Sunday, May 22, 2022
HomePoliticsHow MAGA candidates are blowing up the GOP (transcript)

How MAGA candidates are blowing up the GOP (transcript)


David Beard:

Hello and welcome. I’m David Beard, contributing editor for Daily Kos Elections.

David Nir:

And I’m David Nir, political director of Daily Kos. The Downballot is a weekly podcast dedicated to the thousands of elections that take place below the presidency, from Senate to City Council. Thanks to your listenership, The Downballot has been growing leaps and bounds. You would be doing us a huge favor if you would rate us on Apple Podcasts. Just go to the Apple Podcasts app on your mobile device or desktop, type in The Downballot, and give us a five-star rating. And if you have a moment, please leave us a review.

David Beard:

We’re into primary season. So what is on the docket for this week?

David Nir:

We are going to discuss some interesting results that came out of West Virginia and Nebraska, the two states that held primaries this week. There was also a favorable redistricting ruling for Democrats, believe it or not, in Florida. We have a couple of foreign elections on the docket on opposite ends of the world in Northern Ireland and the Philippines. And then we will be talking with longtime Daily Kos Elections contributing editor Steve Singiser about GOP primaries, where Republicans are at risk of nominating ultra-MAGA, crazy candidates who stand a chance of jeopardizing their chances in the general election.

David Beard:

Okay, well, let’s dive in.

David Beard:

This week was a relatively quiet primary week for May, but we still had a couple of races that were competitive and we wanted to talk about. Nir, why don’t you get us started in West Virginia?

David Nir:

You bet. So West Virginia was one of just three states in the entire country that lost population between 2010 and 2020. In fact, it lost the most of any state, 3% of its population. And as a result, the state lost a seat in reapportionment. It had three seats in the House and it had to go down to two and with three Republican members of Congress representing the state in the House, that meant almost certainly that we were going to wind up with our first incumbent versus incumbent matchup of the cycle. And this happens every redistricting year. The way things played out is that David McKinley and Alex Mooney, who represent the northern part of the state and the eastern part of the state, were thrown into one district together.

David Nir:

Mooney won pretty much in a landslide, 54-36. He’ll go on to easily win reelection. This is a super red seat in November, and McKinley’s congressional career, which has lasted a decade, is now over. But what brought us to Tuesday night was really a pretty fascinating contest. McKinley is a classic West Virginia politician. His family had been in the state for seven generations and he in fact had a big geographic advantage coming into the race because he represented two-thirds of the new district while Mooney only represented one-third of the new district. The rest of Mooney’s seat wound up in west Virginia’s other House seat where Congresswoman Carol Miller was easily securing renomination on Tuesday night. Mooney, by contrast, cut such a different profile from McKinley. He was a former state senator in Maryland. That’s not West Virginia. And in fact, he even tried to run for Congress once in Maryland, but wasn’t allowed on the ballot.

David Nir:

And so finally he decided in 2014 to hop across the state line and run for an open House seat in West Virginia, and he managed to win despite having really no ties to the state. In fact, once upon a time, he even ran for the state House in New Hampshire, I think when he was back in college. So really it would be hard to find someone with even weaker ties to West Virginia than Mooney. And to add to things, he was under investigation by congressional investigators for allegedly misusing both campaign funds and taxpayer funds to benefit himself. So this ordinarily would not seem like the kind of resume you’d want to pit against McKinley’s, but we’re operating in a totally different world these days. McKinley’s biggest sin was probably voting for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which only a handful of Republicans wound up supporting. He also voted in favor of creating the January 6th Commission and Mooney ran a pure MAGA campaign and he won Trump’s endorsement. McKinley had, believe it or not, the endorsement of Joe Manchin, who is quite popular these days with Republicans in West Virginia for obstructing most of the Democratic agenda in D.C. McKinley also had the support of Governor Jim Justice, a former Democrat turned Republican, who is in fact also a Trump favorite. And it just wasn’t enough.

David Nir:

Really not all that long ago, someone like McKinley would really have been favored. We’re talking about a seventh-generation West Virginian who excelled at bringing home the bacon against a Marylander who is under investigation. But while Trump has faced a number of setbacks in various primaries that he’s gotten involved in, this really still is his Republican party. Mooney’s big win shows exactly where the GOP electorate is. And in fact, maybe the most telling statistic comes from Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux, who calculated that Mooney won his portion of the district, in other words, the one-third that he already represented, by an enormous 71-22 margin, and that’s really not a surprise. But he also won the two-thirds of the district that McKinley had represented for a decade by a 46-42 margin. So even local ties and long familiarity with his constituents were simply not enough to overcome the MAGA-fication of West Virginia, its GOP, and really the GOP in general.

