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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters: who they are, how they think and what
Democrats Must Understand to regain their support.

Read the Memo.

American Business Has the Power to Stop the GOP Assault on Democracy – Here’s a Strategy to Make Them Do It.

America is now well on its way to creating an electoral system that functions like Mexico’s during its era of one-party rule.

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters: who they are, how they think and what Democrats Must Understand to regain their support.

As the 2022 and 2024 elections approach Democrats have responded to their declining working class support by proposing variations on one or another of two strategies that they have advocated ever since the 1970’s.

Plausible Strategy for Surge of Immigrants

Democratic officeholders and candidates who plan to run in 2022 and 2024 need to face a simple, brutal fact – many will lose their next elections and will return control of government to the GOP if they do not offer a more plausible strategy for reducing the surge of immigrants at the border

Democrats in 2022 and 2024 will lose elections without a strategy.

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters: who they are, how they think and what Democrats Must Understand to regain their support.

By Andrew Levison

Read the Memo.

The Daily Strategist

June 26, 2022

Evaluating Trump As a 2022 King-Maker

Now that we are into the 2022 primary season, it’s time to lay down some markers on how to evaluate Donald Trump’s candidate endorsement strategy, which will inevitably get attention. I offered some preliminary thoughts at New York:

Ever since he became president, Donald Trump has made a habit of endorsing a lot of candidates for office. According to Ballotpedia, as of today, he has endorsed a total of 497 primary- or general-election candidates, 192 of them since leaving the White House. Trump, of course, claims his endorsements have been a smashing success. A day after his attempt to get revenge on his Georgia enemies failed spectacularly, he was boasting of his prowess on Truth Social:

“A very big and successful evening of political Endorsements. All wins in Texas (33 & 0 for full primary list), Arkansas, and Alabama. A great new Senatorial Candidate, and others, in Georgia. Overall for the “Cycle,” 100 Wins, 6 Losses (some of which were not possible to win), and 2 runoffs. Thank you, and CONGRATULATIONS to all!”

But is Trump actually a midterms kingmaker? The answer is a bit trickier than simply checking his math. The former president has been furiously padding his win record by backing unopposed House incumbents in safe seats, so the numbers don’t tell us much. Instead, let’s look at the objectives behind his aggressive midterms enforcement strategy and how well he’s meeting each goal.

Trump wants to keep the focus on himself.

Everyone knows Trump is self-centered to an extreme degree, but there is a rational motive for him wanting to enter every political conversation: It keeps his name in the news and his opinions on people’s minds. This requires some effort given Trump’s loss of key social-media outlets and of the levers of presidential power.

He’s meeting this objective well so far. It’s a rare 2022 Republican primary in which Trump’s support or opposition is not an issue of discussion. He has endorsed 16 gubernatorial candidates, 17 Senate candidates, 110 House candidates, 20 non-gubernatorial statewide elected officials, and even 18 state legislators and three local elected officials. That means a lot of jabbering about Trump and a lot of speculation about who might win his support. And even where his candidates have fallen short, the signature MAGA themes of immigration, “election security,” and “America First” have been on most candidates’ lips. Arguably, Trump nemesis Georgia governor Brian Kemp ran a MAGA campaign.

Trump wants to get revenge on his enemies.

Some of Trump’s endorsements are meant to settle old scores with Republicans who thwarted his efforts to reverse his 2020 loss or supported one of his two impeachments. In addition to punishing figures such as Representative Liz Cheney, Trump hopes withholding his support from disloyal Republicans will serve as deterrent to anyone who might disobey him in the future.

This is why the victories of Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in Georgia were so damaging to Trump’s brand: These two men (especially Raffensperger, who not only mocked Trump’s election-theft fables and defied his orders to “find” votes for him but wrote a book about it) stood up to the boss on an important matter and didn’t lose their jobs over it. That could be dangerous for Trump if it continues.

Trump wants to show he still runs the GOP.

