Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Trifecta

J. Patrick Coolican of the Minnesota Reformer reports that with Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party winning a narrow majority the state Senate, Minnesota now has a Democratic trifecta as well.

Minnesota Democrats captured full control of the Legislature Tuesday, holding on to the state House and winning a narrow 34-33 majority in the state Senate.

The DFL legislative victory and Gov. Tim Walz’s reelection means Democrats will control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office for the first time since 2014, giving them opportunities to fulfill a policy wish list long in the making among progressive activists, labor unions and wealthy donors.

“Now there’s an expectation that Democrats are going to get things done,” said JaNaé Bates, communications director for Faith in Minnesota, a progressive ecumenical group. “And what I mean is really lean in and fully deliver on issues of concern.”

Bates said she and likeminded progressives will be pushing for access to child care and subsidies to help child care workers earn a living wage; expanded MinnesotaCare, which is a public insurance option for the state’s working poor; education funding; drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants; and paid medical leave, among others.


The government trifectas in Maryland and Massachusetts occured when Maryland elected Wes Moore to become the state’s first Black governor and Massachusetts elected Maura Healey, the first woman to be elected governor in Massachusetts.

In addition to the governorship and the U.S. Senate seat, it appears as if Pennsylvania Democrats may have taken over the state House of Representatives.

All of that is, as President Biden would say, a BFD.

Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux of FiveThirtyEight writes about how the abortion rights issue is defining the political landscape in key presidential battleground states. 

In key purple states…abortion rights seem to have lifted Democratic candidates, and although some races are still outstanding, Democrats have already won most of the state-level races that will shape abortion access going forward. In Pennsylvania, where Republican legislators were making noises about stricter abortion bans, Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governor’s race handily, defeating an opponent who was one of the most ardent anti-abortion advocates in the statehouse. Regardless of what happens in the Pennsylvania General Assembly — which, in a surprising turn of events, Democrats may also have a shot at winning — Shapiro has promised to veto any new abortion restrictions, which means that abortion will remain legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy (with some restrictions, like waiting periods) in Pennsylvania for the foreseeable future.

Democrats also managed to stave off a Republican supermajority in the North Carolina General Assembly — a down-ballot victory that will have big implications for the thousands of women who already appear to be traveling to North Carolina for abortions. The governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat, so anti-abortion Republicans were hoping for a veto-proof majority that would allow them to pass a stricter abortion ban than the state’s current 20-week limitation. But that didn’t happen, and North Carolina will likely continue to accommodate thousands of out-of-state abortion patients from across the South as a result.[…]

How did Democrats manage to defy those expectations? We don’t know yet. But it seems like abortion access may be mobilizing some groups that the Democrats have long struggled to turn out reliably, like young voters. There were signs going into the election that young women were particularly upset by the Supreme Court’s ruling, and that’s reinforced by the exit polls, which found1 that abortion was the top issue for 44 percent of voters under the age of 30 — far more than the share that picked inflation. Women were also more likely than men to say that abortion was their top issue in the exit polls (33 percent vs. 22 percent), but the gap wasn’t huge, and it could be at least partially explained by the fact that women are more likely to vote for Democrats. We’ll have to wait until we get more reliable turnout numbers to dig into this further — but for now it’s clear that abortion is motivating many Democratic voters, despite a sour economy and general discontent with the state of the country. Going into 2024, we will likely see more Democratic primary candidates running on the issue of abortion, as many of this year’s primaries were over by the time the Dobbs decision came out.

Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun-Times notes that abortion rights, in part, even dashed Illinois Republican attempts to achieve majority support on the state Supreme Court. 

Illinois Republicans were exultant two years ago over their successful effort to bounce Democrat Thomas Kilbride from the state Supreme Court, imagining it would allow them to reverse the Democrats’ 4-3 majority control.

On Election Night, it became clear they hadn’t quite thought matters all the way through.

Instead of looking forward to their own majority, Republicans are now facing a 5-2 deficit on the court after Democrats Elizabeth Rochford and Mary K. O’Brien pulled out hard fought victories for two open suburban seats indirectly created by Kilbride’s ouster. […]

Early on, Democrats discovered the demographics of the new districts gave them an edge when the issue of abortion was raised, with voters in both districts favoring candidates who support abortion rights.Rochford and O’Brien were heavily backed by abortion rights groups. Republicans Burke and Curran had the backing of anti-abortion groups.