David Nir:

So like I said, McKinley now calls it a career and Mooney will go on almost certainly to another term in Congress.

David Beard:

And potentially a challenge to Joe Manchin in 2024 as has been rumored, and may have been one of the reasons that Manchin went against him and tried to see McKinley win this primary.

David Nir:

Definitely very possible. Obviously we will be keeping a close eye on that one. And also I should note, there are a bunch of other incumbent versus incumbent primaries coming up this year. They tend to be some of the most compelling races and we will definitely be keeping tabs on them and reporting back to you after each of those primaries.

David Beard:

So I’m going to take us to Nebraska, the other state that held a primary this week, where there was a Trump-endorsed candidate in the governor’s race who didn’t win, but it wasn’t really evidence of Trump’s weakness in that race, but some really extenuating circumstances around this candidate. University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen is the candidate who won the primary in a close race, 33-30 over Trump’s pick, which was self-funding businessmen Charles Herbster. Pillen was the favorite of termed-out Governor Pete Ricketts, and there was a lot of money spent on Pillen’s behalf. Herbster, of course, being self-funding had also had a ton of money spent. And then there was a third place candidate, Brett Lindstrom, who took 26%.

David Beard:

So Herbster, who was Trump’s candidate, attended the January 6th Trump rally. And he actually led the race for a lot of March. Ricketts was running ads attacking Herbster as a Missouri millionaire and also airing ads that Lindstrom, that third candidate, was insufficiently conservative. But the race took a dark turn in April when eight women, including Republican State Senator Julie Slama, accused Herbster of sexual assault. And Herbster responded by running a TV ad pretty much directly attacking Slama and claiming her allegations were part of a scheme by Pillen and Ricketts to stop him from winning the primary. Trump of course, given his history, stood by Herbster, saying he’s the most innocent human being in that typical Trump speak, but fortunately, enough Republican voters followed Ricketts’ lead and voted for Pillen to barely keep Herbster out of winning the primary and probably the governor’s office, because given how blood-red Nebraska is, I would not have been this surprised to see Herbster win the general election if he had been able to win this primary.

David Beard:

But Pillen is going to go on advance to the general. He faces Democratic state Senator Carol Blood in the general election, but he is the strong, strong favorite to win that race this fall.

David Nir:

And I would just add, we saw something happen like this in the Ohio Senate GOP primary last week. Just because a candidate might only win, say a third of the vote as Trump’s pick, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the primary electorate is anti-Trump. If anything, to the contrary. Lindstrom definitely was someone who deviated from conservative orthodoxies, but Pillen was not. And so you really have a Republican primary electorate that regardless of who actually wins is still heavily pro-Trump.

David Beard:

And you see in both of these states, there is a candidate Lindstrom here, Dolan in Ohio, who was the one who was the least Trumpy, who wasn’t really going in the Trump direction—not that he was actively going against Trump, but was not a Trumpy candidate. And they both won somewhere in the twenties. They both did very well in the urban areas and really, really awful in most of the rest of the state. So I think that’s a pattern I wouldn’t be surprised to see continue. And the other part is really just depending on how many Trumpist candidates there are outside of that, which really is determining these things.

David Beard:

One race I did want to just briefly touch on, Nebraska’s Second, where incumbent Republican Representative Don Bacon easily advanced to the general. The Democratic primary had State Senator Tony Vargas advance over mental health counselor Alicia Shelton, 69-31. So that’s going to be a competitive race in November and one that Democrats are going to be looking to pick up since Biden won the seat 52-46 in 2020.

David Nir:

There was even a thought that Don Bacon could be in a little bit of trouble. Trump at a rally for Charles Herbster not long ago said that, he asked the audience to vote for quote, Steve, whoever the hell you are, but Bacon wound up winning 77-23. So Steve is still whoever the hell you are.

David Beard:

The best thing Republicans have going for them is when Trump doesn’t even know their opponent’s name. So it’s hard to then advocate for voting for them if he doesn’t know their name.

David Nir:

So we are going to do a little bit of a redistricting roundup because on Wednesday, Democrats got some excellent news in Florida where a state court judge struck down the GOP’s new map. You might recall we talked about this on a recent episode of The Downballot. The most salient feature of this map, which was demanded by Ron DeSantis and passed by a totally supine GOP-run legislature, was to dismantle Florida’s Fifth Congressional District. This is a safely blue, plurality-Black district that the State Supreme Court had blessed in a previous round of litigation several years ago. It runs from Jacksonville to Tallahassee and it has a Black plurality and is represented by a Black Democrat.

David Nir:

It has a Black plurality, and is represented by a Black Democrat who is, in legal parlance, the preferred candidate of the voters in this district. The problem for DeSantis is that Florida’s Constitution forbids undermining or rolling back the voting power of minorities in the state. And this map clearly did that, there was no question.