Trump demonstrates his power through his ability to instruct Republicans on how to vote and by making his good will the coin of the realm for Republican aspirants to office. From that point of view, the ideal primary for the former president was probably Ohio’s Senate contest on May 3. All but one of the candidates spent months seeking his favor, and the lucky beneficiary of his endorsement, J.D. Vance, surged to victory on the wings of MAGA support. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, Trump managed to get multiple Senate and gubernatorial candidates to dance to his tune before settling on Doug Mastriano for governor (a win) and Mehmet Oz for the Senate (a possible win; his duel with David McCormick has gone to overtime with a recount and a court case).

Trump didn’t do so well in instructing his voters in Idaho, Nebraska, and Georgia, losing gubernatorial primaries in all three. But he barely lifted a finger on behalf of Idaho lieutenant governor Janice McGeachin against Brad Little, and you can’t really blame him for his Nebraska candidate, Charles Herbster, being accused of groping multiple women (though you can certainly blame him for not only sticking with Herbster after the allegations emerged but also advising him to deny everything and fight back).

Here, again, the results in Georgia were devastating for Trump. Voters in the state emphatically rejected Trump’s repeated and incessant instructions to vote again Kemp and Raffensperger; in the gubernatorial race in particular, there was no doubt about his wishes. Yet Kemp won with nearly three-fourths of the vote. That level of voter disobedience hurts.

Trump wants to get in front of the Republican victory parade.

If we assume Trump is running for president in 2024, then it makes perfect sense for him to attach his name to a midterm Republican campaign effort that, for reasons that have nothing to do with him, is likely to be successful. Getting in front of a parade that is attracting larger and more enthusiastic crowds is a surefire way to look like a leader without the muss and fuss of having to make strategic decisions, formulate message documents, raise money, or plot the mechanics of a get-out-the-vote campaign.

Trump’s success in making himself the face of the 2022 Republican comeback will, of course, depend on what happens in November. At least three of his endorsed Senate candidates (four if Oz prevails in the Pennsylvania recount) are already Republican nominees in top November battlegrounds. He has also endorsed Senate candidates in future 2022 primaries in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and Wisconsin, which should be close and pivotal races in November. If the Senate candidates Trump has handpicked underperform (e.g., Georgia’s Herschel Walker, whose personal and business backgrounds have come under scrutiny) or, worse yet, cost the GOP control of the upper chamber, you can bet Mitch McConnell and many others will privately or even publicly point fingers of angry accusation toward Mar-a-Lago. The same could be true in states holding crucial gubernatorial elections.

Portraying himself as the leader of a Republican midterm wave may conflict with some of Trump’s other goals. For example, he may need to put aside his thirst for vengeance against Kemp to back the GOP’s crusade against Democrat Stacey Abrams (whom Trump once said he’d prefer to Kemp). More generally, if Trump makes himself too much of the 2022 story, he could help Democrats escape the usual midterm referendum on the current president’s performance. In that case, 2022 could serve as a personal disaster rather than a bridge to his 2024 return to glory.

Georgia’s primaries presented multiple danger signs for Trump’s 2022 strategy of aligning himself with winners, intimidating his enemies, and remaining the center of attention. But despite his recent setbacks, there are no signs Trump is shifting tactics, and it’s a long way to the final reckoning in November.

