Democrats spent loads to spur Republicans they thought were less eligible. Will it pay off?
Throughout the primary season, Democrats have caused a stir by meddling in Republican primary elections – often described as “meddling” – spending money to boost potentially weaker GOP candidates in the election. hope to improve the Democrats’ chances in the general election. This mark of interference from the opposing parties has a long history in our policybut because the Republican candidates who were to benefit in 2022 often took extreme positions such as denying the legitimacy of the 2020 election, many observers – including many Democrats — were critical of this interference.
According to data compiled by The Washington Post. As the chart below shows, Democrats are now favored in each of those contests, according to FiveThirtyEight’s 2022 midterm predictions.
|Race||Republican||Approved by Trump||Primary margin||lean supporter||chance of winning|
However, it’s unclear how much Democratic interference actually altered the results of those Republican primaries — and, in some cases, how much the primary outcome significantly altered the outlook for the general election.
For example, four of those six candidates had the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, which has boosted many Republican candidates in the primaries this cycle. Additionally, Democratic incumbents are defending three of those seats, potentially providing a small boost to Democratic chances in both New Hampshire races and Illinois’ gubernatorial election. And a few of those contests are on pretty blue grass, so they would have been more likely than not to favor the Democrats regardless.
In Michigan’s 3rd District Republican primary, the most competitive seat in this race lot, former Trump administration official John Gibbs challenged Rep. Peter Meijer, one of 10 House Republicans. who voted to impeach Trump in 2021. Meijer had a huge spending advantage. in the primary, where a financial advantage may matter the most; Gibbs had Trump’s approval. Gibbs may have also received a boost from ads served by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee which ostensibly attacked him as “too conservative for West Michigan”. After Gibbs tightly bordered Meijer by 3.5 percentage points, our forecast went from clearly favoring the GOP – we had Meijer as the default candidate until then – to favoring Democrat Hillary Scholten, whom Meijer defeated in 2020. Now, conservative anger towards Meijer over impeachment and Trump’s endorsement of Gibbs made the primary race very competitive from the start. Still, the DCCC spending probably didn’t hurt Gibbs either.
Although Republicans are a long shot, Democratic interference may have tipped the scales in New Hampshire as well. The Republican primary for the US Senate has seen a lot of outside spending in recent weeks before deciding who will face potentially vulnerable Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan. Although they did not name the retired army brig. General Don Bolduc in their ads, Democrat-aligned groups spent millions attacking Bolduc’s main opponent, State Senate Chairman Chuck Morse. National Republicans, meanwhile, have spent millions to boost Morse in the hope of winning Bolduc, that New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, another Republican, tagged a “conspiracy theory” candidate.
Bolduc has finished just ahead of Morse, 37% to 36%. Morse had passed Bolduc and enjoyed broad outside support, and while Bolduc led Morse in the primary polls, the considerable number of undecided voters in the last weeks of the campaign suggested serious uncertainty on the result. And the crowded GOP Senate primary race may have been more important to Bolduc’s victory than Democratic spending, because it Morse’s ability complicated to form an anti-Bolduc coalition and helped Bolduc win a victory with a plurality of support.
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire’s 2nd District, Democratic Representative Annie Kuster is favored over former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns. In the Republican primary, Burns faced Keene Mayor George Hansel, an abortion rights supporter who outraged Burns and received external support of a republican PAC who opposed Trumpy’s candidates in the GOP primaries. But a group aligned with the Democrats paid money in advertisements ostensibly attacking Burns as a “shameless conservative”. Burns only won by 3 points, 33% to 30%; however, here too, a crowded primary field likely helped the most Trumpiest candidate. Also, while the 2nd District is a very competitive field, Hansel would have been far from a safe bet to win himself, as Kuster held the seat for five terms, including one. re-election win during the red wave of 2014.
In Maryland and Illinois, the bluest races, it’s harder to say that Democratic spending has dramatically changed the Republican primaries or the picture of the general election. (Both Democratic candidates are the clear frontrunners, and given their states’ blue hues, they likely would have been favored to some degree regardless of their opponent.) Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker and Affiliated groups spent more than $30 million during the primary to portray State Sen. Darren Bailey as a pro-Trump Republican and attack his chief GOP rival. Now, those ads likely benefited Bailey at least a little as his poll standing improved amid those efforts, and he later received Trump’s endorsement. But Bailey also had significant financial support of GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein, and he ended up winning the primary by such a large margin — 42 points — that it’s hard to imagine Bailey not winning even if the Democrats hadn’t gotten involved.
In Maryland, the Democratic Governors Association spent over a million dollars portraying State Deputy Dan Cox as “too close to Trump.” Cox, an election denier who buses chartered for the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol, had Trump’s approval, while former Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz had the backing of outgoing popular Republican Governor Larry Hogan. Although he was significantly passed by Shultz, Cox ended up beating his opponent 52% to 43% in the July 19 primary and is now a huge underdog against Democrat Wes Moore.
As for Pennsylvania, the gubernatorial contest should arguably have been the GOP’s best chance of victory in those six races. But Republican voters opted for State Senator Doug Mastriano, a far-right candidate who embraced Christian nationalism, worked to overthrow the results of the 2020 elections and was on the ground from the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Throughout the primary campaign, Democratic gubernatorial nominee and state attorney general Josh Shapiro and Democrats in Pennsylvania spent nearly $1 million on ads describing Mastriano as “one of Donald Trump’s staunchest supporters”. (Trump liquidated announcing his support for Mastriano just days before the May 17 primary.) Shapiro is a strong bet to defeat Mastriano in November, as he holds a roughly 11-point lead in our polling average.
But before the Democrats take all the credit – or blame — for Mastriano’s advancement, it doesn’t take a huge leap to imagine him capturing the GOP nomination without the help of Democrats. After all, Mastriano won the GOP primary by more than 20 points. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but perhaps a bigger factor was the crowded primary field, which hampered attempts by anti-Mastriano Republicans to coalesce around a candidate. In fact, a last minute effort by Pennsylvania Republican insiders to stop Mastriano failed in part because they could not persuade Mastriano’s main rivals to drop out and rally behind a candidate.
Hindsight can help assess whether Democratic involvement affected some or all of these races, but it’s clear that a myriad of factors influenced the major findings. And even if the Democrats changed every race and improved their odds, perhaps only the New Hampshire Senate contest would notably affect which party controls either house of Congress and which governorates across the country. Whether it was all worth the intangible cost of helping candidates who mostly deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election while Congress struggles to unravel the events of January 6 is another matter altogether.