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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Greenberg: After Ukraine, Voters Want Climate Solutions

The following article, “After Ukraine, Voters Want Climate Solutions: New polling shows a bolstered desire for a rapid transition to green energy” by Stanley B. Greenberg, is cross-posted from The American Prospect:

The Russian invasion of a democratic Ukraine, the disruption of Russian oil and natural gas, and an unimaginable spike in gasoline prices have disrupted both global and domestic energy politics. They have done so in completely surprising but understandable and reassuring ways.

Predictably, Russia is reviled in ways we have not seen since the hottest days of the Cold War. In polling, the proportion of respondents viewing Russia negatively reached 72 percent, including 63 percent who were very negative. That was also matched by the polarized and symmetric embrace of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In June, a plurality of 36 percent had warm feelings toward it, though a fifth was not sure. Not now. A 2-to-1 majority feels warmly about NATO. And people also feel significantly warmer about allies like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

But the war has also brought a series of dramatic and surprising shifts in public thinking about energy and climate change, according to surveys I conducted in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States for the Climate Policy and Strategy project.

More from Stanley B. Greenberg

After the global COP26 conference in Scotland, the public debate moved to whether China and India were on the program of getting to net-zero carbon emissions, and how one dealt with the high cost of transitioning to renewable energy. Some conservatives in Britain, Germany, and the United States raised those issues. And in our January survey in Germany, the new government elected on a climate agenda was getting the most support for helping consumers with their energy bill when the country’s carbon tax came into force, by removing the climate surcharge and shifting the cost onto the federal government.

But now in the United States, the spike in gas prices has led people to believe fossil fuels are the most expensive option. Every day they stare at figures approaching $5.00 and $6.00 a gallon, the highest price ever at the pump, it deepens the consciousness of this cost equation. A majority in my April survey now believe the cost of the transition will not be unacceptably high.

When we asked which concept is “more fundamental,” the “climate crisis” or “energy crisis,” a majority of 52 percent said the former. Only 41 percent chose the “energy crisis.” A third answered with intense agreement that the climate crisis is fundamental, compared to only a quarter on the energy crisis.

Click here to read more of this article.

Teixeira: Will Abortion Politics Help Dems in November?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

How Much Will the Abortion Issue Help the Democrats This Year?

Probably less than you think. I explain at The Liberal Patriot:

“The apparent intention of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade has handed the Democrats a big political opportunity. Most voters want to keep Roe v. Wade. Most voters think abortion should generally be legal and an overwhelming majority favor legal abortion in at least some circumstances.

Republicans on the other hand appear ready to take advantage of a Roe v. Wade overturn by pushing for stringent abortion restrictions in many states up to and including an outright ban on the procedure. So Democrats would appear to be on the right side of public opinion on the issue and well-positioned to generate considerable political advantage for themselves in a year when there’s been little of that to go around.

But will they? Unfortunately there are abundant indications that they could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on this one. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the response of the Democrats so far demonstrates in painful, almost crystalline detail much of what’s wrong with the party today.
Here is a (hardly exhaustive) list:

1. Median Voter? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Median Voter! Public opinion on abortion is quite complicated. It is true that voters oppose banning abortion. But it is also true that voters oppose making abortion legal in all circumstances. By about 2:1 the public favors at least some restrictions on abortion. Looked at by trimesters, the framework used in Roe v. Wade, Gallup found that 60 percent think abortion should be generally legal in the first three months of pregnancy. But that falls to 28 percent for the second three months and just 13 percent for the final trimester.”

Read the rest at The Liberal Patriot.

Is Crossover Support for a Weaker Opponent in Primaries a Good Strategy?

From “Struggling Dems look to a risky strategy: Meddling in GOP primaries to boost ‘unelectable’ Republicans” by Andrew Romano at Yahoo News:

Fearing a loss in November, leading Republicans throughout the Keystone State had tried — and failed — to derail Mastriano’s bid. But at least one very prominent Pennsylvanian had been rooting for Mastriano all along, and spending like crazy to help him: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro, the man Mastriano will now face on Election Day.

Call it the McCaskill Maneuver.

In the summer of 2012, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, also a Democrat, did something unprecedented, dropping nearly $2 million worth of ads designed to help an ultraconservative GOP congressman named Todd Akin secure his own party’s Senate nomination.

Why? Because McCaskill and her pollster had calculated that “Akin’s narrative could make him the winner among the people most likely to vote in the Republican primary — and maybe, just maybe, a loser among moderate Missourians,” McCaskill later explained.

Now, a decade later, the McCaskill Maneuver is making a comeback. In Pennsylvania, Illinois, Nevada and Oregon, Democratic gubernatorial candidates have been trying to boost Republicans they think they can beat— and weaken whoever they consider their biggest threat.

