If the Republican Party was even remotely normal, Senate Republicans would be counting down the hours until Election Day 2024, when they would almost assuredly win the two seats they need to retake control of the upper chamber.
Instead, they are biting their tongues and ducking for cover as they face incoming hits from every corner of the Republican Party.
The latest debacle keeping Senate Republicans up at night is the House GOP’s push to impeach President Joe Biden over, well, they're not exactly sure what … but they may or may not bother to find out.
After House Republicans voted Thursday to refer an impeachment resolution over border security to the committees of jurisdiction, Senate Republicans started to review their life choices.
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"I don't know what they're basing the president's impeachment on. We'll see what they do. I can't imagine going down that road," Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia told Axios.
Capito even added the most obvious yet damning observation: "This seems like an extremely partisan exercise."
Senate Minority Leader John Thune would prefer his caucus’s attention and energy be directed toward pretty much anything else. “I’d rather focus on the policy agenda, the vision for the future and go on and win elections," the South Dakotan—and Mitch McConnell’s #2—explained to Axios.
Sounds smart. But does anyone have any clue at all what the GOP "vision for the future" is— other than rounding up all of Donald Trump's perceived enemies, locking them up, and contemplating whether to throw away the key or worse?
The Senate Republican chairing the effort to retake the chamber, Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, also chimed in, saying he hadn't "seen evidence that would rise to an impeachable offense," before conceding that’s what trials are for.
Sure—assuming House Republicans bother to conduct an investigation. That little hiccup appears to have occurred to Sen. Thom Tillis of South Carolina.
"Impeachment is a serious process. It takes time. It takes evidence," he noted. Now, there's one to grow on.
As former Harry Reid aide Jim Manley tweeted about the House GOP's impeachment scheme: "As a so-called democratic strategist—thank you."
But House Republican plans for impeachment (not to mention a potential government shutdown, abortion ban push, or effort to yank aid to Ukraine) aren't the only things keeping Senate Republicans awake at night.
They're a tad uncomfortable with the fact that the party's current 2024 front-runner and possible nominee stole state secrets, refused to return them, and then obstructed justice during a federal probe of the matter.
Several weeks ago, On June 13, Minority Leader McConnell was asked during a press gaggle whether he would still support Trump as nominee if he were convicted. He dodged.
"I am just simply not going to comment on the candidates," McConnell responded. "I'm simply going to stay out of it." He has said anything on the matter since.
Finally, when looking toward 2024, so-called candidate quality is still a sticking point for Senate Republicans. Though they have had some wins on candidate recruitment to date, they have also suffered some missed opportunities. Further, many of their candidates—even the good ones—will be haunted by their extreme anti-abortion views on the campaign trail.
Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher, Senate Republicans top pick to challenge Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin, announced earlier this month that he’ll be taking a pass on a run. The Badger State’s GOP primary promises to be a mess, but former Milwaukee County sheriff and conspiracy theory enthusiast David Clarke has looked dominant in polling.
In response to Gallagher's June 9 news, Clarke, who's eyeing a bid, tweeted of his rivals, "None of them energizes or excites the base voter like I do."
He's not wrong—and that is some very bad news for Senate Republicans hoping to put Baldwin's seat in play.
Republicans also have extreme hurdles in other top-tier target states, such as Montana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. As Daily Kos previously reported, even their best candidates hold downright radical positions on abortion:
Senate Republicans’ top choice in Montana, businessman Tim Sheehy, who has accused Democrats of being "bent on murdering our unborn children";
Another Senate GOP darling, Pennsylvania hedge fund CEO David McCormick, doesn't support exceptions for rape and incest, and only approves of "very rare" exceptions for the life of the mother;
In Ohio, MAGA diehard Bernie Moreno, who's earned the endorsement of freshman Sen. J.D. Vance, is "100% pro-life with no exceptions," according to HuffPost. During his failed Senate bid last year, Moreno tweeted, “Conservative Republicans should never back down from their belief that life begins at conception and that abortion is the murder of an innocent baby";
and then there’s West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who McConnell has convinced to run for the seat of Sen. Joe Manchin. He signed a near-total abortion ban into law last year.
Whether it's Trump, House Republicans, or abortion—the issue that turned the midterms upside down in 2022—Senate Republicans face an uphill battle to recruit and present candidates with broad appeal in a party that thrives on alienating a solid majority of the country.
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Joining us on "The Downballot" this week is North Carolina Rep. Wiley Nickel, the first member of Congress to appear on the show! Nickel gives us the blow-by-blow of his unlikely victory that saw him flip an extremely competitive seat from red to blue last year, including how he adjusted when a new map gave him a very different district, and why highlighting the extremism of his MAGA-flavored opponent was key to his success. A true election nerd, Nickel tells us which precincts he was tracking on election night that let him know he was going to win—and which fellow House freshman is the one you want to rock out with at a concert.