Republicans for … Bernie?
By and large, Republicans are missing out on the zany fun of primary season. Donald Trump’s primary victory nearly tore the party apart in 2016; this time around, he enjoys overwhelming support among Republicans, and—with apologies to Bill Weld and Joe Walsh—lacks any serious primary threat. (Delegate counts after the Iowa primary: Trump 97, Weld 1, Walsh 0.) Just to be on the safe side, seven states—Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, Arizona, Alaska, Virginia, and Hawaii—canceled their presidential caucuses and primaries late last year.
Under such circumstances, what are Republicans to do to get their political fix? In at least a few cases, they’re taking a joyride into the Democrats’ primary process. This week, we’ve seen Republicans plotting to sow primary mayhem of one sort or another among Democrats in three separate races.
In South Carolina, which has open primaries and where the GOP canceled its own, a group of state GOP officials have decided to encourage their supporters to vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders, who, in the words of Greenville GOP Chairman Nate Leupp, is “the most socialistic, liberal candidate” in the race. The intent is both to help the primary chances of a candidate they feel will likely match up poorly against Trump and to demonstrate why the state should move to a closed primary.
In North Carolina, a GOP PAC called Faith and Power is spending upward of $1 million on ads supporting Senate candidate Erica Smith—a state senator waging an upstart campaign against establishment pick Cal Cunningham. The ad brags that Smith is the only candidate “endorsed by progressives and unions,” calls her “the No. 1 supporter of the Green New Deal,” and insists she is the race’s “only proven progressive.” Faith and Power hasn’t said anything publicly, but the aim is clearly to drag out the primary, to the benefit of GOP incumbent Thom Tillis in the general.