Republican lawmakers up for re-election brace for Trump wave
Presidential candidates aren't the only ones hoping to lock down a victory on Super Tuesday. Several House and Senate Republicans are facing stiff challenges from primary opponents who are tapping into the anti-establishment fervor stoked by Donald Trump's run for the White House.
Trump has inspired record turnouts in each of the four GOP nominating contests so far this year, leaving some incumbents who have previously enjoyed easy re-election contests worried that his supporters will vote to kick them out when they show up to cast their ballots for the business mogul.
“You have people turning out to support a guy like Donald Trump who is talking about blowing up the system,” said Lisa Boothe, a former House GOP aide, campaign strategist and founder of High Noon Strategies.
This intraparty tension is on display in hotly contested Southern states including Alabama and Texas, where several veteran lawmakers are scrambling to make sure the Trump wave doesn't wash their political careers out to sea.
Lawmakers holding some of the most powerful seats in Congress — such as House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. — are among those in tight races. Also on the list are conservative Reps. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., and Martha Roby, R-Ala.
For most of these lawmakers, the concern isn't that they will lose outright on Tuesday, but that they will fail to register enough support. Texas and Alabama have two-step primaries in which candidates must receive more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.
While veteran Republican lawmakers have come to fear primary challenges more in recent years following the rise of the Tea Party, campaign strategists said the concern is particularly acute this year as the anti-establishment climate is inspiring voters who would normally stay home to come out and vote in the year of Trump.
The security once provided to incumbents by name recognition and help from party backers is fraying, leaving lawmakers to wrestle with how much to embrace their congressional experience while seeking to assure restless voters that they share their anger over the status quo.