Political Strategy Notes

In “The Real Reason America Doesn’t Have Gun Control,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic that  “the stalemate over gun-control legislation since Bill Clinton’s first presidential term ultimately rests on a much deeper problem: the growing crisis of majority rule in American politics….Polls are clear that while Americans don’t believe gun control would solve all of the problems associated with gun violence, a commanding majority supports the central priorities of gun-control advocates, including universal background checks and an assault-weapons ban. Yet despite this overwhelming consensus, it’s highly unlikely that the massacre of at least 19 schoolchildren and two adults in Uvalde, Texas, yesterday, or President Joe Biden’s emotional plea for action last night, will result in legislative action….That’s because gun control is one of many issues in which majority opinion in the nation runs into the brick wall of a Senate rule—the filibuster—that provides a veto over national policy to a minority of the states, most of them small, largely rural, preponderantly white, and dominated by Republicans.” Further, “The disproportionate influence of small states has come to shape the competition for national power in America. Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections, something no party had done since the formation of the modern party system in 1828….According to calculations by Lee Drutman, a senior fellow in the political-reform program at New America, a center-left think tank, Senate Republicans have represented a majority of the U.S. population for only two years since 1980, if you assign half of each state’s population to each of its senators. But largely because of its commanding hold on smaller states, the GOP has controlled the Senate majority for 22 of those 42 years….The Pew polling found that significant majorities of Americans support background checks (81 percent), an assault-weapons ban (63 percent), and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines (64 percent); a majority also opposes concealed carry of weapons without a permit. Majorities of Republicans who don’t own guns shared those opinions, as did Democratic gun owners, by even more lopsided margins. Even most Republicans who do own guns said in the polling that they support background checks and oppose permitless concealed carry (which more red states, including Texas, are authorizing). Despite all of this, Republican elected officials, in their near-lockstep opposition to gun control, have bent to groups like the NRA in equating almost any restrictions as a sign of disrespect to the values of red America…..If there is any hope for congressional action on gun control in the aftermath of the Uvalde tragedy—or another mass shooting in the future—it almost certainly will require reform or elimination of the filibuster. Otherwise, the basic rules of American politics will continue to allow Republicans to impose their priorities even when a clear majority of Americans disagree. The hard truth is that there’s no way to confront America’s accelerating epidemic of gun violence without first addressing its systemic erosion of majority rule.”

Monique Beals reports that a “Majority in new poll favors stricter gun control measures” at The Hill: “A majority of Americans say Congress should pass gun control legislation, according to a new poll taken before Tuesday’s deadly shooting in Texas that left 19 children at an elementary school dead along with two teachers. Overall, 59 percent of respondents said it was “very” or “somewhat” important that elected leaders in the U.S. pass stricter gun control laws….Nine percent had no opinion or did not know, according to the poll from Morning Consult and Politico….The poll found that 34 percent said restrictions on gun ownership should be a top priority for Congress, while 22 percent said it should be an important but lower priority….Twenty-three percent said Congress should not put new restrictions on gun ownership while 14 percent said it was not too important but still a priority. Seven percent had no opinion….Thirty-five percent said it was most important for the federal government to focus on passing stricter gun control laws “to prevent more mass shootings.”…While the poll took place before the Texas killings, there were several other high-profile shootings that took place before the survey was conducted — a sign of how common such violence has become in American life…..Background checks have effectively blocked 4 million gun sales “to people prohibited by law from having guns,” according to Everytown for Gun Safety….Twenty-two percent of Americans reported that they purchased their most recent gun without any background check, the group added….The survey included 2,005 registered voters and had a margin of error of 2 percentage points. It was conducted May 20-22.”

Dylan Matthews explains “How gun ownership became a powerful political identity” at Vox: “The way the responses to the gun massacres over the past week and a half played out was about something deeper: the development of gun ownership into a powerful political identity, one that shapes national politics, even presidential politics, in a profound way….Over the course of the past four decades, though, gun ownership has firmly sorted along party lines. In a 2017 paper, University of Kansas political scientists Mark Joslyn, Don Haider-Markel, Michael Baggs, and Andrew Bilbo found that the correlation between owning a gun and presidential vote choice increased markedly from 1972 to 2012….This grounding of gun owners’ conservative politics in a deep social identity helps make them a potent base of political support for the NRA and other opponents of gun control. Gun owners are much likelier to report having contacted an elected official about the issue or donated to a pro-gun organization than are non-owners who support gun control….They’re also likelier to identify themselves as single-issue voters than gun control opponents are, and Republican gun owners are likelier to say their gun owner identity is important to them than Democratic gun owners….Gun ownership is a particularly powerful identity, even starting as early as childhood. “We found that growing up in a household where firearms were present and having a firearm in the home was a strong determinant of how dangerous people thought firearms were,”….Childhood exposure to guns is also a strong determinant of whether people keep firearms to this day….And gun control advocates’ views are also, in significant measure, culturally and identity-determined.” Donald Braman, a professor at George Washington University law school who holds a PhD in anthropology, with his Yale colleague Dan Kahan write “Cultural orientations have an impact on gun control attitudes that is over three times larger than being Catholic, over two times larger than fear of crime, and nearly four times larger than residing in the West.” Matthews concludes, “What no one seems to know is how to make the debate less about identity and more about evidence — or if such a move is even possible. It might be that the most we can hope for is an ever-escalating clash of identities that somehow results, against all odds, in sensible policy.”

NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall probes psychological dimensions of political polarization, including ‘sorting,’ ideological and ‘affective’ polarization” and writes, “Today, even scholars of polarization are polarized.” He argues that “the issue is not the lack of an ideological and partisan electorate but the dominance of polarized elected officials and voters, some driven by conviction, others by a visceral dislike of the opposition, and still others by both.” edsall quotes Johns Hopkins political scientist Lilliana Mason, who has argued, “American identities are better than American opinions at explaining conflict.” Further, the “key factor underpinning growing polarization and the absence of moderate politicians….Most legislative polarization is already baking into the set of people who run for office,” Andrew Hall, a political scientist at Stanford, wrote in his book, “Who Wants to Run: How the Devaluing of Political Office Drives Polarization”: “Indeed, when we look at the ideological positions of who runs for the House, we see the set of all candidates — not just incumbents — has polarized markedly since 1980.”…This trend results from the fact that since “the winning candidate gets to influence ideological policies” in increasingly polarized legislatures and the Congress, “the ideological payoffs of running for office are not equal across the ideological spectrum.” As a result, “when costs of running for office are high or benefits of holding office are low, more moderate candidates are disproportionately less likely to run.”….In other words, polarization has created its own vicious circle, weeding out moderates, fostering extremists and constraining government action even in times of crisis.”

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)

Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr.s “Why racism is bad for White people” at The Washington Post provides some useful strategy analysis for Democratic campaigns: “Racism is bad for all of us, White people included….Racism is immoral and has, again and again, led to deadly violence toward our fellow human beings. It is also a dysfunctional force in our polity. It has been used to divide those who should be allies. It casts politics as a zero-sum struggle. It blocks us from seizing shared opportunities. Racism advantages demagoguery over thoughtfulness and hostility over empathy….Perhaps because the term is thrown around so freely, I’d insist that those who condemn racism should not be accused of “virtue signaling.” I’m not fond of the phrase because, in principle, advancing virtue is an absolute necessity in a democratic republic. The idea that free societies depend on public and private virtue is no less true for being ancient — and condemning racism is always the right thing to do….Nonetheless, the popular meaning of the term speaks to an understandable impatience with those who appear to be casting themselves as morally superior and flaunting a more elevated consciousness….Those who would defeat racism need to promote the urgency of solidarity across racial lines without conveying self-satisfied arrogance. In particular, othering White working-class Americans as an undifferentiated mass of unenlightened souls is about the worst strategy imaginable for promoting greater harmony….White working-class racism exists and needs to be confronted. But as a moral matter, White working-class grievances created by economic injustice deserve a response. As a practical matter, the imperatives of coalition politics in a diverse nation require advocates of equal rights and social justice to build alliances across the lines of race that include all Americans facing forms of marginalization….This is why I appreciated Heather McGhee’s argument in her important book “The Sum of Us,” summarized in its subtitle: “What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.” Zero-sum thinking, she wrote, “has always optimally benefited only the few while limiting the potential of the rest of us, and therefore the whole.”….As McGhee told Vox’s Sean Illing, “The zero-sum story is the idea that there’s this massive dividing line between Black people and white people, that they’re on opposite teams, and that progress for people of color has to come at white people’s expense.”…Fighting this idea is central to overcoming racism. The possibility of shared advancement helps explain the finding of political scientists Paul Frymer and Jacob M. Grumbach that “white union members have lower racial resentment and greater support for policies that benefit African Americans.”…Unions, they note, need to recruit diverse memberships and are in the business of selling and realizing the idea that workers, no matter their backgrounds, can move forward together. It’s no accident that provoking ethnic and racial division has long been an instrument in the toolbox of union busting.”

