Donald Trump may not be on the ballot in November, but the future of his conservative agenda is. And three waves into this primary season, that seems to be all the motivation Republican voters need.
For the third time in as many primaries, conservatives seemed determined to change the media’s narrative about the midterm elections — turning out en masse in four southern states that will be critical to keeping the GOP’s hold on the House. At least in Republican-leaning states, the “blue wave” Democrats keep promising has been more like a blue sprinkle. That’s not to say things can’t change — they most certainly can, especially with the string of West Coast and New England races still to be decided. But for now, it is clear that conservative voters are far from disengaged.
David Wasserman, one of the analysts with an eye on these trends, says that after a rough start to the year, Republicans are getting some small doses of good news. So far, the GOP seems to be reaping the benefits of a banner spring for the White House’s international policies. After positive developments on Iran, Israel, and North Korea, the Democrats’ lead over Republicans on the generic congressional ballot is nonexistent. After being up by double digits in January, Reuters says the two parties are neck-and-neck. But, Wasserman warns, there’s still a long way to go. “Republicans still can’t point to hard election data that proves their base has suddenly closed the ‘intensity gap’ in the last few months.”
But they’re working on it! Tuesday’s showing in Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Georgia was the third strong showing for conservatives in states where liberals hoped to make some noise. Our friend Chris Wilson (@WilsonWPA), who first started seeing some positive trends for Republicans in toss-up states like Pennsylvania, says that pattern is continuing. In Texas, the Democrats’ turnout in the runoff resulted in the fewest votes case since 1920!
“D’s hopes of turning #TX even slightly violet continue to fade,” Chris tweeted. “Despite a closely contested #TXgov runoff… Dems can’t reach record low of 449k votes from 100 years ago!” And that’s not all, “In each of the open #TX [congressional districts] where *both parties* had a runoff, [Democrats] massively underperformed.” Republicans, on the other hand, continued to stream into their polling stations. In Georgia, the party cast 54,000 more votes than Democrats, which seemed like small potatoes compared to Arkansas, where they cast 96,000 more. Obviously, these are states where conservatives should be outperforming liberals. But in a year where Republicans can’t afford to take anything for granted, the outcome was a reassuring one.
Meanwhile, over at Democratic headquarters, party bosses deepened their bench of far-Left radicals on the November ballot with wins for LGBT activists, abortion extremists, and candidates who promise a return to the Obama years. In the Democrats’ words: We will impeach. We will abort. We will raise taxes. And that’s exactly the kind of agenda that failed them in 2016. Even now, a full year and change into Trump’s administration, heartland Democrats have pleaded with the national party to return to the middle. “You’re Killing Us” was the message to Washington. A message, so far, unreceived.
Over at Deep Root Analytics, experts are making a pretty solid case for a values-driven campaign. After the May 5 and 18 primaries, we mentioned just how potent social issues are proving to be in this election cycle. Well, it turns out, they’re even more compelling than most pollsters realized. In Pennsylvania and Idaho, where we pointed out that turnout was higher than expected, social issues appeared in “more GOP ads than any other issue — nearly doubling the total number of ads as tax reform, the next highest appearing issue.” In fact, Deep Root explains, there were “nearly two-times as many ads containing a social issue message than a tax message in these primaries.”
What does that mean? A lot if you’re a conservative campaign manager. “While the data we currently have access to does not allow us to comprehensively connect social issues advertising to higher-than-expected turnout, it does indicate something clearly: GOP advertisers relied on social issue messaging as their closing argument…” Obviously, David Seawright wrote, “advertisers believed that messaging on social issues was critical to their goal of both motivating and persuading GOP primary voters during the final stages of each campaign.”
It’s certainly worked in the primaries we’ve seen so far. Of course, the important part is not to get comfortable. I don’t mention these positive developments so that people can get complacent. On the contrary, we want people to know just how important and influential their voice can be. Making America great again starts by making America good again. And that’s not government’s mission, but ours.
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.