For some, it was a political "earthquake" on Tuesday. For us here at BradCast, it largely served to confirm what we've been arguing for many months now: Reports about a Democratic shellacking this fall are greatly exaggerated. And, the swing-district Democratic win in a New York U.S. House special election on Tuesday isn't the only new evidence today helping to support that case. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
First up, we run through some of the noteworthy reported election results from yesterday's primaries and runoffs in Oklahoma, Florida and New York. Tune in for specific details and specific races. But while there was good news and bad for both Democrats and progressives on Tuesday, the biggest story of the night was clearly Democratic candidate Pat Ryan's defeat of Republican Marc Molinaro in what both parties have been regarding as a bellwether for this November, a special U.S. House election in NY's 19th Congressional District. The Hudson Valley district is a classic "swing-district" that tends to follow the mood of the nation. It barely went for Biden in 2020 and for Trump and Obama in the years prior. In a "red wave" year for Republicans --- as both the GOP and media have long been instructing us that this year's midterms would be --- Molinaro should have easily won on Tuesday. Instead, he lost by 2 points.
In another special election for the U.S. House yesterday, in the state 23rd District, the Republican candidate won in the very Trumpy district, but by just over 6 points. That, after the Republican who previously held the seat had won it by 17 points back in 2020. It was yet another contest in which Democrats gained over their 2020 numbers, rather than lost, as would be expected in a "red wave" year.
In fact, where Republicans earlier this year had been winning special elections for the House by anywhere from 10 to 20 points more than Trump had won the same districts just two years ago, everything changed on June 24, when the GOP's stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court, in their Dobbs decision, overturned Roe v. Wade and its 50 years of Constitutionally-protected privacy rights and reproductive freedoms. Since that ruling, every single special House election --- four of them, from Nebraska to Minnesota to New York --- has seen results swing toward Democrats from their 2020 numbers in the same district.
Ryan's victory on Tuesday in NY-19 is being chalked up to his campaign focused on abortion rights, fueled by campaign signs reading "Choice is on the Ballot." Indeed, Ryan also tied choice to freedom and democracy, as noted in his victory tweet last night. "Choice was on the ballot. Freedom was on the ballot, and tonight choice and freedom won," said Ryan, adding: "We voted like our democracy was on the line because it is." In the bargain, he concluded, "We upended everything we thought we knew about politics and did it together."
The GOP candidate, meanwhile --- a fairly strong candidate, not one of the Trump-backed insane ones --- attempted to make the contest a referendum on President Biden, inflation, crime and against one-party rule in D.C., as Republicans have hoped to do elsewhere for this November's midterms. It didn't work.
We've been arguing for many months now on this show that voters should simply ignore "Conventional Wisdom" based on historical data for this year's elections, as these are decidedly UNconventional times. There are many things that make it so, but the overturning of Roe v. Wade is certainly a great big one.
Evidence of that is also showing up elsewhere, as our guest today, TOM BONIER, CEO of TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm, has been noticing and tweeting excitedly about over the past few weeks since Kansas voters decisively rejected a state Constitutional ballot initiative that would have allowed Republicans in the traditionally conservative state to ban abortion rights.
Since then, Bonier explains, in state after state that he has examined --- so-called "red" and "blue" ones and even critical battlegrounds like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina, among others --- the data for new voter registrations after the Dobbs ruling show numbers are spiking for women, particularly Democratic women and, specifically, those under 25.
"I'm not one that's prone to hyperbole," Bonier tells me, responding to a question about one of the stats he posted to Twitter, which he described as "jaw-dropping." He says that "when analyzing election data, you generally don't see variations from the norm, from past historical precedent, that are really that substantial." But, after being stunned by what happened in Kansas, he noticed there had been a huge spike in voter registrations in the state in its run-up.
"Of the voters who registered to vote in Kansas after the June 24th Dobbs decision, 70% were women," he found. "I've never seen anything approaching that degree of gender gap. It just doesn't happen."
"The reason you look at new registrants is because it's a great indicator of intensity. It's not that new registrants by themselves will swing the election, but it is a reliable indicator of which groups are really fired up about voting, and that's what's going to decide this election."
He discovered similarly "jaw-dropping" numbers for Pennsylvania after the Dobbs ruling. "It's not just that women are registering to vote. When you look at who those women are, they're overwhelmingly women and Democrats." New Dem registrations, he says, are outpacing Republicans 4 to 1. "Over half of them --- 54% of them --- are under the age of 25. So again, they're younger, they're more likely to be Democrats, overwhelmingly, young Democratic women being engaged."
In North Carolina, like Pennsylvania, where Democrats are eyeing another potential U.S. Senate pick-up that seemed impossible just several weeks ago, Bonier says he is seeing a similar trend. Before Dobbs, "Republicans had a one point advantage among new registrants. Since Dobbs that's shifted to a 5-point Democratic advantage...again, driven by younger women primarily, though not exclusively."
In Ohio, a similar story. In fact, Bonier says women are out-registering men in Idaho, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Arkansas and elsewhere.
Has he drilled down on these statewide numbers to see if they will have an affect on the heavily gerrymandered new maps that will favor Republicans in the U.S. House this year? So far, Bonier argues, they are "seeing the same pattern in these more potentially competitive Congressional districts."
Are the numbers large enough that, even with that gerrymandering, Democrats might actually be able to hold their majority in the House this November? "If you'd asked me this a few months ago, I never would have said this, but yes, Democrats have a chance. It's still an uphill battle --- especially because of the structural disadvantages --- but there's clearly a chance. We're not talking about the slimmest of margins, we're talking about a real opportunity. But for that to bear fruit for Democrats, it's going to take this trend continuing. It's going to take Dobbs being an inflection point, where we look back and we say, 'This election cycle, there was pre-Dobbs and there was post-Dobbs, and Dobbs is really what changed everything.'"
Bonier cautions that it "will still be difficult" and nothing is certain, especially since betwen this and so much else this year, there are simply no modern historical equivalents to compare it to. "So the best thing we can do is go out, work as hard as we can, and fight for every vote."
Have we been right to argue for so many months that voters should simply ignore the "conventional wisdom" --- from political professionals, including guys like Bonier --- in these UNconventional times? Tune in for his answer...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)