Next up could be Arizona, where “Democrats are doing something similar with Kari Lake” — the GOP’s Mastriano-like frontrunner — “by focusing their energies in the primary not on speaking to the base, but rather on painting her as too extreme for Arizona,” according to Arizona Republic columnist Elvia Díaz.

But there are serious problems, As Romano explains:

The problem, however, is that 2022 isn’t 2012, and the shift Democrats are trying to capitalize on — an ever more extreme GOP base — is also what makes McCaskill-style meddling much riskier than it was 10 years ago.

In McCaskill’s day, the gambit worked. Akin came from behind to win the GOP nomination. McCaskill celebrated by shotgunning a beer with her daughters. Then she clobbered him by more than 15 percentage points on Election Day.

“We needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad — and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him,” McCaskill wrote in 2015. “[So] we spent more money for Todd Akin in the last two weeks of the primary than he spent on his whole primary campaign.”

Fast forward to 2022 in the Keystone State.

That helps explain why Shapiro — the Pennsylvania attorney general who ran unopposed in that state’s Democratic primary for governor — has been following the exact same playbook. This spring, Shapiro spent more than $840,000 to air an ad all about Mastriano, a state senator who rose to prominence by falsely denying the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory.

The script was pure McCaskill, emphasizing how Mastriano is “one of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters.”

“If Mastriano wins, it’s a win for what Donald Trump stands for,” the narrator intones. “Is that what we want in Pennsylvania?”

Romano, however, cites reasons why the McCaskill strategy could be a turkey in November:.

The first is that a midterm election year (like 2022) is different from a presidential election year (like 2012). In a midterm year, higher-propensity voters — voters who are likely to turn out every cycle, no matter what — have a disproportionate influence, and higher-propensity voters tend to be older, whiter and more Republican. In a presidential year, the scales tip toward lower-propensity voters, who tend to be younger, less white and more Democratic.

So McCaskill had a leg up in 2012 — when President Barack Obama was running for reelection and boosting down-ballot Democrats nationwide — that Shapiro won’t have in 2022.

Much the opposite, in fact. According to political analyst Harry Enten, Republicans enjoyed an average turnout advantage of 3 percentage points in midterms between 1978 and 2014 — an advantage that doubled to 6 points, on average, in the years when a Democrat occupied the White House. Demographics make midterms hard enough for Democrats. Backlash to Biden will only make this year’s midterms harder.

Turnout in last week’s Pennsylvania primary hints at the stubbornness of this pattern. Roughly 1.34 million people voted in the state’s marquee Republican contests for governor and Senate. But only 1.26 million voted in the state’s competitive Democratic Senate primary, with even fewer (1.2 million) bothering to cast a vote for Shapiro (who, again, ran unopposed).

The second reason the McCaskill Maneuver might be riskier now than in 2012 is that it relies on a phenomenon that’s become less and less common over the last decade: swing voting. It used to be that a significant number of Americans would vote for a Democrat in one cycle and a Republican the next time around, or vice versa. Many would even “split their ticket,” voting for a Democrat and a Republican in the same election.

But growing polarization and negative partisanship — the idea that voters are motivated more to defeat the other side than by any particular policy goals — have made such practices rarer.

McCaskill’s own career illustrates as much. In 2012, she won 15% of Missouri’s GOP vote and 22% of self-described conservatives, according to exit polls, even as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney easily carried the state. Six years later, in 2018, she won just 7% of the former and 8% of the latter — and lost reelection in what was otherwise a banner year for Democrats.

So while it’s possible that Mastriano’s far-right positions on hot-button topics like abortion and election integrity will push suburban moderates into Shapiro’s camp, it’s also possible that the same message will energize the GOP’s increasingly MAGA base and solidify the party’s natural turnout advantage. It’s unclear which effect will be bigger.

Mastriano is pretty extreme. But it’s still high stakes poker, considering the damage he could do if he is elected. As Romano notes, “Mastriano has implied that he could award the state’s electoral votes to Trump in 2024 with the “stroke of a pen” — and he just won the GOP primary not in spite of but rather because of that implication.” Of course, it’s also possible that Shapiro’s strategy could work as planned, delivering a victory of pivotal importance for Democrats and their future.

Key Takeaways from Tuesday’s Primaries

Some nuggets mined from “What Went Down During The May 24 Primary Elections” by FiveThirtyEight’s panel of election analysts:

The biggest takeaway might be that even though tonight was not a good one for Trump’s endorsement track record, especially in Georgia, don’t write off his influence in the party just yet. Yes, Kemp handily won renomination in Georgia’s GOP gubernatorial primary, but as Alex wrote on the live blog earlier, even if Trump’s preferred candidates don’t win, it’s not “necessarily good news for the anti-Trump wing of the GOP. That’s because, at least in several of Georgia’s races, the non-Trump backed incumbent is still embracing Trumpian politics!”

