Josh Hawley, Wisconsin's 38-year-old Republican wunderkind, was pressured into running for the US Senate this year, and party leaders worry his heart's not really in it. 

What: According to a Politico article published Tuesday, Senate Republican leaders tapped Hawley, Missouri's Stanford- and Yale-educated state attorney, as their top recruit of 2018. They were confident he could take down Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill in the November midterms.

But more than two dozen Republican big wigs complained to the politics site that Hawley seemed to be more interested in GTL (Gym, tan, laundry) than GOP politics. A series of social media missteps haven't helped. 

Last September, a Democrat ​tweeted a photo of Hawley buying wine early on a Friday afternoon. On a weekday last November, he ​posted an Instagram video of himself lifting weights with the caption, "Detox before tomorrow's retox." In April he was ​photographed hitting the dumbbells in the middle of a workday. 

Why: Republicans are bracing for an electoral "blue wave," powered in part by Democratic opposition to President Donald Trump. Polling shows the Democrats with a 6-point lead nationally, and the party only needs to win two Senate races to take control of that chamber. 

Were the donkeys to win the Senate -- which is seen as a harder task than taking the House -- Trump's agenda and perhaps even his presidency, would be in peril.

That being said, Hawley is still widely expected to win and help the Republicans hold on to their Senate majority. 


Politico heard concerns about Hawley from more than two dozen senior Republican strategists, donors, lawmakers and local officials. 

Wisconsin Rep. Ann Wagner complained Friday that Hawley had not appeared at a Republican debate, and then took the stage and declared that "showing up matters."

Mark Reardon, a veteran conservative radio show host in St. Louis, called Hawley "MIA," and said he was "pissed" and "frustrated" that the candidate had shunned his show in recent months.

Ken Hurley, the county GOP secretary, said he was "very disappointed" that Hawley had declined to attend the Lincoln Day Dinner in Christian County, the fastest-growing county in the state and a GOP stronghold. He said the decision showed Hawley "doesn’t care about Christian County."

Austin Petersen, one of Hawley's primary challengers, who ran for president in 2016 as a Libertarian, has ​launched an online ad in which he holds a squawking live chicken while challenging Hawley to a debate: “What’s the matter Josh, you chicken?”

Still, the election is almost six months away, and some Republicans said Hawley seems to be getting serious just in time.

For his part, Hawley rejected much of the criticism of his campaign and called for unity. 

“I would just say that, No. 1, there’s always room for improvement," he said. "No. 2, we need all the help we can get."