David Nir:

In fact, DeSantis was open about his intentions. So the real question here was what the courts were going to do about this? Interestingly, the judge who said this district was unconstitutional, violated the state constitution, was a DeSantis appointee, and he imposed a remedial map that essentially restores the previous east-west Jacksonville to Tallahassee district that Democrat Al Lawson has represented for years.

David Nir:

We know that this is going to be appealed, and the Florida Supreme Court has gotten much more conservative over the years, thanks to appointments by DeSantis and his predecessor, Rick Scott. But the law is really quite clear, this anti-retrogression, to use the legal term, amendment.

David Nir:

So the Florida Supreme Court may well uphold this ruling. Certainly, Democrats have their fingers crossed that they will. And I should also add that a challenge is ongoing to other parts of the map, alleging that they are partisan gerrymanders, which are also outlawed by the Florida Constitution. Those challenges likely aren’t going to be adjudicated this year.

David Nir:

There’s also a chance that the appellate courts don’t even rule on the substance of this decision striking down Florida’s Fifth District. And instead, they say, “Oh, it’s just too close to the primary, which is not until the end of August.”

David Nir:

That would really be BS, but of course, we’ve seen many courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, pull that kind of ruling this year. So we will keep our fingers crossed that this ruling gets upheld on appeal, because it’s not only good news for Democrats, but also, it is good news for the cause of Black representation in the state of Florida.

David Beard:

I’ll just add that New York still doesn’t have a map. We’re still waiting on the special master on that front, and their election got moved to a similar time period as Florida’s. So clearly, there’s plenty of time for this new district to be implemented.

David Beard:

That is fair rather than saying that, “Oh, it’s too late,” but of course, expecting judicial consistency between New York and Florida? We’ll see.

David Nir:

Yeah. In fact, New York’s primary for congressional races, lets move to the exact same date, August 23rd, and we still don’t have a map here in New York. So who knows?

David Beard:

Yeah. Anyway, I’m going to wrap up our weekly hits with a couple of international elections that took place in the past week. First, we’re going to go over to Northern Ireland, which held their Assembly elections, as part of a broader U.K. local and regional elections that took place.

David Beard:

Just briefly, Northern Ireland is divided politically between predominantly Catholic nationalists, who want to leave the U.K. and unite with the rest of Ireland, and predominantly Protestant Unionists, who want to remain in the U.K. So Sinn Fein, the leading nationalist party, won the most seats for the first time under the current system.

David Beard:

But that was mostly as a result of the fragmentation of Unionist votes, rather than some sort of surge and support for Sinn Fein, or nationalism in general. They won the same number of seats, 27, as they did in 2017. And they were up one percentage point in the overall vote.

David Beard:

Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionist Party, who is the leading Unionist party, they lost nearly seven percentage points, and three seats, to fall from first place to second place. And that’s important, because the first-place party gets to have the First Minister and the second place party of a different grouping, in this case, unionist versus nationalist, gets the Deputy First Minister position.

David Beard:

Now, of course, they have exactly equal responsibilities, but symbolically, of course, everyone cares about who gets to be First Minister, and who gets to be Deputy First Minister. The big winners were actually the non-aligned Alliance Party, which took third place, up 4.5 percentage points, and up nine seats, to go from eight seats to 17.

David Beard:

The Traditional Unionist Voice, which is sort of the hard-right Unionists, they gained five percentage points, largely from the DUP. They got up to 7.6%, but they only won one seat, because they weren’t able to break through in Northern Ireland’s election system.

David Beard:

In theory, there should be a government formed with Sinn Fein having the First Minister spot, and the DUP being the Deputy First Minister. But the DUP has said that they’ll refuse to form this executive, until the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is the post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland, is changed.

David Beard:

Because Brexit resulted in a lot of border checks between Northern Ireland and the U.K., because of a lot of complicated customs issues. The Unionists really hate it, because they feel it’s separating them from the rest of the U.K.

David Beard:

So they’re trying to get that change, and they’ve decided they’re not going to allow the executive to form, which it can’t without them, until this has changed through negotiations between the U.K. and the European Union.

David Beard:

Now, I’m going to take us all the way across the world to the Philippines, which had their presidential election. The presidency is for a six-year term in the Philippines. You can’t run for re-election, and there’s no runoff.

David Beard:

So just the candidate who gets the highest number of vote wins, which in the past has resulted in candidates with just a plurality winning, and not a majority. But in this case, wasn’t an issue.

David Beard:

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose nickname is “Bongbong,” easily won the race, defeating sitting Vice President Leni Robredo. He won with about 60% of the vote, so an easy majority.