The panel wrote that before Brad Raffensperger sealed the Republican Secretary of State nomination. That has to be one of the most important primary results in the U.S. thus far- and a direct slap of the face of the most corrupt President in U.S. history in what may be the most important state in 2024. More insights from individual panelists, but note that these comments are posted from most recent to earlier yesterday evening:

Geoffrey Skelley

ABC News projects that Rep. Lucy McBath has defeated fellow Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in a member-versus-member Democratic primary battle in Georgia’s 7th District in suburban Atlanta. McBath will now be favored to win reelection in a seat where Georgia Republicans drew as a Democratic vote sink — it’s 16 points more Democratic than the country as a whole. But McBath’s victory does come with a cost for her party, as she chose to abandon the 6th District, which was redrawn as a strongly Republican seat she would not have held onto. As a result, Democrats will lose a seat in the Atlanta suburbs…..Among the Democratic senators on the ballot this year, the two biggest fundraisers are Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly and Warnock, and both face tough reelection fights in red-leaning swing states. My question is, who has a better shot at winning reelection — Kelly or Warnock? I’ll go ahead and say Kelly because Arizona has a swingier electorate — it’s just not as racially polarized in its voting patterns as Georgia is. And in a GOP-leaning year, I think Kelly could have more swing voters to win over than Warnock.

Nate Silver

I want to digest things a bit more, but if the role of the press is to “root for democracy” (I could write a long critique about what is and isn’t implied by that phrase) then I think it’s important to note that a lot of the more anti-democratic candidates didn’t perform well tonight, and that’s probably more important than the horse-race implications. As for Trump, I think there’s an argument to be made that his influence is waning, but I think a candidate like DeSantis is more likely to be the beneficiary of that than one like Pence….It’s a little hard to know how to evaluate Trump’s endorsements because what’s the baseline, really? What counts as impressive? Let’s say he can shift the race by 5 or 10 points toward a candidate he endorses. That’s enough to help, say, J.D. Vance in a listless Ohio race, but it’s not enough to help a candidate as weak as Perdue. What does that tell us about his ability to win in 2024? I have no idea, really.

Jean Yi

Trump’s candidate really only won or is leading in one competitive primary for tonight, Georgia’s lieutenant governor race. Overall, it’s a pretty bad night for Trump’s power when measured solely through endorsements — but yes, Alex makes a good point that the success of his ideals might ultimately be more enduring (but harder to measure).

Jacob Rubashkin

Kemp is not a moderate. I would say he’s Trumpy in all regards except for the stolen election conspiracy theory. This is a guy whose most famous campaign ad features him talking about rounding up undocumented immigrants in his pickup truck and driving them back across the border. His presence as a leading figure in the GOP is a testament to how Trump has fundamentally altered the party, even if his win tonight is a short-term loss for the former president.

Meredith Conroy

Now is a good time to check in on how Republican women are doing tonight. As I wrote earlier, women make up 45 percent of the Democrats’ House nominees so far but just 19 percent of the Republicans’ nominees. And for Senate races, women are 14 percent of Democrats’ nominees, but no Republican women have won their party’s nomination yet. As we’ve written before, that’s in part because Republican women face more hurdles to earning their party’s nomination than Democratic women, including weaker networks and less financial support….So far, Republican women aren’t doing great overall, but they are in some notable races. In the GOP Senate race in Alabama, former Business Council of Alabama President Katie Britt, who has support from VIEW PAC, Maggie’s List and Winning for Women, is leading with 44.4 percent of the vote share, but just 10 percent reporting. And I know we’ve been watching the Democrats’ runoff in Texas’s 28th District closely, but the GOP has a runoff there, too. That race is between two women, Cassy Garcia, who is leading, and Sandra Whitten. In Texas’s 37th District, another runoff, Jenny Garcia Sharon is leading…..As we’ve done in the previous two election cycles, FiveThirtyEight is once again tracking the success of candidates endorsed by progressive groups and progressive leaders to monitor the movement’s influence within the party. Their bag has certainly been mixed, with Nida Allam losing in North Carolina’s 4th district, despite heavy investment from progressives, and also Nina Turner’s loss in Ohio’s 11th District. But things are turning around. Summer Lee eked out a win in Pennsylvania’s 12th District, and in Oregon’s 5th District, Jamie McLeod-Skinner seemed poised to defeat the incumbent “Blue Dog” Kurt Schrader. And if Cisneros defeats Cuellar tonight, that will be another win for the progressive wing.

