WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans face a problem as they try to defend a slim majority in the Senate and win races elsewhere: Insurgent primary candidates are trying to lay claim to President Donald Trump’s mantle, and knock out the establishment’s choices.
The latest case is in Nevada, where endangered GOP incumbent Sen. Dean Heller drew a challenge Tuesday from businessman and repeat failed candidate Danny Tarkanian, who announced his bid in an early morning Fox News Channel appearance seemingly aimed at an audience of one: the president himself.
“We’re never going to make America great again unless we have senators in office that fully support President Trump and his America-first agenda,” Tarkanian said, criticizing Heller as “one of the first never-Trumpers in Nevada” and arguing he had obstructed Trump’s agenda in Congress.
Heller opposed early versions of Trump-backed health care legislation in the Senate before voting for a final version that failed anyway. His campaign spokesman, Tommy Ferraro, dismissed Tarkanian as a “perennial candidate.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is the official Senate GOP campaign arm, quickly announced its support for Heller, and a super PAC backed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., committed to spending what it takes to support him and other GOP incumbents.
The dynamic mirrors longstanding clashes between the GOP’s establishment and activist wings, which played out disastrously in 2010 and 2012 when hard-core conservatives won Senate primaries but went on to lose to Democrats….
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