Democratic consultants tell party donors that while the changing political landscape will give their candidates a fighting chance this fall, they likely face a huge surge in Republican turnout.
MAGA’s “push is real,” said a presentation to donors by America Votes, a Democratic group that coordinates efforts to get the vote.
“Democrats know they are competitive in many races that could have been explosive a few months ago, for several reasons: the Supreme Court decision eliminating the constitutional right to abortion, as well as the drop in the price of the essence and a series of legislative achievements by Democrats.
“But,” warned the presentation, which was provided to Yahoo News, “what we’re up against: GOP turnout will be very high.”
“Democrats expect this increase in MAGA in large part because Republican primary turnout so far this year has been very high, just as it was in 2021.”
In Pennsylvania, for example, 1.3 million people voted in the May 17 GOP primary, nearly double the 2018 total of 730,857. That’s an 85% increase.
In Georgia on May 24, Republicans saw an even bigger increase, a 98% increase from the 2018 GOP primary. Turnout was 1.2 million in the Georgia Republican contest, up from 607 874 four years ago.
This model has held up through a number of competitions. Turnout in the GOP primaries rose 42% in Nevada in June, and in the August primaries it rose 66% in Arizona and 52% in Wisconsin. Michigan saw a modest increase, by these standards at least, of 9%.
There is evidence that Democratic voters may be as motivated as Republicans at this point. A recent Morning Consult/Politico survey of 2,005 registered voters found that 61% of Democrats said they were “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about “voting in the midterm elections,” compared to 57% of Republicans. .
But the kind of intensity demonstrated in this year’s primaries among Republicans was the kind of energy that translated into a big victory for the GOP in the 2021 election in Virginia, even though the Democrats also had a huge participation. The GOP won there for only the second time in the past 20 years, won the races for lieutenant governor and attorney general and regained control of the House in the state Legislature. .
And Republicans did all of this despite the fact that more Democrats turned out to vote in 2021 than in 2017. And in the 2017 election, Democrats completely broke turnout records from previous years.
Democratic turnout in Virginia has grown from less than 1.1 million in the 2013 gubernatorial election, to 1.4 million in 2017, to 1.6 in 2021 (1,600,116 total votes). But Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin beat Democrat Terry McAuliffe last year by 63,000 votes out of 3.3 million total ballots, as Republican turnout has risen since 2017 by more than double the amount of Democratic momentum, an increase of nearly 500,000 votes.
Republican turnout in Virginia has grown from 1 million in 2013, to 1.4 million in 2017, to 1.6 million in 2021 — or 1,663,596, to be exact.
The presentation did not delve into why Republican turnout has increased, or whether it has much to do with former President Donald Trump. Devin O’Malley, who advised Youngkin’s campaign in Virginia and also worked for former Vice President Mike Pence, told Yahoo News that tossing the phrase “Republican MAGA” is “an attempt to brand Republicans in a way that pisses off Democratic donors.”
Terminology aside, Republicans have recently come out in droves, which O’Malley says was largely driven by economic turbulence under President Biden and Democrats’ overreach on social issues.
“It’s largely a 180-degree turn from the experience that a lot of Americans had under the Trump-Pence administration,” O’Malley said, when the economy roared up. the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, Americans are facing soaring inflation and polls show that they are increasingly anxious about economic issues.
Youngkin, for his part, was able to win over many suburban voters who had voted for Biden by talking about education and parental rights, capitalizing on parents’ frustration over pandemic-related restrictions on schooling and businesses. . This mixed with a right-wing populist backlash against educational and corporate policies of talking about systemic racism, sometimes in ways that irritated voters in between.
Ruy Texeira, a respected Democratic analyst who warns Democrats they have “lost their way” when it comes to appealing to “normed voters,” wrote this week that even with Republicans playing defense against the abortion, the GOP still has an advantage when it comes to many social issues.
“The sad reality is that the cultural left in and around the Democratic Party has managed to associate the party with a range of views on crime, immigration, policing, free speech and of course race and gender that are quite distant from those of the median voter,” Texeira wrote.
“Voters are unsure that Democrats can look beyond identity politics to ensure public safety, secure borders, high-quality non-ideological education and economic progress for all Americans,” Texeira added, who recently left the center left for American Progress. to work at the American Enterprise Institute, which leans right.
Democrats will employ a variety of strategies to ensure their voters get to the polls in November and dampen any increase in Republican turnout. But America Votes is a Democratic group that is adamant that its party needs to do better at old-fashioned door-to-door canvassing than it has in recent election cycles.
In 2020, Democrats stopped meeting with voters in person at their homes, out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus. Republicans didn’t, and in states like Texas, Democrats later concluded that Republicans had more voters than they had, in part because they didn’t have door-to-door.
So far, Democrats are ahead of their 2018 pace for house-to-house in seven of the top eight competitive states, with Michigan being the only outlier, according to the America Votes presentation.
In the 2022 cycle, Democrats know that college-educated supporters who are engaged in politics are likely to vote and don’t need much help. But low-income voters who often don’t pay as much attention to politics, if any, need that face-to-face visit. And in an election they expect to be close in many key states, those votes could be the difference.