ChrisWeigant.com

Primary Season Musings

[ Posted Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 – 16:29 PDT ]

With fewer than 100 days to go until the midterm elections, several states held primaries last night as well as one very closely-watched special House election in Ohio. The final results are not all in, due to the closeness of the race in Ohio and in the Republican gubernatorial primary in Kansas, but enough results are in to draw some broad conclusions overall.

 

OH-12 a win for Democrats even if they ultimately lose

This might wind up being yet another of those "moral victories" that don't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but do serve as indicators of how much trouble Republicans in the House are truly in right now. A district that for decades has been staunchly Republican (and has been carefully gerrymandered to remain so) came down to essentially a tie. When all the absentee and provisional ballots are counted, it is quite likely that the Republican will emerge the victor (with a razor-thin margin of less than a percentage point) -- but this is in a district that Donald Trump won by eleven points. That is a huge shift towards the Democrats, obviously.

There are at least five dozen House seats where the Republican lean in the district is smaller than Ohio's 12th. This means they're all going to be easier to win in November than last night's race was. In fact, Democrats even have a chance at a rematch in Ohio, since the two candidates from last night will also be on the ballot in November for a full term (rather than a special election to fill a vacancy). Who ultimately wins the seat will hinge on how different the makeup is of the general election turnout compared to that of the special election turnout.

The most interesting thing about the Ohio special election was how much money was spent. Republicans spent around $5 million all told, about five times what the Democrats spent -- to defend a seat that was supposed to be solid red, mind you. What this means for the bigger picture is that Republicans are going to have to spend a whole lot of money before November on races that were supposed to be slam-dunks for the GOP. This will leave them with less money for other races, obviously.

 

Everyone should calm down about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Seriously, take a deep breath. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been raised to Herculean proportions by both sides of the political divide. Conservatives are gleeful to have such a bugaboo to rail against -- "She's a socialist! She'll destroy America! Everybody run!" At the same time, the establishment wing of the Democratic Party has reacted with fear that Ocasio-Cortez will singlehandedly (well, OK, with Bernie's help...) drag the entire party so far left that all their candidates will be unelectable in the general election.

Calm down, everyone, because this is not going to happen. Progressive candidates have been inspired to run all across America this election cycle. They have indeed chalked up some victories, but not across the board. They've lost Democratic primaries more often than they've won, in fact. Last night was no different -- several candidates Ocasio-Cortez endorsed did not emerge victorious. There were victories, but there were also a lot of defeats. What this means should be obvious to those looking at the results with an unbiased eye: in some places, Democratic voters are ready to vote for "Democratic Socialists," but in other districts they are not. This is all to the good, because if such candidates can't even make it through a primary, then what does that say about their chances in that particular district come November?

There is a lot of energy among Progressives, but all that enthusiasm doesn't mean automatic election wins everywhere. If a significant number of Progressive candidates win in November, they will indeed serve to move the Democratic Party towards their agenda. But they won't be driving the bus, they'll just be one faction clamoring for influence in Congress (even if Democrats manage to take over the House).

Now, don't get me wrong. I consider Ocasio-Cortez to be one of the best things to happen to the Democratic Party in this election cycle. She is dynamic and gives a great speech. She fires up Progressives like no one else currently can (except maybe Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren). She is going to make a name for herself in Congress, that's for sure. But at the same time, her agenda isn't going to win in every congressional district. So while I applaud her energy, she is not the "new face of the Democratic Party" quite yet. The Democrats have always been a much bigger tent party than that, so both nervous establishment Democrats and conservatives should both dial back their anxiety about how powerful Ocasio-Cortez really is right now.

 

Missouri votes pro-Union

This was somewhat of a surprise. Missouri voters handily shot down a "right to work" law passed by the Republican state government. This is a favorite of Union-busters, and it usually goes unchallenged in the states where it has been enacted. But not in Missouri -- which is, after all, a pretty red state (or purplish-red, at best). So to see the people reject an anti-Union law so resoundingly was indeed surprising.

Other states -- most especially those with ballot initiatives -- should take note. Maybe Union-busting isn't as popular as it once was? It's certainly worth putting to the test, after Missouri's strong rejection.

 

Blue shift still strong

The Washington Post, in their "winners and losers" article from last night's results, printed a very interesting graph (titled: "Most special elections have shifted towards Democrats"). It shows the blue shift in every special election race (all House races, except the Alabama Senate race that Roy Moore lost). There are two small shifts to the right, in Utah and Georgia (the race Jon Ossoff lost), but in every other race there is a pronounced shift to the left. Voters in these districts are voting Democratic in excess of 10 points more than previously, in most cases. Compared to how the district voted for Trump, Democrats have been swinging a whole lot of swing voters, or else turning out their base in such numbers to balance out the Republicans. Granted, Democrats have lost almost all of these races, but these are in districts that are heavily Republican -- the first of these special elections were to fill vacancies left by appointments to Trump's administration, in districts the GOP felt were safely locked up. In other words, we haven't really had a whole lot of data from districts that are much closer. If Democrats are improving the spread (from 2016) on an order of 10 to 20 points, that bodes well for all the districts with a spread of 10 points or less -- and there are a lot of such districts. More than enough to flip the House, in fact.

Suburban, college-educated voters are leaving the GOP in droves -- especially women who fall into those two categories. And there are a lot of gerrymandered districts across the country where the GOP assumed that they'd win among married suburban women voters forever. Up until now, this has largely proven to be the case. But Trump has changed that dynamic dramatically. This is precisely why the Ohio special election was so close, in fact.

