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Five States Will Hold Primaries Today

Voters in Pennsylvania, Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oregon will all head to the polls today. We ran down the 10 most interesting races in the former three states yesterday. And now, the races of interest in North Carolina and Oregon. We said yesterday there would be 10 of them, but we're afraid we're going to have to do 14 in order to do justice to those two states:

  1. North Carolina, U.S. Senate (R): Rep. Ted Budd (R) is going to defeat former governor Pat "Bathroom Bill" McCrory and former representative Mark Walker. There have been three polls of the race since Apr. 28, and Budd's leads were 24 points, 28 points, and 27 points over the second-place McCrory. Donald Trump endorsed Budd a couple of months back, and it was around that time that the Representative started to pull away from the pack. So, the former president is going to brag and take all the credit. And he might be right to do so; his endorsement could be the decider for Republican voters who are choosing between fairly similar candidates. That said, Trump hasn't shown the ability to sway 20%-30% of the vote in any other contest, and the super PAC Club for Growth spent a cool $12 million building up Budd and tearing down McCrory. So, maybe the credit for Budd's win needs to be spread around a bit.

  2. North Carolina, U.S. Senate (D): There is no doubt that former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley will advance here. She will then face off against Budd, with the potential to become the first Black person to represent North Carolina in the U.S. Senate. However, despite Beasley's being the overwhelming favorite, there are 10 other candidates in the race, some of them with legitimate credentials (for example, former Beaufort mayor Rett Newton). So, the results here will give some indication as to how enthusiastic Democrats are about their candidate-to-be. If Beasley wins the nomination with 75% of the vote, that's pretty different from winning with 35%. In polls of the hypothetical Beasley-Budd matchup, Budd leads by about 6 points right now, roughly 47% to 41%.

  3. NC-01 (D): This district leans Democratic, but long-serving Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D) decided he wasn't interested in a potentially tough election campaign that, even if successful, was likely to earn him 2 years as part of the House minority. So, he's retiring, and four Democrats jumped into the race looking to replace him. All four are Black, which makes sense in a district where 44% of the residents and 80+% of the Democrats are Black. The two main contenders are a moderate, state Sen. Don Davis, and a progressive, former state Sen. Erica Smith. There are a number of races like that today; keep reading.

  4. NC-01 (R): Given that the seat is open and the district is purple, aspiring Republicans are circling like sharks. There are eight of them on the ballot, including Sandy Smith, who was the Republican nominee in this district in 2020 as well. She appeared to be the frontrunner, but then her main rival, Rocky Mount mayor Sandy Roberson, unleashed a bunch of oppo research suggesting Smith abused her ex-husbands, ran Ponzi schemes, and committed other misdeeds. Smith also admits, to the point of bragging, that she was present at the 1/6 insurrection. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wants no part of her, and has dropped nearly $600,000 on advertising meant to derail her campaign. If Smith survives, will she be too damaged to win the election? If Roberson triumphs, will his dirty tricks put a bad taste in the mouths of voters? Oh, and they're both white, which is worth keeping in mind in a district where Black voters are a plurality.

  5. NC-04 (D): Rep. David Price (D) has represented this district for 30 years, but he's 80 now and is weary of the "growing polarization... and growing dysfunction" of Congress, so he decided to throw in the towel. This open seat is bluer than NC-01, so it's attracted eight ambitious Democrats. The best known of them is probably Clay Aiken, who has no political experience beyond losing a race for the U.S. House back in 2014, but who did finish in second place on American Idol back when people were actually watching the show. In a world of reality-TV politicians, that has to count for something, right? He would also become the South's first openly gay member of Congress, if elected. The other serious contenders are Nida Allam, an outspoken progressive who is the first Muslim to hold public office in North Carolina, and Valerie Foushee, who is moderate, Black, and pro-police.

  6. NC-11 (R): Due to redistricting, Rep. Madison Cawthorn jumped out of this district, which promptly caused a bunch of ambitious Republicans to jump in. Then, after re-re-re-redistricting, Cawthorn jumped back. We thus have the unusual situation where a sitting member of Congress has drawn eight primary opponents. Perhaps even more unusual is that the muckety-mucks in the Republican Party, with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) taking the lead, are doing everything they can to promote the candidacy of... state Sen. Chuck Edwards. The Representative has made quite a few enemies with his outlandish behavior and his outrageous comments, particularly those at the expense of his Republican colleagues (e.g., cocaine orgies). So, the Party leaders want to be rid of him. Whoever wins this primary will likely triumph in the general election. In the event it's Cawthorn, the GOP establishment is already preparing to marginalize him as much as is possible.

    Incidentally, Donald Trump, who does not care about the Republican establishment, or the Republican Party for that matter, took to TRUTH Social on Monday night to encourage voters to give Cawthorn a "second chance," though the former president pointedly avoided the word "endorsement." That puts Trump in a position to declare victory no matter what happens, since he can claim he saved Cawthorn if the Representative survives, whereas if Cawthorn goes down to defeat, Trump can say it was because he didn't bestow his endorsement. Note also that, per the terms of North Carolina law, a candidate has to win at least 30% of the primary vote or it triggers a top-two runoff. So, we could end the day on Tuesday with Cawthorn neither triumphant nor vanquished.

  7. NC-13 (D): This is the Tar Heel State's swingiest district under the new map, with a PVI of EVEN. So the ballot is chock-full of candidates on both sides of the contest. Among the six Democrats, the frontrunners appear to be former state senator Sam Searcy and current state senator Wiley Nickel. Both are running as moderates focused on pocketbook issues.

  8. NC-13 (R): The Republican side of this contest is even more crowded, with eight contenders, and it's been a real slug-fest so far. Bo Hines has the support of the Club for Growth, including $2 million in funding from them, because he's quite conservative. Hines also has the endorsement of Donald Trump, because... well, he used to play college football (at NC State). He's probably the favorite, but not by much. Attorney Kelly Daughtry is a moderate and has raised $2.7 million for her primary campaign, primarily by getting out her checkbook. There's also Renee Ellmers, who represented (part of) the district for 6 years before being primaried from the right in 2017. She would like to return to Washington, and she may have a built-in base of support for doing so. Army veteran Kent Keirsey has the backing of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), including some of the senator's money. DeVan Barbour IV is a lifelong North Carolinian, and certainly has the name for it. He has the support of many functionaries in the North Carolina GOP. Any of this quintet could land the nomination, though this is another one where a runoff is very possible.

  9. Oregon, Governor (D): On the Democratic side of the aisle in Oregon, the dominant theme is—you guessed it—moderate vs. progressive. Competing to replace the term-limited Gov. Kate Brown (D) are state treasurer Tobias Read, who is the moderate, and former Oregon house speaker Tina Kotek, who is the progressive. Polls give each of them about a quarter of the vote with 50% undecided, so this could go either way.

  10. Oregon, Governor (R): Because of the national environment, and because Kate Brown is very unpopular, there is some chatter that a Republican might actually be able to win the Oregon governor's mansion this year. You can color us skeptical; the last Republican governor of Oregon was Victor Atiyeh, who was first elected in 1979. Nonetheless, the prospect has caused a staggering 18 candidates to jump into the race. Two are small-town mayors (Stan Pulliam of Sandy and Kerry McQuisten of Baker City), two are former state representatives (Bob Tiernan and Christine Drazan), and a fifth was the Republican Party's nominee for governor in 2016 (Bud Pierce), but overall name recognition and political experience are both in pretty short supply among this crew. The leader in all the polls is... "Undecided," with 30-60% support. None of the actual candidates has yet broken 20%, and only Drazan, Pierce and Tiernan have even gotten into double figures. In general, the candidates are running as traditional Republicans, taking note of the fact that Donald Trump lost the state by 11 and 16 points in his two presidential elections. However, Pulliam is running as an outspoken MAGAman, which could be enough to separate him from the field.

    Note that former state senator Betsy Johnson won't face a primary tomorrow because she's running as an independent (having left the Democratic Party in 2021). However, we find it considerably more plausible that she could win the election, instead of a Republican. Voting for her would allow moderate Republicans to elect a less-lefty-than-usual governor, and moderate Democrats to register a protest vote without actually casting their ballot for a member of the red team.

  11. OR-05 (D): This is the one true swing district in Oregon, with a PVI of D+2. The Democratic establishment thinks that a moderate incumbent has the best chance of holding it, so they have backed Rep. Kurt Schrader. That establishment includes Joe Biden, who made a rare primary endorsement (presidents whose names don't rhyme with "grump" don't usually do that). The progressive champion is Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a perennial candidate with no experience in elective office who is nonetheless giving Schrader all he can handle.

  12. OR-05 (R): Outside of Stan Pulliam in the gubernatorial race, the theme on the Republican side of the aisle in Oregon is "Donald who?" Again, given that the former president lost the state by a bunch, and that all his voters are in the ruby-red east, it is not wise outside of the R+15 OR-02 to hitch one's wagon to him. There are five Republicans running, but the frontrunners appear to be former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer and entrepreneur Jimmy Crumpacker (who is actually a real person, and not a character in a Dickens novel). If Chavez-DeRemer gets the nod, the Republican Party will do everything they can to elect her, as she would be the first Latina (or Latino) sent to the House from Oregon, and she's also a woman. The GOP very badly wants officeholders who "prove" it's not just an old white man's party.

  13. OR-06 (D): This one isn't quite as swingy as OR-05, but it's swingy enough (D+5) that Democrats are nervous. So, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has put her thumb on the scale for Carrick Flynn, a fairly moderate white guy with a Yale degree who also has access to near-unlimited funds thanks to the support of cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried. This has angered some voters, particularly Latinos, who would really like to see healthcare worker Ricky Barajas, state Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon, or state Rep. Andrea Salinas advance. Also in contention are progressive U.S. Army veteran Steven Cody Reynolds, progressive Intel engineer Matt West, and former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, who is Black and is running on a platform of racial justice. Heck, Dr. Kathleen Harder, an internist who is focused on universal healthcare, might also make a dent. That means that the only one of the nine Democrats in the race we're giving no chance of winning is Greg Goodwin, a philanthropist who doesn't even have a campaign website.

  14. OR-06 (R): OR-06 isn't just swingy, it's also an open seat because it's the new one that Oregon got thanks to reapportionment. So, in addition to attracting nine Democrats, it also got seven Republicans. The trio of frontrunners are businessman Mike Erickson, energy executive Nathan Sandvig, and state Rep. Ron Noble, all of whom are insisting that they are centrists through-and-through and that they have absolutely no doubt the 2020 election was legitimate. Erickson is probably the biggest threat to win the seat, if he gets the nomination, because he's wealthy enough to self-fund.

There you have it. That's two dozen races we've previewed across the past 2 days; it should be very interesting to see what happens when the returns come in tonight. (Z)

Pennsylvania GOP Ticket Could Have Insurrectionist Tentpoles

We already previewed Pennsylvania, of course, including the neck-and-neck-and-neck Republican U.S. Senate primary. However, there have been a couple of developments worth noting since we published yesterday's post. First, the Trafalgar Group has a new poll out, and that poll confirms it's anyone's race. According to them, Mehmet Oz is at 29%, Kathy Barnette is at 27%, and David McCormick is down to 22%. So, it's definitely going to come down to the wire. That said, it's pretty clear that McCormick is fading. And so, some of his voters might well jump ship when it comes time to cast their ballots. The question, if that happens, is: Do they jump to the hardcore Trumper, in Barnette, or do they jump to the person who's barely a Republican at all, in Oz? We'll also note that Pennsylvania is a closed-primary state, so Democrats who know Lt. John Fetterman (D) is going to be their party's Senate candidate can't cast their votes for Barnette in hopes of sticking the Republican Party with a bad candidate. No rat**cking here.

Meanwhile, the other bit of news is that CNN has unearthed video that demonstrates that Barnette participated in the 1/6 insurrection. Of course, like every other person who was there, and who isn't the QAnon Shaman, she claims she didn't actually enter the Capitol. In any event, it's already a certainty that 1/6 participant Doug Mastriano will be the Republican nominee for governor. If Barnette also gets tapped, then the top two slots on the GOP ticket will be occupied by insurrectionists. If the Democrats don't have an absolute field day with that, not only in Pennsylvania, but nationwide, then they need to return to school and retake Politics 101. (Z)

New York Has a New Map and It's a Doozy

Because the extremely gerrymandered map drawn by Democrats in the New York state legislature was found to violate state law, the job of redistricting ended up in the hands of Carnegie Mellon political scientist Jonathan Cervas. There may be some irony in the fact that Carnegie Mellon is in Pittsburgh, a city founded where it is, in part, because the British soldiers of that era had trouble reading maps of Pennsylvania. Major General John Bradstreet figured that anyone could follow the direction "find any big river and follow it inland."

