How ‘gate’ became the syllable of scandal
A view of the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images
On June 17, 1972, Washington, D.C., police arrested five men for breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Although the administration’s press secretary, Ron Ziegler, dismissed the crime as a “third-rate burglary,” its scope would grow to consume Richard Nixon’s presidency and then bring it to an end 26 months later.
As with other infamous episodes, such as the Teapot Dome scandal or the Chappaquiddick tragedy, the event would come to be known by the place where it occurred.
But unlike those two precedents, the Watergate Office Building would be immortalized as the catchall term for political scandal.
“Watergate,” in this context, is an example of metonymy. A part – the site of the break-in – comes to stand for the larger whole: the illegal acts committed by Nixon’s administration, as well as the subsequent investigation into them.
Metonymy is a common way in which English is fortified with new vocabulary – think of “the Pentagon” as a stand-in for the U.S. military, or “Hollywood” as a way to refer to the motion picture industry.
What’s unusual about Watergate is that one syllable splintered off to become the universally recognized designator for political malfeasance. When boozy government-sponsored parties that broke COVID-19 lockdown rules came to light in the U.K., the scandal quickly became known as “partygate.” But the syllable has also migrated beyond politics, becoming a tag for wrongdoing of virtually any kind.
Other splinters have also been pressed into service to create new words. For example, “-athon,” from “marathon,” can emphasize an event’s long duration – telethon, dance-a-thon, and hackathon. Similarly, “-aholic,” from “alcoholic,” denotes an addiction: shopaholic, workaholic, sexaholic.
But in terms of sheer productivity, “-gate” has no peer. Wikipedia’s list of -gates has over 260 entries.
During its remarkable career, it has often been wielded as a linguistic cudgel, and few other four-letter strings have such power to stigmatize and to demonize.
The early years
A year after the Watergate break-in, the humor magazine National Lampoon referenced “Volgagate” – a fictitious Russian scandal – in its August 1973 issue. This seems to have been the first use of -gate as a generic label for a political scandal.
A month later, Newsweek characterized a scheme to peddle cheap Bordeaux as “Winegate.” Its extension to viniculture suggested that -gate might have a life outside of politics.
But the real popularizer of -gate was William Safire, Nixon’s former speechwriter. As a conservative political columnist with The New York Times for over 30 years, Safire created or promoted many such terms. These included Billygate, Lancegate and Briefingate to describe scandals that emerged during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. He also popularized Travelgate and Whitewatergate during the Clinton years.
After Nixon resigned, his former speechwriter, William Safire, deployed ‘gate’ as a suffix to describe various scandals that engulfed the Democratic Party. Bettmann/Getty Images
These episodes didn’t rise to the seriousness of Watergate, of course. But by making them into -gates, Safire was implying that Democrats could be just as corrupt as Republicans.
Apart from Safire’s inventions, few episodes from the 1970s to the 1990s were referred to as -gates. Only about 10% of the terms on Wikipedia’s list date from the 20th century. Even major political scandals of the period only occasionally received this epithet.
Consider the Reagan administration’s scheme to use Iranian arm sales to fund the Nicaraguan Contras. All the attributes for a Watergate-style comparison were present: illegal activity, conspiracy and an attempted cover-up.
Despite this, The New York Times referred to the episode as “Reagangate” just twice, “Contragate” only 11 times and “Irangate” about 100 times. In contrast, the paper used the phrase “Iran-Contra” nearly 6,000 times in its coverage.
Opening the ‘flood-gates’
In the new millennium, however, -gate became totally unmoored from politics.
It has been employed to describe kerfuffles in almost every field of human endeavor – sports (Astrogate), journalism (Rathergate), technology (Antennagate) and entertainment (Nipplegate).
Already in 2022, hashtags referring to a number of events – such as #slapgate and #lettergate – have trended on Twitter.
For those who value precision in language, this as a problem – because if everything is a scandal, then nothing is.
