Senate page     Sep. 15

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New polls: CT GA OK PA WI
Dem pickups: OH PA
GOP pickups: NV

Trump Won Some and Lost Some

Now that the primaries are over (except for Louisiana's), it is possible to see how well Donald Trump did. He endorsed in dozens of races, but in some cases they were never competitive in the first place or were so low profile it is hard to see whether his endorsement mattered. That said, The New York Times made a list of the high-profile races where Trump made an endorsement. Of these 33 races, his horse in the race won 24 times and lost 9 times (so he is batting .727). Of course, in many cases "his" candidate was going to win, no matter what. For example, Adam Laxalt was going to get the Senate nomination in Nevada with or without Trump. He was previously state AG, his father Pete Domenici was senator from New Mexico (although he never talks about that if he can avoid the subject), and his grandfather, Paul Laxalt, was both a governor and a senator from Nevada. Here are Trump's winners:

Here are his losers:

Our take is that Blake Masters, Kari Lake, Herschel Walker, J.D. Vance, Mehmet Oz, and many others would not have won without Trump's backing. In many cases, that's all they had to offer. Walker can't make a three-word sentence without garbling two of the words and he beat Gary Black, who previously won a statewide race as Agriculture Commissioner. Without Trump's endorsement, Black would pummeled Walker with a bushel of peaches.

Even the races where Trump's horse lost the race don't necessarily reflect badly on him. Sarah Palin is a deeply flawed candidate who bailed out in the middle of her term as governor. A lot of Alaskans see her as a quitter, and Alaskans are very determined and don't like quitters at all. All of the candidates Trump backed in Georgia were simply inferior candidates. Janice McGeachin is a total nutcake, while Gov. Brad Little (R-ID) is deeply conservative but not a nutcake. She never had a chance, no matter what. Some of the others were also beyond helping.

So our conclusion is that Trump's endorsement matters a fair bit in the primaries, particularly in three-way primaries. Come the general election, it is a whole different ball of wax. A lot of Democratic candidates are going to be saying: "A vote for my opponent is a vote for Donald Trump" and that is going to be toxic with a lot of independents. It would be more than a little ironic if Donald Trump had the power to pick anyone he wanted to as the Republican nominee and then saw most of them go down in flames in November, especially if the Democrats hold the Senate or even pick up a couple of seats due to half a dozen of his candidates losing winnable races. (V)

Bolduc Wins in New Hampshire

Retired Gen. Don Bolduc (R) has won the New Hampshire GOP senatorial primary. He won by only 1,800 votes, but there is only one winner. Morse conceded yesterday afternoon.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) is probably breaking out the champagne now. She won in 2016, but by only 1,000 votes, and now she gets to run against an exceedingly Trumpy opponent in Bolduc. Bolduc maintains that Trump won in 2020 and the election was stolen from him. He also called Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) a "Chinese Communist sympathizer." Huh? A RINO, kind of. But this is so far beyond the pale that it is going to cost Bolduc votes in November. The number of Democrats plus independents in New Hampshire is far more than the number of Republicans, and of the Republicans who voted for Morse in the primary, no doubt some nontrivial number will vote for Hassan against Bolduc. This is not to say Hassan is out of the woods, but she is a lot better off now than if Morse had won the primary. One state Republican operative said of Bolduc: "I just don't think he has the discipline to run a serious campaign. Democrats will have a field day."

So New Hampshire now joins Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada as states in which a potentially vulnerable Democrat is going to face a Trumper who said things in the primary that are going to come back to haunt him in the general election. In three of the four (all except Nevada), the Democrat is at least a slight favorite now. In two other states, Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Democrat faces a Trumper for an open seat. That's five races (and if you want to add North Carolina, half a dozen), where a Trumper could lose an otherwise winnable race.

In New Hampshire, the Democrats got their "dream team"—on the Republican side. Karoline Leavitt is probably even Trumpier than Bolduc, and she is the candidate trying to knock off Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH) in an EVEN district, NH-01. New Hampshire Democrats are going to keep saying over and over: "The Republicans are all kooks."

