As Joe Biden notched a number of wins on Super Tuesday, Republican strategists focused on down-ballot races had two main reactions: Biden’s success likely makes it harder for Republicans to defeat swing-state Democratic candidates, but it also presages a protracted fight in the Democratic primary that could benefit the GOP in November.
One persistent concern among moderate and establishment Democrats is that if Bernie Sanders is the nominee, it could spell trouble for Democratic incumbents and candidates in House and Senate races across the country. Many of them would be forced to distance themselves from Sanders’ far-left policies.
“A great night for Biden is a great night for the DSCC,” said a Republican strategist, referring to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Two other GOP operatives said they would rather have Sanders as the nominee so they could tie him and his policies to more moderate Democratic Senate challengers — like John Hickenlooper in Colorado, Cal Cunningham in North Carolina, and Mark Kelly in Arizona. Those Democrats might have a tougher time beating endangered Republican incumbents if they have to defend or answer for proposals like Medicare for All or even the “democratic socialist” label Sanders has given himself.
“Preferable to have the socialist with momentum rather than the likable yet bumbling clown,” said one of those operatives.
The other view is that more division and drama in the Democratic presidential primary benefits the Republican Party. The idea here is that while Republicans remain united behind President Trump, Democrats could spend months sniping at each other and sowing distrust between the progressive wing backing Sanders, and the rest of the party, which appears to be coalescing around Biden.
“The longer this primary drama rages on, the better for us,” said the other Republican operative, who is focused on Senate races.
The distrust among Sanders’ supporters for the Democratic establishment, who are increasingly backing Biden, could “be breaking the party apart” in a way that Republicans hope would depress turnout on the Democratic side in November, that second operative said.
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale released a statement tonight emphasizing this point.
“The results only increase the likelihood that no candidate will have enough delegates for a first ballot victory at their convention, which only means more chaos! The media is hyperventilating about Joe Biden but everyone should remember that he is just as terrible a candidate right now as he was a few days ago. At the same time, establishment Democrats have ganged up to try to deny Bernie Sanders the nomination, which is causing even more mayhem,” Parscale said.
“I think a protracted fight is good for Republicans on net,” said the GOP strategist. “But there are advantages to knowing what you’re shooting at sooner rather than later.”