Adam Wollner notes at CNN Politics that tomorrow, ” five states will hold primary elections. But it’s Georgia that will be at the center of the spotlight, hosting high-profile races up and down the ballot…. “710,137: That’s how many people have voted early in the state through Thursday, which is a record, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office. It marks a 180% increase from the same point in the early voting period in 2018 and a 149% increase compared to 2020. Early voting in Georgia ends Friday.”….Manu Raju and Alex Rodgers explain “How Herschel Walker united the right and has Democrats plotting for a fight,” also at CNN Politics: “Walker has had a cakewalk of a primary, skipping a handful of debates or forums, avoiding getting pinned down on policy positions and mostly limiting press appearances to the safe spaces of conservative media. In mid-May, a Fox News poll showed Walker with 66% support from Georgia Republican primary voters — unchanged since March….But after his expected blowout victory in Tuesday’s primary, the scrutiny is only bound to intensify. Democrats are privately planning an aggressive campaign spotlighting Walker’s vulnerabilities, business record, policy views and dirty laundry about the candidate’s past, including his violent behavior with his ex-wife, according to a source familiar with the matter….Walker has said he has dissociative identity disorder, which was previously known as multiple personality disorder, and has sought to advise people with mental health problems….” In “The high-stakes Georgia primaries, by the numbers,…In 2008, his ex-wife claimed that he threatened her life, pointing a gun to her head a handful of times and a straight razor to her throat; Walker said in an interview that year that he didn’t remember being violent toward her, but he didn’t deny it and noted that one of the symptoms of his disorder was blackouts….In 2012, an ex-girlfriend told authorities that Walker had also threatened to kill her and “blow her head off” and then “blow his head off.” After the allegation was reported last year, Walker’s spokesman said the candidate “emphatically denies these false claims.”…And a third woman also said Walker threatened and stalked her in 2002. Walker’s campaign previously declined to respond to the woman’s allegations or discuss the police report….Top Democrats believe that Walker will collapse as the fight between freshman Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Walker intensifies.”

From “Is the center shrinking in the Democratic primaries? Democratic voters are moving their party to the left — and dragging candidates with them” by Christian Paz at Vox: “This year’s Democratic primaries are being largely framed as an ideological struggle between the national party’s moderate and progressive wings. But voting patterns over the last few weeks have complicated that narrative….In marquee contests in Pennsylvania and Oregon, progressive wins led to proclamations that the left wing of the party is gaining influence, while some moderate victories defied that thinking. What’s becoming clear as votes are counted, however, is that Democratic primary voters seem to care less about who the “progressive candidate” is and more about if candidates are campaigning on progressive goals. What many of the Democrats who won this week have in common is that they all embraced progressive priorities tailored to where they were running….Perhaps nowhere encapsulated this reality better than swing-state Pennsylvania, where a relatively progressive and locally trusted candidate who repeatedly rejected the progressive label — Lt. Gov. John Fetterman — trounced the more moderate, Washington favorite, Rep. Conor Lamb, in the primary race for the US Senate….Around the state, candidates who delivered digestible versions of progressive messages did well, from the left-leaning candidates who won races in heavily Democratic areas for state and federal legislatures to the moderate incumbents who survived tough challenges from the left. In nearly all of these races, a general shift to the left was apparent among the party’s base and candidates….This trend isn’t necessarily universal: Plenty of more traditional moderate Democrats won their races in Ohio and North Carolina. And it’s possible upcoming races in California, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas may upset this narrative. But for the most part, the primaries so far appear to show that progressive activism and ideas have changed what primary voters want and what their candidates are offering….What does tie a lot of Tuesday’s races together, though, is how few moderates ran openly down the middle of the ideological spectrum without co-opting at least some of the issues and language progressives have used in previous races. That includes things like advocating for a higher minimum wage, expanding health care access and coverage, more openly embracing gun control and abortion rights, and at least addressing climate change….The general election may in turn change the way these candidates talk about their priorities. The citizens who typically turn out to vote in November tend to be less ideological and party-affiliated than the voters who participate in primary elections. And the progressive ideals beloved by hardcore Democrats may not be as well received by moderates and centrists in competitive general election seats….If progressives — and progressive ideas — do win uphill battles in these swing districts, however, Democrats may end up with a newly empowered left flank, catalyzing the political polarization Americans have come to expect from their government.”