Sununu said prior to Primary Day that he will support Bolduc if he wins, but we doubt he will put much effort into it and campaign for Bolduc. That would make Democrats who like Sununu perhaps have second thoughts. Why take the risk helping out a candidate who is probably doomed anyway and perhaps hurt himself in the process?

If the half dozen Democrats in races where Trump has endorsed for the Senate all win and they want to rub it in, in their victory speeches they could all say: "First, I want to thank my family for their love and help. Second, I want to thank my supporters for their votes and donations. Third, I want to thank Donald Trump for giving me a nutcase, unqualified opponent. I could probably have won anyway, but he made it so much easier. Thank you, Donald." (V)

GOP Pollster Warns Republicans

A veteran Republican pollster based in North Carolina, Paul Shumaker, who works on races around the country, has some words of warning for Republican candidates nationwide. He said if abortions are legal only to save the life of the mother, only 40% of Republican voters are going to be happy. The candidate could potentially lose up to 60% of the Republicans, not mention all the Democrats and most of the independents. Not a good place to be.

On the other hand, if abortion is legal in the first 3 months of pregancy and later in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the mother's life, only half the Republicans are lost. Still not great, actually. Shumaker is not taking sides on what is morally right or wrong. He is just practically looking at polling data and telling Republican candidates about the consequences of different positions on a issue that Democrats are going to be talking about day and night, sun and rain, and which they won't be able to hide from.

Shumaker also said the abortion issue could well fix the Democrats' turnout problem, since the issue of abortion is something that resonates with marginal Democrats, especially young people, minorities, and single women. One wrong statement from a Republican in some race ("legitimate rape," anyone?) could bring out thousands of these people just to defeat that candidate. In addition, abortion is also going to cement those much-desired college-educated suburban women as members of the Democratic coalition.

Will Republican candidates take Schumaker's advice? Hard to say since moving away from "no abortions ever, under any conditions" will turn some Republican voters into Republican nonvoters, and the GOP can't afford that either. And the state laws keep coming. On Tuesday, West Virginia passed a near-total ban on abortions that the governor will sign this week. The Indiana near-total abortion ban kicks in this week. If Shumaker has it right, these laws are going to give Democrats ammo to say "Republicans want to ban all abortions, and if they take over Congress, they will try mightily to do so."

Meanwhile the blue states are going the other way. California just launched, an official state Website that invites out-of-state women to come to the state for abortion. Here's the front page:

California abortion website; it's very
basic and has links for people looking for both medicine-based and physician-based abortions, as well as text that affirms that 
the right to abortion is very, very important

Do you get the impression that California is hostile to abortions? We don't. For people in the South with money for plane tickets, California is open for business. For poor people in Idaho, Utah, and Arizona, California is a fairly easy drive. Two other states that could make a huge difference are Colorado and Illinois. Colorado is bordered by four red states and has a single point of contact with a fifth one (Arizona). Illinois borders four red states and is within spitting distance of two more (if you are very good at spitting). The one area of the country that is not going to be welcoming to out-of-state pregnant women who don't want to be pregnant is the South. Florida allows abortions up to 15 weeks, but we don't see Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) putting up a page on the state website inviting poor Black women from Alabama to visit for an abortion. (V)

Five Takeaways from the Primaries

With all the primaries over except that last stupid one in Louisiana (why can't Louisiana hold its jungle primary in the spring or summer like the other 49 states?), it is time to reflect on the season as a whole. Politico went first with that.

That's it. Probably there will be more takeaways in the coming days. Or maybe some media outlets are going to wait until Nov. 9 to see if Louisiana has any important primary lessons. (V)

Politico Predicts Every Congressional Race

Steve Shepard, Politico's chief election reporter, has gone out on a limb and made a stab at all 470 congressional races this year. Here's the Senate in one picture:

Senate predictions; he has 
7 seats solid Dem, 2 seats likely Dem, 3 seats leaning Dem, 4 toss-ups, 3 lean Rep, 3 likely Rep, and 13 solid Rep.

