If McCarthy Gives In To Freedom Caucus Demands To Cut Social Welfare Programs, Who Pays Politically?
First Victims Are Republicans Running For Senate
Mike Gallagher is a shoe-in for reelection. The 8th district, in the northeast of the state, was drawn by the Republican legislature so that Democrats can’t win it. The PVI is R+10. The partisan lean is R+20. In 2020, Trump won the district with 57%, even though the state went to Biden. And Gallagher did much better than Trump— 8 points better, beating Democrat Amanda Stuck 64.2% to 35.8%. He won every county in the district except Menominee, a Democratic stronghold, and even won Door County (56.2%), which went for Biden. Two years later, the Democrats didn’t even bother running a candidate against him and Gallagher trounced the Independent 73.5% to 16.0% and even won Menominee County.
So Wisconsin Republicans are excited at the prospect of Gallagher taking on Senator Tammy Baldwin next year. But if Wisconsin’s carefully gerrymandered state legislative districts and congressional districts are designed to yield tremendous Republican majorities, statewide, the GOP has a problem. Wisconsin voters often reject extremism. Last month, for example, there was a statewide election for a Supreme Court seat. Democrat Janet Protasiewicz won the first round convincingly. And the two Democrats with 54.0% to the 2 Republicans’ 46.0%. Protasiewicz even managed to win the two big counties in Gallagher’s district— Brown and Outagamie, as well as Menominee, Door and Winnebago. Why? Her two GOP opponents, Daniel Kelly and Jennifer Dorow are crackpot extremists.
Gallagher doesn’t want to be a crackpot extremist. He wants to come off as a mainstream conservative Republican. But that can be a problem in a House Republican conference dominated by fascists. Because McCarthy is the weakest Speaker in contemporary history, he— and the GOP agenda— are captives of the extreme right right fringe. The radicals have the ability to force the party to take extreme positions that members like Gallagher have to support. And there’s an especially big one coming up: the budget.
This morning, Caitlin Owens reported that “House Republicans' push for major spending cuts could undermine the party's effort to win the Senate. Several House Republicans are likely to run for competitive Senate seats in 2024. If they vote to cut Medicare, Social Security or some other entitlement programs in the meantime, they could hurt their own chances.”
If Gallagher votes against the GOP position, he could have a hard time winning the Republican primary. If he votes with the party, Tammy Baldwin will destroy him in the general. A Republican strategist told Owens that “If history is any guide, candidates who vote to cut Medicare or Social Security will be faced with criticism in an election. I just don’t know how anybody who wants to run for the Senate next cycle is going to get away with cutting either of those programs without a lot of explaining.” In Gallagher’s gerrymandered congressional district it probably wouldn’t matter. Statewide, it could be a death sentence. Remember this ad from 2012, the last time the GOP tried to cut Social Security and Medicare?
And this year, there could be another factor in the equation: Trump campaigning against Republicans running for president who have supported cuts to Social Security and Medicare, particularly Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence. His MAGAt voters are going to hear him railing against DeSantis’ votes to make the cuts and then they’re going to be told— whether in a primary or general— that Gallagher just did the thing Trump is against.
Owens emphasized that this is a problem not just for Gallagher but for GOP congressmembers looking at Senate races across the country. “Democrats,” she wrote, “are defending 20 seats next November, including tough races in Arizona, Montana, Ohio and West Virginia. Other GOP House names floating around, per CNN, include Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson, Arizona freshman Rep. Juan Ciscomani and Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher.”
Former GOP campaign strategist Alex Conant told her that “Whenever House members run for Senate, their voting records are fair game. And I think if Republicans make some unpopular votes in the House, that would likely catch up to them on the campaign trail in the Senate… I am deeply skeptical that Republican leadership is going to bring a significant entitlement cut to the floor knowing that it’s not going to become law and would be used against members seeking reelection.”
Republicans are much more likely to propose major cuts to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. These cuts are generally seen as less politically risky, but were deeply unpopular in 2017 when the GOP tried to repeal and replace the ACA.
Ummm… this poll was taken a few weeks ago, and cuts to Medicaid and Obamacare remain extremely unpopular. No problem in deeply gerrymandered, lo-info congressional districts that elect crackpots like Marjorie Traitor Greene (R+22), Ronny Jackson (R+26), Gym Jordan (R+20) and Jeff Duncan (R+21). But statewide… something like that could even save Joe Manchin in West Virginia, let alone squelch GOP chances to flip Senate seats in Arizona, Nevada, Virginia, Montana, Michigan, Ohio and, of course, Wisconsin.