Historically, there is one basic truism about midterm elections: The party in power usually gets routed. Moreover, the more unpopular a sitting president, the worse his party does in November. Considering that President Joe Biden is currently polling in the high 30s, Republicans should be licking their chops about the election to come. Yet, in primary after primary, Republicans seem intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
In primary after primary, Republicans seem intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
On Tuesday night in Michigan and Arizona, it was more of the same: Republican voters selected nominees for the House, Senate and gubernatorial races, each bringing with them more baggage than a fully booked Boeing 747.
Let’s start in Michigan, where Rep. Peter Meijer, one of a handful of House Republicans to vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump, was defeated in a Republican primary by former Trump official John Gibbs. Meijer’s district was already redrawn to give Democrats a better chance of flipping the seat, and now, with Gibbs on the ballot, their odds have increased dramatically. In fact, the Cook Political Report has already changed its ranking on the district from “Toss-Up” to “Lean Dem.”
In the governor’s race, GOP voters nominated Tudor Dixon, a former businesswoman who has said publicly that she believes a child who becomes pregnant from rape or incest should be forced to carry her baby to term. It’s a small wonder that incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is consistently polling above 50%in hypothetical matchups with her GOP opponents. She is likely to trounce Dixon in November. There are several toss-up House races in Michigan, but with Dixon at the top of the ticket and potentially serving as a drag for down-ballot Republicans, Democrats could run the table in the state.
In Arizona, Republican candidate Blake Masters won the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate. Masters has called for a national abortion ban, declared in a campaign ad that “Trump won” the 2020 election, and faced questions about writings in which he has approvingly quoted a Nazi war criminal. In the GOP gubernatorial primary, Kari Lake, who has fully embraced Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, holds a slim lead.
Lake has fallen off the proverbial 2020 conspiracy tree and hit every branch on the way down. She refuses to acknowledge that Biden is the legitimately elected president; has said she would, as governor, not have certified the 2020 election; and has called for an end to the machine tabulation of votes and instead wants the state to conduct a hand count for all elections in the state. Indeed, even before all the votes came in last night, she said voters should not trust the results … unless she prevails.
In recent election cycles, Arizona has switched hues from red to purple, and with Masters and Lake at the top of the ticket, Democratic chances of winning in November have significantly improved.
Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly’s chances for re-election look far stronger, which also means that Democrats have an excellent chance of holding their slim majority in the Senate.
That possibility has already been helped by Republicans nominating hapless and extremist candidates in a host of key battleground states. In Georgia, GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker has been dogged by obfuscations about the number of children he has fathered, as well as a seemingly endless stream of fabrications and incoherent statements and his refusal to debate his opponent, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
If the outcome in Kansas is replicated elsewhere in November, Republicans could be looking at a fearsome political backlash tied to the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
In Pennsylvania, the GOP primary winner was Mehmet Oz, which remains an odd choice since he doesn’t actually live in the state (he resides in neighboring New Jersey). Oz’s opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, has been hammering Oz on the issue for weeks, going so far as to recently start a petition drive to have Oz inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. It’s perhaps not a coincidence that according to the most recent Fox News poll, Oz trails Fetterman by 11 points. Oz’s favorabilities/unfavorabilities among state voters is 35/55, which, for those of you who are new to politics, is not good.
As if that isn’t bad enough, Pennsylvania Republicans also nominated Doug Mastriano for governor. Mastriano believes the 2020 election was stolen and was even on the grounds of the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection. During a GOP primary debate, he said banning abortion was his “No. 1 issue.” He opposes abortion exceptions in the case of rape or incest and also backs criminal sanctions for doctors who perform the procedure.
If there was any silver lining from last night’s results for Republicans, it’s that they dodged a bullet in Missouri. Disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens, who was forced to resign after he tied up his girlfriend and took pictures of her for blackmail purposes (true story), lost his bid for the party’s Senate nomination.
Before Tuesday, there were still some political pundits who questioned the power of the abortion issue to drive Democratic turnout and thwart the GOP’s chances of winning control of the House and Senate. Tuesday night’s results in Kansas should immediately disabuse those notions. In a stunning result (in a ruby red state that Donald Trump won by nearly 15 points in 2020), the state’s voters overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have changed the state constitution and made it possible for legislators to enact abortion bans.
What should be of particular concern to Republicans is that Democratic turnout in the election was at a record high, which suggests that the abortion issue is strongly motivating Democratic voters.
If the outcome in Kansas is replicated elsewhere in November, Republicans could be looking at a fearsome political backlash tied to the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. While the court’s ruling inserted the abortion issue into the 2022 midterms, Republicans have done precious little to help themselves. In state after state, they are choosing candidates who hold deeply unpopular positions on abortion that will make them far less electable come November. But rather than moderating their anti-abortion stances, GOP candidates are doubling down on the cruelest and most unpopular policy positions.
And when not choosing abortion extremists, Republicans are picking Trump acolytes or clearly unqualified candidates who are struggling to win over independents, and in some cases, other GOP voters. This could potentially have national ramifications, as it strengthens the emerging Democratic narrative that Republicans are a party of radicals and extremists, looking to move the country backward, not forward. And recent polling suggests that Democrats are building momentum. In the most recent Monmouth poll, Democrats are up 7 points in the general congressional ballot. In June, the same poll had the race tied.
In an election cycle in which Republicans should be well on their way to victory, the political tide is turning against them – and, increasingly, they have no one to blame but themselves.