Democrats look to wreak havoc in GOP primaries

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Democrats are looking to revive a little Todd Akin magic in 2018.

With Republican Senate primaries from West Virginia to Montana promising to pit Trump-inspired insurgents against more mainstream candidates, Democrats are considering ways to step in and wreak some havoc. The idea: Elevate the GOP’s most extreme option in each race, easing Democrats’ path to victory in a range of states tilted against them.

At its most aggressive, the tactic could be a sequel to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s 2012 campaign against then-GOP Rep. Akin in Missouri. She actively intevened in the Republican primary with ads designed to boost the conservative Akin to the front of the pack. Once he became the nominee, a series of gaffes — led by his “legitimate rape” comment — and hard-line positions unraveled his campaign.

Possibilities abound to revive the strategy next year, Democrats say. They’re exploring states including Arizona, where Kelli Ward, a challenger to Sen. Jeff Flake, said Sen. John McCain should vacate his seat “as quickly as possible” after his brain cancer diagnosis. They’re looking at Nevada, where frequent candidate Danny Tarkanian — who once mused about “pretend[ing] we’re black,” referring to his African-American opponent — is running against Sen. Dean Heller.

And they’re eyeing Ohio, where Josh Mandel — the state treasurer and two-time challenger to Sen. Sherrod Brown — this summer called the Anti-Defamation League “a partisan witch-hunt group” while affirming his support for alt-right bloggers and conspiracy theorists Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec.

Though they did not intervene in Alabama’s recent GOP Senate primary, national Democrats are now monitoring the Republican nominee in the state’s general election. Twice-ousted former state supreme court chief justice Roy Moore has called Native Americans and Asian Americans “reds and yellows,” while repeatedly claiming parts of the United States are under Shariah law. Those are just a few of his many controversial statements and actions.

Despite the heavy conservative tilt of Alabama, Democrats are looking to the state for, at least, hints for how to further divide Republicans next year — or, at best, a shocking upset.


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