President Richard Nixon famously complained that Republican candidates were expected to show how conservative they were in GOP primaries only to feel obligated to make a dramatic run for the center in the general election. The irony is that in 2022, GOP primaries are way to the right of where they were in Nixon's day; Republicans who were considered arch-conservative during the 1960s and 1970s would be too far to the left for today's far-right MAGA movement.
Nonetheless, one does see, in 2022, a similar pivot among some Republicans in swing states and swing districts; now that they're in the general election, they are trying to downplay how pro-Donald Trump and anti-abortion they were in their primaries. And according to the Daily Beast's Sam Brodey, it's no coincidence that pro-MAGA and anti-abortion messages have disappeared from their websites.
Brodey cites some specific examples in an article published by the Beast on September 28. One of them is Bo Hines, a former college football player who is running for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in North Carolina's 13th Congressional District.
"Right after Bo Hines won a crowded primary for Congress in North Carolina, a visitor to the Republican hopeful's campaign website would immediately find his declaration that he was '100 percent Pro-Life' and '100 percent Pro-Trump,'" Brodey explains. "Just a click away was a section focused on 'life and family' issues, which professed Hines' position that 'life begins at conception' and his commitment to 'protect the rights of the unborn.' Naturally, the first thing greeting any visitor to the site was the grinning face of Donald Trump — and his endorsement of Hines' campaign. Today, all of that is gone."
Brodey continues, "As Hines faces stiff competition from a Democratic rival in a swing suburban district, all but one of the images and invocations of Trump previously on his site have been removed, as have all references to abortion. Trump only appears in a photoshopped image with Hines in his site's section on border security."
According to the Beast reporter, the familiar tactic of "pivoting to the general" is "being pushed to its limits for Republicans running in 2022."
"Trump remains as popular as ever among the GOP base and is as unpopular as ever outside of it," Brodey observes. "The Supreme Court's move in June to overturn abortion rights is a dream come true in the GOP base — but a nightmare to many more outside it. Stuck between their past posturing and their current campaigning, a growing cohort of Republican candidates have turned to a simple solution for reconciling it all: just delete it."
Brodey continues, "According to a review of archived internet pages by The Daily Beast, at least five House GOP candidates in battleground districts wiped mentions of Trump or the 2020 election from their websites or social media after winning their primaries. And at least seven removed or significantly modified language about abortion on their web sites over the summer."
Brodey cites Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Blake Masters in Arizona and Tiffany Smiley in Washington State as three examples of Republican U.S. Senate nominees who "have scrubbed their online pages of Trump or 2020." And Adam Laxalt, the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in Nevada, and Masters, according to Brodey, have done "the same for abortion."
Ken Spain, a GOP strategist, believes it is "kind of silly at this stage" for Republican nominees to be scrubbing their websites of their own positions.
Spain told the Beast, "Unfortunately for all candidates, the internet lives forever. At this point, it's too late to run away from who you are."
Tommy Garcia, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) spokesperson, believes it is disingenuous for Republicans to downplay their positions.
Garcia told the Beast, "MAGA Republicans have made their extreme positions clear — there is no going back just because they have all of a sudden realized that they are out of touch with voters. Voters know exactly who these cowardly candidates are."