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Ohio Takes Issue with Issue 1

The good people of Ohio have voted, and it wasn't close, as Issue 1 went down to defeat yesterday by a sizable margin. With 99.9% of the vote reported, 57% of Ohioans voted "no" and just 43% voted "yes."

The scheme, as we've noted several times, was to try to sneak this in under the noses of Ohio voters. Turnout for August elections is generally very low, so much so that Ohio Republicans were ready to eliminate them entirely. So, holding this referendum in August ostensibly increased the chances of a wonky, unrepresentative voter sample (translation: disproportionately anti-abortion), and thus success for the pro-Issue 1/anti-abortion forces. It definitely did not work out as planned. In August of last year, Ohio held a primary election for seats in the state legislature, and just 638,000 people showed up. For yesterday's Issue 1 election, by contrast, over 3 million people cast ballots. That's within shouting distance of the turnout for last year's Senate election, which was about 4 million.

There was also another problem. Ohio's Democrats were largely unified against Issue 1, because they rightly saw it as a proxy for abortion rights. Ohio's conservatives, meanwhile, were somewhat divided. Consider this report from M.C. in Dayton, OH:

Montgomery County voter here, so it's a "blue" county. Voting was heavy and steady when my wife and I arrived at the polling place this morning. One interesting observation is that when I give my daughter a ride home from her work (she can't drive, and we pick her up to go grocery shopping), we pass through the northern end of a richer "red" suburb of Dayton, and the lawn sign ratio is one "Yes" sign and ten "No" signs in a little over a mile. When she walks to work, my daughter has previously noted three strong Trump-supporting houses with multiple signs in 2020, but only one of them is advertising for a "Yes" vote on Issue 1.

Reader A.S. in Akron, OH, seconds that observation, and even has a visual to back it up:

I live in a suburban northeast Ohio township surrounded by very rural, very MAGA countryside... I'm talking "Let's Go Brandon," "Fu** Biden" and, of course, "Trump 2024" flags hanging off more fence posts than I care to count.

In these same areas, the "Vote Yes" vs. "Vote No" yard signs are breaking about 2-to-1 in favor of No. Also, anecdotally, there's this (attached), shared recently from a friend on Facebook:

A car festooned with Trumpy bumper
stickers and flags, but also a sign that says 'No on 1'

In case you're looking for the key detail, it's the sign in the back window.

That some meaningful number of generally Republican voters voted in opposition to Issue 1 is also indicated by the heat map of the voting: Issue 1, 2022 Senate voting

The map on the left shows the voting from yesterday. The map on the right shows the voting from the 2022 U.S. Senate race in which Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) defeated Tim Ryan (D). As you can see, all the counties with big cities voted for Ryan and against Issue 1. However, you can also see that there are also 14 counties that voted for Vance last year, but against Issue 1 this year.

So, why weren't conservatives unified behind an obvious anti-abortion maneuver? Undoubtedly, it's because some conservatives are pro-choice. And some of them are just generally resistant to change of any sort. However, we suspect that the biggest problem is that the initiative, as is so often the case with these things, tried to do too much. The assessment from reader C.B. in Beavercreek, OH is instructive:

I support raising the approval level for amending the state constitution. I am generally supportive of the 60% threshold. This is the state constitution and the standard for a 50% + 1 vote to pass an amendment is a little too far inside the margin of error for my taste. I actually support a 55% threshold, but I can live with 60%.

I voted "no" for two reasons.

First, I believe that requiring the signatures of five percent of voters (for governor in the last election) in all 88 counties gives the population of the smallest county (less than 15,000 people) in Ohio potential veto power over a ballot initiative without ever going to the polls. I think this is excessive. The proponents of Issue 1 could have had me at, say 5% of all voters for governor in 60% of all counties (53 counties in total) to match the threshold for passing an amendment.

I felt that the third clause, eliminating the window for ballot "curing," raised the threshold a bit higher than the first two clauses indicate. As an example, there is an amendment to the state constitution in November. The proponents of that amendment submitted nearly 700,000 signatures, of which 495,000 were certified by the secretary of state. By eliminating curing, which completely rules out the possibility of correctable human error, I felt that proposals would need to hit north of 7% in some of these counties. In effect, this was a backdoor way of raising the threshold to put an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot.

I felt that Ohio Issue 1 was overreach, and voted "no" because I felt that 2/3 of the clauses were too poor a public policy to enshrine in the state constitution.

Note that we are not suggesting that C.B. is a conservative, because we don't know. We are merely pointing out that there were some significant structural concerns with Issue 1 that surely must have crossed party lines.

That said, the fundamental dynamic here was definitely pro-choice vs. anti-abortion, with the anti-abortion side taking a big loss. The folks at the anti-abortion activist group Susan B. Anthony List responded to their defeat with a blend of fury and conspiratorial thinking:

It is a sad day for Ohio and a warning for pro-life states across the nation. Millions of dollars and liberal dark money flooded Ohio to ensure they have a path to buy their extreme policies in a pro-life state. Tragically, some sat on the sideline while outsider liberal groups poured millions into Ohio.

This is a gross misrepresentation. Yes, outside pro-choice groups dumped plenty of money in Ohio, but so too did outside anti-abortion groups. The fundamental problem here is that even in a pretty red state, anti-abortion is a minority position. In neighboring Michigan, a ballot proposition to protect abortion passed with 57% of the vote. Yesterday, Issue 1 failed with 57% of the vote. It's not too hard to make a pretty good guess how things are going to shake out in November, when abortion itself is on the ballot in Ohio.

Also driving the success of the pro-choice position, beyond some conservatives who are crossing the aisle, is increased turnout by young people and women. We have a couple of reports from readers that speak to that. First, K.T. in Columbus, OH:

I was a poll worker at the same north Columbus location I worked at last fall. That election featured a high-profile Senate race [Vance vs. Ryan], as well as elections for governor, other state offices, House of Representatives, etc. This week's election included only Issue 1.

Two observations. First, the total numbers of votes cast in the two elections at this location were roughly equal, with only a slight edge to fall 2022. Considering the usually poor turnout for summer special elections—a fact which the Ohio GOP cited for discontinuing summer elections until this one became necessary—this is impressive. Second, and based on general impression rather than anything resembling a real count, there seemed to be a disproportionate number of younger women in yesterday's population.
And J.K. in Cincinnati, OH:
There were 140 "no" votes, 80 "yes" votes at my location. Very much trending generational. A number of older citizens who were just told by their church to vote "yes." Not a lot of understanding of what they were voting for or against.

I don't obviously know most of the votes based on the anonymity of it all, but the people most willing to vocalize it were "yes" and concerned about change and influenced by the fear of what could change.

I voted early, and the people around me were mostly "no" voters. A comment of "How many millions do we have to spend for a single issue no one asked for?" The irony of a 50/50 issue to determine if all future issues needed 60 was not lost on people.

Thanks to J.K., K.T. and all the other readers who wrote in!

A new poll from CNN/SSRS confirms that the Dobbs decision has not lost its salience with voters. According to their numbers, 64% of respondents oppose the decision; that's the same as last July. Meanwhile, 84% of respondents say that a candidate's position on abortion will influence their vote. That includes both anti-abortion and pro-choice voters, of course, but there are more of the latter—again, by roughly a 2-to-1 margin.

The upshot is that anti-abortion activists are going to keep fighting, by hook or by crook, and they are going to keep demanding that Republican candidates for office adopt a staunchly anti-abortion stance. And the result of this, outside of the very reddest states, is that anti-abortion forces are going to keep losing more often than they win, and they are likely going to take some otherwise electable Republican candidates for office down with them. (Z)

Mississippi Had an Election, Too

Yesterday, voters in Mississippi headed to the polls to choose candidates for this year's statewide elections. But whereas the Ohio election was highly consequential, the Mississippi election was almost completely irrelevant. Nonetheless, we're a politics-driven site, so we'll run down the results.

In the gubernatorial primaries, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) easily dispatched his two competitors, claiming 74.5% of the vote. He will now face off against Brandon Presley (D), who was unopposed. He is a member of the Mississippi Public Service Commission, and his two claims to fame are: (1) he's a cousin of Elvis, and (2) he once lost 216 pounds on a diet. This makes him an excellent candidate to serve as a tour guide at Graceland, or to serve as a spokesperson for NutriSystem. It does not make him a viable candidate for governor in red, red Mississippi. Reeves is going to keep his job without breaking a sweat.

