May 16, 2018
The Primary-Go-Round

The Primary-Go-Round

Republicans certainly looked like the underdogs on paper, but the last two weeks of primary voting might be pointing to a closer midterm race than Democrats counted on. In a year when Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) party was supposed to have the edge in turnout, reality hasn't exactly matched up with prophesy. And for Americans concerned about protecting President Trump's progress, that's a good thing!

Yesterday's showdowns, in Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, weren't the biggest primaries – but they were certainly some of the most revealing. The Keystone State, which got national attention because of the newly-redrawn congressional districts, turned in some political stunners -- including the wins by four socialist-backed candidates. As some pundits noted with surprise, "The more progressive candidate won in Democratic primaries around the country. The question, however, is whether those more liberal candidates will hurt the party's chances in November."

The biggest shocker came courtesy of Nebraskans, where congressional candidate Kara Eastman, an extreme Bernie Sanders-type progressive, beat the Democratic Party's heavily-funded candidate, Brad Ashford (who held this seat two cycles ago). In other races, a similar storyline played out: far-Left extremists winning out over more moderate Democrats. Is that good news or bad news for the party's congressional takeover? Most people aren't sure.

As far as Republicans are concerned, Lou Barletta -- one of FRC Action's True Bluers -- won the GOP nod in Pennsylvania for the U.S. Senate seat. That's great news for conservatives, who will be facing Sen. Bob Casey (D) in a state that Donald Trump won. In Idaho, one of FRC Action's lone endorsements of the night, congressional hopeful Russ Fulcher, who's been a real champion on our issues, also won.

Although the GOP still has a tough hill to climb in November, there was no shortage of good news on the turnout front. In Nebraska, Republicans cast 80,000 more votes than the Democrats (despite having no competitive primaries to motivate them). Pollster Chris Wilson also pointed out that in Oregon, a blue state if there ever was one, the Democratic vote dropped a whopping 48 percent from 2016 -- with 304,000 fewer votes cast. As for Pennsylvania, probably the most-watched state of the night, GOP turnout was up 82 percent over 2014, while Democratic turnout dropped from 2014. In a state that could well decide which party holds the gavel after November, that's significant.

In fact, CNN warns, the Democrats' celebration may be premature. "A new CNN survey (May 2-5) found that Republican enthusiasm has increased in the last two months, with 44 percent now saying they are either extremely or very enthusiastic about voting. That's up from 36 percent in March." The headline? "Democrats' 2018 advantage nearly gone." Roll Call explains: "The poll's data showed that the movement in the generic ballot mirrored the shift in enthusiasm. The Democrats' huge February lead of 16 points in the generic, which had slipped to 6 points in March, has now hit margin-of-error territory, with only a three-point lead in May."

What's fueling the GOP wave? Wilson highlighted Deep Root's analytics, which tracked the issue ads by House and Senate candidates. Out of the top 15 issue ads, social issues were in the top tier. Not surprisingly, the tax cuts topped the list, followed by ads promoting the overall Trump agenda, jobs, immigration, and then conservative values like life and religious liberty. If you look at just issue-specific ads, the top trio were economic, immigration, and social.

Let's hope that's instructive to conservative candidates heading into a wild campaign season. Run on what wins: the president's agenda and Americans' core values!