Karen Brooks Harper of the Texas Tribune writes that based on the 2022 midterm results, Texas remains a long way from turning blue.

The GOP’s success in Texas, even as it fell short of expectations nationally, signaled voters’ endorsement of Abbott following a second term marked by aggressive actions on the border and immigration, conservative positions on LGBTQ and other social issues and a near-total ban on abortion. And it was another rebuke of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Beto O’Rourke, who lost his third election in four years.

“Voters seem to be fine with the status quo,” said Drew Landry, assistant professor of government at South Plains College in Levelland, west of Lubbock.

If Democrats have anything to show for this election, it’s that they won two of three congressional seats up for grabs in South Texas — denying Republicans their hopes of statement victories in a heavily Hispanic region. Hispanic residents now represent the largest ethnic group in Texas, surpassing non-Hispanic white residents earlier this year in a census estimate.

The state’s shifting demographics had given Democrats hope, as margins at the top of the ticket have shrunk in recent years. In Abbott’s first bid for governor in 2014, he won by more than 20 percentage points. In 2018, he won his second term by just over 13. And Donald Trump won the state by less than 6 percentage points in 2020. Tuesday night, that Democratic progress seemed to halt. Abbott appeared likely to win by a similar margin as in 2018 — possibly larger.

Erin Mansfield and Kayla Jimenez writes for USA Today that the results of the nation’s school board elections were mixed.

USA TODAY tracked the influence of national conservative groups and parents’ rights groups throughout the 2022 midterm election season, from political newcomers winning on race in mostly white districts to the organizations backing the candidates to their demands to remove social and racial justice curriculum and ban books from schools.

Hundreds of school board elections took place Tuesday, including races where candidates ran unopposed and others where entire conservative slates ran to replace liberal-leaning boards. School board races are largely nonpartisan, but in some places, conservative groups worked to influence races with small financial investments and messaging around parental rights.

USA TODAY looked at the results in more than a dozen races where two prominent conservative groups – The 1776 Project PAC and Moms for Liberty – worked to elect candidates who campaigned on opposition to lessons and books related to racial and social justice and in favor of parental rights.

Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times that the road to an eventual Republican majority in the U.S. House runs right through New York.

Channeling angst over persistent crime and inflation, Republicans ran a nearly clean sweep through the slate of New York’s congressional tossup races. While their party struggled in swing states like Virginia and Michigan, Republican candidates made inroads deep into the suburbs of Long Island and the Hudson Valley, and even pockets of Brooklyn and Queens, where President Biden had won handily.

When they were done, Republicans had flipped four Democratic House seats, more than any other state, and had won a staggering prize: the defeat of Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, the House Democratic campaign chairman charged with protecting his party’s hold on Congress.

The Republican surge in New York, which also rattled Democrats’ hold on state races, did not result in an upset in the contest for governor. But Gov. Kathy Hochul’s five-point victory over Representative Lee Zeldin, a Trump-backed Republican, seemed paradoxically to have a coattail effect for Republicans, who won in areas where Mr. Zeldin performed well.

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post has a few choice words for most political journalists.

I was baffled. What were they seeing that I and, more important, the Democratic operatives I spoke to weren’t seeing? Back in mid-August, I wrote a column titled “Why that red wave might end up a ripple.” I noted that Democrats had pulled even on the “generic ballot” — which party voters prefer for Congress — at a time in the cycle when the incumbent president’s party is almost always losing ground. Democrats’ standing receded slightly since then, but the contests remained extremely tight. The races were stable, both in public polling and in the private polling I had seen.

So what happened? Political journalists were suckered by a wave of Republican junk polls in the closing weeks of the campaign. They were also swayed by some reputable polling organizations that, burned by past failures to capture MAGA voters, overweighted their polls to account for that in ways that simply didn’t make sense. And reporters fell for Republican feints and misdirection, as Republican operatives successfully created an artificial sense of momentum by talking about how they were spending money in reliably blue areas.

An extraordinary profusion of bad partisan polling flooded the media late in the campaign, coming from GOP outfits such as Trafalgar (which had Blake Masters over Mark Kelly in the Arizona Senate race, Don Bolduc over Maggie Hassan in the New Hampshire Senate race, among others) and Rasmussen (which gave Republicans a five point edge in the generic ballot).

Charles Blow of The New York Times seconds Milbank’s emotion.

