The Real Message From Yesterday’s Primaries

In order to win a majority in the House, Democrats need to flip a total of 23 seats. Seven very ripe targets are in Republican-held California districts where Clinton won in 2016. Going into yesterday’s primary, there were concerns in four of them that the number of Democrats on the ballot would split the vote too thinly and two Republicans would top the field due to the state’s so-called “jungle primary,” where candidates from both parties are on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters move on to the general election. They’re still counting the votes, but here is what Dave Wasserman reported early this morning:

To give you an idea of how Republicans are hanging on by their fingernails in California, their great victory in that state yesterday is that the governor’s race isn’t one of those 10 where no one from their party will be on the ballot. Businessman John Cox came in second to the state’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, but no one gives Cox much of a chance against Newsom in November.

In other news from yesterday, the theme of women winning in Democratic primaries continues.

From New Jersey to New Mexico, Democratic women cleaned up Tuesday night. Two Iowa women, Abby Finkenauer in the 1st District and Cindy Axne in the 3rd District, crushed their respective Democratic fields, in each case winning more than the 35 percent needed to avoid going to a state convention…

In New Jersey, Democrat Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor, prevailed in the Republican-leaning 11th District in a seat held by retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. In New Mexico, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat and a vocal critic of President Trump and his immigration policies, was up against two men; she won the nomination with 66 percent.

It is also worth noting that in New Mexico, Deb Haaland won the 1st Congressional District, putting her in a great position to become the first Native American woman elected to Congress.

In addition to the primaries, there was a special election in Missouri that should have Republicans very worried.

Democratic Rep. Lauren Arthur prevailed by a double-digit margin over Republican Rep. Kevin Corlew in a special election for a state Senate seat Tuesday night.

Republicans won’t risk losing control of the Missouri Senate on Tuesday, but Arthur’s victory in a Northland special election could signal the GOP’s grasp on Jefferson City has weakened after months of drama surrounding former Gov. Eric Greitens.

Arthur, a former teacher from Kansas City, beat Corlew with 59.6 percent to 40.3 percent of the vote to win the special election for Missouri’s 17th Senate district. She’s the first Democrat to hold the seat in more than a decade.

Iowa saw a surge in Democratic turnout.

By far the best news of the night for Democrats was the record turnout in many places around the state. Just over 100,000 voted in the 2016 Democratic primary. Only 72,388 showed up in 2014…With a little over 90% of precincts reporting, Democrats already have a turnout of 175,000 in today’s primary. They will almost certainly surpass the turnout for the 2016 Iowa Caucus as well. That is, quite frankly, incredible.

One result from Alabama is getting a lot of attention.

Just a few years ago, Alabama Republican Rep. Martha Roby looked to be a rising conservative star, a youthful, female voice in a party that needed more of both. Now, after an anemic 39 percent performance Tuesday, she’s headed to a July 17 runoff .

What happened between her 2016 primary, when she won by a landslide, and her 2018 primary? Donald Trump.

In the wake of Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood remarks, Roby issued a statement saying his “behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president and I won’t vote for him.” She’s been paying for it ever since.

While the message that sends to Republicans is that primary voters will punish candidates who don’t bend the knee to Trump, I’d want to see that repeated outside a deeply red state like Alabama before we hail it as a new entry in the Republican playbook.

I have the same reaction to takes like the one from Nate Silver in which he equates the two political parties with “the establishment” and suggests they had a good night, as if that was some kind of statement against the so-called “insurgencies” of Bernie Sanders on the left and the tea party of 2010 on the right.

A more useful frame to test is that the extremists of the tea party took over the GOP and Democrats are united in defeating them with a plethora of ideas about how to improve the lives of every American. Let’s trot that one out and see if it doesn’t explain what happens in 2018.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.