April 11, 2022
This week: The Briefing, Vol. X, Issue 15
- Democrats may have been too aggressive in gerrymandering and court-mandering
- Walker opens up lead over Warnock
- Trump puts the value his endorsement on the line
Loss of confidence in Biden: The war in Ukraine is not helping Joe Biden’s job ratings. In fact, they appear to be deteriorating since it began.
The RealClearPolitics average for Biden is now 54 percent disapproval and just 41 percent approval. This rating, for a president, is a sign of spectacular weakness, pointing to a massive power shift in the next election. Every House and Senate election needs to be weighted just a little more in Republicans’ favor on this basis alone.
Democrats are hoping that their redistricting games have secured their House majority against this possibility. But as we will discuss this week, they have probably just stretched themselves thin.
In the meantime, Biden continues to dig his hole deeper. Between his persistence in needlessly placating terrorist Iran and his inability to deal with pervasive domestic issues such as inflation, Biden is struggling just as the election season begins. And the border crisis is about to get appreciably worse with Biden’s anticipated withdrawal of Title 42 — something that could turn voters in the Rio Grande valley and rural Arizona against him, in a year when Arizona has a Democrat-held Senate seat up for grabs. Democrats bracing against the storm have the right idea.
Democratic redistricting overreach? With the primary season now arriving in earnest, it is worth looking more carefully upon the redistricting situation, even though a couple of states have not definitely set new maps in place.
Democrats strove to improve their lot from 2010 and raised massive sums to make it happen. But in part due to their excessive zeal and lack of foresight, they may end up losing ground for all of their trouble.
The 2020s may have a very uncomfortable lesson in store for Democrats. They may have used their upper hand — both in terms of legislative and judicial power — to draw maps they believed advantageous in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Nevada, Michigan, and a number of other states. But they may not have been very smart about where these maps are likely to drift. And given the likelihood of a Red Wave in 2022, they may simply never be get the chance to enjoy the nominal partisan advantage they were attempting to confer with maps alone.
By counting excessively upon the Democratic vote in white Democratic downstate and rural settings, they may have sown the seeds of their own demise in the long run drawing maps that are already drifting away from them amid party realignments resulting from the Trump era.
To overextend oneself in redistricting is to lose the decade — to create what political sophisticates refer to nowadays as a “dummymander.” And although Democrats just slightly improved their immediate situation in redistricting over 2010, Republicans seem to find themselves overall in a situation where many districts that currently favor Democrats are becoming “Trumpy” rural or Rust-Belt seats. Democrats are also facing the prospect of Hispanic seats quickly trending toward the GOP, especially in Texas. In all of these cases, although they may currently favor Democrats on paper, many seats may soon fall into the Republicans’ laps and throw their respective states’ politics into chaos.
For example, in Illinois, Republicans stand to be at least somewhat competitive in seven of the state’s 17 congressional districts, up from their current maximum of five. This is not the outcome Democratic mapmakers should have aimed for, but they were arguably too aggressive in attempting to create an immediate partisan advantage.
In New York, the courts have been unkind to Democrats’ headlong rush to seize power in redistricting. This means Democrats are still likely to gain ground, but not as much.
In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court, which Democrats seized partly as part of an effort to gerrymander the state, created rural districts that seem Democratic, but which Democrats may not be able to hold for very long, given the state’s overall Republican trends. In the right sort of year, this could help Republicans increase their current strength from nine seats to eleven in the Keystone State.
In Nevada, Democrats drew three of four districts to favor them narrowly. They will thus be favored in three out of four seats in 2022. But this could be a very strongly Republican year, and they may well regret this decision not to draw more seats that were safer for them overall — especially if Hispanic start to voters follow the path of their Texas brethren.
Meanwhile, Republicans, where given the chance, seem to have been less aggressive but perhaps more prudent and prescient in drawing districts that are poised to trend in their direction. In Texas,for example, they have set the stage for a complete takeover of South Texas and the state’s increasingly conservative Hispanic vote. In Indiana, Republicans drew themselves into a situation where by decade’s end they could seize the last Democratic industrial district and dominate all but one of the state’s nine seats. In Michigan, they will be in contention in nine seats, up from their current seven.
In Ohio, where a series of late state court decisions have rendered the situation turbulent, Republicans will have the chance at least for one cycle — assuming the strong 2022 that everyone expects — to reduce Democrats to as few as just two completely safe seats, down from their current four seats.
There are still a few states where political fights or judicial battles need to run their course before redistricting is finished. But there is reason for hope among conservatives. In the short run, so-called “gerrymandering” is working out just slightly in Democrats’ favor. But the map, in the long run, appears more likely to favor Republicans as the decade progresses.
Georgia: University of Georgia football great Herschel Walker is on track to win both the Republican nomination and the general election against left-wing Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. A new poll shows him at 49 percent and holding a four-point lead, which is a very good position for any challenger.
Ohio: After the dramatic collapse of support for J.D. Vance, Republicans seem on the verge of nominating either former Treasurer Josh Mandel or investment banker Mike Gibbons. Mandel’s candidacy comes with a bit more baggage, but either man should be favored against the expected Democratic nominee, Rep. Tim Ryan.
Pennsylvania: President Trump’s sudden and unexpected endorsement of Dr. Mehmet Oz for Senate has breathed new life into his celebrity candidacy for the Republican nomination to replace Sen. Pat Toomey.
Until last week, it definitely seemed like hedge fund manager and Gulf War Army Ranger veteran David McCormick had a clear inside track to the nomination and could be favored to win the general election as well. A poll from April 8 showed him at 27 percent with a six-point lead. McCormick still might yet win, as Oz seemed to be struggling to keep up in spite of his superior name-recognition, mostly thanks to higher negative ratings. The two men have been clearly leading the crowded race but polling no better than the 20’s.
Trump’s endorsement throws things into a bit of chaos. He is definitely putting the value of his endorsements on the line here by backing a candidate who has some ground to cover in the next month in order to win the nomination. Trump’s word is golden for many Republican primary voters, but it’s an open question whether it will be dispositive in such a race. If Oz wins, Trump will definitely seem like the kingmaker. If McCormick pulls it off, then people will begin to wonder out loud whether Trump’s endorsement is really worth all that much.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of ideological daylight between the two candidates, so this isn’t exactly the Toomey-Specter clash of years past.