Consider “Ponytailgate.” In 2015, New Zealand’s prime minister, over a period of several months, repeatedly tugged on the ponytail of a young café waitress. He persisted despite repeated requests from both the waitress and the prime minister’s wife that he stop. Such behavior is boorish at best.
But does it belong in the same category as events involving corruption, a conspiracy, or a cover-up?
A pleasing sounding suffix
It may be that -gate is used because nothing better has come along. Replacement terms have enjoyed only limited popularity.
The splinter “-ghazi” arose in reference to the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. It was occasionally deployed against the Obama administration. For example, when President Obama wore a tan suit to a press conference, “Beigeghazi” was born. But -ghazi probably failed as a suffix for scandal because it was too much of a mouthful.
This can be seen in the 2014 debate over what to call former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s lane closure scandal. Should it be “Bridgeghazi” or “Bridgegate” – or even “Bridgeaquiddick”?
Bridgegate won out – undoubtedly because it was shorter and simpler. Resonance also seems to apply for other scandals: “Deflategate” simply sounds better than “Ballghazi” as a name for the New England Patriots football scandal.
One size fits all?
Not content with its domination of English, -gate has also wormed its way into other languages, such as German, Serbo-Croatian, Greek and Hungarian.
But like most successful trends, the widespread use of -gate has engendered significant backlash. As with Ponytailgate, many of these coinages fail to differentiate the mundane from the momentous. This invites accusations of journalistic laziness, in which events are merely lumped together rather than analyzed.
In addition, overuse has transformed -gate constructions from the somewhat clever coinages of Safire’s day into the tired clichés of today. It can also be difficult to tell when a -gate construction is intended ironically, which makes interpretation difficult.
Finally, sometimes shorthand is just too short. “Reagangate” may have failed as a label for Iran-Contra because it wasn’t specific enough. The term could have referred to any of several different episodes during Reagan’s eight-year administration.
Terrell Owens, during an October 2002 Monday Night Football game, took a Sharpie out of his sock to sign a football after scoring a touchdown. Tami Tomsic/Getty Images
At the other extreme, the same -gate has been applied to very different controversies. “Sharpiegate” referred to Terrell Owens’ signing of a football in 2002. But it was also trotted out for President Donald Trump’s edit of a map of Hurricane Dorian’s path in 2019. And in 2020, it became associated with allegations of ballot fixing in Arizona.
But even half a century later, -gate is still finding gainful employment in politics. It was used, for example, to tag several Trump scandals, from Russiagate to Ukrainegate. And President Joe Biden has had to contend with Kabulgate and #formulagate.
No president has resigned since Nixon, arguably in the face of worse scandals than Watergate.
As with the wear and tear on an overused suffix, one has to wonder: Have voters become numb to political scandal, too?
Roger J. Kreuz does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Sean Gallup/Bongarts/Getty Images
Sports and gambling have been synonymous since the beginning of time, and big-spending bettors have always looked for an edge to come out ahead. Often, that edge meant bribing players, coaches, referees, or anyone else who could affect the outcome of a game or series.
Match-fixing is when someone directly involved in a sporting contest is able to change the results in order for a certain bet to win. That can involve asking a player to purposefully miss a shot, telling a referee to call more fouls against a certain team, or asking a coach to bench a specific player. Throughout the years, match-fixing has involved criminal gangs, degenerate gamblers, and even the mafia.
And while different measures have been put in place to prevent match-fixing—authorities establishing harsher penalties for those involved, installing commissioners to oversee leagues, and even installing bet-monitoring software—gamblers still seem to find ways to outsmart the watchdogs.
OLBG wanted to dig into the sordid world of match-fixing and used manual research to determine 10 of the biggest match-fixing scandals of all time. These scandals led to penalties for those involved—often including fines, banishment from the sports league, or even jail time—and these scandals usually had a significant impact on the sport as a whole.
Today, with sports gambling legalized in more places than ever, the desire and opportunity to bet on more games might come with unintended consequences like match-fixing. Here are some of the biggest fixes of all time that serve as the ultimate cautionary tales.
