Campaign Report — Get ready for the main event
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Primaries give way to a general election sprint
The 2022 midterm campaign sprint is just beginning.
The primaries in New York and Florida this week were among the last of the year’s big nominating contests. While there are a handful of primaries left — including in New Hampshire, where Republican voters will choose their nominee to take on Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) — the general election matchups are mostly set.
To recap the primaries, Republicans saw high-profile, and often bitter, matchups between former President Trump’s endorsed candidates and other hopefuls, some of whom cast themselves as Trump loyalists and others who hewed more toward traditional conservatism. In the end, Trump’s candidates mostly came out on top. In the Senate primaries in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, GOP voters sided with the former president and handed his endorsees the nominations.
Trump’s influence over Republican voters was also on display in races where GOP members of Congress who voted last year to impeach him were seeking renomination. Of the six who did not retire and sought reelection this year, only two survived their primaries. In one of the most notable races, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), one of Trump’s most ardent Republican critics, lost in a landslide to Harriet Hageman, whom the former president endorsed last fall.
Democrats, meanwhile, saw an easier path through primary season, especially in key Senate races. In Ohio, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) largely coasted through his nominating contest. The same was in North Carolina and Florida. Still, it wasn’t all easy for Democrats. The party saw debates between its left and center over which candidates were best suited to win in November, while there are still questions about just how closely Democratic hopefuls should tie themselves to President Biden.
What’s next? Expect a brutal and expensive general election campaign season. Republicans need to pick up only five seats in the House and just one in the Senate to recapture control of Congress, and they believe that they have the political winds at their backs.
But Democrats are also heading into the fall more hopeful than they were just a couple months ago that the November elections won’t be an absolute wipeout. The party is starting to get optimistic about keeping the Senate, benefiting from solid recruits that are outraising their Republican rivals in key swing states.
And while holding the House this year is still unlikely for Democrats, a series of strong special election performances in recent weeks has buoyed the party’s hopes that the political tides may be turning in their favor.
Student debt plan a curveball for vulnerable Dems
Biden’s announcement on Wednesday that the government would forgive $10,000 in student loans for borrowers making less than $125,000 a year — and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients — spurred largely predictable reactions from progressive Democrats and Republicans.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the move “Biden’s bailout for the wealthy.” Progressives praised the move but some said the forgiveness wasn’t enough.
But Biden’s latest move on student loan debt forgiveness could put one group in an awkward position: vulnerable Democrats, who need to appeal to both voters thrilled with the loan relief and those concerned about its effects on inflation.
The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee (NRCC) sought to tie Democratic Virginia Reps. Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria and Jennifer Wexton to the administration’s move.
“Will Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton condemn this irresponsible plan that will make inflation even worse?” an NRCC press release asked.
The Hill caught up with Spanberger on Tuesday shortly after news of Biden’s impending broke.
“One of the things I think we need to be talking about is the overall expense related to higher education,” Spanberger said. “While there’s many opinions about loan forgiveness, how much it should be, how much it shouldn’t be, minimums, maximums, all of the rest, the bottom line is that we continue to see education prices go up year by year at really exorbitant rates.”
Other center left Democrats have echoed this sentiment, arguing that the message needs to be about tackling education institution’s role in the cost of higher education.
“The Biden administration is taking this action, it’s not being voted on by the front-liners who have to win in these districts,” said Lanae Erickson, senior vice president for social policy, education, and politics at the center left think tank Third Way. “But they can talk about the fact that this has to be the beginning, not the end, and that we need to reform our higher education system so we’re not back here again in five years because this cannot be an every five years problem.”
The Hill’s Julia Manchester has more on how Democrats facing tough reelection bids are reacting to news of Biden’s announcement.
A new Emerson College Polling survey out on Thursday shows Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman holding a 4 percentage point leader over Republican challenger Mehmet Oz. In the survey, 48 percent of Pennsylvania voters polled said they would vote for Fetterman compared to 44 percent for Oz. When asked about whom voters would back for governor in the state, 47 percent said Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro compared to 44 percent for Republican Doug Mastriano. The latter polling falls within the margin of error, which is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke is seizing on the issue of abortion in his first TV ads and targeting his opponent Gov. Greg Abbot (R) over the issue.
“From this day forward, August 25th, women all across Texas are no longer free to make decisions about our own body. No longer free to choose if a pregnancy is right for us. Or our families,” different women through the campaign TV narrate in one of the ads. “Not even in cases of rape or incest. And women will die because of it. All because of Greg Abbott’s abortion law. It’s too extreme. So I’m voting for Beto, who will give women our freedom back.”
The ad comes on the same day that Texas abortion ban becomes effective in the state and on the heels of a recent special election in New York’s 19th Congressional District. Democratic candidate Pat Ryan, who focused more on abortion, won against Republican Marc Molinaro, who honed in on the economy. The special election has been viewed as a bellwether of Democrats’ performance ahead of November and how the issue of abortion resonates with voters over issues like inflation or the economy.
OP-EDS FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
- Democrats are on a roll: Here’s how to ride the wave to November, by political strategist Donna Brazile
- The media myth of Democratic momentum, by Hill columnist Joe Concha
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Campaign page for the latest news and coverage. See you next week.
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