David Beard:

Marcos is the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines under mostly martial law, from 1972 until 1986, when he was overthrown by the People Power revolution, and fled the country. Now, Marcos Jr. also fled the country then, but he was allowed to return in 1989 after the death of his father, and has since been very involved in politics, serving as a congressman, senator, and in government in different times.

David Beard:

Now, the entire Marcos family was very involved in a ton of corruption, and was investigated, and there were a lot of legal issues. Marcos Jr. never went to jail, and never had to stop being involved in politics any in any way.

David Beard:

He actually ran for vice president six years ago, and narrowly lost to Robredo, but this year he had the support of outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte, and was allied with Duterte’s daughter who was running for vice president.

David Beard:

She also easily won that race, and so they’ll be moving into the presidency and vice presidency together. She is now obviously the favorite for this sort of family dynastic politics that’s going on between these two families, to likely run for president six years from now.

David Beard:

As I said, there’s a ton of corruption issues around Marcos, but it’s possible that he may be slightly more moderate, actually, than outgoing president Duterte, just because Duterte was such an extreme right-winger. He advocated extrajudicial killings for drug traffickers. He has been very much on the far right.

David Beard:

So Marcos, as a more establishment figure, in some ways, may be a slightly more moderating force than Duterte was. That’s not to take away from the corruption, or from the fact that he’s never repudiated any of the killings and oppressions that went on during his father’s reign, and is just, either not repudiated them, or just ignored the questions, refused to engage with them. So this is in no way a good thing, but he is a slightly different figure than Duterte is.

David Nir:

Well, that does it for our weekly hits. Up next, we are going to be talking with longtime Daily Kos Elections contributing editor Steve Singiser about MAGA candidates who may cost the GOP winnable elections, if they win their primaries over slightly more acceptable alternatives. Stay with us, after the break.

David Nir:

We are now joined by Daily Kos Elections contributing editor Steve Singiser, who has been with the site for many, many years. We are going to dive into the fun, crazy, and messy world of Republican primaries, particularly those that could jeopardize GOP chances this year, if Republicans wind up nominating their most MAGA-fied extremists.

David Nir:

And Steve, I want to start off with a race where some just totally wild and crazy news broke on the very day we were recording this episode on Wednesday, and it’s a contest that definitely hasn’t gotten as much attention as it should, because this kind of race never gets the sort of attention that it should.

David Nir:

But that’s what we live to do here at Daily Kos Elections. And that is the Colorado Secretary of State race. So tell us what just went down there.

Steve Singiser:

Well, a judge has barred the Clerk of Mesa County, Tina Peters, who also happens to be a candidate for the statewide Secretary of State position, from adjudicating the Mesa County elections, which is, given the name, normally in her job description. But because she has committed so many acts of awfulness, for which she’s under investigation, up to and including letting a complete stranger into their most sensitive hardware, because she is an avowed MAGA conspiracy theorist that the judge has now barred her from adjudicating elections, and has actually put it in the hands of someone appointed by the Secretary of State, who is a Democrat.

Steve Singiser:

Just one of many cases where it seems like the minimum criteria for being a Republican candidate for Secretary of State is a deep-seated affection for the Big Lie, and affinity for Donald Trump. And in this case, the odd thing is, as we saw this week in Nebraska, being deeply indebted to the Big Lie is not a barrier to getting nominated, it might be an advantage.

Steve Singiser:

The only thing that saved the incumbent there, who was someone who fought back against the Big Lie, was the fact that there were two pro-MAGA candidates who split the vote. He only got 44%.

Steve Singiser:

In Colorado, Ms. Peters, probably this charge against her, even though it costs her the basic job description that she has, will probably be an asset to her in her primary. Because as we know, Republican voters are very fond of the Big Lie.

Steve Singiser:

It’s just a question of whether they can get the rest of the voters to follow suit. And in a state like Colorado, that’s not exactly a high percentage play.

David Nir:

There was something pretty amusing, as well. Because Peters is under indictment, she recently wanted to travel to Mar-a-Lago, so that she could kneel at Trump’s altar.

David Nir:

She had to get permission from the prosecutors in order to leave the state, which they actually granted to her. And she could very well wind up with Trump’s formal seal of approval.

Steve Singiser:

The way that guy operates, I mean, it’s a pretty upper percentage chance there, isn’t it? Because she has paid her homage to him, both in person and indeed by, it’s a whole different animal, if you’ll allow, when somebody whose job it is to adjudicate elections is the one who is saying the elections are rigged.