Ronald Martinez // Getty Images
While the NBA attempted to brush it under the rug, the Tim Donaghy betting scandal was a much bigger deal than the league wanted its fans to believe. Donaghy was an NBA referee who started betting on the games he was personally officiating in 2003, and when high-rolling gamblers and bookies caught wind of Donaghy’s bets, they started making big wagers of their own before creating a larger criminal conspiracy in 2006. Millions of dollars changed hands as Donaghy called fouls at critical junctures of games to swing the betting line one way or another. The scandal came crashing down when the mafia in New York got involved, and the FBI was tipped off to the betting scheme. In the end, Donaghy was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to transmit gambling information. He spent 15 months in federal prison. The NBA and the FBI were never able to prove that a wider conspiracy involved other referees and more game fixing, though suspicions remain.
Vladimir Rys // Getty Images
In 2009, in what’s considered the biggest match-fixing scandal in European football history, police forces in multiple countries conducted more than 50 raids and uncovered a betting conspiracy that involved at least 200 people. Matches were fixed in the Champions League and Europa League, along with lower tier leagues by international organized gangs. These included involvement from players, coaches, referees, and match officials. Nearly 40 matches were under suspicion, and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) said the harshest of sanctions would be brought to anyone involved. UEFA, the governing body of European football and the umbrella organization for 55 national associations, also vowed to crack down on gambling rings and installed a specialized Betting Fraud Detection System to track and monitor suspicious betting trends going forward.
Boston Globe // Getty Images
Questions still remain over who was involved, and how much money was actually made in the Boston College point-shaving scandal in the 1978–79 college basketball season, but at the time, the tale made national headlines. The basic story involves three Boston College players and a group of mobsters who hired the players to help fix the games. One of the mobsters was the infamous Henry Hill, the main character in the Martin Scorsese mob thriller “Goodfellas,” who claimed to win hundreds of thousands of dollars off the scheme. Ultimately, only one player was convicted for his role, along with Pittsburgh gamblers Paul Mazzei and brothers Anthony and Rocco Perla, as well as infamous New York mobster Jimmy Burke. Mostly, the players turned out to be unreliable participants in a small number of games for an even smaller amount of money.
ROBERTO SALOMONE // Getty Images
Italian football has a long and storied history, but the Calciopoli scandal tarnished the legacy of multiple teams and officials. In 2006, federal prosecutors were investigating Juventus, one of Italy’s premier football clubs, for doping. While listening in on pertinent phone calls, they discovered a more sordid tale of multiple teams pressuring referees to help fix matches. At the center of the scandal was Juve’s general manager Luciano Moggi, but the fix also brought down Italian Football Federation president Franco Carraro and the ironically named vice-president Innocenzo Mazzini. The clubs—Milan, Fiorentina, Juventus, Lazio, and Reggina—were all punished with some being relegated to lower leagues, others paying large fines, and Juventus being stripped of its 2004–05 title.
BEN STANSALL // Getty Images
Cricket is undoubtedly the biggest sport in Pakistan, which is why a betting scandal in 2010 rocked the entire country. An undercover journalist, posing as a bookie, successfully managed to bribe three players to help fix a match. Mohammad Amir, Pakistan’s captain Salman Butt, and Mohammad Asif were all found guilty of match-fixing and sentenced to prison in London. Cricket in Pakistan continued to be plagued by match-fixing after the scandal, which may be due to the fact that there are no laws criminalizing the act in the country.
