Conservatives, Bitter Battles Cause Headaches For GOP In Key Senate Primaries

Mitt Romney's loss at the Utah state party convention on Saturday is the latest example of an even bigger problem for Republicans – the conservative influence in key Senate primaries and the nasty fights that could hamper GOP attempts to have a strong majority in the upper chamber next year.

The enthusiasm on the right has, in some past contests, led to a more conservative general election candidate who failed to win in November.

Republicans cite those examples off the top of their heads: Christine O’Donnell in Delaware who will forever be identified with a 2010 ad in which she declared “I’m not a witch”; Todd Atkin in Missouri who in 2012 said victims of "legitimate rape" very rarely become pregnant; and Roy Moore in Alabama’s December special election, who vehemently denied multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

The most dedicated voters on both sides – the more conservative and the more liberal – tend to vote in primary elections, especially in the midterms, which can skew the results in competitive contests.

And those voters, who helped put Donald Trump into office, tend to veer right when it comes to picking their nominee.

It’s a problem on the mind of Republicans as they look to bolster their razor-thin majority in the Senate amid growing concerns Democrats could retake the House.

But the key for the GOP will be getting the right candidate, especially in red states like West Virginia and Arizona, which have competitive GOP primaries in the coming months.

“The map has broken out for them but they just have to make sure the primaries break out for them as well,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

“The good thing in Arizona is that it appears the two favorites of the base seem to be canceling each other out but that does not mean Martha McSally is going to have an easy time winning the nomination,” O’Connell said.

“You have a chance of not only keeping the Senate but making major gains depending on who the party nominates in a lot of these contests. So in a lot of ways the Republicans chances of holding the United States’ Senate depends solely on who those folks nominate,” O’Connell noted.

Read more from Emily Goodin at ABC News

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