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This Week's Senate News: Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win

Presumably, at least in most cases, if someone decides to run for the U.S. Senate, they think they have a real shot at winning. It's a lot of effort and a lot of long days, and a modern U.S. Senate campaign lasts for at least a year, in most cases. This week, three high-profile candidates announced, or teased, a Senate run. Presumably, they like their chances, or they wouldn't run (or plan to run). For our part, we think they are all somewhere between "long shot" and "completely delusional."

First up is Pennsylvania. If this was the only race we were going to talk about in this item (and if it wasn't Friday), the headline would be "Connecticut Man Declares Run for Pennsylvania Senate Seat." That's right, as we noted yesterday, the imminent announcement from David McCormick (R) has arrived, and he has formally declared his candidacy for the seat that Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) will try to defend.

There are two major things that McCormick hopes will make this year different from 2022, when he didn't even make it past the Republican primary. First, the entire GOP establishment is lined up behind him, so he thinks he will be able to avoid a messy primary that he might lose. Second, he is planning on running against Joe Biden, thinking that the President is so unpopular, smearing Casey as a "rubber stamp" for Biden will be a path to the promised land.

We're not sure if either of these things is quite as useful to McCormick as he presumably thinks. First of all, the nutty right wing candidates don't care what the establishment thinks. Indeed, their whole shtick is "I'm an outsider, so the establishment hates me." Maybe state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) won't run, since God or Jesus or his wife said not to (though we wonder what happens if God and the wife vote one way and Jesus votes the other), but there's still every chance that some whackadoodle Trumper jumps in, and some meaningful chance that person gets the nomination. After all, there might not be enough Pennsylvania Trumpers to carry a general election, but there are enough to carry a primary, which is how Mastriano got nominated for governor in 2022.

We are also not sure that Biden is the anchor that McCormick thinks he is. There are reasons to disapprove of the president, like "he's not liberal enough," that do not translate into votes for a Republican. Further, in presidential polls of the Keystone State, Biden is consistently ahead of Donald Trump, anywhere from 2 to 6 points. It's also the case that Casey is an experienced politician, and he knows how to say "I back the president on [POSITION THAT PENNSYLVANIA DEMOCRATS/INDEPENDENTS LIKE], but he and I don't see eye-to-eye on [POSITION THAT PENNSYLVANIA DEMOCRATS/INDEPENDENTS DON'T LIKE]."

And that brings us to the problems that McCormick's theory of his Senate run don't cover. Casey is a veteran politico and an incumbent who comes from a Pennsylvania dynasty. If the Connecticuter couldn't even defeat a snake-oil-peddling TV doctor with no political experience and no meaningful connection to the state, then how is he going to beat someone who has virtually every advantage you can think of? Oh, and there's also the Connecticut thing. McCormick tried, back in 2022, to convince Pennsylvanians that his heart was in the Keystone State. However, as soon as he was defeated, he hightailed it back to Connecticut. That sales job is going to be even harder this time. Especially if he does his grocery shopping at Wegner's.

The second person to make a senatorial move this week is former Detroit Police Chief James Craig (R). He's been teasing a run for months, and yesterday said it's definitely happening and the paperwork will be filed in about a week. We have no doubt that he will get a fair bit of attention because he's conservative, strong on law enforcement, and Black. Many Republican functionaries and media members continue to believe that someone with this profile has an excellent chance to build a coalition of right-wingers and Black voters, which will power the candidate to a smashing victory. Never mind that this completely misunderstands Black voters, and that there are approximately zero examples of things actually working out this way. President Carson, anyone? President Cain? Senator John James? And before you say, "What about Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)?" he got less than 10% of the Black vote in each of his senatorial elections.

In other words, as with McCormick, we are not buying Craig's theory of his U.S. Senate run, even if Michigan is an open primary state, and Black voters theoretically could support him for the nomination (even if they don't support him in the general). In addition, Craig has a number of problems, résumé-wise, including a run for Michigan governor that failed due to his submitting phony signatures, not to mention a number of scandals from his time as top cop in Detroit. It's also a crowded Republican field (seven candidates and counting). And while the Senate seat will be open due to the retirement of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the Democrats basically have an ideal candidate running to be Stabenow's replacement. If it was possible for DSCC's chair Gary Peters (MI) to fire up SenatorCAD, and to design the ideal candidate for his home state, he would come up with someone very much like Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI).

And finally, there is a fellow who just yesterday teased a run... in 2026. That would be the newly acquitted state AG of Texas Ken Paxton (R), who is apparently feeling his oats, and who told Tucker Carlson yesterday that he's seriously considering a challenge of Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) when Cornyn's seat next comes up.

We hardly have a handle on the underlying dynamics of Lone Star GOP politics. We do know four things, however. First, Paxton is unpopular enough with many Republicans that he got himself impeached by a huge margin in the Texas state House. Second, Paxton could well be in prison by 2026. Third, Cornyn has won four U.S. Senate elections in Texas, and none was closer than 10 points. Fourth... keep reading.

So, we don't like Paxton's chances, though we suppose it's at least possible there are enough far-right fanatics in Texas for him to win a Republican primary. But that brings us to the fourth thing we know: If Paxton is the Republican nominee, Democratic operatives are going to be dancing in the streets. The blue team has no chance of winning that seat if Cornyn is the nominee. MJ Hegar was/is their dream candidate, and she lost by 10 points in 2020. On the other hand, if it's the hopelessly corrupt Paxton? Then the Democrats would have a puncher's chance, particularly if they ended up with a moderate Latino candidate like Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX). True, many Democrats will not be pleased to vote for a candidate who is anti-abortion, but when the alternative is Ken Paxton, well, it's "hold your nose" time for a member of Team Blue. (Z)

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