At Daily Kos, check out “Democrats can’t take working-class Black and Latino voters for granted. Data shows they have been” by Ian Reifowitz.” Reifowitz, author of “The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump ,” writes: “What else do working-class voters who are gettable for Democrats have to say on the specific question of how progressives can win their votes? After conducting a survey specifically of these voters (those surveyed did not have a four-year college degree, and did not identify as Republicans), Jacobin, YouGov, and the Center for Working-Class Politics presented the answers these voters provided:

  1. Focus on “bread-and-butter economic issues (jobs, health care, the economy)” framed in “plainspoken, universal terms.” This was especially important in rural/small-town regions.
  2. Specifically name “elites as a major cause of America’s problems” and “celebrate the working class.”
  3. Don’t “surrender questions of social justice to win working-class voters,” but refrain from using “highly specialized, identity-focused language” to express those positions. The full report gave examples of these kinds of terms, as tested in the survey: “systemic injustice,” “cultural appropriation,” “equity,” “Latinx,” and “BIPOC.” This language garnered less support than other Democratic messages. This disparity in terms of support was especially acute among blue-collar as opposed to white-collar working-class voters.

The authors added that working-class voters also responded much more positively overall to working-class candidates than wealthier ones, whereas a candidate’s race and gender were not a factor. Finally, the surveys indicated that few “low-propensity voters” decide to not vote because candidates aren’t progressive enough….Maybe altering the messaging—along with other crucial steps like remaining consistently engaged with marginalized communities, not just in election season—to address this gap will help campaigns pick up a point, or two, or three overall in this fall’s races. And maybe that would be enough to move a dozen—hey, we’ll take even a handful—of House races from the red column to the blue. Or to flip the result of U.S. Senate races in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, or Nevada. Turning even a small number of losses into victories could make the difference in control of one or both houses of Congress. The same goes for state legislatures and races for governor.”

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.

Will Abandoned Pro-Choice Republican Voters Flip?

Amidst all the talk about the impact of a likely reversal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, I thought a history lesson was in order, so I wrote one at New York:

Last week, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have codified abortion rights, died in in the Senate by a vote of 51 to 49. All 210 House Republicans and all 50 Senate Republicans voted against the legislation. This surprised no one, but it’s actually odd in several ways. While Republican elected officials are almost monolithically opposed to abortion rights, pro-choice Republican voters didn’t entirely cease to exist, and this could become a problem for the party if, as expected, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the right to abortion at the end of this term.

Though polling on the issue is notoriously slippery, our best guess is that a little over a third of Republicans disagree with their party on whether to outlaw abortion (while about one-quarter of Democrats disagree with their party on the topic). These Americans have virtually no representation in Congress with the limited exceptions of Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski (both GOP senators support some abortion rights, but they are still opposed the WHPA and are against dropping the filibuster to preserve abortion rights).

Ironically, abortion rights as we know them are, to a considerable extent, the product of Republican lawmaking at every level of government. The most obvious examples are the two Supreme Court decisions that established and reaffirmed a constitutional right to abortion. Of the seven justices who supported Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that struck down pre-viability-abortion bans, five were appointed by Republican presidents, including the author of the majority opinion, Harry Blackmun, and then–Chief Justice Warren Burger. All five justices who voted to confirm the constitutional right to pre-viability abortions in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey were appointed by Republican presidents as well.

These pro-choice Republicans weren’t just rogue jurists (though their alleged perfidy has become a deep grievance in the anti-abortion movement). Today’s lock-step opposition to abortion rights among GOP elected officials took a long time to develop. Indeed, before Roe, Republicans were more likely to favor legal abortion than Democrats. In New York and Washington, two of the four states that fully legalized pre-viability abortions in 1970, Republican governors Nelson Rockefeller and Daniel Evans were at the forefront of abortion-rights efforts. They weren’t fringe figures; Rockefeller went on to become vice-president of the United States under Gerald Ford. Pre-Roe, various other Republican officials supported more modest efforts to ease abortion bans; among them was then–California governor Ronald Reagan, who signed a bill significantly liberalizing exceptions to an abortion ban in 1967.

The anti-abortion movement’s strength in the Republican Party grew steadily after Roe in part because of a more general ideological sorting out of the two major parties as liberals drifted into the Democratic Party and conservatives were drawn into the GOP. To put it another way, there has always been ideological polarization in American politics, but only in recent decades has it been reflected in parallel party polarization. But that doesn’t fully explain the GOP’s shift on abortion policy.