Allsport // Getty Images
In an odd twist, the Totonero Italian football scandal in 1980 came to light because the man who was paying players to fix games felt he wasn’t getting his money’s worth. Massimo Cruciani actually went to court in Rome to claim that multiple Lazio players took his money, but didn’t fix the matches as promised, sending Cruciani into debt. The scandal then exploded across Italy, as it was revealed that almost two dozen players had been involved in match-fixing with multiple bans and suspensions being handed down by Italy’s football authorities. Milan and Lazio were both relegated to Serie B, while five other clubs lost points in their respective leagues.
ullstein bild // Getty Images
The lifeblood for most football clubs is to remain in the top tier leagues where they can earn the most money and compete for the greatest glory. Relegation, or being sent down into lower tier leagues, can mean financial ruin in many cases, which is why the Bundesliga scandal in 1971 was such a big deal. Two clubs in particular, Kickers Offenbach and Arminia Bielefeld, were able to bribe other players to help them throw games in order for their clubs to remain in the Bundesliga, the top tier German league. The scandal broke when then Offenbach chairman Horst-Gregorio Canellas presented an audio tape that implicated himself in the bribery scandal, but also other players and clubs. The end result saw more than 50 players, managers, and officials receive suspensions and bans. It also saw Offenbach relegated to a lower league in spite of the fixing efforts.
Christof Koepsel // Getty Images
One of the biggest match-fixing scandals in German football history involved a trio of Croatian brothers who ran a gambling syndicate and had ties to organized crime. The brothers managed to bribe referee Robert Hoyzer for around $92,500 to fix certain games that netted the gamblers around $2.75 million. Hoyzer was caught when a group of referees alerted the German Football Association (Deutscher Fußball-Bund, DFB) of their suspicions, which led authorities to surveil the brothers and make their arrests. Ultimately, Hoyzer was banned from football for life; another referee, Dominik Marks, was also banned for life; the three brothers were sent to prison; and other referees and officials were suspended from the game.
Jean-Michel TURPIN // Getty Images
With the 1993 UEFA Champions League Final only six days away, Olympique de Marseille président Bernard Tapie and general manager Jean-Pierre Bernès wanted to ensure their club would perform at their best. The lead up to that final contest was a match between Olympique de Marseille and Valenciennes, whereby Tapie and Bernès contacted players on Valenciennes, asking them to take a bribe to make the match easy on Marseille. Two players accepted the bribe, but a third, Jacques Glassmann, refused and ended up exposing the fix. Marseille wound up winning the fixed game and went on to become the first French team to win the European Cup. The celebrations were short-lived, however, as Marseille was stripped of its title, the team was relegated to a lower league, and multiple players and officials were suspended and went to jail. Glassmann, on the other hand, received the 1995 FIFA Fair Play Award for exposing the scandal.
Bettmann // Getty Images
In one of the most notorious fixing scandals of all time, eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the MLB World Series in 1919. Memorialized in the classic movie “Eight Men Out,” eight White Sox players took money from gangsters to lose the series to the Cincinnati Reds. Whether the team actually went through with the scandal has long been up for debate, however. The players seemed to have a change of heart midway through the series when they weren’t receiving payments for throwing the games. They still ended up losing, costing the city of Chicago a championship, and ruining their own reputations. A court of law didn’t find the eight guilty, but the newly appointed commissioner of baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned the players for life and helped the team earn the dubious nickname, the “Black Sox.”
This story originally appeared on OLBG and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
Incumbent: Republican Pat Toomey (retiring)
Pennsylvania remains the seat most likely to flip, although Republicans feel better about holding retiring Sen. Pat Toomey's seat now that the Trump-backed candidate is out of the race and several new candidates have jumped in.
"We have an embarrassment of riches," McConnell told Raju in late January. The biggest new name is hedge fund executive David McCormick. A former Treasury official in the George W. Bush administration who lived in Connecticut for years, McCormick has rolled out ads trying to convince voters that "his Pennsylvania roots will keep him grounded." He's the husband of Dina Powell McCormick, who was Trump's deputy national security adviser. Sean Parnell, the Trump endorsee who suspended his campaign after a public custody battle that was generating worrisome headlines for the GOP, quickly backed McCormick, as did Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who recently rallied with him in the state.
