The GOP Is Already Tangling Over Who Should Run In 2024

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Following a disappointing midterm cycle in which candidates blew what appeared to be winnable races, Republican groups are already plotting to avoid a repeat in 2024.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) will be on the same page in many 2024 races, and are already coming into conflict with the 501(c)4 Club for Growth and its Super PAC, Club for Growth Action. The GOP’s official campaign arm, now helmed by Montana Sen. Steve Daines, raised and spent more than $250 million during the 2022 cycle, while the Mitch McConnell-aligned SLF raised and spent more than $289 million. The influence of presidential candidate Donald Trump, who endorsed more than 200 candidates during the 2022 midterms, also looms.

SLF and Club for Growth will square off in several primaries that will determine whether or not the GOP will take back the upper chamber. In a reversal from the midterms, however, the NRSC will involve itself in primaries. The group has already endorsed Rep. Jim Banks in Indiana.

Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is the Republicans’ top target in the 2024 cycle, representing a state that gave Donald Trump 68.6% support in the 2020 election cycle. The Club for Growth will support either Rep. Alex Mooney or Attorney General Patrick Morrissey in the primary, President David McIntosh recently told reporters, and would oppose a Gov. Jim Justice candidacy.

Justice “would be in what we would call the moderate camp, so we wouldn’t support him in the primary,” McIntosh explained. “If there are two conservatives its a precarious situation where they’re going to cancel each other out and the moderate would win. So we’re going to wait and see if they’re both running, and then make a final call on that.”

US First Lady Melania Trump and West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (L) attend a roundtable discussion on the opioid epidemic with local and state officials at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department in Huntington, West Virginia, July 8, 2019. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

SLF, on the other hand, recently released a poll showing that Justice is the only one of the three likely Republican candidates who is currently leading Manchin. The Democrat defeated Morrissey in 2018 by four points. (RELATED: ‘Big RINO’: GOP Rep Goes After His Own Governor As Senate Race Heats Up)

“We’re going to be focused on getting nominees who can win their general election and help us take back the Senate Majority. That’s the goal,” SLF spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair told the Daily Caller.

SLF intervened only sparingly in 2022 primaries, spending against former Gov. Eric Greitens in Missouri and Rep. Mo Brooks in Alabama. Greitens resigned from office after his hairdresser accused him of blackmailing her with a naked photograph, and his ex-wife accused him of domestic violence during the campaign, the Associated Press reported. Republicans worried that Greitens’ personal baggage would put the deep-red seat in play, while Brooks and McConnell have a long-running feud.

The group poured more than $6.5 million into the anti-Greitens Show Me Values PAC, according to FEC filings, and $2 million to the anti-Brooks Alabama’s Future. Neither candidate won the GOP nomination.

McIntosh also pledged his support for Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale, who is likely to run against veteran and businessman Tim Sheehy in a primary. The winner will square off against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who beat Rosendale in 2018. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Matt Rosendale Won’t Rule Out 2024 Senate Run)

“If [Rosendale] decides to run, we’d want to support him again, because we know his record. We like what he did in terms of the whole speaker selection process,” McIntosh said.

Trump made his 2022 influence most felt in fractured primaries. Several of his endorsed candidates, including Mehmet Oz, JD Vance, and Blake Masters, won primaries with at least five candidates. Those candidates later struggled to fundraise during their general election bids.

In Ohio, another major GOP pickup opportunity, state Sen. Matt Dolan, has already declared his candidacy and Secretary of State Frank LaRose may also run. Club for Growth endorsed Josh Mandel in the 2022 Ohio primary, while Trump endorsed now-Sen. JD Vance.

SLF is likely to stay out of the Ohio Senate race, although it will hope to avoid a repeat of the 2022 race, when it was forced to spend nearly $32 million in support of Vance during the general election. Dolan poured more than $10.6 million directly into his 2022 campaign and is again prepared to spend large sums of his own money in the 2024 primary, a source familiar with his strategy but not authorized to speak publicly told the Daily Caller.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin is likely to be the Democratic Senate nominee in Michigan, as potential challengers like Rep. Haley Stevens and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist have declined to run. Despite ethics concerns stemming from Slotkin’s renting an apartment from a campaign donor, Republicans strategists are not optimistic about flipping a seat that has been held by Democrat Debbie Stabenow since 2001. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Elissa Slotkin Chews Out Handpicked Debate Moderator For Not Asking Abortion Question)

“I think she is beatable but there’s a real lack of a clear path to a win,” one Michigan GOP operative explained. There are “no credible rumblings of a Republican candidate” and the state GOP is “irrelevant.”

“It’s going to take the right candidate, the right person at the top of the ticket, and a lot of money,” the operative continued. “If a Republican primary develops and its a debate between Peter Meijer and someone who didn’t vote to impeach Trump, Republicans are not going to be successful. If they’re focused on Elissa Slotkin is not qualified, that is a winning message.”

Republicans are also looking to pick up seats in Arizona and Wisconsin, among other states. Although failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake reportedly met with NRSC officials about the Arizona seat, she is unlikely to receive widespread institutional support. She “is not really an economic conservative,” McIntosh told reporters.

“Arizona’s going to be interesting with Sinema running as an independent and Democrats maybe running a different candidate. Does that create an opportunity for Republicans? The map’s gonna be in flux for a while,” he added.