OK, he's not going way out on a limb. We agree that Arizona and New Hampshire (now) lean Democratic and Florida leans Republican. He has Ohio and North Carolina leaning Republican, but we think that is a very slight lean. That leaves Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin as toss-ups in his chart. We are inclined to put Pennsylvania and Georgia in the Lean Dem column due to that famous "candidate quality" issue. If Shepard gets it right and the four toss-up states split, the Senate will end up 50-50 again and Kamala Harris will have something to do all day and Cactus Jack Garner will continue to roll over in his grave.

Here's Shepard's view of the House:

Politicos' House predictions;
he has 151 seats Solid Dem, 23 seats Likely Dem, 21 seats Lean Dem, 28 toss-ups, 18 seats Lean Rep, 35 seats Likely Rep, and
159 seats solid Rep.

Let's do the math. Democrats have the edge in 195 districts. Republicans have the edge in 212 districts. Twenty-eight are tossups. Democrats have to win 23 of the 28 tossups to get to 218. That's 82%. Not too likely. Not impossible, but don't bet the farm on it. Still, stuff changes and history shows that very often, the undecideds all break the same way. So, for example, if abortion becomes the dominant issue in all 28 races, there is at least a chance of it happening. (V)

DoJ Is Now Looking at All the Pieces

Donald Trump's coup attempt had a lot of moving parts. There's the bit about the fake electors, the election fraud claims, the riot, the grift, the money flows, and so much more. The Dept. of Justice is finally looking at all the parts. even thought it took the Dept. a long time to get there. Each piece could lead to indictments and convictions, sometimes of the same people, sometimes of different ones.

Subpoenas have been served on dozens of people and electronic devices of some people have already been seized. The subpoenas, for example, ask the subpoenees to provide the DoJ with a list of all communication methods they have used since 2020. That's going to lead to more searches. The subpoenas also ask everyone to turn over to the DoJ everything the House Select Committee has asked for.

The problems (for Trump) with so many parallel investigations going on is that a search executed for one part of it might turn up evidence that can be used in another part. In addition, the more people who feel exposed by some part of it, the more likely someone who knows about other parts of the investigation might flip. For example, it's just a guess, but from what we have seen, we don't think John Eastman is enthusiastic about a long vacation at Club Fed to save Trump's neck. He obviously knows a lot about the fake electors scheme he help concoct, but he was in meetings where a lot more was discussed and if he really wants to impress investigators with how cooperative he is, he might tell them things about other areas they don't know much about. For example, he wasn't involved in the grift at all, but since Trump is not a big fan of compartmentalization, he might have bragged to Eastman about how well the grift was going and where he is funneling the money. It is possible that Eastman thinks by telling DoJ investigators things they don't already know, they will look kindly on him. And it is not just Eastman. There are a couple of dozen people who might decide to volunteer stuff to save their own necks.

We are now entering the quiet period. That is the 60-day period where investigators not named James Comey are required to shut up and not talk about ongoing investigations. But contrary to widespread belief, all the investigators are not sent on a 2-month government-paid vacation to the lovely Northern Mariana Islands, 3,700 miles west of Hawaii. They have to stay in the office (or in the field) working. They just can't make public announcements about what they are doing. So the 60-day mark doesn't slow down the investigation very much. With so many subpoenas outstanding now, the investigators have plenty to do grilling everyone who shows up and filing court cases against those who don't. (V)

Rubio Cosponsors Graham's Abortion Bill

Yesterday, we admitted we aren't perfect. In fact, we are at a total loss to explain why Lindsey Graham has introduced a bill to ban abortions after 15 weeks—de facto in the blue states since the red states have busy banning it much earlier. Chris Cillizza at CNN has a theory about what Graham is up to, though. He thinks Graham is trying to thread the needle between the base and the voters and give Republican candidates something positive to talk about on the trail. Like: "See, we passed a reasonable law." Only it will never pass. It won't even come up for a vote.