McCormick and his allies are already in a sniping contest with Dr. Mehmet Oz, who entered the race late last fall and had loaned his campaign more than $5 million, according to his recent FEC filing. Honor Pennsylvania, an anti-Oz group, is attacking the former talk show host as a "Hollywood liberal." (Like McCormick, Oz recently lived out of state, in New Jersey.) American Leadership Action, a pro-Oz group, is going after McCormick's business record, as is Oz's campaign.
There were already Republicans running here -- allies of businessman Jeff Bartos, for example, are attacking the two newcomers as carpetbaggers -- and Carla Sands, who was ambassador to Denmark under Trump, loaned her campaign another $500,000 in the fourth quarter.
While Democrats are enjoying watching Republicans duke it out, they have their own crowded primary. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is still the fundraising leader, raising $2.7 million in the fourth quarter. Rep. Conor Lamb -- who, like Fetterman, is from the western part of the state -- has picked up some labor endorsements and the backing of the mayor of Philadelphia. He finished ahead of the other candidates in a state party committee vote last weekend but fell short of the threshold for an endorsement.
Incumbent: Democrat Raphael Warnock
After winning a special election runoff last winter that helped flip the Senate, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock never slowed down. He raised $9.8 million in the fourth quarter as he seeks a full six-year term in November. Only a sum like that could make the nearly $5.4 million that Republican challenger Herschel Walker raised seem paltry. Since Biden won the state in 2020, Georgia has remained one of the most interesting political battlegrounds that's also home to a high-profile gubernatorial race and is ground zero for the fight for voting rights, which Democrats hope could energize turnout on their side. With the national spotlight on his state, Warnock isn't likely to be hurting for money anytime soon.
And while staggering Democratic fundraising hasn't always translated to success (see South Carolina in 2020 or Texas in 2018), public polling suggests this race is competitive. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed no clear leader, with Walker at 49% and Warnock at 48% among registered voters. Republicans are feeling confident about this race now that McConnell and Trump are united behind Walker, even if the former NFL star remains largely untested as a candidate, and because the national environment has looked increasingly strong for them. Biden's job approval rating in the Peach State in that Quinnipiac poll, for example, was 36%. But Democrats take heart that Warnock's job approval was a higher 47%. With Senate races so nationalized these days, Warnock will need to continue to overperform Biden -- as he did in 2021 -- if he's going to survive in November, regardless of how many millions he raises.
Incumbent: Republican Ron Johnson
The big news here is GOP Sen. Ron Johnson is running for reelection, which reassured Republicans and enthused Democrats. Republicans are glad to be avoiding another messy primary, and they're thankful Johnson didn't wait even longer to make his announcement. In a video explaining his decision, Johnson says he intended for his current term to be his last but cannot "walk away" after seeing "the Democrats in total control."
Democrats, however, are thrilled that Johnson -- who has continued to make controversial and misleading statements about Covid-19 and January 6 -- is running. They believe he's a damaged enough incumbent that it will be easier to flip this seat with him in it than if he weren't. Senate Majority PAC, the preeminent Democratic super PAC, quickly attacked Johnson for being "deep in the swamp." Johnson's announcement also prompted the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to launch its first TV ad of the cycle, hitting him for "looking out for himself."
Republicans think a strong national environment will help them hold on to this seat, especially if they can paint the eventual Democratic nominee as too far left for the state, which backed Biden by less than a point in 2020. They're excited about the prospect of running against Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, for example, who has the support of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Barnes raised $1.2 million in the fourth quarter -- which is more than Johnson's $711,000 but lower than some Democratic challengers across the country. And he faces a crowded primary, including Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, who loaned his campaign about $1.5 million in the fourth quarter and has been running a series of ads on TV.
Incumbent: Democrat Mark Kelly
Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, like Warnock in Georgia, continues to post impressive fundraising numbers as he runs for a full six-year term in November. Kelly raised nearly $9 million in the last quarter. That, on its own, should put Republicans on notice in an increasingly purple state that Biden narrowly won in 2020. But unlike Georgia, where the GOP has largely coalesced around one candidate, Republicans here face a real headache with a messy candidate field ahead of the August primary. There have been renewed rumors about Gov. Doug Ducey running, which would please McConnell and national Republicans, but he's a frequent target of Trump and doesn't appear to have made any moves ahead of the April filing deadline.