Steve Singiser:

It’s one thing for a whacked-out Marjorie Taylor Greene or Madison Cawthorn type, who’s running for Congress, and wants to use it to electoral advantage to say. But when you’re someone whose job it is to adjudicate elections? Boy, that, just to me, is just a little bit of a bridge too far …

David Beard:

And while not a lawyer, I’ve obviously followed enough of these things to know judges do not like to tell elected officials that they can’t do their jobs. That is an extreme measure. So the degree to which this judge had to be like, “No, there’s no other choice. I literally cannot let you run an election,” just goes to show how far outside normal sanity there is to have come to get to this point.

Steve Singiser:

Yeah. I mean, it’s unreal that that is … Like I said, that’s pretty much her job description and they’re like, “We can’t quite trust you to do your job.” And now she wants to do that same job not just in Mesa county in Western Colorado, but she wants to do it on the stage of the entire state of Colorado. It seems to be a pretty risky proposition.

David Nir:

And I should also add that in 2018, this was a big pickup when Democrats won the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. Jena Griswold won that post in that year and she is going to be facing potentially a competitive reelection battle, even if the GOP winds up nominating someone crazy like Tina Peters.

David Beard:

Moving on to what might be MAGA central, at least in terms of top tier statewide races, is Pennsylvania, which has some very messy primaries for both governor and Senate on the Republican side. Let’s start with the leader in the governor’s Republican primary, which is Doug Mastriano. Tell us about him, Steve.

Steve Singiser:

Mastriano is an interesting case. For one thing, he describes himself as a Christian nationalist. He was present at January 6th at the Capitol. He is filmed actually going through breached barricades. I was laughing about this earlier today thinking about next week’s primaries and when Lou Barletta is your moderate alternative in a race, how screwed are you officially? But with Mastriano in the race, that’s actually accurate. He also is a guy who has spoken before QAnon conferences, conferences that have cast doubt on the September 11th attacks. I believe the conference’s name was Patriots Arise for God and Country which is … yeah.

Steve Singiser:

And so, here’s a guy who is quite open about it. I think was also instrumental in trying to get the results reversed in 2020 in Pennsylvania from his perch in the state Senate. He represents sort of south central Pennsylvania, very rural, very MAGA territory. He is absolutely a guy that is so unelectable on any number of levels that Josh Shapiro has decided to go the Claire McCaskill route. Josh Shapiro, for those who do not know, is the likely Democratic nominee for governor, and the attorney general in the state of Pennsylvania. He’s gone the McCaskill route and has actually run ads designed to kind of help Mastriano out, which is very similar to McCaskill in 2012 trying to boost Todd Akin knowing he was the least electable of the field.

Steve Singiser:

The situation in Pennsylvania’s gotten so desperate that Jake Corman, who was sort of a mainstream garden variety member of the legislature there, who had been running kind of a quixotic campaign for governor that was going nowhere, is going to announce an endorsement of Lou Barletta. Which again, like I said, when Barletta is your moderate alternative, you don’t have a moderate alternative.

Steve Singiser:

And the only guy that’s got to be happy about this Republican field at this point’s got to be Shapiro because it’s a God-awful mess. And again, here’s a guy who probably… Let’s face it. And this is not a disrespect to legislators everywhere who many of whom work very hard, but garden-variety state senators, especially in a state like Pennsylvania where there’s 50 of them and 203 House members, state legislators generally don’t get a national profile and this guy has, and for one reason and one reason alone, and that is an almost sycophantic fealty to Donald Trump. And it’ll probably propel him to the Republican nomination, but can it propel him to governor? That’s another story altogether.

David Nir:

So Steve, you mentioned Lou Barletta. Tell us a little bit about him and why he’s such a shock choice as the “moderate savior.”

Steve Singiser:

Well, he was a former congressman from Northeastern Pennsylvania. And he came to public attention even before he was in the Senate as the mayor of Hazleton, which is in Northeastern Pennsylvania. And he was an absolutely vocal, to the point of being quite gross about it, anti-immigration crusader before Build the Wall was cool, but also from an electoral standpoint, he has had a tour on the big stage. He was the Republican Party Senate nominee in 2018 and got positively smashed by double digits. And so, again, if you’re Shapiro, it’s like on one end I got this state legislator who’s best known for being in the Capitol on January 6th. And then over here, I got a guy who’s already run statewide and lost by 15 points, but Barletta ran in 2018 as a staunch conservative, and really ran hand-in-glove sort of with Trump. A lot of good that did him here because Mastriano is getting that MAGA attention even though Trump has stayed out of the race, not unlike the Senate race, which I know we’re going to get to in a minute, but in the governor’s race, Mastriano is just seen as his guy because I mean the guy literally was there on January 6th. Can’t say that, can you, Lou Barletta?

David Beard:

You got to take that extra step. You got to go to Mar-a-Lago. You got to be there on January 6th. That’s what it’s really about. Not any political position.

