With the flood of news this week, you may have missed a smaller nugget. In a special election in Missouri, Democrats flipped their 42nd state legislative seat from red to blue—a seat in suburban USA. The Kansas City Star wrote:
Democratic Rep. Lauren Arthur prevailed by a double-digit margin over Republican Rep. Kevin Corlew in a special election for a state Senate seat Tuesday night. […]
Arthur, a former teacher from Kansas City, beat [GOP Rep. Kevin] Corlew with 59.6 percent to 40.3 percent of the vote to win the special election for Missouri’s 17th Senate district. She’s the first Democrat to hold the seat in more than a decade.
In 2016, the Republican incumbent won that seat by more than 20 points (representing a nearly 40-point shift) and Trump won it by five points (representing a nearly 25-point shift), although the district isn’t a total GOP lock. That same cycle, Democrat Jason Kander also won it by 11 points in his U.S. Senate bid. Nonetheless, the decisive double-digit rout sent shivers down the spines of some Republicans.
A Missouri Republican consultant, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly, said in a text message that “Every suburban Republican should be petrified tonight. This devastating loss signals they could lose this fall.”
It was just one standout data point this week in of a lot of promising electoral news for Democrats heading into the midterms. Democrats escaped disaster in California, advancing a Democrat in every one of seven key races they hope will provide a handful of flipped seats in November. California’s Democratic candidates also outperformed their 2016 primary showing in most of those districts, setting up a solid baseline heading into the general election where Golden State Democrats typically do even better. All in all, Democrats emerged from Tuesday with a slate of very electable candidates across the country heading into the fall.
On top of that, several other pieces of polling data and political news emerged that not only heavily favored Democrats, it appeared to spook Republicans too, causing some Twilight Zone-type irregularities on Capitol Hill.
While an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 63 percent of Americans feel good about the state of the economy right now, voters were also far more likely to say their votes this fall will be driven by a desire to place a check on Donald Trump, by 48-23 percent. That trend was even bigger in competitive districts, with more than 50 percent of respondents saying they preferred to vote for a candidate who would rein in Trump.
It’s a sentiment the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has also picked up in their polling according to DCCC chair Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who’s leading the Democratic effort to regain the House.
“In all of our research, what we have learned broadly is that there is broad support for checks and balance,” Luján said. “What we have also heard from the voters is that while they want candidates who will work for anybody who can help the district, they also want someone who will stand up to the president.”
And while it’s a phenomenon Democrats have observed, it’s not one they’ve really even stoked on the campaign trail. Instead, it’s an inclination that seems to be simply baked into the electorate this year.
That realization appears to have also pierced the GOP bubble this week, resulting in about half a dozen key Republicans undermining Trump’s assertions about the Russia probe. While House Speaker Paul Ryan said he had no reason to believe the FBI had inappropriately embedded a spy in Trump’s campaign (as he has claimed), Senate Majority Leaders Mitch McConnell managed to caution Trump that issuing a self-pardon “would not be something that he would or should do.”
Let’s face it, it was a dicey moment for Republicans, who have allowed Trump to run roughshod over our entire system of checks and balances without uttering so much as a peep. That’s why Ryan had to retreat within 24 hours to swear up and down that there’s been absolutely “no evidence of collusion”—or so say he and his raucous caucus, which started agitating for new leadership following Ryan’s defection the day before.
Nonetheless, the GOP departure from the norm was notable, and it stands in the sense that Republican lawmakers totally shot down Trump’s ‘spy’ lie. On Wednesday, Ryan even coughed up “no one is above the law,” which just happens to track perfectly with Democratic polling suggesting the phrase enjoys 63 percent support among Americans.
At the same time, the Trump administration is serving up electoral soft balls for Democrats while tearing down bedrock GOP principles like free trade.
If there’s one issue Democrats across the nation want to run on, it’s health care. The reason Democratic candidates have already run more than 26,000 health care related ads is because it ranks as the No. 1 issue among voters (health care 38 percent, economy/jobs 37 percent, and guns 25 percent), who also happen to trust Democrats to handle it more so than Republicans by fully 46 points.
But just in case Democrats weren’t already rocking the health care vote, Trump’s Department of Justice turned the agency into a pre-existing condition wrecking ball this week. Literally, out of nowhere, the Justice Department decided to stop defending the Affordable Care Act in court with the aim of depriving tens of millions of Americans who have pre-existing conditions of health care.
Here’s to Jeff Sessions and his totally indefensible decision to stop defending a law that is completely constitutionally defensible failing in spectacular fashion over the next several years. May he go down as the most politically driven, least ethical, and worst Attorney General in history. And in the meantime, here’s to Trump—who is maniacally consumed with dismantling President Obama’s legacy—serving up Democrats their preferred midterm issue on a silver platter.
it’s honestly kinda wild that, in an election year that Democrats already want to make about health care, the Trump admin would so blatantly try to end the super-popular preexisting conditions ruleshttps://t.co/8mlUCERYJc
— Dylan Scott (@dylanlscott) June 8, 2018
Finally, as if Republicans weren’t challenged enough in the suburbs with college-educated women abandoning the party in droves, Trump is also causing heartburn among the GOP’s suburban men. The one issue Republicans have had going for them in the suburbs is the economy and the steadily rising stock market. But as Trump flirts with an all-out trade war with our closest geopolitical allies, he is depriving GOP candidates of the sure footing on which to make that argument.
The GOP tax cut that took away key deductions for many blue-state Republican voters in suburban districts has already forced many veteran GOP lawmakers in those districts into retirement. Meanwhile, Democrats are using the tax law as cudgel against GOP incumbents like Rep. Mimi Walters of Orange County, CA, where 46 percent of constituents take the state and local tax deduction, according to the Tax Policy Center.
One Democratic aide told the New York Times: “We’re going to go right at Walters for voting to raise taxes on half of the homeowners in her district.”
In fact, the NBC/WSJ poll this week found that, in swing districts, a candidate’s support for Trump’s tax law made voters 12 points less LESS LIKELY to back that candidate.
As if that wasn’t enough, Trump’s tariff tirade is like pouring salt on a festering wound and Republicans know it. That’s probably why Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who’s been all talk and no action when it comes to opposing Trump, was finally motivated to unveil a bipartisan bill this week that seeks to put a check on Trump’s trade authority. The bill is likely DOA in a Congress full of Trump sycophants. Still, the effort gives some indication of just how terrified certain Republican lawmakers are about Trump taking a pickaxe to America’s long-standing trade relationships across the globe.
When you put all these dynamics together—flagging GOP suburban support, the electorate’s predisposition to put a check on Trump, the GOP’s continued and overt effort to deprive tens of millions of Americans of health care, and Trump’s mercurial threats to upend both Republican trade orthodoxy and the global order—Trump is basically handing Republicans a giant shit-pie sandwich to run on heading into the midterms.
Let’s capitalize on it! Be sure your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers are registered to vote this fall. Those of you who are canvassing or phone banking for Democratic candidates—kudos! Make whatever small donations you can. And remember, no contribution of time, energy, or money is too modest—every little bit adds to a collective effort that can ultimately move mountains.
This November could easily become the most consequential vote in a generation.