The New York Times headline for Jonathan Martin’s article, “McConnell Win Leads Night of Victories for G.O.P. Establishment” pretty much reflects the simplistic MSM take on Tuesday’s primary elections. Martin deserved a better headline, since his wrap-up was a solid, fact-driven account of what happened. Such headlines overstate the differences between today’s “GOP establishment” and the tea party.
For a sharper analysis of what is really going on inside the GOP, check out Ben Jacobs’ Daily Beast post “Tea Party Loses Key Battles, But Is Winning The War.” The sub-head encapsulates the salient point that “Defeats handed to Tea Party candidates last night only tell half the story – the Tea Party’s real success has been to change the very DNA of the GOP.”
In his Times article Martin also offers this worthwhile insight from the Tuesday elections:
One of the main lessons emerging from the young primary season is that political fundamentals like candidate strength, fund-raising and incumbency remain paramount, even in an era of deep dissatisfaction with Washington. That Mr. McConnell, 72, so easily defeated Mr. Bevin in Kentucky underscored that point.
No matter how slick we Dems get about micro targeting and the like, winning elections still requires good candidates and excellent fund-raising, particularly when trying to defeat well-healed Republican incumbents. Alison Lundergan Grimes is nicely-positioned in the polls. But it is going to take dough — lots of it — to beat McConnell in November.
In Georgia, Dems have two good ‘legacy’ candidates, Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn running against old guard Republicans. Governor Nathan Deal made himself a lightning rod for criticism of Governors who refused to accept Medicaid expansion funds, denying more than 650,000 Georgians health care. His “guns everywhere” law has proven unpopular with a surprising 59 percent of Georgians in one poll. Unfortunately, Democrat Jason Carter also supported the “guns everywhere” bill, depriving his campaign of a good issue for energizing his base in opposition to Deal. The hope is that Carter’s campaign will soon show more fire than has been the case thus far.
Deal has a lot to answer for, however. As Dave Weigle notes in his Slate.com post “Can Georgia Democrats Make the State Turn Blue Ahead of Schedule?“:
Democrats are counting on a backlash to a gun bill that legalized firearms in bars and churches. They expect voters to blame the Republicans for larger class sizes and a spike in the cost of teachers’ health plans. And they’re shaming Republicans for turning down the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which has spawned a steady run of stories about doomed or closing rural hospitals.
“Most people viewed Medicaid as sort of a poor people’s program,” Abrams says. “What they’re starting to realize is that it’s actually the funding for their hospitals. You lose one of those hospitals and you lose an economic center. A lot of the effect of that won’t be felt until July, when they start budgeting for next year.”
Michelle Nunn has played a very smooth hand in her Senate campaign, and a recent AJC poll shows her with a slight edge over Republican David Perdue and a 10-point lead over Rep. Jack Kingston. Kingston and Purdue will be battling it out in the run-off, and it should be brutal, which is exactly what Democrats want to see. Don’t bet against Nunn. She may even have some coattails to help Carter.
Most of the other primary elections went as expected, with no major downers for Democrats. Dems have a chance to avoid the usual midterm disaster, and if the GOTV effort delivers as hoped, the pundits just may be talking about the GOP’s ‘blown opportunity’ first Wednesday in November.