Dems Should Worry: The Economy Is Winning Without Them

The Briefing, Vol. VI, Issue 20

This week:

  • Dems worry: Is the economy doing too well for them to win?
  • Republicans dodge a bullet in West Virginia
  • Rep. Pittenger loses his primary

Upcoming elections:

May 15

  • Idaho (Governor)
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Nebraska

May 22

  • Arkansas
  • Georgia (Governor)
  • Kentucky
  • Texas (Runoff)

Outlook: Democrats are supposed to have a clear advantage in this year’s elections. The generic ballot polls bear this out so far, and so does the common wisdom.

Yet at the same time, a rapidly improving economic situation could leave them vulnerable. It’s hard for the party out of power to find, identify and exploit popular discontent without a scandal or an economic crisis, and it’s harder still if everything is great, unemployment is at a historic low, and economic growth starts up once again.

With new polls showing between 57 and 66 percent of respondents perceiving the economy as doing well — a huge uptick from earlier this year — Democrats are a bit worried at the moment. Not only might Trump get credit, but the case for throwing out Republicans could vanish if things are going too well.

Not that voters will necessarily reward Republicans for a strong economy. But they may not punish them as badly as they might otherwise. And the voters may not care at all either about the Russia probe or the Stormy Daniels investigation.

At least one of the recent generic ballot polls shows a Democratic lead of only one point. That’s a good reason to panic, because for Democrats, expectations are high. A failure to win at least the House in November would be catastrophic. Such an underperformance would surely signal the end of the current Democratic congressional leadership, who would likely resign before being thrown out by a frustrated rank-and-file. But such a failure would also magnify the frustration of the Left under Trump. They already view the Democrats as the legislative version of the Keystone Cops, and their heads nearly explode every day at the thought that Trump is president. If the nation fails to repudiate Trump with a large Democratic victory this fall, the Left will be even more in the darkness and  lost than they were after the shocking November 2016 result.

Senate 2018

Indiana: The victory by Republican Mike Braun in last Tuesday’s primary was not unexpected. It allows a partly self-funding businessman outsider with a Trump-like story to fight for a Senate seat in a state where Republicans have a natural advantage. In a difficult year for the GOP, this has to be a welcome development.

Prior to 2010, the Republican self-funder going for Senate had a poor track record. Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson changed that, not only with his 2010 election but also with his surprise 2016 re-election.

If Braun actually succeeds in defeating Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, then Democrats probably have no chance of taking over the Senate. Because of their poor past performance in the Senate class that is up in 2018, Republicans are able to fight the Senate battle on ground that is inordinately friendly to them, in states where Trump is fairly popular.

West Virginia: Republicans really dodged a bullet by rejecting Don Blankenship as their nominee. Democrats spent a lot of money to help the disgraced ex-con and former coal CEO, yet he came in third with just under 20 percent of the vote, far behind both of his serious rivals, and won only a handful of counties with minimal populations.

That should raise questions about a lot of the coverage leading up to election day, in which liberal journalists exploited his erratic behavior and hyped his chances, apparently  in order to cast aspersions on the Republican Party.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey became the nominee, and should have little trouble consolidating his support. Blankenship plans to campaign against him, but given that he is the most hated man in the state, this could be considered a feather in Morrisey’s cap.

Morrisey was the first Republican statewide official to break through in the run-up to the Mountain State’s abrupt realignment from Democratic to Republican. He was also considered the more conservative candidate, and received the endorsement of National Review. And now he has an excellent chance of picking up a Senate seat in a state where President Trump is extremely popular and Democrats are about as popular as cancer.

Sen. Joe Manchin won’t be a pushover, but his survival prospects are definitely worse now than they ever have been before. His popularity has plummeted over the last five months and is now underwater. Given the recent electoral history, it’s going to be difficult to convince West Virginians to backslide on their new political revolution and allow a Democrat to keep representing them in the Senate.

Wisconsin: State Sen. Leah Vukmir, R, overwhelmingly won the state Republican Party endorsement over Kevin Nicholson at convention over the weekend.

Although this does not obviate the August primary, it gives her a clear leg up in a campaign where she has already been extremely competent in undercutting the candidate whom many had considered an early favorite.

Vukmir has allowed no stone-throw to go unanswered so far during this campaign. She has won conservative support despite an early endorsement of Nicholson by the national Club for Growth. (She got the endorsement of the Wisconsin Club for Growth.) And among her establishment supporters is none other than former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Nicholson, it should be noted, has the backing of important conservative luminaries as well, including Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.

House 2018

North Carolina-9: The one genuinely surprising result in North Carolina last Tuesday was the defeat of three-term Rep. Robert Pittenger, R, by fellow Republican Mark Harris, an evangelical leader and outspoken social conservative who had led the charge against same-sex marriage in the Tar Heel state before the Supreme Court took the issue off the table.

Harris and Pittenger had clashed previously in the 2016 primary, in which Harris came within 150 votes of ousting the incumbent. This time, the dam  simply broke. The result was not widely expected, but perhaps it should have been.