Will Trump Be More Of A Drag On Gubernatorial Candidates Than Biden Will Be?
How low can Biden's approval ratings sink. Did you ever imagine he'd be less popular than the orange fascist blob? His job approval is down in the low 30s now. Some of it he can't control-- gas prices, Fox News propaganda barrages, inflation, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema... but things he can control, he's failed at as miserably as progressives predicted he would during the 2020 primary. He was always destined to be a disaster and he is. I've hated him since the 1970s and when Obama (and Clyburn) handed him the nomination, I always said if he won he would be the second worst president in contemporary history. His choice of vice president doesn't exactly instill and hope for the future either.
Last night, in a column for the Washington Post, Will 2022 be all about Trump? Direct that question at Republicans, not Democrats, Greg Sargent probably should have admitted it's a question for both parties (and in the end he kind of did). It would be extremely naive to believe the Democrats are not gearing up to exploit fear of fascism as one of their top voter turnout tactics. Of course Sargent is correct to point out that at least during primary season Republican candidates are all gung-ho to be Trumpier than the next most Trumpy. There is virtually no other way to win the nomination in a red district or state. If you're dumb enough to be a Trump voter, you want your candidates to be just like Trump. "Republican candidates themselves," wrote Sargent, are making the midterms all about Trump. "This is the key takeaway from a new Politico report that concludes numerous GOP candidates for governor around the country are 'crafting their campaigns in his image.' Most notably, many GOP gubernatorial candidates in primaries are practically clambering all over each other to show unshakable fidelity to Trump’s lies about the 2020 election and about our election system more generally. Here’s a rundown, per Politico:
In Pennsylvania, state Sen. Doug Mastriano launched his gubernatorial campaign by touting his support from two Trump associates-- former campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis and former national security adviser Michael Flynn-- who are loud proponents of conspiracy theories and lies about the 2020 election.
Also in Pennsylvania, other candidates are staffing up with former Trump advisers, who will surely help them sharpen appeals to Trump voters. One particularly Trumpy candidate, former Rep. Lou Barletta, has even hired the consultants that oversaw Trump’s failed 2020 campaign.
In Nevada, gubernatorial candidate Dean Heller, a former senator, is campaigning on the idea that the only way Republicans can win the next presidential election in the state is if a GOP governor changes election laws. Heller has refused to say Joe Biden legitimately defeated Trump, thus trading on anger about Trump’s loss to underscore that case.
In Arizona, gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a former TV anchor, will attend a rally on Saturday with Trump and two prominent Trump-backing conspiracy theorists. Amusingly, one GOP strategist openly declares that any candidate for governor who hopes to have a chance must embrace the need to win Trump voters “without hesitance.”
Sargent noted that "These developments seem oddly out of sync with the lesson from Virginia, i.e. that a Republican can win by directing Trumpist appeals to the base while keeping them as subtle and disguised as possible. Yes, Virginia is more blue-leaning than these other states, but note that Trump lost all of them, yet many of these candidates are going full Trump in them anyway."
He acknowledges that the Democrats will not, at the very least, discourage them at all. "Given all this, Republicans seem like the ones poised to ensure that these races are about Trump. Indeed, it would arguably be malpractice for Democrats to refrain from placing their own stamp on the importance of Trump in these contests."
The reason for this resides in the specific and outsize significance these races may end up having for the integrity of future elections. Governors will be in a position of great influence over how smoothly the 2024 election’s certification processes for electors proceeds.
Obviously it’s suboptimal that Republicans in thrall to Trump and his lies are running for these positions. But that aside, Democrats simply have to spell out the stakes of letting Trumpists get their hands on those processes when it comes to the future of democracy. So other Democratic gubernatorial candidates will have no choice but to follow the lead of Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania, who is already seeking to heighten those stakes.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean Democrats can make these elections “all about Trump,” as the constant pundit cliche has it, and nor are they going to. What it does mean is that getting the balance right here will be paramount.
As one Democratic strategist involved in gubernatorial races told me, many Democratic voters still are energized by the continuing threat Trump poses, and Democrats must speak to those voters, even if others are less driven by that threat.
“Segments of our base are motivated by the specter of Trump,” this strategist told me. “We have to talk to them and articulate how these candidates would bring Trump’s policies, personality and attempts to overturn elections into state government.”
Others, this strategist notes, “are motivated about how you’re going to make their lives better. Gubernatorial candidates are in a position to tell both stories simultaneously.” That’s the balance to strike.
We constantly hear that voters aren’t motivated by memories of Jan. 6 and efforts at a reckoning over it. Whatever the truth of that, Trump will require Republican gubernatorial hopefuls to make their candidacies about Jan. 6 by pledging fealty to the underlying cause of the rioters as a just one. And Democrats will have a responsibility to explain to voters the depths of danger this poses.
So far, Blue America has endorsed 3 challengers for conservative-held gubernatorial mansions. The Democrats' best chances to flip seats from red to blue are in Arizona, where Doug Ducey is termed out and the primary winner is likely to be Kari Lake, a full on fascist Trumper who will have a hard time beating Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in the general election; and Georgia, where Brian Kemp is being brutalized by Trump and may lose the primary but in any case will be up against a very strong challenge from Stacey Abrams. Democrats will most likely win back Massachusetts and Maryland and they have long shot chances to win Florida (DeSantis) and Texas (Abbott).
The real challenge for Democrats will be holding Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In almost every gubernatorial race voters will be asked to chose the lesser evil... sickening.