Yesterday, Cervas delivered his proposed map. And we'll start with the piece of information everyone cares about. The gerrymandered map had 19 safe Democratic seats, 4 safe Republican seats and 3 competitive seats. Cervas' map, if adopted, has 15 safe Democratic seats, 5 safe Republican seats, and 5 competitive seats. There's also one seat that, depending on whose number crunching you believe, is either safe Democratic or competitive. So, why don't we say the map has 15.5 safe seats for the blue team, 5 safe seats for the red team, and 5.5 competitive seats? That means that, in effect, one seat flips to the Republicans on the new map and another 2-3 safe Democratic seats become competitive.

And speaking of "competitive," that's where things get interesting. The new map puts at least four pairs of incumbents into the same district. Here they are:

There are also two districts that are currently open, and four others where the incumbent isn't running for reelection. Of those six, three will be swing districts, one will be safe Republican and two will be safe Democratic. So, there is plenty of room for musical chairs. And the game has already begun, with at least half a dozen candidates announcing yesterday which district they would run in under the new map.

Cervas has made a near-fetish out of compact districts, which is presumably in line with the judges' instructions. However, we wonder if people are best served by living in a compact district that has... an entirely different representative than the one they're used to. If you have been represented by, say, Jerry Nadler for 30 years, is it OK for you to all of a sudden have a new representative in the name of... geometry? We don't know. But that is what is likely about to happen to millions of New Yorkers.

New York law requires a very brief comment period before the maps become official on Friday. Maybe there will be some sort of blowback, but if there isn't, and possibly even if there is, then the map will be set by the end of the week. Undoubtedly, the fallout will be a major source of political news for several weeks thereafter. (Z)

Blue Team Hits Red Team over White Replacement Theory

It's very clear that the Buffalo shooter was motivated by White Replacement Theory, the notion that Democrats are trying to replace good, loyal, white American voters with foreigners, people of color, etc. It's also clear that he was enabled by the United States' laissez-faire gun laws, which are clearly loose enough that an 18-year-old with a history of behavior problems had no issue getting his hands on as many firearms as he wanted.

Nothing is going to happen on the Second Amendment, of course, as long as the Senate has 50 Republicans (and a sizable number of gun-loving Democrats). So, on Monday, the blue team focused its attention on the White Replacement Theory. For example, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that "some MAGA Republicans and cable news pundits" have given the theory "purported legitimacy," and that "the message is not always explicit, but we've all seen the pattern." Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY), whose district includes the site of the shooting, declared that: "What truly needs to be replaced in this country is ignorance and hate, which is driving division, perpetuating lies, and killing our neighbors." Notice: Nary a word about guns.

And actually, it wasn't just Democrats who were sounding the alarm on Monday. A couple of Republican apostates did so, too. See, for example, this tweet from Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY):

The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.

— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) May 16, 2022

Or, to take another example, this tweet from Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL):

Here is my replacement theory: we need to replace @EliseStefanik @GOPLeader @RepMTG @CawthornforNC and a number of others.

The replacement theory they are pushing/tolerating is getting people killed.

— Adam Kinzinger (@AdamKinzinger) May 15, 2022

Both representatives sent half a dozen tweets on the subject on Monday.

At least at the moment, these attacks have Republicans on their heels. There is little question that some prominent Republicans have embraced these ideas, and those folks want to continue doing so, since they serve to enrage and motivate the base. There is also little question that White Replacement Theory is pretty toxic right now, given what happened in Buffalo, So, various members of the GOP took different approaches to the problem on Monday:

We are going to assume that, once the Buffalo shooting is a bit further in the rear-view mirror, White Replacement Theory will make its return as an element of many Republicans' rhetoric. But at least at the moment, it's toxic enough that folks on the right are deploying a wide variety of defense mechanisms. Maybe, just maybe, it will stay toxic. (Z)

Guest Columnist: Nose-Holding Trump Voter

As we noted yesterday, we're going to run one guest column a day every day this week. Last Monday, in our item on Republican responses to the upcoming Supreme Court ruling, we raised a few questions about folks like pundit Alice Stewart and reader M.E. in Roanoke who said that holding their noses and voting for Donald Trump was worth it. We invited M.E. to write in with answers to our questions. This is the response that M.E. sent to us:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond. We'll address each of your specific questions; however, we would first like to make four general observations to help explain our rationale. Further, my spouse and I decided to jointly draft this letter; as her initials are also "M.E.," we will refer ourselves as "the MEs."

