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2022 U.S. Midterms Dispatch 3: Have Recent Primaries Changed Predictions for Fall?

On Tuesday, May 17, 2022, primary elections took place in a number of states, including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Idaho, Kentucky and Oregon. Both Pennsylvania and North Carolina are swing states in the general elections and are commonly tossups in midterms, so they can act as a barometer of what is to come for states with primaries over the next couple of months.

Each primary that a state holds chooses which candidates will run in the general. They are selected by the voters of their respective parties, to become the candidates for Governor, a member of the House or Senate, Mayor, as well as local officials for School Boards, Judges, District Attorneys and Sheriffs. Despite the fact that there have been no head-to-head matchups that pit Democrats versus Republicans, May 17th saw a number of key races that could have an impact on the outcome for both parties in November and which party might lead the country over the next two years.

Beyond the current races, some of the candidates who have run in the Republican primaries and who look primed to win, are very involved with Trump and actively involved in advocacy that has radicalized the GOP, including the spreading of conspiracies of a stolen election, the great replacement theory, the repealing of Roe V. Wade and QAnon. 

The Biggest Takeaways from May 17th: 

In one of the most consequential races so far, which took place in Pennsylvania, a candidate by the name of Doug Mastriano, a staunch believer of QAnon, a supporter of Trump’s 2020 stolen election conspiracies and an attendee at the January, 6th Capitol insurrection and one of the most radicalized candidates, won the Republican primary for Governor. This has led some to believe that the governor race in November may lean Democrat, given the far-right radicalism of Mastriano in a state that is considered fairly centrist. Mastriano, if elected, has threatened to repeal abortion protections, take away the few remaining COVID-19 protections, insert a loyal Secretary of State which would potentially threaten election integrity in 2024 and beyond, and do away with other policies that are seen as slightly progressive, or Democratic. The far-right-leaning and messy past of Mastriano has made him unfavorable in his race against Josh Shapiro, a centrist Democrat, who is much more popular in the state. The outcome of this election is evidence that Trump’s grip on the Republican party and their agenda still remains somewhat intact, but it isn’t as strong as originally thought. The apparent weaknesses of this Republican candidate have caused the Republican party to drop their support for Mastriano for now and direct it instead into other races that might be easier to win.

In North Carolina, the Incumbent of a House seat, Madison Cawthorn, a staunch supporter of the Trump-backed legion of the GOP, failed to win re-election despite receiving an endorsement from Trump. Cawthorn also doomed himself with “self-inflicted scandals,” wild conspiracy theories and other political gaffes. This was an apparent win for the so-called “old-guard” of the GOP, who are looking for some reprieve from Trump who has fractured the Republican party and divided its voter base. This election, among others where Trump-endorsed candidates lost, shows that Trump and his influence are defeatable, which could be beneficial in the long run for the GOP,  as a lot of non-Trump-backed candidates seem to fare better when going against their Democratic opponents in swing states.  

In the last few days, Progressive candidates in multiple states fared much better than expected, taking down more conservative Democratic incumbents, even candidates who had endorsements from Biden and some moderates. This has led to the question: Is there going to be a leftward shift towards more Bernie Sanders-like candidates in an attempt to keep the Republican wave at bay? This was seen on a small scale in Pennsylvania, where John Fetterman a progressive, supported by the left-leaning “squad” in the House in Congress, defeated a candidate with more moderate leanings and an allegiance to Joe Biden. However, we must ask, is this small sample size going to replicate across the country? Probably not, as there are not enough not enough Progressive candidates who are advocating for real change that is aligned with the voter’s ideals and morals. There are very few candidates who are as progressive as people like AOC or Bernie Sanders who inspire people to get out and vote. 

The Red Wave, the situation that the Democrats have feared and the GOP is hoping for, has partly come to fruition as more data pours in with the latest polling and voter participation rates. Voting is markedly higher among Republicans, at 60.9 percent of voter participation which includes all 10 of the primaries conducted up until May 17, 2022. Democrats account for the other 40 percent. Though this early data should not be representative of the entire nation, it appears that early on Democrats could be on the losing side of multiple races in districts and states that have the possibility to swing either way. This is early on in the primary season and many Democratic majority states have not participated in voting so far, that is part of the reason the data is skewed. 


What’s Coming Next? 

Multiple other primaries are coming up, all with major implications and further clarity around how strong the so-called Republican wave will be. It will also give us an idea about how issues like the possible repeal Roe v. Wade, will change how many people will vote in the upcoming primaries and general election. It currently seems that Democrats are using the possible abortion restrictions as a way to pander for votes, as both the President and Congress have failed to codify law in order to pass abortion protections. Also, the recent publishing of a newly drawn congressional map in New York, after Democrats had gerrymandered heavily, was rejected by the state supreme court, making the Democratic margins for error even smaller in a year that is expected to swing from Democrats to Republicans in both the House and the Senate. 


Featured Image: Tony Dejak/AP 

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