“It’s pretty clear that our more liberal establishment brethren in the Senate have not fared well,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Who is considering a bid for the upper house seat from retired Republican Richard. Shelby. “Those were the only ones who lost in 2020. And our conservatives won.”
“So this is a very good sign of what the American electorate prefers.”
During the Trump years, a cohort of House Republicans built national profiles and filled their war chests by defending the former president across multiple investigations and political trials. Now, amid an intense internal debate about the future of the Republican Party, some of those same lawmakers are looking to use their newfound stardom on the right as a springboard to higher office, even after a pro-Trump mob stormed into office. Capitol on January 6. and the Republican Party lost the House, Senate, and White House under Trump.
Among the Republicans considering running for Senate are Brooks, who led the effort to challenge the election results while Shelby voted to certify Biden’s victory; Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, who chairs the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and hails from a state where the legislature amplified Trump’s false claims of voter fraud; and Representative Warren Davidson of Ohio, a hardliner who replaced former President John Boehner in Congress.
“Trump’s policy and platform is the direction of the party,” Biggs said. “So I think the people who have adopted the America First policy. They really have a good chance of winning their constituencies. “
Davidson could seek the vacancy through centrist Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio); He could also run for governor.
“It’s clear to me that the Make America Great Again coalition is the future of the party,” said Davidson, a member of the Freedom Caucus and a critic of Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s coronavirus strategy in Ohio.
Yet another opportunity for Trump’s ambitious acolytes emerged Monday when veteran Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), A Republican leadership member and ally of minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Announced his retirement.
No one has officially stated that he will seek the seat, although Rep. Jason Smith (R-Missouri), who has embraced Trump tightly and represents a rural part of the state, is being portrayed as a possible contender. (And the more moderate representative Ann Wagner, who represents a district in the suburbs of St. Louis, does not rule out a candidacy.)
Blunt, speaking in Missouri on Monday, subtly fired at lawmakers who refuse to compromise. “The country in the last decade or so has fallen over the edge of too many politicians who say, ‘If you vote for me, I will never compromise on anything,” Blunt said. “That is a philosophy that does not particularly work in a democracy.”
Meanwhile, in Georgia, Republicans are racing to face Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, who won a special election in January but will need to win a full six-year term in 2022. Former Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), A A loyalist to Trump who mounted a failed Senate bid, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he could run again statewide. Collins is discussing how to challenge Warnock or Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who has become a vilified figure on the right for refusing to overturn Georgia’s election results.
Two other staunch Trump allies in Peach State, Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jody Hice, signaled through their offices that they are focused on their work in the House.
Then there’s New York, where Republican Representatives Lee Zeldin and Elise Stefanik, who were catapulted from the back benches of Congress after defending Trump during his first impeachment trial, are weighing a possible gubernatorial run. A Republican hasn’t led the state in 15 years, but some in the Republican Party see an opportunity with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo under fire over sexual harassment and coronavirus scandals.
One factor that could be a turning point in the decision-making process is the coveted endorsement of Trump. Both Biggs and Brooks said they have spoken to Trump or the people around him about a possible offer; Biggs has also been meeting with senators and outside groups to discuss “what it would be like” to run.
“In Alabama, the endorsement of President Trump is gold,” said Brooks, who plans to make a decision this month or next.
So far, however, Trump has endorsed only one congressional candidate: Max Miller, a former campaign and White House aide who is running against Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in what is now a safe red seat in the Northeast. from Ohio. González likely put himself in danger after he voted to impeach Trump for inciting the January 6 riots.
Not every Senate race that Trump allies can participate in is safe ground for Republicans. That fuels concerns that ultra-conservative candidates could win in the primaries, especially if they win Trump’s backing, and then complicate the GOP’s effort to regain the Senate majority.
The fear is especially acute in Arizona, where Biggs might be the frontrunner in a primary but would likely have a hard time ousting Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), A former astronaut and fundraising giant, in the general election. .
“Given the [Biggs’] The profile has risen significantly due to his alignment with Trump and the things that were happening before [January] Sixth, it makes him formidable in an elementary school. But it will be a big challenge for him overall, ”said Sean Noble, a Republican strategist.
“I would be surprised if it didn’t get the president’s support, and I suppose it would raise a significant amount of money.” Noble added. “But I don’t know if he has the capacity to raise $ 100 million, which is what Mark Kelly raised last time.”
Brooks would have some competition in the Trump lane, which essentially takes up the entire highway in Alabama. Lynda Blanchard, a former Trump ambassador to Slovenia, is the only candidate officially running so far, and her campaign announced that she has already invested $ 5 million in the race.
However, Brooks said he has seen polls that raise him in double digits to any potential Republican candidate in the state.
“I think Mo Brooks has positioned himself well,” said Chris Brown, a Republican strategist in Alabama. “We are the most Trump state in the country and he is the most Trump member of our delegation.”
And Brooks also noted that the Alabama Republican Party recently passed a resolution praising Brooks and the rest of the Republican state delegation – that is, everyone except Shelby.
“There were two resolutions that they passed. One was strictly about me, the other was about our delegation, excluding Richard Shelby, ”Brooks said. “So he congratulated Tommy Tuberville, myself, and the other Republican members of the Alabama House of Representatives. And he was silent on Richard Shelby, because Richard Shelby voted in favor of the election results. “
If some lawmakers from the House Freedom Caucus land in the Senate, it wouldn’t be the first time that members of the hardline group have graduated to higher-ranking positions. Other former HFC members include Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and former White House chiefs of staff Mark Meadows and Mick Mulvaney.
“Say what you want about the Freedom Caucus,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who approved a Senate run, “but I think that shows that people appreciate people who tell them what they are going to do. , and then go into office and do what they said. “
James Arkin contributed reporting.