat than just a potential matchup with Gibbs. According to FiveThirtyEight, after the most recent redistricting, MI-03 became significantly more blue, shifting from a Republican +9 to a Democrat +3.
The Grand Rapids market is a priority for the House Majority PAC, which has budgeted about $1.15 million for TV and digital advertising there this cycle. Though several congressional districts include parts of the greater Grand Rapids area, MI-03 is the only one where Democrats have a real shot at winning.
Corridoni has pledged that the DCCC will “do whatever it takes” to prevent Kevin McCarthy from becoming speaker. In other words, “Donald Trump’s dream became the GOP’s nightmare last Tuesday. The fate of Republicans in this heavily Democratic district is sealed with John Gibbs’ victory in the primary. Hillary Scholten is unbeatable because she has spent her entire career bringing people together to get things done, while Gibbs is an anti-choice radical who sided with violent insurrectionists and would throw out your vote if he didn’t like it.
Corridoni summed up the strategy, saying, “Republicans have no choice but to embrace their unelectable MAGA extremist candidate.”
When asked if she is happy with the national interest shown in her race so far, Scholten responded with a chuckle.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee really should have wired me that cash. She then added, “That’s all I’ll say on the subject.”
For example, Bill Saxton, chair of the Kent County Democrats (part of which is included in the 3rd Congressional District), told The Daily Beast, “What’s going to help Hillary as well is not just all the great things about her… Races further down the ballot will be very important.
Redistricting in the greater Grand Rapids area resulted in a more compact Democratic pod, which boosted the chances of Democrats up and down the ballot, not just Scholten. Saxton claims that there is newfound vigor on the left in the district.
Conservative media personality Tudor Dixon is running as the Republican nominee in Michigan’s gubernatorial election this year against Democratic incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Saxton remarked on the cooperation between the various Democratic campaigns on the ground, saying, “Volunteers are fired up, and we’re all helping one another because these districts overlap.” He hopes to create a blue wave in the district bordering Lake Michigan and flip multiple seats, including Scholten’s.
The whole country will be watching, he declared.
The Daily Beast has more on the topic.
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