That leaves Attorney General Mark Brnovich, whose fundraising continues to be underwhelming (he raised about $800,000 last quarter) and venture capitalist Blake Masters, among several others, duking it out. Masters raised nearly $1.6 million, but he also has the advantage of a Peter Thiel-backed super PAC touting him as a "Trump conservative." Based on the advertising in the state -- which has already crept past $30 million, according to CNN's analysis of AdImpact data as of Friday -- Republicans are leaning into the Trump loyalty contest. Solar energy entrepreneur Jim Lamon, for example, who loaned his campaign $3 million in the fourth quarter, is going all-in on Trump's claims of a rigged election.
Regardless of their nominee, Republicans think it's a winnable race, especially if the national environment continues to look bleak for Biden and other Democrats, and they're eager to go after Kelly's voting record and exploit the differences between him and his more moderate Democratic Arizona colleague, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
Incumbent: Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto
This is one of the few contests, like Georgia, where Trump and McConnell have already united behind the same candidate. In Nevada, it's former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the grandson of the former governor and senator with the same last name. The GOP's ability to coalesce around him ahead of the June primary could be critical to winning the seat, but he still faces competition. Retired Army Capt. Sam Brown raised about $1 million in the fourth quarter, just shy of Laxalt's $1.3 million.
Republicans are hopeful that Biden's sagging approval ratings and voters' anxieties will help them in the state, which has seen its share of pandemic and inflation woes.
"I don't know if it's the President, or what happened, but (under Trump) it was so much better," one Nevada voter who has recently voted for Democrats told CNN's Maeve Reston in early January.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the former chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, raised about $3.3 million last quarter and hasn't yet really reintroduced herself to voters. Democrats have long believed that abortion could be a salient issue here -- especially since Laxalt's opposition to abortion rights puts him at odds with the state's most recent GOP governor -- and are hoping the Supreme Court vacancy will help bring more attention to that contrast by reminding voters what's at stake. But Republicans' inroads with Hispanics, combined with the state's non-college-educated White population, make this race among the most competitive.
Incumbent: Republican Richard Burr (retiring)
Trump's endorsement in this race nearly eight months ago has yet to clear the GOP field, with none of the candidates posting stellar fundraising. In fact, former Rep. Mark Walker announced last week that he would carry on with his Senate campaign rather than drop down to a House race with the possibility of an endorsement from the ex-President. Rep. Ted Budd, Trump's pick for Senate, raised $968,000 in the fourth quarter and continues to introduce himself to voters statewide, while the Club for Growth's political arm spends big to help him. That includes going hard after former Gov. Pat McCrory, who raised $748,000. Combat veteran Marjorie K. Eastman raised $423,000 and is less well known but has benefited from nearly $1 million in outside spending from a group called Restore Common Sense. The delay in the state's primaries from March to May, thanks to redistricting litigation, will give Republicans more time to sort out their field.
Democrats, meanwhile, have a prohibitive favorite in former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley after other major candidates dropped out. She raised $2.1 million in the last quarter. While Republicans likely start with the advantage in this state that Trump carried by about a point in 2020, Democrats are hopeful Beasley can energize minority turnout in a non-presidential year.
Incumbent: Democrat Maggie Hassan
Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan got a huge break when Republican Gov. Chris Sununu decided late last year to run for reelection rather than challenge her. Besides retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, several other Republicans are now hoping to take on Hassan, although none of Sununu's stature. Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP gubernatorial nod in 2012, announced his campaign last month. State Senate President Chuck Morse followed over the weekend, riding a skid-steer loader into his snowy announcement event, WMUR reported. McConnell singled out Morse in his interview with CNN last week, saying, "We think we'll have a good candidate there."