To the extent there was drama yesterday, it was in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor. Incumbent Delbert Hosemann (R) is perceived by many Mississippi conservatives as being too liberal, and so he was challenged from the right by Chris McDaniel (R). It was a very nasty campaign, including some criticism about the thing Hosemann is most famous for: While serving as Mississippi Secretary of State, he discovered that the state had never formally approved the Thirteenth Amendment, and took steps to rectify the problem. One would think that opposition to slavery would be a selling point. But not so much, as it turns out. Ultimately, Hosemann overcame his "abolitionist" reputation, and eked out a majority victory, taking 51.9% of the vote to 42.8% for McDaniel. Had Hosemann gotten 2% less of the vote, he would have faced a runoff. But he dodged a bullet, unlike that other politician famous for ending slavery. (Too soon?)

Hosemann will face off against D. Ryan Grover (D), who is not related to any famous rock and roll singers, and who has never even lost so much as 20 pounds. Thanks to that first initial, Grover felt the need to explain on his website that there will be a "D" on either side of his name on the ballot in November. That such an explainer was necessary also does not present a flattering view of Mississippi voters. In any case, Grover is going to get all shook up in November, just like his running mate Presley.

And there you have it. An election whose only slightly meaningful result is that there isn't going to be a runoff for the lieutenant governorship on the Republican side. It's adrenaline-rushing stuff. (Z)

Good News for Democrats in Arizona

It's still early, but preliminary indications are that things are going the Democrats' way in Arizona when it comes to next year's U.S. Senate contest. The Democrats really need to hold that seat, of course, if they want to have a chance to hold on to their Senate majority.

To start, there are two new polls of the still-mostly-hypothetical race, one from Emerson and one from Noble Predictive Insights. And they both have three rather significant findings. The first is that the Democrats' presumptive nominee, Rep. Ruben Gallego, is a slight favorite to win in all conditions. The second is that Gallego does better when Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) is in the race, as she draws more Republican votes than Democratic. And the third is that Gallego does best when Kari Lake is the Republican candidate.

That latter point is particularly worth noting because while Lake is the weakest of the major Republican candidates in the general election, she's crushing the Republican primary field. According to Emerson, she is the preferred candidate of 42% of Arizona Republicans, as compared to 11% who like Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, 7% who favor former Senate candidate Blake Masters, and 4% for minor candidates. In other words, if Lake wants the nomination, it looks to be hers.

And guess what? Apparently, she does want it. Yesterday, Axios broke the news that Lake is hiring staff and getting things in order so that she can formally launch a Senate campaign in October. Needless to say, she's not only going to be an anchor around the Arizona GOP; she's going to hurt the party nationally with her election denial and other whackadoodlery.

So, at least for the moment, things really look to be going the blue team's way in the Grand Canyon State. (Z)

House Republicans Know They Have to Win in Hostile Territory

Most of what you hear from Republican politicians, when you see them on TV or hear them on the radio or read them in the newspapers, is just blather. It happens with Democrats, too, of course, but today's GOP is particularly beholden to voters who demand performative politics.

When the cameras are off, however, the Republicans have plenty of pros who understand the nuts and bolts of actually winning elections (as opposed to "winning" today's news cycle). Yesterday, the Republicans' Congressional Leadership Fund released its summer 2023 strategy memo. If you want to see what politicians are really thinking, once it's time to hunker down, stop the kabuki theater, and play chess, you might want to take a gander.

If not, however, we will provide an overview. Of course the memo is a bit overly bullish about Republican chances and a bit peevish when it comes to the Democrats. But putting that aside:

Ultimately, this news isn't all that consequential, but if you're interested in some inside baseball, the memo is a pretty good example of it. (Z)

DeSantis Has Figured Out What Ails His Campaign

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is allegedly a very smart fellow. The jury's still out on that, as far as we are concerned, but the fact is that just about anyone—even Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)—can read polling numbers. And it's clear that the Governor is in big trouble. In RealClearPolitics' polling average, Donald Trump leads DeSantis 53.7% to 15.7%, that is, by 38 points. In FiveThirtyEight's polling average, the story is very nearly the same, with Trump up 52.4% to 15.6%, or 36.8 points.

This being the case, the DeSantis campaign has just executed its fifth or sixth or seventh reboot (unless you just want to count the last 6 weeks as a single, slowly unfolding reboot). Apparently observing that a fish rots from the head down, DeSantis canned his campaign manager, Generra Peck, and replaced her with his gubernatorial chief-of-staff, James Uthmeier. There, that should fix everything! Done and done!