Sarah Frostenson

Notably, too, Nate, it’s a race where Trump sunk $2.5 million of his own campaign cash. That’s something he doesn’t usually do in races where he’s already endorsed a candidate. In other words, it’ll be hard for Trump to downplay that he didn’t care about this race…..As we continue to wait for results, let’s talk Georgia, as we do know who’s advancing there in two of the key statewide races, governor and U.S. Senate. On the Democratic side, Stacey Abrams won the gubernatorial primary, while Sen. Raphael Warnock cruised to renomination. And on the GOP side, as we’ve talked about on the live blog, incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp easily beat back his Trump-backed challenger and Herschel Walker also easily won his GOP Senate primary….It’s also notable that the new Georgia 7th District is a pretty diverse one. As Geoffrey wrote in his preview of the Georgia primaries, the district’s voting-age population is only 33 percent white. So it’s possible that McBath as a Black woman also resonated more with voters in this district than Bourdeaux, a white woman….So let’s talk about which way Georgia leans in the 2022 general election. Remember that Georgia voted for Biden in 2020 — albeit narrowly — making it the first time Georgia had voted for a Democrat for president since 1992. But according to FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean, Georgia is still more Republican-leaning than the country as a whole, so let’s dissect the case for Georgia behaving as more of a blue state — or a more of a red state — in the fall. What’s the case for Warnock and Abrams prevailing? The case for Kemp and Walker winning? Or maybe … dare I say it … a split outcome?

Maggie Koerth

What About the Minnesota Pot Primary? We are watching both Republican and Democratic primaries in a special election in Minnesota 1st District, but if you look at the full list of people running in that district you’ll notice there are also candidates from not one, but TWO cannabis legalization parties. Why? Well, this is partly because Minnesota is a little weird with its weed laws. On paper, Minnesota looks like it’s on the more liberal end — with decriminalization and a medical marijuana program. In practice, medical marijuana here is not the same as in other states. Only two companies are authorized to produce medical cannabis, and it’s legal to treat just 13 conditions with it. It can also be really hard to find a prescribing doctor. Venice Beach this ain’t, let’s just say….But there’s also a pretty wild history of the Republican party in Minnesota using cannabis legalization parties as political spoilers. In the 2018 midterm, both the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis party and the Legal Marijuana Now party earned enough votes to earn major party status. So people could run for these parties’ nominations without needing a bunch of signatures to get on the ballot. In 2020, suddenly, there were candidates whose personal websites sported MAGA accoutrement and at least two cases of people being encouraged to run (and even financially supported) by the representatives of the state GOP….

Nathaniel Rakich

A record high of 860,000 Georgians voted early in this primary, and as of midday, the state was on pace to break its overall primary turnout record as well. Some Republicans have argued that this means Senate Bill 202, the new voting restrictions Georgia passed last year, will not “suppress the vote” the way Democrats have claimed. However, it’s really difficult to draw conclusions one way or the other. Most importantly, we have no idea what the counterfactual would be — how many people would have voted in a world where SB 202 had not passed. Secondly, record-high turnout doesn’t say anything about how difficult it was for those people to cast those ballots, and whether those difficulties fell disproportionately on some voters (e.g., Democrats or people of color).

All in all, an impressive account from a really sharp team of election analysts. Read on here for lots more.

Teixeira: Katulis on PA Results – What Does It All Mean?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

What indeed. Pennsylvania native son Brian Katulis at The Liberal Patriot tries to separate the signal from the noise. (See also my earlier piece on The Democrats’ Pennsylvania Problem). Katulis:

Election results in Pennsylvania have offered a preview of coming attractions in America’s national politics in previous years.

The state’s primary elections this past Tuesday offer five indicators about what to watch for in the general elections this November and beyond.

1. Trumpism still rules the GOP.

Donald Trump continues to cast a long shadow in the Republican Party, which continues to absorb his style of politics and stances on key issues.  In Pennsylvania’s primary, the top two contenders for governor and U.S. Senate sought Trump’s backing and positioned themselves in ways that sought to appeal to his supporters.

That makes some political sense given the metamorphosis of the GOP’s base towards more extremism that flirts with QAnon conspiracies.  About 4 in 5 Republican voters in key battleground states this spring gave Trump favorable ratings.  These dynamics raise broader questions about what kind of party the GOP has become and where it is heading.  Doubts about the direction of the party are why some Pennsylvania Republicans are panicking and have already defected to support the Democratic candidate for governor.

Thus far this primary season across the nation, Trump has had mixed success in picking candidates, but more and more GOP candidates are picking Trump and his style of politics.

2.  Democrats face diverse trends pulling them in different directions.

The big headline on the Democratic side from Tuesday night was the sweeping victory Lt. Governor John Fetterman had over his primary opponents, winning 59-26%,  a whopping margin of 33 percent, over Congressman Conor Lamb.  Fetterman projects an anti-establishment vibe and contrasts himself to the conventional, more cautious politicians who position themselves closer to the center on issues and image. Fetterman has the potential to jiu-jitsu the typical narrative about Democrats being elitist liberals who are out-of-touch with ordinary Americans.