David Nir:

That really is exactly right. And there has been reporting in recent days that Republicans are doing their usual thing that they are fretting about Mastriano actually winning the nomination and worried about how that might set them back in the governor’s race and perhaps even put it out of reach, but amazingly in really just the last few days, the Mastriano fretting has been going on, I think, for a few weeks. But in just the last few days, those worries have spilled over into Pennsylvania’s other race. And of course, I’m talking about the Senate contest. So, what the hell is going on in that front?

Steve Singiser:

Well, it’s one of those races where pretty much every big-money and somewhat-awful component of the Republican machine has their own candidate. All of a sudden you’ve got the Club for Growth getting behind Kathy Barnette, who was last seen getting … again, I hate to use the same verb here, but smashed in Pennsylvania’s Fourth District a couple years ago. And of course you have good old Dr. Oz, who was at a rally with Donald Trump just last week. And it’s kind of in the same sense that we saw earlier in the week in Nebraska in the governor’s race. It is a legit three-way race; you also have Rich McCormick. And again, if Barnette who couldn’t even carry a House race gets the nomination … or Oz who has a million problems, not the least of which is it’s pretty well universally known dude does not live in Pennsylvania.

Steve Singiser:

Then again you have this downstream effect that I know you were talking about and you’re right. Here’s another factor that a lot of people aren’t considering in Pennsylvania. The redistricting there is a rare state that went really well for Democrats to the point that both houses of the state legislature are nominally competitive. It seems more likely than not that Democrats could pick up seats in both just by the way that the seats were reconfigured, particularly, in the state House.

Steve Singiser:

Now, they have a higher climb in the state House, granted, but they already picked up two seats just by dint of the way the districts were redrawn pretty much. And those are both now like Biden plus 25 seats, or something that. So the point is if the head of their ticket is Mastriano and Barnette, my goodness, that could be a real anchor on them come November in this legislative race that could be very close. Anything could happen between now and November, of course, but they could wind up losing everything.

David Nir:

So, why does Barnette have Republicans so freaked out?

David Beard:

So it’s actually really interesting. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because Dr. Oz is the endorsed Trump candidate. Trump endorsed Dr. Oz. There’s a whole to-do about it. So you would think similar as we’ve seen in other places, that the MAGA support would go to Dr. Oz in line with Trump. But in this case, Barnette is really the ultra MAGA candidate almost sort of separate and beyond Trump, not to say obviously that she’s not a big Trumpist in terms of who she supports and the way that she would act and govern, God forbid. But in the fact that she is almost sort of beyond sort of Trumpism into whatever the next stage of MAGA activism is. And so, those folks are drawn to her even though Dr. Oz is the one with the endorsements. So making it this very messy race where there’s also, of course, as Steve mentioned, McCormick, who’s just super rich guy who’s sort of playing … It seems a little bit like he’s playing at Trumpism just because he wants to win. Not to say he is not very conservative, but it’s the weird ways in which MAGA is beyond Trump in some ways. Not that he isn’t, obviously, a major figure.

David Beard:

And the other factor is that Mastriano going back to the governor’s race and Barnette have cross-endorsed each other so that they’re pushing each other in these races and sort of building their support among the MAGA segment of the primary electorate to have them both win and move on to the general election, which would just create some really strange results in Pennsylvania looking towards November.

David Nir:

So, the Pennsylvania primaries are coming up very soon on May 17. That is this coming Tuesday. And also on the same day, another big swing state is going to be hosting its primaries and that’s North Carolina. And there’s one district I know, Steve, that you had some thoughts about in particular where Republicans could really be screwing themselves over if they nominate the wrong person. And that is North Carolina’s 13th District. So, why don’t you give us a little background on the district and the candidates there?

Steve Singiser:

Well, the North Carolina 13th is part of that big redraw in North Carolina and it has become a Biden-plus two district. So it’s one of the classic swing districts come November. They have a well-funded, what we kind of call before-2020, traditional Republican in the form of Kelly Daughtry. She’s a businesswoman, lawyer. Has raised something like $2 million. Some of it’s self-funded. You go to look at her campaign website and it talks about fighting Bidenomics, which is the first time I’ve heard that particular phrase used, but also just your good traditional boiler plate that’s been Republican mantra for time immemorial. But her main opponent for that gig is a Trump-endorsed 26-year-old who managed just to look half that age who used to play football in North Carolina state named Bo Hines.

