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Tipsheet

Desperate Democrats Continue to Meddle in GOP Primary Races

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

Earlier this month, I covered how Democrats meddling in the Colorado Republican primaries backfired terribly, considering none of their candidates of choice won. Further, Democrats broke state law by meddling in the Senate primary. That hasn't appeared to deter Democrats, though, as they continue to meddle in other primaries around the country. 

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It turns out, as a Wednesday report from POLITICO revealed, that this is causing disarray and disunity among the Democratic Party, particularly when it comes to a primary race in Michigan between Rep. Peter Meijer, who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, and his challenger, John Gibbs.

The desperate Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), led by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), is spending nearly half a million dollars on ads to promote Gibbs, who is also endorsed by the former president.

As the piece begins by noting, fellow Democrats are not happy:

A growing number of House Democrats are seething at their own campaign arm for meddling in a GOP primary to promote a pro-Trump election conspiracy theorist — after months of warning that such candidates were a threat to democracy.

In public statements, private chats and complaints taken directly to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic members are aghast that the committee is spending nearly half a million dollars to air ads boosting Donald Trump-endorsed John Gibbs over Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), who voted to impeach Trump last year.

While Gibbs is concerned easier to beat in the general election, hence why the DCCC is boosting him, not all Democrats are on board with such a method. That includes Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), who serves on the January 6 Select Committee and who is retiring rather than lose:

“No race is worth compromising your values in that way,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), who sits on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and Trump’s election-subverting schemes that preceded it.

Democrats, like Murphy, fear the strategy could easily backfire, if a candidate like Gibbs were to win the general election amid a GOP wave — and the party also risks undercutting its own core message about the dangers of MAGA Republicans taking power. It could be harder for Democrats to claim that certain GOP candidates are an existential threat to the country if they are also using party money to push them closer to winning office.

...

“Many of us are facing death threats over our efforts to tell the truth about Jan. 6. To have people boosting candidates telling the very kinds of lies that caused Jan. 6 and continues to put our democracy in danger, is just mind-blowing,” said Murphy, who is not seeking reelection this fall.

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A Tuesday report from Axios features comments from other members of the select committee, with one unnamed Democratic member of Congress being quoted saying "The DCCC is playing with fire. It undercuts the great work of the Jan. 6 committee and makes us look like hypocrites."

One particularly vulnerable member of the select committee, Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) is mentioned as appearing to support the tactic, though her statement frames it as being about the Democrats exposing candidates.

"The overwhelming majority of Republican candidates running for office still refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election and lie to their voters, including every single one of my primary opponents. Voters deserve to know the truth about these candidates and just how dangerous they are to our democracy," she said.

It's also a case of be careful what you wish for, as other Democrats pointed out:

“I do want to win these races, but it makes me worried,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who recalled that others in her party believed Trump would be the easiest candidate for Democrats to defeat in 2016. “I just really worry about promoting election deniers and this idea that we’re going to be able to control what voters want at the end of the day.”

And while senior Democrats were willing to bet that their candidate would win the general election against Gibbs, some lawmakers worried it was a bad gamble for a party that’s already widely seen as the underdog in the midterms.

“It’s very dangerous, I think, in this environment to be propping up candidates like that,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), who called it “a terrible idea” and said he has raised his concerns to the DCCC.

“Of course, it could backfire. And that’s part of the reason why I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said. “Not only do I think it sends the wrong message, but it’s substantively risky.”

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It's also not lost on all Democrats how slimy a tactic this is:

But the DCCC’s decision to spend $425,000 running the ad significantly escalates the party’s involvement, since it was funded, in part, from lawmakers’ own membership dues. Those members see it as a clear endorsement of the tactic by their own party leaders, even as it remains unclear whether it will work in must-win swing seats this fall, or if it will simply help election-denying Republicans get elected to Congress.

“It’s dishonorable, and it’s dangerous, and it’s just damn wrong,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), who said his party was at risk of accelerating the loss of the remaining “truly honorable and courageous Republicans” like Meijer, who was one of just 10 in his party to impeach Trump last year.

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Phillips said he was particularly frustrated that Democrats’ campaign arm made the ad buy amid their own members’ long-running effort to educate the public about the Capitol insurrection and the dangers of election lies: “I think it erodes the high ground that we had been staking and claiming, relative to electoral integrity.”

Rep. Maloney already has a seemingly thankless job, as its predicted across the board that Republicans will regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. But the POLITICO report indicates there's even worse trouble for him. And, a statement from the DCCC sent to POLITICO shows they're not only desperate, but likely delusional as well:

Some members’ frustrations are particularly acute now, after months of simmering tensions with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) over other issues during his tenure as chair of the DCCC.

...

Democrats who support the DCCC’s meddling argue it’s simply one of several tactics that the party is using to protect a razor-thin House margin in a midterm that looks desperate for their party.

“The DCCC is laser focused on holding the House majority, which we will accomplish by fighting for every competitive seat,” DCCC spokesperson Helen Kalla said in a statement. “Kevin McCarthy is an anti-choice insurrectionist coddler and conspiracy enabler, and we will do what it takes to keep the speaker’s gavel out of his hands.”

But privately, several Democrats said the move was particularly frustrating given previous instances where they felt the campaign arm and its chief wasn’t consulting with their members. The outpouring of criticism comes after months of tension between the DCCC and Democratic critics over other issues.

Most recently, rank-and-file lawmakers panned Maloney for making a controversial reelection decision without consulting his state’s delegation, choosing a redrawn district to run in himself that forced a more junior colleague far from his home turf.

Before that, Maloney had drawn criticism from some Texas Democrats for not investing enough in Latino voters and from New York Democrats for what they saw as an overly zealous redistricting strategy. Pennsylvania Democrats raised similar gripes.

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May Democrats reap what they sow, though, if and when Gibbs wins next Tuesday's primary and, perhaps, the general election. 

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