Yet at the same time, Democrats picked a candidate for governor who looks and sounds like a more conventional politician, Josh Shapiro, who ran unopposed in the primary.  Shapiro casts an establishment vibe in contrast to his Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano, a state senator who trounced another Trumpist Republican Lou Barletta, a former mayor, by more than 24 points.

Down ballot, the Democrats who won primaries for Congress and state house were all over the map on the issues, and it’s hard to point to a consistent theme or story that unifies the party in a national environment where the political mood is sour and the winds are blowing in the GOP’s direction.

3.  The battle for working class voters will be central in Pennsylvania’s Senate contest.

The winner of this race this fall could determine which party has overall control of the U.S. Senate starting in 2023.  Ruy Teixeira points out that working class voters are an important bloc in the Keystone State’s electorate: “Democrats’ fate in Pennsylvania in 2022 depends heavily on holding their modest gains among white working class voters and stopping the bleeding among nonwhite working class voters.”

John Fetterman’s profile and persona gives him an advantage over his opponent this fall on this front.  No matter whether Dr. Mehmet Oz or David McCormick wins after a likely recount due to the razor thin margins, Fetterman will face a multimillionaire with strong Trumpist tendencies (both men also face “carpetbagger” charges, too, because they haven’t lived in the state for long periods of time recently).  That gives Fetterman the chance to broaden and deepen his support with working class voters across the state as he works to increase his appeal and support with black voters, a key bloc that was cool to Fetterman in the primary.

(More here)

Amy Walter: Can Dems Turn it Around?

Amy Walter pops the question at Cook Political Report? “Can Democrats Turn Things Around,” and responds:

Earlier this cycle, we posited that there were a few things that could help boost Democrats’ prospects:

  1. An improving political/economic climate
  2. Unexpected gains from redistricting
  3. A big event that would shift the focus of the election onto topics more favorable to Democrats.
  4. Contentions Republican primaries that produced flawed and bruised nominees

Already we know that option two is a no-go. Earlier this spring, it looked as if Democrats might come out of the decennial process with a gain of up to 4 seats. That rosy scenario has since been dashed by the courts in states like New York and Kansas. Instead, as my colleague David Wasserman has expertly documented, Republicans are poised to pick up two seats from redistricting.

So, what about the other three possibilities? As of now, they aren’t looking all that promising either.

Walter continues.

In the last week or so, there’s been some discussion about whether inflation has ‘peaked’ (i.e., it won’t worsen from here on out). But, the bigger challenge for the Biden White House and Democrats is whether they can do anything to ease inflationary pressures.

That doesn’t look realistic.

To be fair, when it comes to reducing inflation, it’s up to the Fed, not Congress or the White House, to solve it.

Moreover, the sorts of things the White House and Congress could do to fight inflation — like lifting tariffs on China — are politically perilous. And, things that may be politically popular with the base — like forgiving student loan debt — will actually make things worse. As columnist Matt Yglesias writes, “resuming payments fights inflation, and outright forgiveness fuels it.”

There’s also no easy cure for stubbornly high gasoline prices. Releasing more oil from the strategic reserves, jawboning oil companies about ‘gouging’, and allowing for biofuel use in the summer, as the administration has done and says it will continue to do, isn’t going to make much of a dent in the cost of filling up the gas tank.

Noting that polls indicate that the public is pessimistic, she sees an opening for Democratic candidates in some states:

 The NBC poll released last week showed the issue of abortion jumped 16 points in importance for voters. In the March survey, just 6 percent of voters picked abortion as the ‘most important issue facing the country; today it’s at 20 percent. The poll also showed evidence that the issue is animating Democratic voters, with abortion now ranked as their second most important issue (after climate change and just slightly ahead of the cost of living). The likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned may also be responsible for narrowing the “enthusiasm gap” between Democrats and Republicans. In the March NBC survey, Republican voters’ interest in the election was 17 points higher than that of Democrats. This month, that gap shrank by 9 points, to a GOP advantage of just eight points.

In listening to two focus groups of Democratic-leaning voters the other week, it’s clear that Roe v. Wade being dismantled is an animating issue for them. “It’s a motivator,” said one woman. “I hope we can remove the people trying to turn these states red and ban abortion completely.”

However, the issue still ranks far behind economic issues among swing voters and independents. The NBC poll found that issues like the cost of living were 17 to 18 points were more salient to independent and swing-state voters than the issue of abortion. In other words, abortion may be an energizing force for Democratic base voters, but it’s not eclipsed concerns about the economy among every other group of voters. One GOP pollster doing a bunch of work in suburban areas told me the other day: “I have seen no evidence of abortion breaking through. Economy, inflation, gas prices, border, Ukraine all more important topics. Hell, even baby formula is more newsy than abortion.