Watching this blue shift (see that graph, once again) is why the experts are still predicting a big blue wave in November. The signs are all pointing to it, in other words. College-educated and suburban voters are fed up with Trump's antics and are chomping at the bit to express their displeasure in the ballot box. If Democrats can flip two dozen districts, they'll regain control of the House. That would be notable, but not exactly a "wave" election. But they'll be competitive in at least five dozen races, which sets up the possibility of such a wave appearing. This won't be historically all that unusual, since first-term presidents almost always lose dozens of House seats in their first midterm. To sum it all up: three months out from November, all the signs are still looking extremely good for Democrats.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

9 Comments on “Primary Season Musings”

  1. [1] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    By 'antics' you do of course mean 'lunacy'...Antics implies impish playfulness and childlike derring-do. Trump in politics, as like Trump in business, is quite simply out of his depth. He's ego-driven to soldier on, regardless of the chaos of his wake, self-important, ego-maniacs are rarely tempered when given actual responsibility, or worse still... power. Blunting the tool in November has to be a priority for sensible America...I suspect the US will be able to chug along for a couple of years, let the addle-minded simpleton sign silly bits of paper if it keeps him happy...it's not like his successor can't erase his every pen stroke in a full afternoon of historical cleansing.

    LL&P

  2. [2] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    it's not like his successor can't erase his every pen stroke in a full afternoon of historical cleansing

    If only that were so! Unfortunately Presidents have an unfortunate habit of leaving skid marks that aren't easily washed out. Gitmo. Iraq. Afghanistan.

    International reputation. State Department expertise. The CFPB, the EPA. SCOTUS. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point.

  3. [3] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: What this means for the bigger picture is that Republicans are going to have to spend a whole lot of money before November on races that were supposed to be slam-dunks for the GOP. This will leave them with less money for other races, obviously.

    Don't you just feel so sorry for those representatives in need of funds in those districts where Trump barely won or actually lost outright to HRC being hung out to dry by the RNC?

    Yeah, me neither. :)

  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    James T Canuck -

    Don't forget the committee chairmanships. If the House goes Dem, then Dems with seniority on every committee become chairs. With all the power of investigation and subpoenaing that that implies.

    THAT could get interesting for the next few years, that's for sure...

    Kick -

    Heh. My feelings exactly.

    :-)

    -CW

  5. [5] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    While many signs may point to a blue wave in November and that may be good for Democrats, there are still many signs that do not bode well for Democrats or democracy.

    For example, the 20-30% of citizens that vote in presidential elections but do not vote in off year elections. And the 40% of eligible voters that do not vote at all.

    If the Democrats are only succeeding in 2018 because the Republicans are so bad and there is no other option then the blue wave in November could turn out to be yet another of those moral victories that don't mean much in the grand scheme of things.

    It might not be anything more than business as usual ("...first-term presidents almost always lose dozens of House seats in their first midterm.")

    That means no long term benefit for Democrats or democracy.

    There is still time, CW, for some musing about mobilizing some of the 50% of eligible voters that will not vote in November to participate in One Demand and provide an alternative to the two choices that fail to inspire over 50% of eligible voters to participate in off year elections to save democracy from the Big Money interests and the Democrats from themselves.

    These citizens and democracy deserve the opportunity to learn about this option so they can create the indicators in 2018 for 2020 and future elections even if it won't win any elections in 2018, just like a close loss for Democrats in OH-12.

  6. [6] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    [4] Aw snap, CW...I was thinking along the same lines when I saw/heard Nunes' interpretation of the role a chairperson of a committee is. Five Trump Rubles says that the incoming Dem House Intelligence Chairman won't subscribe to Nunes' job description.

    I agree, the cat will be among the pigeons when the Dems step in and bring the Trump gang back, under oath, to see if they have the stones to tell their tale.

    LL&P

  7. [7] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    I agree, the cat will be among the pigeons when the Dems step in and bring the Trump gang back, under oath, to see if they have the stones to tell their tale.

    The surprising part of that isn't that there are so many corrupt Republicans - that's been a feature of the GOP since the days of Nixon - but that so many have fallen without so much as a push from Democrats, who are currently as out of power as they probably ever will be.

    Nunes' blunt confession to donors that his plan is a modern Saturday Night Massacre with the goal of undercutting the special prosecutor plays right into the hands of Democrats with their sights on the House. When will Republicans realize that stooges like Nunes cost them voters? That show trials, like the recent farcical Strzok hearing only portray them to be toadies to their Bull King?

    Nobody believes that Nunes, Gowdy, McCrory, and their comrades-in-obstruction are saying and doing these things because they believe deep in their hearts that the truth will vindicate Trump - to the contrary, their every utterance betrays their apparent certainty that he's guilty as the day is long, else the FBI's inquiry would be welcomed, not targeted.

  8. [8] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    [7]

    Balty...spot on. Not for a moment do I think Nunes, and his ilk, believe Trump is a 'babe in the woods.' They very much tear at the topic as if he's plenty to hide and it's their fealty to erect a wall between him and comeuppance.

    I'm seeing that the day when elected officials concerned themselves with honoring their oath to the constitution, and not taking the scenic route through partisan allegiance, has fallen to dust.

    LL&P

  9. [9] 
    Kick wrote:

    Balthasar
    7

    Nobody believes that Nunes, Gowdy, McCrory, and their comrades-in-obstruction are saying and doing these things because they believe deep in their hearts that the truth will vindicate Trump - to the contrary, their every utterance betrays their apparent certainty that he's guilty as the day is long, else the FBI's inquiry would be welcomed, not targeted.

    Exactly right, sir, and although I hate to sound like a broken record on the blog, remember also that Chris Collins, Trey Gowdy, and Devin Nunes all have something else in common: Every one of them served on the Trump campaign's transition team... the one for which Mueller's team has obtained all of the emails.

    I actually was not kidding when I said "MAGA" is going to mean "My Ass Got Arrested" for the majority of people associated with the Trump campaign. :)

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