The Election Recap: Aug. 15, 2022

·5 min read
Wisconsin GOP (and Trump-backed) gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels votes in Hartland, Wisconsin
Wisconsin GOP (and Trump-backed) gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels votes in Hartland, Wisconsin Scott Olson/Getty Images

Welcome back to The Election Recap, your weekly, one-stop shop for the last seven days of midterms news. Let's get into it:

And the winner is…

First up, of course, are last week's primaries in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, and Connecticut, where voters decided a number of "high-stakes matchups for Senate and governorships," wrote my colleague Peter Weber in a brief recap for The Week. In Wisconsin, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) was nominated to challenge vulnerable incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R), while executive Tim Michels prevailed over former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in her bid to unseat Gov. Tony Evers (D) in November. Notably, former President Donald Trump had endorsed Michels, while ex-Vice President Mike Pence backed Kleefisch. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) narrowly survived a primary challenge from former Minneapolis city councilman Don Samuels. And up in Vermont, Democratic voters nominated state Senate president pro tempore Becca Balint to take over for Rep. Peter Welch, who also won the Democratic nomination to replace retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy. If Balint wins her contest, as is expected, she'll become the first woman to represent Vermont in Congress. In Connecticut, Trump-backed candidate Leora Levy was surprisingly successful over a "more moderate rival" in her bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D). And finally, I'd be remiss not to mention the Saturday primaries in Hawaii, where Bob McDermott snagged the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Brian Schatz, and the race for governor ultimately boiled down to former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona (R) and current Lt. Gov. Josh Green (D). Republican Joe Akana and Democrat Jill Tokuda were also selected to square off in Hawaii's 2nd District.

After the raid

In case you somehow missed it: The FBI raided Trump's Florida mansion last week … and the aftermath hasn't been pretty. Everyone's angry, Trump is raising money, and commentator after commentator seems to have a feeling that the document-oriented search will now upend the trajectory of the midterm elections. For example, some, like Fox News' Carly Shimkus, believe the raid could motivate Trump to announce his 2024 presidential candidacy ahead of the November elections rather than after, as some in his party would prefer. Others, like Mark Niquette in Bloomberg, have argued that the raid scrambles Republicans' midterms message, which they were hoping to focus on issues like inflation rather than the former president. And, of course, there are those like The Washington Examiner's David Drucker, who is convinced the net backlash to the raid will leave voters relatively unfazed, unless "Republicans veer right and abandon inflation for Trump the persecuted," and/or even the most unimpressed Democratic voters "show up in droves on Nov. 8" because they feel like Trump is back on the ballot.

Leave a midterm message after the beep

A memo released by the White House last week detailed President Biden's planned, pre-midterms messaging for the month of August. To distract from historic inflation levels, an issue on which the GOP will surely capitalize, Biden instead plans to celebrate his and Democrats' recent legislative wins regarding climate change, health care, and gun reform, among others. For instance, once the Inflation Reduction Act is signed into law, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and other prominent administration officials plan to promote the idea that "the president and congressional Democrats beat the special interests and delivered what was best for the American people," reads the memo from White House officials Kate Bedingfield and Anita Dunn. The president will also travel around the country in support of the messaging, with the hope of portraying Democrats as a party of the working class, not the economic and political elite. "This is the choice before the American people," the memo continues: Biden and the Democrats, "[o]r Congressional Republicans' extreme MAGA agenda that serves the wealthiest, corporations, and themselves."

Oh snap

Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke on Wednesday clapped back at a campaign event attendee who laughed as O'Rourke discussed the Robb Elementary School Shooting in Uvalde, Texas. In the middle of criticizing his state's gun laws, as well as the Uvalde gunman's legal purchase of an AR-15 style rifle (which, O'Rourke noted, was "originally designed for use on the battlefields in Vietnam"), the candidate got down on one knee to position himself as a soldier would, presumably for emphasis. But the move prompted laughter from somewhere in the crowd — and O'Rourke quickly snapped: "It may be funny to you motherf--ker, but it's not funny to me," eliciting loud cheers and applause. O'Rourke, who also ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, will square off against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in the fall. He is widely considered the underdog in the race, though it appears Abbott's lead may be narrowing.

Hanging chads:

  • The Inflation Reduction Act (which may have little effect on inflation) is heading to Biden. [The Week, AP]

  • Could Allan Fung become Rhode Island's "first elected congressional Republican in decades"? [Politico]

  • Democratic candidate for Georgia governor Stacey Abrams tested positive for COVID-19. [Twitter]

  • "The 2022 midterms are on track to see the most losses by House members in their primaries in three decades." [Axios]

  • Political ad spending is through the roof this election cycle. [WSJ]

  • "Will this be an asterisk election?" [FiveThirtyEight]

Coming up…

  • On Tuesday, Wyoming voters will finally decide the fate of vulnerable Rep. Liz Cheney, who is facing off against attorney Harriet Hageman in the GOP primary for Wyoming's only House seat. Though the Trump-backed Hageman is expected to win, thus ousting one of Trump's most fervent congressional critics, Cheney's time in politics could very well continue. As for where she might go from here, David Faris and Harold Maass have penned two helpful analyses for The Week.

  • Meanwhile, in Alaska, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski will on Tuesday contend with a primary challenge from the Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka. Both candidates, however, are "expected to advance to the general election because of the state's new open-primary rules, in which the top four finishers will appear on the November ballot," writes The New York Times.

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