1) How can we have a referendum on President Joe Biden, if the last guy won’t get off the stage (as FBI agents swarm around him)? Rather than a referendum, we have a reprise of the 2020 election. And no one motivates the Democratic base more than Donald Trump.
2) Are Democrats truly in the majority if an illegitimate and out-of-control reactionary Supreme Court is overturning decades of established rights, while gutting gun laws and shredding the ability of government to carry out its duties? Conservatives feel disenfranchised, but so do we. And our side doesn’t need manufactured outrages like critical race theory and Honduran caravans to motivate ourselves. Our outrage is real.
After the NY-19 special election, an Axios headline read, “Democrats' stunning turnaround.” And indeed, the DC conventional wisdom has shifted accordingly.
Democrats need two additional seats for a real majority, and their chances of that are looking shockingly good. Democrat John Fetterman is leading comfortably (48.2-39.2 in the 538 polling aggregate) against the comically bad Mehmet Oz in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Republicans have already cut planned ad buys there, as well as Arizona, where their hopes to defeat Democrat Mark Kelly are circling the drain. Their candidate, Blake Masters, has raised just $4 million this campaign, compared to Kelly’s $54 million, and more importantly trails by eight—50.3-42.0 in the 538 polling aggregate.
While Senate Republicans weirdly tried to make Colorado and Washington happen, their only other real pickup opportunity is in Georgia, where their incoherent candidate, Hershel Walker, is walking around babbling such absurdities as this:
“They have regulations for everything … I found out that I was Black, so my company was a minority-owned business. Like wow, a minority-owned business, what does that mean? It means you’ve got to fill out all of these forms,” Walker said. “I was like, ‘I got to fill out forms to be Black?’”
The race is tight, with Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock sporting a slim 2-point lead in the polling composite, but like everywhere else, he’s crushing it in the fundraising war, having raised $60 million to Walker’s $20 million. Conservative billionaire super PACs aren’t closing the gap.
If Democrats hold their most vulnerable seats, and take Pennsylvania, they need a single additional seat for their filibuster-smashing majority. Democrats have several opportunities.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell claims that bad Trumpian candidates are costing his party a chance at the Senate, yet Wisconsin lays that argument to waste. No one will claim that incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson isn’t top tier. He's won twice in this closely divided state! Yet his brand of extremism has worn thin, and a post-Dobbs fired-up electorate has put him on the defensive against Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. (Dobbs is the Supreme Court decision overturning abortion rights granted by Roe v. Wade.)
This is a rare race where the Republican has an advantage—Democrats had a contested primary until just a few weeks ago. Johnson has raised $17 million to Barnes’ $7 million. On top of that, outside groups have already spent $24 million to try and prop up Johnson and soften up the opposition. But despite that money avalanche, Barnes maintains a small but persistent lead in the polling. Marquette University, the gold standard for Wisconsin polling, gave Barnes a 51-44 last week. Johnson is in dire straits.
North Carolina polling is dead even, with Democratic superstar Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, enjoying a $16 million to $6 million fundraising advantage over Trump acolyte Rep. Tedd Budd. Outside money hasn’t been able to close to the gap for the Republican.
Mitch McConnell pulled money out of Arizona to flood Ohio with $28 million from his super PAC. Everyone expected the state’s red tint, Trump won it by eight, to carry Republican nominee J.D. Vance across the finish line. He certainly doesn’t think he has to work at it, raising a pitiful $3.5 million and remaining invisible on the campaign trail. Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan is running a picture-perfect campaign, crushing Vance’s fundraising with $21 million raised. The two are functionally tied in the mid-40s.
And in Florida, Democrat Val Demmings narrowly trails incumbent Marco Rubio. My top election rule is, “Florida will never be there for us when we need it.” If we win Florida, we’ve won every other competitive Senate race. It would be the cherry on top. Demmings has amazingly outraised Rubio, $47 million to $36 million, so she’ll have the money to make it interesting to the very end.
As a result of that, anything between a status-quo 50-50 and a Democratic 54-46 Senate are real possibilities. We could even end up with 55 in a reach scenario, but that is highly unlikely. Still, McConnell has to be rueing the day he didn’t vote to convict Trump, ridding his party of that scourge. Instead, Trump’s candidates are well on their way to handing Democrats a potential big victory, while his very own presence hyper-energizes Democratic voters. And oh, those Supreme Court seats McConnell stole? He sowed the seats of this unexpectedly competitive mid-term cycle.
But what about the House? Let’s go back to NY-19.
It’s important to note that NY-19 was the Republicans’ best-case scenario—an evenly divided district, with a top-tier A+ recruit, a former gubernatorial candidate who won this district during that race, and a massive spending advantage. Democrats didn’t bother spending money on a seat that will disappear in January. Republicans wanted it bad for “the narrative.” Well that blew up in their face.
Democrats need 217 seats to retain the House majority. There are 222 seats bluer than this one, and Democrats have huge fundraising numbers across the board in all of those and more. And after sporting a narrow lead in the Generic Congressional Ballot most of the year, Democrats are surging and have now taken a narrow lead in 538’s polling aggregate.
But who needs polls when we have actual election results to look to? Democrats are outperforming Biden’s 2020 numbers in almost every special election since the Dobbs decision leaked. As I wrote last week:
In 2021 elections, Republicans outperformed their 2020 numbers by an average of six points. Remember how we lost in Virginia, and almost lost in New Jersey. Things looked rough, for sure.
Things got even worse in early 2022, when Republicans were overperforming their 2020 margins by nine points [...]
After the Dobbs decision was initially leaked, there were 11 special elections leading up to last night, and Republican advantages evaporated practically overnight, with a three-point over performance by Democrats—a massive 12-point shift.
Republicans sure aren’t looking too confident these days. Here is a Republican candidate for one of Michigan’s competitive (tossup!) House seats, Michigan’s 7th:
Weird how abortion was “salient” for 50 years, a cornerstone of every single Republican campaign, but now that they won and the country is raving furious about it, the issue is no longer “salient.” Too bad it doesn’t work like that. Blake Masters over in Arizona tried to pull a similar stunt.
One more Republican pulls their abortion language from their campaign literature, and we’ll have a full-on trend. Watch for it to happen this week. They are getting killed on the issue, and while they can’t outrun it, they’ll desperately try.
Interestingly, Donald Trump is starting to get the same leper treatment.
This one is extra funny because Hamadeh previously called Trump’s endorsement “the most powerful in political history.” And while this guy might be the first to pretend the Trump endorsement never happened, the rest of the Republican Party seems to be slowly backing away from Trump.
Republicans certainly seemed reluctant to defend Trump last week, as more and more details emerged of his theft of top secret information. Republicans want to talk about high gas prices and inflation (both dropping!), but they can’t break through the Trump cacophony.
And in case anyone was wondering, Republicans are still terrible on policy, and continue to give Democrats fantastic material to work with heading into November:
With all that noise, is it any wonder everyone has forgotten about Joe Biden? Though don’t look now—his numbers are rising. Low 40s sure looks better than those Trumpian high-30s. Ultimately I doubt it matters much. This election is about abortion and Trump. Little else matters, including Biden.
One last note: voter registration data is all roses for Democrats. In Pennsylvania, “Of the women who have registered since the decision, there are four Democrats for every Republican.” Even among male registrants, the ratio is 43% Democrat, 28% Republican.
Young people are suddenly engaged:
In Texas, new registrants were +5 Republican pre-Dobbs, and are now +10 Democratic post-Dobbs. In Ohio, new women registrants went from +5 Republican to +15 Democratic pre- and post-Dobbs, respectively.
There are a lot of moving pieces this cycle, most of them benefiting Democrats as they seek to buck historical midterm trends. Given that our very democracy is on the line, we need to make sure everyone understands the stakes, and underscores that no one has the option to sit this election out.
Remember—we hold the House and expand the Senate by two, we can codify abortion protections in law. Washington, D.C., gets statehood, and maybe Puerto Rico if they want it. Sen. Joe Manchin’s election bill ended House partisan gerrymandering, and we could establish national guidelines protecting the right to vote. And that’s just a start.
We are on our way. Just a little over two months away.
Abortion rights, climate change, and gun safety are all on the ballot this fall. Click to start writing Postcards to Democratic-leaning voters in targeted House districts today.
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