Or maybe not. Because DeSantis' problem isn't the campaign manager, of course, it's the candidate. Shuffling through campaign managers, as Donald Trump did in 2016, can potentially move the needle a little bit in a very close race (as the 2016 general election was). But otherwise, we're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Indeed, Uthmeier seems a singularly bad choice. If someone is down 30+ points, then what they are doing clearly isn't working, and they could use some fresh ideas. In general, you're not going to get fresh ideas from someone you've worked in close proximity to, day-in and day-out, for the last 5 years.

And note that DeSantis 2024 has other problems, beyond a candidate who cuts a less-than-dashing figure, and who is roughly as good at retail politics as Jeffrey Dahmer. As we have noted, DeSantis' signature issue—fighting "wokeness"—is dumb, because nobody particularly understands it, and not many people care about it. The new New York Times/Siena poll affirms this, yet again. Among Republican voters, a.k.a. DeSantis' ostensible base, just 38% want a candidate who fights woke corporations, whereas 52% want a candidate who leaves corporations alone. Recognizing that his signature issue is a loser, DeSantis has basically dropped that talk from his stump speech and campaign appearances. That's smart, but it also leaves a question: What's his identity, then?

Perhaps his identity could be "He gets things done"? Maybe so; that's always been a part of his pitch, and it theoretically differentiates him from Donald Trump. However, Trump got plenty done in the eyes of his base, so maybe not. Also, the things that DeSantis got "done" are increasingly being overturned in courts, or are proving to have deleterious effects on the state of Florida. Just in the last week, at least a dozen major corporations have pulled their conventions or other events from Florida, because of the hostile cultural and political climate. The estimated loss to the Sunshine State, in dollars? About $20 million. In just one week.

We will point out one other problem. If Donald Trump remains in the race, he's going to be the GOP nominee. Maybe the other candidates will change their approach to Trump, but for now they're just not willing to attack him because it won't do much good, and it will alienate the voters they would need if Trump vanishes (Chris Christie is the exception, obviously). On the other hand, DeSantis is the frontrunner among the non-frontrunners—that is, the guy who needs to be taken down in the event that Trump drops out. And nobody gets upset when the Governor is attacked. So, while the other Republicans handle The Donald with kid gloves, they train the lion's share of their withering fire on DeSantis. It's going to be a very interesting debate dynamic, indeed.

In short, we do not envy the newly appointed Uthmeier. The campaign has numerous problems that are beyond his ability to fix, and the only question is if Uthmeier keeps the job until DeSantis drops out, or if he becomes the next scapegoat when DeSantis 2024 v8.0 is launched. (Z)

Can You Identify the Woke Movie?

Given that Ron DeSantis is flailing, and that even he seems to realize that "anti-woke" is a road to Loserville, we might not get to talk about wokeness much more. So, we're going to give a little pop quiz of sorts that we've had on the back burner for a few weeks.

Yesterday, we pointed out the incongruity of right-wingers celebrating the defeat of the U.S. Women's National Team in the World Cup, and claiming it was because the team is too "woke." Today, working with a prominent right-wing website that maintains a list of "woke" movies that are deemed liberal propaganda, as well as a list of "great" movies that celebrate conservative values, we've selected 15 pairs of movies with an obvious commonality. Here they are:

1. Inspired by Toys:
        Transformers: Dark of the Moon

2. Disney:
        Beauty and the Beast (2017 release)
        The Lion King (1992 release)

3. World War II:
        Das Boot

4. Post-WWII American Conflicts:
        Born on the Fourth of July

5. Starring Tom Hanks:
        The Da Vinci Code
        Forrest Gump

6. Black Protagonists:
        Django Unchained
        Black Panther

7. Westerns:
        High Noon
        Blazing Saddles

8. Directed by Mel Gibson:
        The Passion of the Christ

9. Urban Corruption:

10. Presidents:

11. Amoral Tycoons:
        The Wolf of Wall Street
        Citizen Kane

12. Sci-Fi:
        Star Trek Into Darkness
        Close Encounters of the Third Kind

13. Supernatural:
        Ghostbusters (1984 release)

14. Indiana Jones:
        Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
        Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

15. James Cameron Ocean Movies:
        The Abyss

For each pairing, one film appears on the "woke liberal films" list, and the other appears on the "great conservative films" list. All you have to do is guess which one is the "woke" one. We'll have the results on Friday, including the highest-scoring readers, along with explanations for why the movies are classified as they are. If you want to participate, click here. (Z)

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