Ultimately, I think abortion could impact individual races, especially in blue or purple/blue states or districts where a GOP candidate takes positions on the issue that are portrayed as well-outside the mainstream opinion. But, abortion isn’t going to change the overall trajectory of the midterm elections.

Also, there may be some hope for Dems in weak Republican candidates that have emerged. In PA, for example,

In Pennsylvania, Republicans dodged a worst-case scenario as the most controversial candidate in the field, commentator Kathy Barnette, failed to win the primary. Even so, the bruising primary campaign has taken a toll on Republicans Dr. Oz and David McCormick. This is especially true for the Trump-endorsed Oz who polls showed with very high negatives among GOP voters. A drawn-out (and potentially contentious) recount process between Oz and McCormick could also delay the healing process. Meanwhile, Democratic nominee John Fetterman cruised through his primary without anyone laying a glove to him.

But, while Fetterman may have had an easier road to the nomination, the next few months are likely to be quite bumpy for the Lt. Governor as we should expect to see a bunch of negative ads against him start to fill the airwaves.

All in all, still not a pretty picture for Dems. But it’s a bit better than a week ago, at least in the Keystone State.

Highlights of Tuesday Democratic Primary Results

In the marquee race of Tuesday’s primaries, Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman won an impressive victory in the Democratic primary for the open U.S. Senate seat. New York Times writer Michael Sokolove has the most revealing take on Fetterman’s victory. Some excerpts:

Conor Lamb, 37, a Pittsburgh-area congressman, would have been a more conventional choice. His House voting record tracks to the center, and he has been compared to the state’s three-term Democratic senator, Bob Casey, a moderate and the son of a former Pennsylvania governor….Mr. Fetterman, 52, offers something different, a new model for Pennsylvania. It is built on quirky personal and political appeal rather than the caution of a traditional Democrat in the Keystone State. With over 80 percent of the votes counted, Mr. Fetterman was more than doubling the total of Mr. Lamb, whose campaign, despite winning many more endorsements from party leaders, never gained momentum.

….Mr. Fetterman’s one glaring departure from progressive causes, and a nod to Pennsylvania realpolitik, is that he does not support a ban on fracking, the environmentally questionable hydraulic extraction of natural gas. Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians have benefited financially from it by selling drilling rights on their land, working in the industry or both.

….In the fall, Mr. Fetterman will need to pile up huge winning margins in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and win by healthy margins in their suburbs and the state’s few other pockets of blue in order to withstand the lopsided totals that Republicans win nearly everywhere else….In less populous counties, as recently as 2008, Barack Obama took 40 percent of the vote or more, but as polarization has increased, Democrats have struggled to get even 25 percent…..Mr. Fetterman’s background, his attention to the state’s rural communities and his manner — the work clothes, a straightforward speaking style — could make some difference….

Some choice observations about Democratic votes in other states from “May 17 Primary Elections: Updates And Results” at FiveThirtyEight:

  • The Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District remains too close to call. There, progressive state Rep. Summer Lee holds a tiny 523-vote lead over establishment-backed Steve Irwin. Since this is an open, solidly blue seat, Lee was seen as one of progressives’ best chances to add to their numbers tonight. She looks like she’s in good shape, but we don’t know how many ballots are outstanding and it’s possible Irwin could close the gap.
  • In Oregon’s 5th District, progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner leads incumbent Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader by 18 points, 59 percent to 41 percent, but only a third of the vote is counted and an issue with ballots in Schrader’s home county could keep the race in suspense for a while. At the very least, though, the fractious Democratic primary has Republicans thinking they can make a play for this seat in the fall; former Happy Valley mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer leads businessman Jimmy Crumpacker 41 percent to 32 percent in the GOP primary.
  • One bright spot for House Democrats this cycle, however, has been North Carolina, and the good news continued tonight. In both of the state’s two most competitive districts — the 1st and the 13th — Republicans nominated candidates that could cause them difficulties in the fall. In the 1st, 2020 Republican nominee Sandy Smith narrowly cleared the runoff threshold with 31.4 percent, but she is a candidate with a troubled track record as she has been accused of domestic violence and financial impropriety. Meanwhile, in the 13th, the winner was Bo Hines, a 26-year-old first-time candidate who spent much of the last year jumping from district to district before settling on this one. Biden would have narrowly carried the suburban district, which is trending in Democrats’ direction, so Hines’s relatively untested profile and lack of ties to the area could pose a problem for him in the general. Democrats nominated state Sens. Don Davis and Wiley Nickel in the 1st and 13th, respectively.
  • It’s not all good news for Democrats in North Carolina, though. Notably, Rep. Ted Budd easily topped former Gov. Pat McCrory by more than 30 points in the GOP primary — McCrory managed to lose reelection in 2016 despite Trump winning the state at the top of the ticket. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley easily won the Democratic nomination on the other side, but given that North Carolina is a red-leaning state and the electoral environment is shaping up to be favorable for Republicans, this will be a challenging race for Democrats. Inside Elections, the Cook Political Report, and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball all rate the race as Lean Republican.