Beginning in 1972 with Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign, Republicans began actively trying to recruit historically Democratic Roman Catholic voters. Soon thereafter, they started working to mobilize conservative Evangelical voters. This effort coincided with the Evangelicals’ conversion into strident abortion opponents, though they were generally in favor of the modest liberalization of abortion laws until the late 1970s. All these trends culminated in the adoption of a militantly anti-abortion platform plank in the 1980 Republican National Convention that nominated Reagan for president. The Gipper said he regretted his earlier openness to relaxed abortion laws. Reagan’s strongest intraparty rival was George H.W. Bush, the scion of a family with a powerful multigenerational connection to Planned Parenthood. He found it expedient to renounce any support for abortion rights before launching his campaign.

Still, there remained a significant pro-choice faction among Republican elected officials until quite recently. In 1992, the year Republican Supreme Court appointees saved abortion rights in Casey, there was a healthy number of pro-choice Republicans serving in the Senate: Ted Stevens of Alaska, John Seymour of California, Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas, William Cohen of Maine, Bob Packwood of Oregon, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, John Chafee of Rhode Island, Jim Jeffords of Vermont, John Warner of Virginia, and Alan Simpson and Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming. Another, John Heinz of Pennsylvania, had recently died.

Partisan polarization on abortion (which, of course, was taking place among Democrats as well) has been slow but steady, as Aaron Blake of the Washington Post recently observed:

“In a 1997 study, Carnegie Mellon University professor Greg D. Adams sought to track abortion votes in Congress over time. His finding: In the Senate, there was almost no daylight between the two parties in 1973, with both parties voting for ‘pro-choice’ positions about 40 percent of the time.

“But that quickly changed.

“There was more of a difference in the House in 1973, with Republicans significantly more opposed to abortion rights than both House Democrats and senators of both parties. But there, too, the gap soon widened.

“Including votes in both chambers, Adams found that a 22 percentage- point gap between the two parties’ votes in 1973 expanded to nearly 65 points two decades later, after Casey was decided.”

By 2018, every pro-choice House Republican had been defeated or had retired. The rigidity of the party line on abortion was perhaps best reflected in late 2019, when a House Democrat with a record of strong support for abortion rights, Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, switched parties. Almost instantly, Van Drew switched sides on reproductive rights and was hailed by the hard-core anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List for voting “consistently to defend the lives of the unborn and infants.”

With the 2020 primary loss by Illinois Democratic representative Dan Lipinski, a staunch opponent of abortion rights, there’s now just one House member whose abortion stance is out of step with his party: Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar, who is very vulnerable to defeat in a May 24 runoff.

If the Supreme Court does fully reverse Roe in the coming weeks, making abortion a more highly salient 2022 campaign issue, the one-third of pro-choice Republican voters may take issue with their lack of congressional representation. Will the first big threat to abortion rights in nearly a half-century make them change their priorities? Or will they still care more about party loyalty and issues like inflation? Perhaps nothing will change for most of these voters. But in close races, the abandoned tradition of pro-choice Republicanism could make a comeback to the detriment of the GOP’s ambitious plans for major midterm gains.

Political Strategy Notes

Democrats should be cautiously optimistic about the results of the Pennsylvania primary. But columnist Paul Muschick, writing in Allentown’s The Morning Call, observes, “Gov. Doug Mastriano….If that has you rummaging for your Tums, you have plenty of company. Save some for me….The Republican establishment did all it could to prevent Mastriano, a 2020 election conspiracy champion and friend of the QAnon crowd, from winning Tuesday. It doesn’t think he has a prayer of beating well-financed Democrat Josh Shapiro in November….Right-leaning Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs refused to endorse Mastriano, saying in a statement that he “would not be able to win the swing voters necessary to win in November.”….It seems as if Shapiro wanted Mastriano to be his opponent, too. He was running attack ads against him before the primary. But don’t count Mastriano out….It would be easy to predict the November gubernatorial election will be a repeat of 2018, when even-keeled, borderline boring Democrat Tom Wolf trounced Scott Wagner, a brash-talking Trump clone….I wouldn’t make that bet. The Mastriano-Shapiro race will be tight.” At Sabagto’s Crystal Ball, J. Miles Coleman writes, “Republicans are concerned about their chances in the open Pennsylvania gubernatorial race after far-right state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) won the party’s nomination. We’re moving that race from Toss-up to Leans Democratic.”