Steve Singiser:

If you go to Hines’s website by contrast to Daughtry’s, you don’t even see a picture on the main screen. You got to scroll a little bit before you see a picture of the candidate. What you see first in very large is a picture of Donald Trump, and the fact that Donald Trump has endorsed Hines. He’s been pretty thin on issues. His website says he’s 100% pro-gun, pro freedom of speech, and pro-Trump, but he doesn’t really say anything much more than that, and he’s been criticized in some corners as being a bit thin on the issues, but what he’s counting on quite clearly is that having Donald Trump’s face front and center in his campaign will be the ticket to a primary win and in a multi-candidate field, it may well be. The threshold to get through the runoff in North Carolina is only 30%. So, with those two in the lead position, it’s very likely that one of the two of them will win. So if Hines wins it, all of a sudden you have a very conservative, very closely tied-to-Trump candidate in a district that is ostensibly a 50-50 district.

David Beard:

And Hines, of course, is classically the candidate who went district shopping. As the maps changed, he started off running for Congress in more western districts, closer to Charlotte, and then eventually had to find a district, as he was continuing to run despite the districts changing, and found himself in this southern Raleigh district where he has no connections and just ended up running there because that was the open seat. But he still had Trump’s endorsement in his back pocket, so that’s what’s pushing him along here.

David Nir:

Have Trump endorsement, will travel, I guess. Steve, who are the Democrats running here?

Steve Singiser:

So the danger for the Republicans is if Hines wins this seat as an ill-experienced, very MAGA-oriented candidate in a district that Biden actually got 50% of the vote in, the Democrats have a contested primary with legitimate candidates. State legislators and people who are reasonably well-funded will be at the fore ready to take advantage of the fact that they have this guy whose only real nominal reason for running was his closeness to Trump in a district that Trump didn’t do all that well in.

David Beard:

So there’s a race where this is even more clear-cut up in Michigan, where Trump is supporting a primary challenger to an incumbent Republican because, of course, it was one of the Republicans who voted to impeach him. So what’s going on up in Michigan there?

Steve Singiser:

So in Michigan’s third district, we have Peter Meijer. Meijer very notably voted for the impeachment of Donald Trump, had fashioned himself as something of a centrist Republican, and that would probably be a necessity in a district like his that in redistricting changed to be a fairly pro-Biden district. It was a 53-45 Biden district.

Steve Singiser:

Well, along comes Donald Trump, not happy about the fact that Peter Meijer went against him and probably not at this point happy about the fact that Peter Meijer exists, so he puts his weight behind one of his former administration officials, a guy by the name of John Gibbs. And that’s one of his endorsees.

Steve Singiser:

Now the problem there for the Republicans is that’s an even more Democratic district than the North Carolina district we were just referencing and, in fact, more Democratic than the state of Pennsylvania statewide. So if Gibbs replaces Meijer, who I think in part won that district because he was viewed as somebody who was not overly ideological and then went to prove his bona fides in that regard by one of his earliest votes being a vote to impeach Donald Trump… if that’s the case, can John Gibbs run the same percentages in a district where Donald Trump only got 45% of the vote? It seems unlikely.

Steve Singiser:

So there is another seat that Republicans, in a normal year, could probably count on that if they lose this primary, they’re going to have to sweat a little bit. And they’re probably going to have to throw some money Gibbs’ way because that’s a district you’ve got to think the Democrats will gun for pretty hard.

David Nir:

And speaking of Democrats, their candidate from 2020 is running again, Hilary Scholten. She is certainly well-funded. And in a lot of these races, perhaps the difference between a Peter Meijer and a John Gibbs might only make a difference of one or two or three percentage points, but in a close contest, which we have so many of, that could really be all the difference in the world.

David Beard:

And particularly in this district, we’ve talked a lot about how this has the potential to be a very good Republican year, which hopefully obviously won’t be, but we know that’s something that’s very possible. In a Biden-plus-eight district, that could still be a district that Republicans lose even in a good year because it has moved to the left thanks to the un-gerrymandering of Michigan. But Peter Meijer is the type of candidate who could hold a D+8 seat in a good Republican year. That combination is what you’d need to get a seat that Democratic, but John Gibbs is not that candidate. So this is really a race where it’s most clearly where you’re really, from the Republican point of view, potentially just throwing away a seat, just because Trump doesn’t want anybody who opposes him around. He would be happy to throw away the seat to get rid of Meijer.

David Nir:

So another state that has had some extremely close elections recently that we really ought to talk about is Arizona. And there we have an open governor’s race because the current incumbent, Doug Ducey, who Trump hates, is term limited. And Republicans once again have a multi-way primary to try to succeed Ducey, and one candidate in particular really stands out as a big time MAGA problem.

Steve Singiser:

Yeah, that would be Kari Lake. Kari Lake has been in Arizona news for a long time. She was an anchor on television news there. She’s probably best known in recent vintage for being one of the most vocal Big Lie proponents in a state that literally built an entire investigation around the Big Lie, as we all know. She at one point called for the Democratic Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs, to be imprisoned for election crimes that were never quite specified, which would be something that could yield some fruit, given that the likely Democratic nominee, although the primaries are still into the future, is that same Katie Hobbs. Again, here is a candidate who’s in the frontier in every poll whose only real merit in terms of political experience or resume is their closeness to Trump and their endorsement by Trump.

