Louisiana runoff caps off a disappointing but far-from-disastrous election for the GOP

The Briefing, Vol. XI, Issue 46

This week:

  • Tim Scott never had a lane in the presidential race
  • Reichert versus Ferguson could be a real race in WA-Gov
  • Sherrod Brown is genuinely vulnerable in Ohio

Election 2023

Louisiana: An important reminder that the November 2023 elections were not really a true disaster for the GOP is to be found in the down ballot or otherwise underlying results in the states that voted earlier this month. 

Even in Virginia, for example, Republicans’ performance was at least good enough for a stalemate. They had not been heavily favored to win the legislature, even though they had high hopes. They essentially fought the Democrats to a standstill in what was supposed to be a poor political environment, gaining a state Senate seat in the process, even as they lost a net TK state House seats.

In Kentucky, Republicans’ performance was not good enough to take over the governorship against a popular incumbent — Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear survived, winning by five points. But it was good enough to sweep all five of the other statewide races by vast margins approaching or exceeding 20 points.

In Louisiana, The runoffs over the weekend confirmed total Republican control of that state. The Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Jeff Landry, had already won his race outright in October. But on Saturday, Republicans crushed their Democratic opponents for all remaining statewide constitutional row offices (treasurer, attorney general, and secretary of state), in each case by more than 20 points.

In short, although they failed to achieve their objectives this year and are on a bit of a losing streak, Republicans need to have a bit of confidence about how they did. They also need to get back to the election fundamentals that made them competitive during the Obama era, even if their political ideology has a new spin on it with Trumpism.

As long as Republicans continue to play the card of whining about election outcomes they don’t like, they will only depress base turnout and deepen their own problems.

House 2023

Utah-2: Are Republicans really headed for massive, tsunami-level losses in 2024? One early indicator of such an outcome would be a Democratic victory in Tuesday’s special election between Republican Celeste Malloy and Democratic State Sen. Kathleen Riebe

This seat opened up when Rep. Chris Stewart (R) announced his resignation due to his wife’s stroke last year. Malloy should win easily in a district with an eleven point GOP lean, according to the Cook partisan voting index. Otherwise, there’s big trouble on the horizon for the GOP.

President 2024

Tim Scott: It came as no surprise to anyone who has been watching the presidential race that Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has dropped his candidacy. 

Despite his inspirational personal story, Scott languished in limbo as a presidential candidate for a variety of reasons. The first and foremost has to be the presence of former President Donald Trump in the race. The second is that he was upstaged not only by a potentially stronger non-Trump candidate in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, but by in another candidate from his own state, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who originally appointed him to the U.S. Senate. 

Scott had many advantages as a potential president, but not that many as a candidate. He was not the candidate willing to say the craziest things to draw attention to himself (that would be Vivek Ramaswamy), nor was he the natural frontrunner (Trump, of course), nor was he the well placed governor of a swing state (DeSantis). 

He was a senator with a great personal story and decent rhetorical abilities. But that’s not enough to win the nomination, at least not in the Republican Party of the Trump era.

Governor 2024

Washington: It has been a very long time since any Republican won a statewide race in the Evergreen State, but a new poll shows former King County Sheriff and U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R) with a statistically insignificant lead (46 percent to 44 percent) over Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) in a head-to-head race. 

Given that this is a poll by a left-wing pollster on behalf of a left-wing organization, it is probably worth considering at least as an indication that there’s going to be a real race.

Senate 2024

California: California Democrats were forced by an angry anti-Israel mob to cancel events related to their state convention over the weekend. Equally significant, they failed to agree on a candidate to endorse in the multi-party jungle primary for the open-seat Senate race to replace placeholder Sen. Laphonza Butler (D). 

None among Reps. Barbara Lee (D), Adam Schiff (D), and Katie Porter (D) was able to manage the 60 percent support required for an endorsement. Lee came closest of the three, even though she polls worst.

A three-way split among Democrats should leave an opportunity for Republicans, at least given President Joe Biden’s poor approval numbers even there. Retired Padres’ baseball great Steve Garvey is running as a Republican, but the most recent polling suggests that he is running only in third place and with just 10 percent of the vote.

New Jersey: Tammy Murphy (D), wife of Gov. Phil Murphy (D), has entered the Democratic primary against Sen. Bob Menendez (D). A win by her would make for an unusually powerful power couple dominating a state known for its corruption and machine politics. In fact, especially in a state like New Jersey, voters might feel uncomfortable about it. 

Murphy will enjoy significant establishment support as she takes on Rep. Andy Kim (D), who announced his candidacy earlier in the month in a bid to unseat a senator accused of taking massive bribes. 

Polls suggest that Democratic voters are unlikely to let Menendez slip through the primary, although his chances improve mathematically every time an additional Democrat enters the race. But Kim’s capaign has released a poll showing him with a decisive lead over Murphy, 40 to 21 percent.

Ohio: With Republicans already almost guaranteed to pick up a Senate seat in West Virginia, the top Senate battlegrounds will most likely be Ohio and Montana. 

In the former, incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) is struggling, according to a poll released this month by a left-wing group, Data for Progress. The survey shows Brown tied with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) at 46 percent, and leading State Sen. Matt Dolan (R) by just one point, 47 to 46 percent. For an incumbent at this point, it’s not a good look. 

Add to this the fact that, whatever advantage Democrats think the abortion issue might give them nationwide, it will be a hard sell in Ohio after the recent referendum adding abortion to the state constitution has, legally speaking, taken the issue off the table.