Those following center vs. left trendlines in the Democratic miderm campaigns should read “‘Success begets success’: Progressives look for big boost from key primary wins” by Elena Schneider and Ally Mutnick at Politico. Some excerpts: “Progressives had a big night in their drive to remake the Democratic Party — when their candidates weren’t getting washed away in a flood of super PAC money….There was more outside spending in Tuesday’s Democratic House primaries than in all of their 2020 primaries combined, much of it used to boost moderate Democrats or bash progressive ones. But progressive candidates in several key races showed they could survive the deluge….Summer Lee, who rallied with Sen. Bernie Sanders last week, is hanging on to a narrow Democratic primary lead for a deep-blue seat based in Pittsburgh, where she faced $2 million in negative spending against her. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), one of only two incumbents endorsed so far in 2022 by President Joe Biden, is trailing badly in his redrawn district to Jamie McLeod-Skinner, an Elizabeth Warren-backed challenger who was outspent on TV 11-to-1 by Schrader and his allies, according to AdImpact, a media tracking firm….And this week’s marquee Senate contest was a crowning achievement for the left: John Fetterman, a Sanders supporter who shuns intra-party labels altogether, beat out moderate Rep. Conor Lamb for the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania….There were notable losses for the progressive wing, as well, in North Carolina and Kentucky, where a trio of more moderate Democratic House candidates won primaries — with significant super PAC support. But overall, the results represented a step forward in progressives’ bid to reshape the Democratic congressional caucuses with new faces and more left-leaning policy views….“Success begets success, so moderates were emboldened by Shontel Brown’s victory [in Ohio earlier this month], and Summer Lee will embolden Jessica Cisneros and Kina Collins,” Shahid continued, citing a pair of progressive challengers running against incumbents in the upcoming Texas and Illinois primaries.” Looking ahead, however, Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, said that Tuesday’s primaries were “an indication that our strategy is working … but we can also do math, and we understand what it means when people are making seven-digit buys” against progressive candidates….Even more of that type of race is on the horizon, including member-versus-member primaries and open-seat battles in Illinois, California, New York and Florida.”

In “The Battle for State Legislatures” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Louis Jaobson explains “Given the longstanding polarization and gridlock in Washington, D.C., state lawmakers will decide many key policies state-by-state — particularly on reproductive health issues if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade this year. Legislatures could also try to meddle in presidential elections, as then-President Donald Trump asked some to do after the 2020 election….When all the ballots were counted [in 2020], Democrats failed to flip a single GOP-held chamber; the GOP flipped 2, both in New Hampshire. Today, the playing field looks likely to be considerably smaller….This is my first handicapping of state legislative control for the 2022 election cycle….Our analysis is based on interviews with dozens of state and national political sources….At this point, we see 4 chambers as Toss-ups. Of these, 3 of 4 are held by Democrats and are considered prime GOP targets of opportunity: the Maine Senate and House, and the Minnesota House. Meanwhile, the fourth Toss-up is the Democrats’ best target: the Republican-held Michigan Senate….Meanwhile, 3 chambers rate as Lean Republican. One is Democratic-held, and thus leans toward a flip: the Alaska House….The other 2 Lean Republican chambers are the Michigan House and the Minnesota Senate. Both are currently held by the GOP. (Not counting Alaska, Minnesota is the only state that has elections scheduled this year that has its 2 chambers under divergent partisan control — Virginia is another, but it holds legislative elections in odd-numbered years.)…Finally, we rate 3 chambers Lean Democratic: the Colorado Senate, Nevada Senate, and Oregon Senate….All told, that’s 10 chambers that rate as competitive — a relatively small number for recent cycles. Most of them are held by Democrats, putting the party on defense.”

Jacobson shares this map showing current party control of the state legislatures:

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!