Even stranger is the decision of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to cosponsor the bill. Graham is not up for reelection this year. Rubio is. While this will go over with the GOP base well, Rubio already has that nailed down and it will not go over so well with independents he definitely needs.

It won't matter in Florida, which already bans abortions at 15 weeks, but it sends the wrong message to Democrats and independents in the state. It took only minutes before Rubio's opponent, Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), to say: "Marco Rubio has never been shy about his support for extremist abortion bans and criminalizing doctors, and cosponsoring this federal ban is just another step in his fight to take away women's freedom." Abortion was already going to be an issue everywhere, but now Rubio has tied it around his own neck like a millstone. Demings is going to open every speech with this. We don't understand why Rubio sees this as a general election winner, unless he sees the electorate as consisting of 50% + 1 Republicans, so he thinks he can win without Democrats or independents. He could have laid low and just talked in vague generalities, Now he is clearly on the wrong side of an issue Demings is going to exploit to the hilt. (V)

No, Actually, It Is NOT the Economy, Stupid

Thomas Edsall usually has interesting things to say and this week's essay is no exception. The first sentence is: "Why do millions of Americans on both the right and the left ignore their own economic self-interest when they choose which political party to support?" In other words, it's not the economy. Something weird is going on. What?

Since at least the time of FDR, the Democrats were the party of the working class. They supported unions and all manner of government programs, like Social Security and Medicare, that helped ordinary Americans. In many cases, the costs were subsidized by richer Americans in one way or another. Working people understood this and voted for the Democrats for decades. They don't do that any more.

Similarly, upper middle class Americans and rich people supported the Republicans because they were the party of smaller (read: cheaper) government and lower taxes. That's also not a given anymore. Why are so many people not saying: "That party benefits me personally, so I will vote for them"?

Edsall cites a paper entitled "Morals as Luxury Goods and Political Polarization." One point it makes is for people who are (upper) middle class and above, another thousand dollars or so in tax breaks doesn't change the way they live at all so it isn't so crucial anymore. Since they often prefer the Democrats on the environment, abortion, gay rights, euthanasia, and many other social issues, they are willing to forego policies that give them more money but make them unhappy in other ways. This makes moral views a kind of luxury good. Money isn't everything. Some people buy very expensive Rolex watches when a $20 Casio watch will keep time accurate to 5 second per month. Edsall also reports that rich people are less materialistic than poor people, so other values increasingly drive their voting patterns. Of course, for billionaires, where a 2% tax cut can save them millions of dollars a year and their main hobby is going after the next billion, the considerations are different.

Edsall continues that, as the Democrats become more focused on social and cultural values and less on economic values, many low-income people see this and note: (1) the Democrats aren't offering me anything on the economic front and (2) they are offering a whole lot of things I hate on the social and cultural front, so they vote Republican. In this respect, their choices are not so illogical.

Edsall also quotes a doctoral candidate in psychology, Rob Henderson, who wrote an article entitled: "Luxury beliefs are the latest status symbol for rich Americans." The rich used to show off with expensive goods. Now ideas and opinions that work to the detriment of the rich are status symbols because they "show" that you have so much money, money doesn't matter to you any more. And unlike the previous status symbols, this one is free. (V)

Today's Senate Polls

Polling is starting to move (finally). Even in Oklahoma. But the result there is not surprising. Nor anywhere else. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) are a little ahead and Wisconsin is a near tie. Par for the course (unless it is Trump's course, since he is known to cheat at golf).

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Connecticut Richard Blumenthal* 49% Leora Levy 36% Sep 07 Sep 09 Emerson Coll.
Georgia Raphael Warnock* 52% Herschel Walker 46% Sep 08 Sep 12 Quinnipiac U.
Oklahoma Madison Horn 35% James Lankford* 52% Sep 02 Sep 07 Sooner Poll
Pennsylvania John Fetterman 52% Mehmet Oz 47% Sep 06 Sep 12 YouGov
Wisconsin Mandela Barnes 48% Ron Johnson* 49% Sep 06 Sep 11 Marquette Law School

* Denotes incumbent

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