squirrelheader.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Democrats' strategy of boosting far-right candidates seems to have worked

Left to right: Don Bolduc and Maggie Hassan
Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Left to right: Don Bolduc and Maggie Hassan

The political support ranged from money to TV ads and email blasts. What made it unusual is where it came from, and what it was meant to do: Back in the primary season, a number of Democrats tried to boost far-right Republican candidates whom they deemed easier to beat in November.

The strategy seems to have paid off: In high-profile races where Democratic candidates or groups successfully used the strategy during the primaries, all of the Republicans they helped have either lost or are trailing, two days after Election Day.

The tactic drew headlines and warnings that the Democrats were playing with fire — especially after polls showed some of the targeted races tightening this fall. After all, the Democrats were spending resources on their rivals' behalf, including several Trump loyalists. And they did so at the expense of moderates, writing off hopes of a less strident discourse.

Of course, not all of the far-right candidates supported by Democratic groups won their primary races — in fact, far from it. In September, an analysis by The Washington Post found that seven of 13 Democrat-backed Republican candidates lost their primaries after having more than a combined $12 million spent on their behalf.

Here's a quick rundown of the results:

CONGRESS

New Hampshire: Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) defeated Don Bolduc (R), whose primary bid was aided by the Democrat-aligned Senate Majority PAC. The PAC targeted Bolduc's rival Chuck Morse, an establishment Republican who is the state Senate president.

In another New Hampshire race, Rep. Annie Kuster (D) defeated Republican Bob Burns, whose primary run was helped by spending from a PAC called Democrats Serve.

In Michigan, Hillary Scholten (D) defeated John Gibbs (R) to win the House seat currently held by Republican Rep. Peter Meijer, who had voted to impeach former President Donald Trump. Meijer lost his primary to Gibbs after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ran ads calling Gibbs "too conservative."

GOVERNOR'S RACES

In Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro defeated Republican Doug Mastriano, months after Shapiro's campaign spent $840,000 on TV ads during primary season to raise the profile of Mastriano, an election denier who "took a busload of people to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, [and] has been subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol," as NPR reported.

In Maryland, Democrat Wes Moore easily defeated Republican Dan Cox. In the primary, Cox was pitted against Kelly Schulz, the chosen heir of outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan. Schulz complained after the Democratic Governors Association threw financial support behind Cox.

In Illinois, incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association spent tens of millions of dollars to aid the bid of Republican Darren Bailey — whom Pritzker handily defeated.

The Arizona race is very close, with Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs leading Trump-endorsed Kari Lake. During primary season, the state's Democratic Party sent an email blast highlighting Lake's GOP rival Karrin Taylor Robson's past support of Democrats, thanking her for her donations.

See the latest results here.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tags
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.