The Sweep: Did McCain-Feingold Ruin America?
Plus, the effect of voting reform laws, the Ohio Senate primary, and more.
Campaign Quick Hits
Voting Laws Don’t Matter Much: Well-respected Emory political science professor Alan I. Abramowitz has published yet another study that found that the types of voting restrictions pursued by GOP states–requiring voter ID and limiting drop boxes and early voting—“had only minor effects on turnout and no effect at all on the Democratic margin in the presidential election.” Instead, he found that “both voter turnout and voting decisions in 2020 were driven by the strong preferences held by the large majority of voters ... increased use of absentee voting had only a small impact on turnout and no effect at all on the Democratic margin in the 2020 presidential election.”
In other words, Republicans are wasting their time if they think these laws are politically advantageous but also Democrats have no factual basis for believing these laws are “Jim Crow 2.0” or result in widespread "voter suppression."
Quote of the Week: “The groups where Vance has improved are those we don’t want him doing better with: Trump disapprovers and moderate/liberals,” Tony Fabrizio in a 98-page polling report created for a super PAC that supports Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance’s campaign in Ohio.
Love it or hate it, this is the playbook on how to win a GOP primary in 2022. This report will get read by every GOP primary candidate running in 2022—or thinking about it for 2024 because the polling reflects the effects of a $2 million ad campaign supporting rival Josh Mandel that showed “Vance describing himself as a ‘Never Trump guy’ and calling Trump an ‘idiot,’ ‘noxious” and ‘offensive.’”
I think the outcome of the Ohio Senate race will make or break a lot of 2024 campaigns. If Vance wins the primary, it will be seen as a model for how to tie a candidate to Trump without the full embrace. If Mandel wins the primary and wins the general election, I think several potential 2024 presidential candidates quietly shutter their fledgling campaign operations. If Mandel wins the primary and loses the general election, it will almost certainly mean that Republicans lost the Senate because of Trump (again). And it will send shock waves throughout the Republican establishment as a surefire indication that Trump has no shot at winning in a general election—no matter how badly Biden or the economy does.
Speaking of Primaries: Check out this fun graphic from our friends over at Echelon. Let me be clear: This is in no way an indication of who the frontrunners would be if Biden doesn’t run. But like its GOP equivalent, it tells you who has name ID among Dem voters and who is getting the most attention from left-leaning news outlets. Given those inputs, I’m surprised Eric Adams didn’t get into that coveted 2 percent slot. And I’m even more surprised that Gavin Newsom did.
Stuck in the Middle Without You
“Without moderates, this place will be almost unworkable,” says GOP Rep. John Katko of New York. And yet that’s exactly what seems to be happening. Audrey Fahlberg and Harvest Prude have the latest in a full-length piece on the website:
Per data compiled by the Brookings Institute, the number of House members who carried districts won by a presidential candidate from the other party—known as “crossover districts”—averaged well over 100 members for the 40-year period beginning in 1956. That number has shrunk every presidential election cycle since 1984, when 190 members—or 43.7 percent of the House’s 435 members—were elected in crossover districts. In 2020, that number fell to 16—just 4 percent of the entire lower chamber, per FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley.
Democrats have experienced the trend more over the past two decades. “As recently as 2008, there were almost 50 Democrats who won the districts that John McCain carried for president,” said Sabato’s Crystal Ball election analyst Kyle Kondik, down from 86 in 2000. “In this most recent election, there were only seven [crossover Democrats]. Redistricting will sort of shuffle those numbers a little bit, but you’re just seeing a decline really on both sides of members being able to hold these districts that aren’t otherwise favorable to their party.”
Increased polarization among voters from both parties has also exerted downward pressure on moderates to either abandon their bipartisan instincts or leave Congress entirely rather than risk tough reelection battles come midterm season.
You can read the rest here.
McCain-Feingold Ruined America: Mailbag Edition
I read all the thoughts and feelings in the comments section of this newsletter every week. (Thanks, btw!) And while I try to take questions into account for the following week, I’ve never done a true mailbag edition.
But one of you sent in four questions on my thesis that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001, better known as McCain-Feingold, is directly responsible for the dismal state of our current politics—the extremism, the norm-breaking, the death of Congress as a legislative body, etc etc.* Here’s the gist of my magnum opus: