Jul 25, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Democrats boost right-wing challenger to GOP Trump foe

National Democrats are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost a far-right, Trump-endorsed conspiracy theorist in one of the most closely watched House races in the country — further endangering one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump.

Driving the news: A new TV ad from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee portrays Republican John Gibbs as the true pro-Trump conservative in his effort to unseat Republican Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) — aligning with Gibbs' own campaign messaging.

  • Trump endorsed Gibbs' challenge after Meijer voted to impeach the former president over his role in fomenting the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.
  • Meijer, a freshman, had been in Congress just days when he took that potentially career-ending vote.
  • Now Democrats, who see Gibbs as the more beatable general election opponent, are fueling the Trump-backed effort to oust one of his few remaining GOP critics in next week's primary.

A DCCC spokesperson told Axios it plans to spend $425,000 to air the ad in the Grand Rapids market beginning Tuesday.

  • "Handpicked by Trump to run for Congress, Gibbs called Trump 'the greatest president' and worked in Trump's administration with Ben Carson," the 30-second spot says.
  • "Gibbs has promised to push that same conservative agenda in Congress," the ad says, specifically noting hardline positions on immigration and education policy.

Be smart: The spot is couched as an attack ad, saying "the Gibbs-Trump agenda is too conservative for West Michigan."

  • Despite the framing, it hits on precisely the issues any Trump-backed Republican would want to be elevated before a primary contest.
  • Asked whether the ad was designed to boost Gibbs' primary bid, the DCCC spokesperson did not respond.

What they're saying: "The DCCC boosting John Gibbs is clear evidence of who Nancy Pelosi prefers in this race," Meijer spokesperson Emily Taylor told Axios in a statement.

  • "Democrats don't want to face Peter Meijer in the November election because Peter is the best candidate to represent West Michigan in Congress, and he's the only candidate who will put the interests of the 3rd District ahead of partisan priorities," Taylor said.
  • "We are confident that voters will see through Democrats' political games while Peter remains focused on the issues that matter most to the people he represents."

The big picture: The Meijer-Gibbs contest is just the latest in which Democrats have meddled on behalf of far-right candidates in hopes of securing a more favorable matchup in November.

  • Trump-backed candidates in Arizona, Maryland and Pennsylvania have also benefitted.
  • Like Gibbs, those candidates have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election — a position national Democrats have portrayed as existentially threatening to American democracy.

Between the lines: Michigan's new congressional map made Meijer's district significantly more competitive, and Democrats are expected to nominate a candidate, Hillary Scholten, who lost to Meijer by just six points in 2020.

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