The Sweep: According to Their Respective Numbers
The census, College Republicans, a Texas special election, and Ohio Democrats.
Census Quick Hits
The Actual Enumeration: Fulfilling the government’s obligation to count our people under Article I section 2 of our constituting document, last year’s census determined that the number of people in the United States in 2020 was 331 million. At a 7.4 percent growth since 2010, it means the last ten years are basically a tie for the slowest rate of expansion since this whole little project began in 1790. (The slowest-ever winner, at 7.3 percent: The 1930s, i.e., the Great Depression.)
Winners and Losers: States gaining Electoral College votes (and House seats): Texas (which picked up two), Colorado, Florida, Montana, Oregon, and North Carolina. States losing EC votes/seats: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Fun fact: If we redid the 2020 election, that would be a net gain of 3 ECs for Trump. And if that had happened, Biden would have only had 303 votes. Or, to put it another way: It wouldn’t have made any difference at all, because it wasn’t a very close election.
Campaign Quick Hits
More paid press releases: The DCCC has rented a mobile billboard to drive around Orlando, FL for 8 hours while the GOP is having their legislative retreat in town. (This doesn’t even seem like a particularly good paid press release—8 hours on the side of a van is all it takes these days?!—but it was enough to get it written up by Axios, so what do I know.) The NRCC has responded with their own ads targeting a handful of vulnerable Democrats. But that’s not why I’m highlighting them here. Watch each sides’ ad for yourself and you’ll have a glimpse into Christmas Midterms Future. The Democrats want you to know that the GOP are a bunch of white supremacist whackadoodles who storm the capitol in their free time. The Republicans would like you to believe that Democrats hate the police, want to abolish prisons, and “are calling for violence,” citing Maxine “more confrontational” Waters.
Audrey talked to Rep. Mike Johnson, the Vice Chairman of the House Republican Conference, who is down in Orlando. “The political war in my view is summarized real simply,” Johnson said, “It’s between the survival, the maintenance, the preservation of our freedom versus this new vision of socialism that the other side is offering.”
God bless you, if you live in a swing district. It’s about to get real.
All Politics Is Localish: When Cedric Richmond left Congress to join the Biden administration, he left open a safe Democratic congressional seat, which quickly turned into a food fight between the factions of the Left. On the one side was State Sen. Troy Carter, who was endorsed by Richmond, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, and top leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus. On the other side was state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who was backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, former Georgia governor candidate Stacey Abrams, and EMILY’s List. Millions of dollars later, Carter—aka The Establishment—whomped Peterson by double digits. Does this mean that the AOC, progressive wing of the party is dead? Of course not. It means campaigns matter, districts matter, voters matter, and candidates matter. And next up: an August primary in Ohio “where Nina Turner, a former presidential campaign co-chair for Bernie Sanders, faces Cuyahoga County Democratic Party leader Shontel Brown.”
Worth Your Time: I found this piece by Richard Hanania—highlighted by Patrick Ruffini, who you should also be following—thought provoking. He wanted to look at, despite a country roughly split 50-50 by party, why “almost every major institution in America that is not explicitly conservative leans left.” His answer, in short, is the difference between how important politics is to people on the left and right. Or, as he puts it, “democracy does not reflect the will of the citizenry, it reflects the will of an activist class, which is not representative of the general population.” Looking at just donations, as one example of activism, “49.1% of all Americans cast a ballot in 2020, compared to 2.9% who cared enough to actually give money to one side or the other.” Among that group of people who cared enough to donate, Biden won by 22 percent. There’s some great charts as well that I recommend you take some time to digest, but here’s one as an amuse-bouche:
20 Years of Stereotyping College Republicans
I’m going to pick a fight with some of y’all. By the time I graduated college, I had worked for Republican senator, on a Republican campaign, and for a Republican attorney general in a Republican administration. But I was quite adamantly not a College Republican. Why? Well, first of all, I didn’t see the point. I was waiting on a frigid platform for the L to commute to my internship on Jack Ryan’s ill-fated senate campaign while these guys invited Phyllis Schlafly to campus and held affirmative action bake sales. Second, they all wore khakis. Third, the reason they all wore khakis is because they were all dudes. (Guy Benson was a year behind me and can back me up on this.)
I mention all this because I found it, ahem, potentially heartening to read that, just maybe, they are looking to expand their base. Reuters reported that “members and leaders of a dozen Republican clubs on U.S. campuses said fresh leadership and a wider embrace of issues such as fighting climate change are key to the future of the party they will help mold for decades to come.”
