Campaign Report — Democrats try to make their mark on GOP primaries

·6 min read
Rolls of "I voted" stickers litter a table.
“I Voted” stickers are available for voters at an early voting location Thursday, June 23, 2022, in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma’s primary is Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, tracking all things related to the 2022 midterm elections. You can expect this newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday leading up to November’s election.

Email us tips and feedback: Max Greenwood (mgreenwood@thehill.com), Julia Manchester (jmanchester@thehill.com) and Caroline Vakil (cvakil@thehill.com).

Peddle to the Meddle

Democrats are making clear just what kind of Republican candidates they want to face in November.

In states like Colorado and Illinois, Democratic-aligned groups are spending to boost far-right Republicans in Tuesday’s primaries, hoping GOP voters choose nominees that could turn off independents and more moderate Republicans in November.

In the Centennial State, a group called the Colorado Information Network is running ads touting the conservative credentials of Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez, one of two GOP candidates hoping to take on Gov. Jared Polis this year.

The group has been bankrolled by a state super PAC, Strong Colorado, which received $1.5 million from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA).

The same is true in the state’s Republican Senate primary, where a federal super PAC, Strong Colorado, has spent millions of dollars boosting state Rep. Ron Hanks and attacking his more-moderate primary opponent, businessman Joe O’Dea.

And in Illinois, the DGA and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker have sought to boost state Sen. Darren Bailey over Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin in the GOP primary for governor.

Irvin, who has taken a more moderate tack in the nominating contest, has the support of Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin, while former President Trump endorsed Bailey over the weekend.

The big takeaway: The tactic of seeking to boost certain candidates in the other party’s primaries isn’t exactly a new one.

But the level of Democratic spending in these races is at least somewhat unprecedented and offers one of the latest hints that the party is eager to steel itself and its candidates for a potentially tough general election campaign in a year that is already expected to be a bleak one for Democrats – even in states that tilt heavily in their favor.

Side note: New York, Oklahoma and Utah are also holding primaries, and there are runoffs in Mississippi and South Carolina, as well. Max has a breakdown of the seven races to watch today.

Roe v. Wade on the campaign trail

Turning the tables?: The story of the 2022 midterm elections so far has been pretty bleak for Democrats. Inflation is at its highest level in decades, gas prices have continued to tick upward and President Biden’s approval rating is deep underwater.

Despite the grim outlook, Democrats are hoping to turn the political tides against Republicans in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision last week to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case.

Party officials and candidates are coalescing around a message that handing Republicans control of Congress this year would only further tighten the abortion restrictions and pave the way for bans already taking effect in many GOP-controlled states, and there are signs that the court’s ruling is already serving to motivate Democratic voters.

A Morning Consult poll released on Tuesday found that 56 percent of Democratic voters say they are either “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about voting in November, up from 48 percent in a poll conducted earlier this month before the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Republican voters still had a slight advantage in the more recent poll, with 58 percent saying they are “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic to vote this year.

Still, it’s a sign that the backlash to the Supreme Court’s decision may be helping Democrats close the enthusiasm gap ahead of the midterm elections.

Seizing on the ruling could be particularly useful for Democrats in blue and purple states, like Colorado and Virginia, where Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has expressed his support for a 15-week abortion ban.

But the unpopularity of the Supreme Court’s ruling is even broader. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll out this week found that 56 percent of Americans oppose the decision.

“It’s the economy, stupid”: Of course, the question remains: Can Democrats keep the focus on abortion rights or is the issue liable to be overshadowed by economic issues like inflation and fears of a looming recession?

POLL WATCH 

The AAPI vote: Democrats are losing strength among Asian American and Pacific Islander voters in several key battleground states, according to a new poll. The poll, which was conducted by Civiqs for the group Justice Unites Us, found that AAPI voters favor Democrats over Republicans 55 percent to 34 percent on the generic ballot. But that advantage is weaker in the battleground states of Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania in Georgia, where Democrats are favored 53 percent to 43 percent. The Hill’s Alex Bolton has more on the poll.

Noteworthy: The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, which was conducted last Friday and Saturday, is also showing Democrats leading Republicans by 7 percentage points in a generic congressional ballot.

Forty-eight percent of people polled said they were more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate if the election was held today compared to 41 percent who said Republican. The last time Democrats held a similar margin was in September 2021 when Democratic candidates led Republicans 46 percent to 38 percent respectively.

The poll shows one of the first glimpses into how voters might be politically interpreting the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade. What’s less clear is how much of that will galvanize voters by the times the midterms roll around.

AD WATCH 

This is interesting: California Gov. Gavin Newsom is reserving over $100,000 worth of cable ads in…wait for it…Florida. The ads, according to SFGate’s Alec Regimbal, are slated to begin running on Fox News in the state beginning on July 4. It’s unclear what the ads will actually focus on, but Newsom’s decision to reserve airtime in a state some 2,700 miles away from Sacramento is likely to increase speculation that the California governor may be weighing a potential bid for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.

Of course, it’s also hard to believe Fox News viewers in Florida are Newsom’s core target audience if he’s looking to set himself up for a future White House bid. So, as a spokesperson for Newsom’s reelection campaign told SFGate: “stay tuned.”

Dueling messages: One Nation, a dark money group aligned with Senate Republican leadership, is out with new ads in Georgia and Wisconsin. The spot going live in Wisconsin on Tuesday casts Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a top target of Democrats this cycle, as a warrior against “reckless” government spending and calls on him to “keep fighting for Wisconsin families.” The ad in Georgia takes the opposite approach, hitting Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) for helping “fuel the inflation squeeze” and urges him to “start voting against reckless spending” in Washington.

Important to note: Democrats haven’t yet chosen their nominee to take on Johnson in Wisconsin, depriving Republican groups of a clear target for the time being. Warnock, meanwhile, is among the most vulnerable Democratic senators facing reelection this year.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Campaign page for the latest news and coverage. See you Thursday.

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