We were led to believe that Hispanics were defecting from Democrats in shocking numbers. The truth appears to have been more nuanced. According to exit polls, which we always have to take with a grain of salt, the slippage may have been about 5 percent in some parts of the country, but some candidates (like Beto O’Rourke in Texas) held on to Hispanics at the same rate President Biden did in 2020, or even increased that level of support (like Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada).

We were led to believe that Black men were also drifting away from the Democrats. That’s not entirely true. Look at Georgia, where the great fear was that Black men wouldn’t vote for Stacey Abrams: A slightly higher percentage voted for her in this election in that state than voted for Biden in 2020, according to exit polls.

We were told that Biden and the Democrats had made a huge mistake by focusing so much attention on abortion and a fragile democracy at the expense of crime and the economy. That, too, was wrong. Abortion was a tremendously animating issue in this election, and voters rebuffed many prominent election deniers in the night’s biggest, most competitive races.

In fact, you could say that voters rebuffed Trumpism itself — and the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. It may be too optimistic to say the fever broke, but Tuesday night, we saw enough people in enough states shake it off, allowing us to imagine a day when Trump no longer dominates the Republican Party.

Susan B. Glasser of The New Yorker says that Tuesday’s midterm results solidifies Number 45’s status as a sore loser.

…and the surprise remains that the Trumps—and the Party in their thrall—ever thought it could have been otherwise. Americans, historically speaking, do not like losers, and Trump has amassed what, in a different political era, could only be considered a big loser of a record: twice defeated in the national popular vote, Trump became the first incumbent President since Herbert Hoover to see his party lose the White House, Senate, and House in just four years. He remains the subject of multiple criminal investigations by the Justice Department. A House select committee will soon make public a scathing report, likely putting the blame on him personally for the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol. Many of the preëlection pundits who leaned hard into predictions of Republican victory focussed too much on President Biden’s poor approval ratings—and not enough on Trump’s even higher unfavorable ratings. The national exit polls on Tuesday showed that was a mistake.

Trump’s refusal to accept his forced retirement in 2020 was hardly surprising. The most narcissistic politician of our lifetimes was never going to just walk away gracefully. The political aberration was that Republicans, faced with what should have been the easy choice to abandon Trump, chose to stick with him. That they did so, even after he became the only President in American history to seek to overturn the election results and remain in power, turns out, two years later, to have been one of the decisive political factors of the 2022 midterms. In seeking to play the role of Republican kingmaker this year, Trump succeeded in proving that the country did not want more outsider, extremist candidates in his own image. Voters from Pennsylvania to Michigan to New Hampshire rejected high-profile Trump endorsees who had won primaries on the strength of the former President’s word. His tainted brand was magic to the Republican base, and proved to be toxic to everyone else.

 The reporting team of Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Hannah Knowles, Isaac Arnsdorf, and Tyler Pager of The Washington Post reports that a big part of the reason the Republican “red wave” became a “ripple” is because of Republican infighting.

From the outside, this year’s elections looked like a virtual Republican lock. Since Lyndon B. Johnson, new Democratic presidents have lost an average of 45 House and five Senate seats in the midterms. Republicans went to the polls Tuesday needing to gain just five House seats and a single Senate seat to take control, amid soaring inflation and broad dissatisfaction with the nation’s direction.

But behind the scenes, nothing came easy to Republicans this cycle, as their historic tail winds collided with the fractious reality of a political party in the midst of a generational molting. GOP leaders spent much of the last year fighting against each other or plotting against their own primary voters. They were hobbled by unprepared first-time candidates, fundraising shortfalls and Trump, whose self-concern required constant attention — right up to the eve of the election, when he forced party bosses to beg him once again to delay a presidential campaign announcement. […]

This story of how the Republican Party red wave became a ripple — with Republicans on track to narrowly win control in the House and still at risk of falling short in the Senate — is based on interviews with 47 strategists, donors, advisers and candidates from both parties, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly share private details.

Finally today, Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times interviews U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who will enter the Chicago mayoral race later today.

During a wide-ranging interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Garcia said he would love to unite the progressive movement he has championed for a lifetime — but is prepared to go it alone if it’s too late for that in the first round of balloting. He’s confident he can force Lightfoot into a run-off, and the progressive family will reunite behind him then.

“Folks know me. … They know what I’ve done. I know we will eventually get their support. I’m the only guy left from the Harold Washington coalition. … No one in Chicago politics today has been involved in fighting the old corrupt and racist and sexist Chicago Machine [longer] than myself,” the 66-year-old Garcia said.

Have a good day, everyone!

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