The FiveThirtyEight panel has a lot more to say about the Republican primaries, as well as the Democratic contests. Read it all at this link.

Teixeira: The Great Tune-Out

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

The Reverse Timothy Leary: They’re Not Tuning In, They’re Tuning Out!

And with the state of today’s politics, you can hardly blame them. John Halpin explains at The Liberal Patriot:

“A foul wind blows across the political landscape. You won’t read much about it in the pages of America’s newspapers or see many segments about it on 24-hour cable news or scroll through much about it on amped-up social media feeds. That’s because the most important if unrecognized trend in American life today is the widespread tuning out of politics by huge numbers of Americans who—with good reason—are disappointed, fed up, or just plain uninterested with what passes for democratic discourse today…

It’s an open question whether either Democrats or Republicans can figure out how to reach and represent this tuned-out generation of Americans. “Our nutters will beat your nutters” is not a smart strategy for winning the hearts and minds of the disaffected masses. As the ideological extremes take over both parties, the tuned-out middle sits by waiting to be courted and listened to in politics. To do so, however, the people running the leading political and media institutions in America will first have to make a conscious decision to end the endless culture wars and start focusing on the economic and social needs of the nation as a whole without constantly badgering other Americans to believe things they don’t want to believe.”

Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot!

Following the Money in Midterm Senate Races

One way to monitor trends in midterm election campaigns is to ‘follow the money.’ For a good update on where the two parties perceive their best opportunities and biggest liabilities in senate races, read Adam Wollner’s “Here’s where the battle for Senate control will be won – or lost” at CNN Politics. As Wollner reports:

In the battle for the evenly divided Senate, the major Democratic and Republican committees and groups have now all announced their first round of advertising reservations for the general election. Where party leaders and strategists decide to commit a major chunk of their campaign budgets provides the clearest look yet at which races are the most important to determining Senate control.

Here is how much money each group initially plans to spend on ads by state:

*National Republican Senatorial Committee: Georgia ($9.5 million); Wisconsin ($9 million); New Hampshire ($9 million); Arizona ($8 million); Pennsylvania ($8 million); North Carolina ($6.5 million); Nevada ($3 million)

*Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: Nevada ($8.4 million); Arizona ($7.5 million); Georgia ($7 million); New Hampshire ($4 million); Pennsylvania ($3 million); Wisconsin ($3 million)

*Senate Leadership Fund (Republican super PAC): Georgia ($37.1 million); North Carolina ($27.6 million); Pennsylvania ($24.6 million); Wisconsin ($15.2 million); Nevada ($15.1 million); Arizona ($14.4 million); Alaska ($7.4 million)

*Senate Majority PAC (Democratic super PAC): Pennsylvania ($26 million); Georgia ($24.7 million); Arizona ($22.3 million); Nevada ($21 million); Wisconsin ($12.6 million)

Let’s break down that one-third of a billion dollars (!) in ad spending a bit.

There are five states that appear on the list for all four groups: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those are all states Joe Biden carried in the 2020 presidential election – and by some of his narrowest margins.

Democratic incumbents are running in Arizona (Sen. Mark Kelly), Georgia (Sen. Raphael Warnock) and Nevada (Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto). Pennsylvania, where Sen. Pat Toomey is retiring, and Wisconsin, where Sen. Ron Johnson is running for reelection, are the only two Republican-held seats the Democratic groups have on their initial target list.

Sure, spending priorities will change as more polls come in over the next six months. At the moment, however, this campaign investment snapshot provides a peek at what party strategists see as their best candidates and weakest incumbents. As Wollner concludes, “given that Republicans need only a net gain of one seat to flip the chamber, and that the states listed here have also been key battlegrounds in recent elections, these are the races that will be at the core of the fight for the Senate majority.”

A Path for Dems to Leverage Abortion Opinion for the Midterms

Harold Meyerson explains “How Democrats Can Now Defeat Anti-Choice Republicans” at The American Prospect:

Yesterday, The New York Times posted both a map and a table showing the polling on how each of the 50 states comes down on the question of abortion. That table offers a guide to how Democrats can actualize various states’ sentiments to elect more pro-choice Democrats in November.

Consider Florida, where 56 percent of residents want to keep abortion, in the Times’ phrase, “mostly legal,” while just 38 percent want it to be “mostly illegal.” Republican Gov. (and presidential wannabe) Ron DeSantis recently signed a law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and anti-choice zealots in the legislature will likely now want a new law making it illegal after six weeks or just plain altogether. If he wants the party’s presidential nod in 2024, DeSantis should probably go along with them; if he wants to be re-elected this November, he should try to duck the issue altogether. The Democrats running against him should do all they can to highlight his anti-choice stance, and if there’s still time to put an initiative on the ballot, they should force the question by letting voters decide abortion’s post-Roe legality—a question DeSantis won’t be able to duck without the kind of contortions that would in themselves weaken his prospects.

In the swing states of Wisconsin, Arizona, and Pennsylvania—in all three of which both senatorial and gubernatorial seats are up for grabs—the supporters of abortion outnumber its opponents by 13 percentage points. In Michigan, where Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will face a right-wing Republican challenger, abortion supporters outnumber opponents by 16 percentage points. In largely libertarian Nevada, where the incumbent Democratic senator and governor both face what have been thought to be strong Republican challenges, abortion backers outnumber its opponents by a whopping 32 percentage point margin.

If the pro-choice Democrats can’t figure out a way to win those elections, shame on them.

The pro-choice sentiment of the majority of Americans can play a role in numerous House contests as well. In California, where pro-choicers outnumber anti-choicers by 20 percentage points, the legislature is now planning to place a referendum on the November ballot that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution. The debate around that referendum puts the three anti-choice Republican House members from the outskirts of the L.A. metropolitan area in even more serious peril of being unseated than they already are, and it could do the same to some of the Republicans now representing inland California as well. (By the way, the law that legalized abortions in California, without putting that right into the state’s constitution, was signed in 1967 by the state’s Republican governor—Ronald Reagan—before his party succumbed to fundamentalist Christianity.)

Speaking of which, the Times map of the individual states’ views on abortion illustrates that the opposition is centered not in heavily Catholic states, such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New Mexico, all of which strongly support abortion rights, but in the fundamentalist Protestant evangelical belt that runs from West Virginia to Mississippi and Arkansas. Historically, evangelicals had no particular position on abortion until the 1970s, when they began to see it as a feminist cause célèbre. Which is one reason why the Republican opposition to abortion can be quantified as less of a “pro-life” concern and much more as a rage against uppity women.

At The Cook Political Report, however, Amy Walter warns that the way the abortion issue’s ‘salience’ interacts with Democratic voter ‘enthusiasm’ 6 months from now is in question:

Can abortion dislodge the economy as a top issue this fall?

That, of course, is the million-dollar question.

Historically, according to 20 years of Gallup polling, about 25 percent of Americans see the issue of abortion as critical to their vote choice, another 25 percent think it’s “not a major issue,” while the other 50 percent see it as “one of many important factors” determining their vote choice.

One place to look for the impact of big changes to abortion law would be a state like Texas, which put into place legislation that bans abortion after 6 weeks. But, a Texas Lyceum survey from March found that just 5 percent of Texans believe that abortion is “the most important issue facing the state of Texas” compared to 20 percent who see border/immigration as a top issue and 26 percent who identified inflation, the economy and/or rising gas and energy costs as their top concern.

Of course, Texas is a much redder state than Georgia or Arizona or Wisconsin (where key Senate and gubernatorial contests are taking place). And, the impact of this laws takes on new significance if Roe is indeed overturned.

But, what about a blue state, like Virginia. In the 2021 gubernatorial contest, Democrat Terry McAuliffe spent more than $2 million on ads like this one accusing his GOP opponent, Glenn Youngkin of wanting to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood. Even so, that was less than half the amount that the McAuliffe campaign on ads trying to link Youngkin with Donald Trump. This suggests that the abortion issue, even in a state as blue as this one, wasn’t moving the needle for the voters the McAuliffe campaign was targeting. Exit polls in that race found that Youngkin did better among the 54 percent of Virginia voters who fall in the middle of the spectrum on the issue of abortion.  Youngkin took 37 percent of the vote among those who want abortion to be “legal in most cases,” while McAuliffe took just 12 percent of the vote among those who want abortion to be “illegal in most cases.”

Bottom Line: We are in the very early stages of what could be the first major change to abortion laws in 50 years. As such, we need to watch the above benchmarks like salience and enthusiasm about the issue very closely. And, given that these battles will take place at the state level, we’ll also need to get more state by state data to make any projections on the impact it could have on individual statewide races.

Democrats have to seize the opportunity to motivate pro-choice voters and urge them to help turn out eligible voters in their families and friendship circles. But President Biden and Democratic leaders must also take every possible opportunity to take action against inflation and also to blame price gouging companies and the Republicans they fund for rising prices at the gas pump and supermarket.