Democrats have done well in the Granite State in recent federal elections, with Biden carrying the state by 7 points in 2020. But his approval rating slipped last fall, giving Republicans hope they'd unseat Hassan even without their preferred candidate. Biden's numbers had somewhat improved by mid-December, returning to July levels, according to the most recent University of New Hampshire Granite State Poll. Hassan, who raised $3.2 million in the last quarter, isn't in as competitive a race as she could have been had Sununu thrown his hat in the ring, but she still has to hope that the national environment doesn't endanger her. Only 28% of New Hampshire residents in that Granite State Poll, for example, said things in the US "are headed in the right direction."
Incumbent: Republican Marco Rubio
GOP Sen. Marco Rubio is running for a third term in a state that has favored Republicans recently. (Trump carried it by 3 points in 2020.) That means he starts as the favorite, but Democratic Rep. Val Demings, who was a contender for Biden's running mate, has been an impressive fundraiser. She raised about $7.2 million in the fourth quarter -- more than Rubio's $5.2 million, although he ended 2021 with more cash on hand. Demings will need the money to introduce herself statewide across expensive media markets.
Rubio has recently been touting his support from law enforcement, trying to counter any advantages Demings might bring to the race as a former Orlando police chief. The congresswoman responded last week by calling Rubio a "lifelong politician," saying that during her tenure with the police she had helped respond to "some dark, scary places" while he was "home in his bed sleeping," according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Incumbent: Republican Rob Portman (retiring)
The Republican primary field to replace retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman remains unsettled ahead of the May primary as candidates and their allies frantically put out polls to try to shape their own narratives of the race. The Club for Growth's political arm is spending for former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, attacking "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance and former state party Chair Jane Timken. Almost all the candidates, including a couple of big-spending businessmen, are leaning heavily into Trump's rhetoric, creating a sharp distinction from the senator they're hoping to succeed.
Vance claimed in a tweet thread on the anniversary of the US Capitol insurrection that many of the rioters in a DC jail are "political prisoners," adding, "They are our people." He also recently secured the endorsement of controversial GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, which he likely hopes will blunt some of his past public criticism of Trump. State Sen. Matt Dolan was the rare candidate to describe January 6 as "an attack on American democracy" in a statement on the one-year anniversary, calling out "fake conservatives willing to sacrifice our most sacred text, the Constitution, in favor of political expedience." He's invested a stunning $10.5 million of his own money into his campaign (mostly in contributions, not loans) but faces a steep uphill battle in a GOP primary that revolves around Trump.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Ryan, who raised $2.9 million last quarter, has largely consolidated support, but Ohio, which Trump carried by 8 points, remains a tough state for anyone in his party who's not Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Incumbent: Republican Roy Blunt (retiring)
Missouri is different from most of the states on this list in that it really wouldn't be here if it weren't for one man. "Missouri is potentially challenging depending on the outcome in the primary," McConnell told Raju. Former Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned from office following a probe into allegations of sexual and campaign misconduct, threatens to put in play a red state that Trump won by 15 points in 2020. He's trying to align himself with Trump, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancée of the ex-President's son, is his campaign's national chair.
Greitens faces a handful of Republicans also trying to secure Trump's support ahead of the August primary. Rep. Billy Long, for example, ran an ad about Democrats "rigging the election." State Attorney General Eric Schmitt recently announced lawsuits against school districts with masking rules, which is becoming a conservative rallying cry as the third year of the pandemic gets underway. GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler -- the only woman in the race -- hasn't hesitated to go after Greitens, taking an implicit jab at his extramarital affair in her first ad released last fall.
The fear is that Greitens could jeopardize the general election much like GOP nominee Todd Akin did in the 2012 Senate contest. And the more Republicans in the race, the more splintered the primary vote will be, thereby lowering the threshold Greitens would need to win the nomination. Democrat Lucas Kunce raised $710,000 in the fourth quarter -- more than any of the Republicans excluding personal loans. But the Marine veteran will need more than money to make the race go his way.