The problem? It seems that the CRs are going through the same growing/shrinking pains as the rest of the party. At Cornell, for example, Reuters reported that a bunch of moderate members quit when the club endorsed Trump in 2020 but then a bunch of MAGA members quit just a few weeks later when the club’s president publicly acknowledged that Joe Biden had legitimately won the election.
In five years, dollars to donuts, the College Republicans will reflect—not lead—the Republican Party and whatever it may look like by then.
Texas Special Election Is Almost Here
The election to replace Rep. Ron Wright, who passed away in February after contracting COVID-19, is this weekend outside of Dallas, Texas. All 23 candidates will be listed on a single ballot—there’s no primary—and then the top two vote-getters (assuming no one gets over 50 percent, which feels like a safe bet) will move to a runoff. And why does everyone care so much? Because it’s one of those suburban/exurban districts that seems to be drifting away from the GOP. Trump won the district by 12 points in 2016 but only by 3 points in 2020.
On Monday, Trump endorsed the late congressman’s widow, Susan Wright, which along with her name ID has to make her a favorite heading into Saturday. If she eventually wins the seat—as I suspect she will—Trump and Trumpism will claim victory, but I will argue it doesn’t mean too much either way. The endorsement itself wasn’t all that impressive either—a quick paragraph that says she’ll be “terrific” and “strong on the Border, Crime, Pro-Life, our brave Military and Vets, and will ALWAYS protect your Second Amendment.” There’s a lot of signals that Trumpism may be the future of the Republican Party, but this won’t be one of them.
Here are the candidates whose victory would signal something about the future of the GOP: Congressman Adam Kinzinger has endorsed Marine reservist Michael Wood as the “less Trump, more conservative” candidate that Audrey profiled last month. Sery Kim, a former Trump administration official, had and then lost the endorsements of the first Korean American Republicans to serve in Congress after she said she didn’t want Chinese immigrants to come to America. The Democratic nominee that Wright beat in 2018, Jana Sanchez, is the favorite on the left, and her victory would give Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell 2022 night terrors.
Stay tuned—because every pundit in the country is going to read way too much into the results.
Last up, we have Stirewalt with another super smart take, this time on the Ohio Senate race. Oh and if you didn’t read this piece by him from the weekend, you’re missing out.
Ohio Dems Get a Populist of Their Own for Senate Run
Ohio Republicans seeking the state’s open Senate seat next year have been so busy trying to outdo each other as the most fanatically devoted to former President Donald Trump, or the most committed to the new populist nationalism left in his wake, that it’s been easy to forget that Democrats will have something to say about this, too.
Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat who represents a blue-tinted swing district just south of Cleveland, is no stranger to national audiences. Ryan’s ill-conceived and poorly executed 2020 presidential campaign seemed to have a lot in common with his previous on-again-off-again efforts to unseat Nancy Pelosi as House Democratic leader: Ways to get attention and airtime, especially from right-leaning outlets like Fox News. It made good sense in a district where he rightly understood voters may tilt slightly Democratic but don’t like the direction of the party nationally.
The question now is whether all that airtime can add up to a statewide win. Certainly, Ryan is what many of the Republicans seeking their party’s nomination to replace retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman want to be. He’s a pro-labor foe of big business who favors government economic planning. He’s more socially moderate than Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who formerly represented the House District Ryan now calls his own. But he’s well ahead of the Republican populists in establishing his blue-collar bona fides. Assuming Brown backs Ryan and national Democrats add their support, he looks like the kind of candidate the party needs in an increasingly red Ohio. Plus, with Ohio losing a House seat in redistricting, Ryan’s chances of standing pat look less attractive. The 23th district is bordered by red on two of three sides. Even if it survives in the new map drawn by the state’s redistricting commission, it’s probably not getting any safer for the Democratic incumbent.
For now, Ryan is the biggest fish in the Democratic Senate primary pond. State House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes is exploring a run. She’s the top-ranking African-American woman in Ohio state politics and heir to a political dynasty in Akron adjacent to Ryan’s own district. In a state where something like one in five Democratic primary voters will be black, she could be a formidable rival. Certainly, she could put Ryan in a difficult spot on social justice questions that might make his life more difficult in the general election. Ohio’s police unions are powerful and Republican law-and-order messages work well in the Buckeye State. To maximize their chances for flipping the seat, Ohio Democrats need to avoid the kind of ugly primary Republicans seem determined to have.
Ryan probably represents Democrats’ best chance to unite and appeal to the same voters who twice made the state Trump country. Republicans ought to pay attention, because Ryan is more experienced at the game their contenders are trying to play. Now we find out whether his gifts for getting votes can match his capacity for getting on television.