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About Last Night...

A few thoughts on last night's slew of primary elections across the country: (1) In Missouri, national Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief as state Attorney General Eric Schmitt easily won the party's nomination for US Senate, likely keeping the seat in GOP hands.  After Donald Trump's trolly non-endorsement of "ERIC" (there were three Republicans named Eric in the race), both Schmitt and disgraced former governor Eric Greitens touted his support.  Republicans feared a Greitens nomination would hand Democrats a shot at winning the seat, or at least forcing them to spend significantly on behalf of a fatally-flawed candidate, in a race that otherwise wouldn't have been competitive.  But Greitens pulled in less than 20 percent of the primary vote, allowing Schmitt to roll with nearly 46 percent of the vote in a fractured field.  Bullet, dodged.

(2) In Michigan, Betsy DeVos-backed Tudor Dixon won the gubernatorial nomination, pulling away from the pack after Trump swooped in with an eleventh-hour endorsement last Friday.  Dixon will square off against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in the fall, following an enormous amount of tumult in the GOP nominating process, which saw several frontrunners get disqualified from the ballot.  This race could be winnable, but it will be an uphill battle, given the mess on the Republican side and Whitmer's decent approval ratings.  In a closely-watched Congressional primary, Rep. Peter Meijer was unseated by MAGA 'stop-the-steal' challenger John Gibbs.  Democrats spent more money boosting Gibbs than Gibbs' own campaign did.  They did so not by hammering him as an election 'truther' (that will be one of their big general election messages against him), but as a strong Trump supporter with conservative positions on immigration and education.  I've made my feelings about this crystal clear, but feel free to peruse my admittedly frustrated and disappointed reaction to Meijer's defeat anyway.

(3) In Arizona, a Trumpy ticket will lead the GOP slate, as Blake Masters won the Senate nomination, and 'stop-the-steal' crusader Kari Lake (who until recently was a Democratic donor and Trump-basher) appears to have eked out a win on the gubernatorial side.  Both were endorsed by the former president.  Masters, prominently supported by billionaire Peter Thiel, is a smart and interesting guy.  He's new to politics, and will go up against the massively-funded campaign of incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (who has been a Schumer/Biden rubber stamp).  Democrats will try to cast Masters as extreme, likely seeking to exploit these comments to soften Masters' support among the state's large senior population.  Lake, who was also assisted by Democratic meddling, will test the limits of what a purple state general electorate is willing to accept as a governor.  Her opponent is radical on issues like abortion and immigration, so the race could be a barn-burner.  Because Lake's animating campaign issue was pushing 2020 election denialism, I'll just highlight her vote count 'comeback' trajectory, having trailed by substantial margin deep into the night and early morning:


I'm not arguing that the pandemic election was run perfectly, or that some of the 'temporary' measures weren't sketchy or legally dubious -- or that they didn't help Biden.  Indeed, I've been a vocal supporter of Georgia's voting reform law, repeatedly fighting its demagogic and dishonest leftist critics.  But Biden's supposedly mysterious overnight surges in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan happened because of the same effect that benefited Lake last night and this morning.  Under state laws (backed in 2020 by Republican legislatures), officials were barred from starting to tabulate early and mail-in ballots until election day itself.  Such ballots take much longer to process than 'normal' walk-in/day-of votes cast in person.  Because Trump was discouraging mail-in voting, and Democrats were promoting it, it made sense that election day ballots would skew heavily Republican, while mail-in voting would be heavily blue.  Election day results were reported first, creating the mirage of a major Trump advantage in those key states.  Then, as the early votes started to be counted and processed, an unprecedented surge in those Democrat-heavy ballots (fueled by a black swan pandemic) overtook Trump's illusory lead.

The same thing just happened in Arizona, but in reverse.  Lake's more 'mainstream' opponent (endorsed by Gov. Doug Ducey and former Vice President Pence) looked to be leading comfortably throughout the night, as the early votes were counted and reported earliest, under Arizona's process.  Lake voters were far more likely to vote in-person on primary day, an artifact of certain 2020 dynamics and more conservative voters' longstanding preference for election day voting.  As those votes got tallied, Lake's apparently large deficit vanished, and she jumped into the lead.  This was not some nefarious 'steal.'  It was the process playing out as expected.  This was both predictable and predicted -- just as the 2020 "red mirage" in the upper midwest was predictable and predicted.  For what it's worth, I maintain that states should all copy Florida's efficient and reliable vote-counting system, implemented after the infamous 2000 debacle.  In a red-tinted year, Republicans should be able to hold the governorship and win back a Democrat-held Senate seat.  They may do both.  But if they don't, brace for ugly internecine recriminations.

(4) In Washington State, Republican Senate challenger Tiffany Smiley advanced to the general election contest against incumbent Democrat Sen. Patty Murray.  Smiley has been an impressive and energetic candidate so far, and Republicans believe she has enough of a shot at winning that they're planning to devote some resources to the race.  Washington remains solidly blue, however, so she's in for a tough fight.  Elsewhere, GOP Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse appear on track to be just the second and third House Republicans in the country who voted to impeach Trump (in the second impeachment) then survived their primaries.  They would both be solid favorites to win in November, too.  The other seven have retired, lost, or are expected to lose.  It's worth noting that all three apparent survivals came in states with top-two 'jungle' primary systems.

(5) In Kansas, abortion supporters -- very much including the media -- are celebrating a victory at the ballot box.  Kansans heavily rejected a referendum that would have removed the state Supreme Court-imposed right to abortion, in favor of legislative action on the issue.  Many independents and even Republican voters voted 'no' on the measure, which was successfully (if misleadingly) framed by opponents as an abortion ban.  It remains clear that Americans, including in places like Kansas, oppose blanket abortion bans (or what they perceive to be blanket bans), even while supporting varying levels of limitations and restrictions.  Kansas, incidentally, has a number of abortion restrictions already in place.  Increasing those restrictions, even to match widely-supported international norms, will now be much harder, due to the construction and result of the referendum.  I think this is right:


More sound analysis from Ramesh Ponnuru:

The lopsided result in the referendum is an illustration of first-mover advantage. Kansas (where I grew up) is by no means a pro-life state, but it would probably never have adopted a sweeping abortion-protective constitutional amendment by popular vote...Supporters of the abortion license are giddily overreading it. The instant line is that the result shows that a backlash to Dobbs will be powerful this November. And it’s true that the referendum appears to have driven turnout in the state. This suggests to me a few potential advantages for pro-abortion Democrats this fall. They can do very well in places where a pro-life referendum is on the ballot, especially one that can be presented as effectively banning abortion without exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape; and maybe also in some places where legislators are on the verge of enacting such bans (or can be presented as being on the verge of it)...even in Kansas, I think pro-lifers ought to come back in a few years with another ballot initiative, this one establishing a gestational limit on abortion: at fifteen weeks, for example. There is no reason pro-lifers should take this deeply disappointing vote as the last word anywhere.


Maximalist abortion restrictions will not play well in most states. More modest (but still significant) limitations are, however, broadly popular. Pro-lifers should adjust their strategy accordingly. Imperfect wins and meaningful progress are preferable to sweeping losses, driven by real or perceived overreach. And a final, pertinent note about the media, the Dobbs ruling, and the changes in Kansas and elsewhere:

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