David Nir:

And I think, Beard, you made a really excellent point that Donald Trump absolutely doesn’t care about electability. He thinks that any candidate he endorses in a primary is obviously going to win the general election. His understanding of electoral politics is, shall we say, extremely shallow. But as we so often caution, just because Republicans nominate a total whack job doesn’t mean they can’t win, and Donald Trump is the best example of that.

David Nir:

So we don’t want to be smug about any of these races. We certainly can’t sit back and say, “Oh, well, if the GOP nominates Doug Mastriano in the Pennsylvania governor’s race, then Josh Shapiro will win in a walk.” That absolutely isn’t going happen. And Steve, earlier you mentioned the example of Claire McCaskill ratfucking the GOP primary in 2012 in Missouri to promote Todd Akin. Well, there still is a lot of work left to ruin Akin, though Akin did a huge job ruining himself with his “legitimate rape” remarks.

David Nir:

So none of these races will be over and done just because Republicans nominate their worst possible candidate on primary day. But the other point I’d like to make is we couldn’t do a parallel episode like this with the Democratic Party. We just couldn’t, and that’s not because we’re partisan hacks or because we think the Democratic Party is flawless. Far from it. You’ve heard us criticize Democrats plenty of times on this show. But for the most part, not even for the most part, really almost overall, there really just aren’t any primaries out there where Democrats are at risk of nominating someone so far to the left that they put a race in jeopardy.

David Nir:

And in the few occasions where this kind of thing has happened, those candidates have tended to get crushed in the primaries. I remember Alan Grayson, the unhinged congressman from Florida who ran for Senate several years ago, he got smooshed, to use Steve’s favorite word, in the Senate primary. So really it’s just, to me, a remarkable lack of symmetry between the two parties. And this lack of symmetry, I think, is something that is poorly understood by the traditional media in particular that always wants to both-sides everything and assumes that because there are crazy Republicans, there’s a commensurate number of crazy Democrats. And that just is not the case.

Steve Singiser:

Oh, I agree 100%. And what’s more, to go to your first point, I want to reiterate, I agree with you completely that at the end of the day, what these possibilities of primaries putting the most MAGA-friendly candidate to the fore, in some cases that just means seats that probably the Democrats would have conceded as defeats they may take a second look at, Michigan’s 3rd being an example of that.

Steve Singiser:

I don’t think they were ever going to concede the Pennsylvania or Arizona statewides, but every little bit helps. And where it also helps potentially is those very thin margins in those legislative races. If there is a legislative chamber besides Pennsylvania that the Democrats would love to get ahold of, it’s Arizona, where the margins are also extremely close. So there’s more than just the benefit of that individual race.

Steve Singiser:

But to your second point, my goodness, you could look across the board, and there are very few examples, even in the last 10 years, of Democrats basically disqualifying themselves from a major race because they nominated somebody that was wholly unelectable. Grayson put as much money and effort as he could into that race against Patrick Murphy a few years back, and it came all for naught. And you see examples of that over and over and over again.

Steve Singiser:

And so at the end of the day, you see examples, we’ve gone through half a dozen or more just this cycle, of Republicans having to beat back what would be viewed as extremist challenges and clearly trying to, in some cases, Mastriano being perhaps the most clear example in this campaign cycle, but you just don’t see those on the Democratic side. And I think that’s notable in the age of Trump, because as we’ve all mentioned over the course of the past few minutes, it seems now the biggest litmus test in the Republican party is no longer ideological. It’s personal. It’s do you stand with Trump? And there’s just nothing like that on the Democratic side. Fealty to Joe Biden is not considered a requirement to be a Democratic office holder.

David Beard:

Well, it’s almost a negative.

Steve Singiser:

Nor does he demand it, to his credit.

David Nir:

We have been talking Republican primaries, MAGA candidates who might harm GOP chances in November with longtime Daily Kos Elections contributing editor, Steve Singiser. Steve, thank you so much for joining us.

Steve Singiser:

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you both.

David Beard:

That’s all from us this week. Thanks to Steve Singiser for joining us. The Downballot comes out every Thursday everywhere you listen to podcasts. You can reach us by email at thedownballotat@dailykos.com. And if you haven’t already, please like and subscribe to The Downballot and leave us a five-star rating and review. Thanks to our producer, Cara Zelaya, and editor, Tim Einenkel. We’ll be back next week with a new episode.





Source link

RELATED ARTICLES

Leave a Reply

Most Popular

Recent Comments

%d bloggers like this: