The two major parties, each always containing rival
factions, are currently more significantly divided than
usual, and potentially losing individual elections at all
levels because of these hyper-intraparty ideological
and personal conflicts.
It is no secret that the distance between the two parties
themselves seems magnified on issues, rhetoric and
personalities — and this has confounded those who
observe and analyze U.S. politics and elections as the
nation heads into the 2022 mid-term voting cycle that
will conclude in November.
Political polling has established a certain conventional
wisdom that a Republican (red) wave is likely in the
mid-term voting. There is no doubt about President
Joe Biden’s unfavorabllity, and the dissatisfaction
with the direction the nation is taking, especially in its
economy, but the intraparty factions in states and
regions are making some gubernatorial, and U.S.
house and senate races too opaque and unsettled
for conventional analysis.
A case in point is the U.S. senate race in Missouri.
Donald Trump carried this state by double digits in
both 2016 and 2020. It has become heavily GOP
in statewide elections. But controversy befell a
recent Republican governor who in 2018 had to
resign. This year, in an attempt for a comeback, that
politician ran for an open U.S. senate seat resulting
from Republican Senator Roy Blunt’s decision to
retire. At least two other well-known GOP figures
also ran in the party’s primary just concluded, and
one of them, state Attorney General Eric Schmidt,
won the primary, and will be on the November
ballot against self-funder Democrat Trudy Busch
Valentine who won her primary. Republicans who
thought the controversial former governor being
on the ballot might give Democrats a pick-up
senate seat breathed an initial sigh of relief.
However, former Missouri GOP Senator John
Danforth belongs to the moderate anti-Trump wing
of his party in the state, and reportedly is funding
with millions of dollars from his personal wealth
the independent candidacy of John Wood, once
Liz Cheney’s lawyer on the January 6th hearings,
who says, if elected, he will caucus with the
Republicans in the U.S. senate. He probably can’t
win, but he could well draw enough voters from the
GOP nominee to give the election to the Democrat.
Danforth and Wood say they are in the race to win,
but that seems disingenuous considering Missouri
voting patterns. Knowing Wood would caucus with
the Republicans precludes any meaningful votes
from Missouri Democrats. Safe Republican could
become a toss-up in Missouri.
Other cases in point are more self-inflicted. In the
key state of Pennsylvania, which Biden carried
narrowly in 2020, the state had been going red
following Biden’s anti-coal, anti-fracking and
anti-pipeline energy policies which impacted so
negatively on so many state workers and families.
But state Republicans lacked a strong gubernatorial
candidate, and a celebrity out-of-state physician,
Mehmet Oz, narrowly defeated a potentially stronger
candidate in the open U.S. senate race, created
when GOP incumbent Senator Pat Toomey retired.
The Republican nominee for governor is associated
with politics further right than many Pennsylvania
voters, but he received, as did Dr. Oz, Donald
Trump’s endorsement. Post-primary polling now has
both GOP nominees trailing their Democratic
opponents by about 10 points. Earlier in this cycle,
Pennsylvania had been rated Lean Republican.
Democrats, divided into liberal and more radical
factions, have seen several long-time U.S. house
members challenged from the party’s left, and in
some cases actually ousting their own incumbents
with more radical figures who could lose otherwise
safe Democratic seats in November. A case in point
is Oregon Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader
who was defeated in a recent primary by progressive
Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and the race in November
could now be a toss-up. Other incumbent Democrats
from super-safe districts, especially in New York, are
being challenged from their left, and might lose their
primaries, but the seats will remain Democratic no
matter who wins. What does matter in such cases if
the radical challenger succeeds is the further drift to
the ideological left of the liberal party, giving GOP
candidates in other districts a useful target. A case
of this is far left Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of
Minnesota’s 5th district (Minneapolis) who wins in
her urban area, but whom GOP congressional
candidates in other districts of the state cite as an
extremist figure emblematic of her party. This cycle,
as in 2020, she has a serious and well-funded
moderate liberal opponent, Don Samuels, in her
DFL primary, but he has an uphill challenge.
Redistricting following the 2020 census has also
put incumbent members of Congress from the same
party running against each other in newly-drawn
districts. Several incumbents of both parties have
been involuntarily retired in primary losses so far this
year, and the races usually have been decided on the
basis of which wing of their party they espouse.
Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.