Roy Moore’s upset victory in the Alabama Senate primary sent shock waves through the Republican establishment Wednesday, portending a GOP civil war as outsider candidates in other states threaten to challenge incumbents.
The potential showdowns are reminiscent of the tea party uprising that just a few years ago cost Republicans the majority in the Senate. Now President Trump’s populist rise to power — honed by his former advisor Stephen K. Bannon — has generated a new wave of long-shot candidates capable of upending the 2018 midterms.
“The GOP establishment’s stranglehold on American politics is finally coming to an end. It should encourage conservative challengers all across the republic,” he said. “The environment couldn’t be any better.”
Arizona’s Kelli Ward, who is challenging Sen. Jeff Flake, said after Alabama she felt “inspired and motivated.”
“Voters elected President Trump to shake up the status quo and get big things accomplished,” she said.
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller is another incumbent who faces a challenge by a candidate, Danny Tarkanian, with potential backing from Bannon’s allies.
And in Tennessee, incumbent Sen. Bob Corker’s sudden retirement, announced hours before the polls closed in Alabama, sent several potential candidates scrambling for what promises to be an intense primary.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans braced for more incumbents to resign rather than face challenging nomination fights.
As a result, Republican professionals who until recently felt that their control of the Senate was secure because the states holding elections in 2018 mostly lean red have started to worry. The departure of incumbents and the rise of candidates who Democrats easily can attack as extreme might put their majority at risk, they fear. At minimum, the new wave of challengers likely means more money spent and a Senate Republican Caucus that will lean further right, and be harder to control, after the next election.
“You’re going to see in state after state after state people who follow the model of Judge Moore,” Bannon told a cheering crowd at Moore’s election night party in Montgomery. They are candidates “that do not need to raise money from the elites, from the crony capitalists, from…