First, to understand our position you must begin with the premise that we fully and completely believe that life begins at conception. Specifically, the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg, we believe a unique and valuable human life exists. We acknowledge that others do not share this perspective and that it has complex implications (e.g. the relatively high rate of miscarriages, especially during early pregnancy). However, the most salient implication for this letter is that intentional abortions account for the loss of more than 600,000 lives in the U.S. per year.

Second, it has long been apparent to us that a critical step in ending legalized abortion in America is the reversal of Roe and related decisions. This requires a president willing to appoint justices that are willing to overturn Roe. Thus, our support for Donald Trump stemmed from the fact that he was a necessary link in this chain.

Third, our support for Trump in the general election should not be confused with our support in primary elections. In 2016, we strongly opposed Trump during primary season and voted for the strongest non-Trump candidate (which, given the consolidation that had taken place by that time, was perennial site favorite Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX). In 2020, we were denied the opportunity to vote against Trump as Virginia effectively canceled their presidential primary. 1

Fourth, our support for Trump as a means to appoint favorable Supreme Court justices should not be construed as a broader endorsement of his overall agenda. There is no doubt in our mind that Biden won the 2020 election. All eligible members of our immediate family are fully vaccinated and boosted; one of us has clear memories from early February, 2020, of being the only person on a plane to wear a mask.

(Z) asked two specific questions; we've added clarifying text in brackets for ease of exposition: "(1) Can a person legitimately compartmentalize like that [supporting Trump's judicial appointments], and avoid responsibility for the things [1/6 insurrection, racism, Ukraine, etc...] their vote (somewhat predictably) made possible?"

No, we bear some responsibility for these actions. We condemn them, but we voted with full knowledge that winning on abortion meant losing elsewhere. While we did not foresee these specific instances of malfeasance, his underlying character was well known. We supported the impeachment process; Mike Pence's elevation would have given us the upside of pro-life judicial appointments without the downside of Trump's nonsense. Ultimately, this is why, in my initial letter, I described the victory as "costly" and requiring us to hold our noses. His failings in other areas certainly reduce the benefit from his judicial appointments.

"(2) Now that the prize [overturning Roe] has been secured, will these folks still vote Trump if he's the candidate in 2024? Because if they will, that would seem to suggest that 'it was only about abortion/SCOTUS' is not entirely truthful."

Maybe, but we hope (and, in a literal sense, pray) that we will not again be forced to make this choice. As we have since 2016, we will oppose the Trump lane of the Republican party; "O, that way madness lies; let me shun that; No more of that!" (King Lear). That said, assume our efforts fail and Trump secures the Republican nomination. Our next step would be to examine the beliefs of the Democratic candidate. Is it someone like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who appears to be pro-life? If so, our answer is easy—go blue team! However, our read of the Democratic party is that such a person is unlikely to be able to secure the nomination without espousing a strong pro-choice position.

Ultimately, we dispute your premise that the prize has been secured. Indeed, our expectation is that the Democratic nominee will most likely favor expanding the Supreme Court, pledge to only appoint pro-choice justices that would restore Roe, and/or have expanding abortion rights as a fundamental part of their campaign. If we are once again faced with a pro-choice Democrat versus Trump, we would, as we've previously done, hold our noses and vote for Trump in an attempt to ensure that "the prize" remains secured. But please, don't let it come to that!

At the risk of giving the staff copyeditor a stroke, a footnote is in order to distinguish between the 2016 versus 2020 elections. Relative to 2020, Trump's commitment to appointing pro-life justices was much less apparent in 2016. Indeed, in a 1999 interview he clearly stated: "I am pro-choice in every respect" and opposed a partial-birth abortion ban. Consequently, having seen the types of justices he actually appointed during his first term, it was marginally less difficult for us to support Trump in 2020 relative to 2016.

Thanks to the MEs for taking the time to explain their point of view. Tomorrow we will have a piece that is, in effect, a counterpoint, even though it was not written to be. (Z)

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