For a perfect snapshot of how the land lies in 2022, political watchers couldn’t ask for more than Tuesday’s primary competitions. From congressional contests to a ballot measure on abortion access, races in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington look set to define which way the country will jump come November. And, as ever, the Fourth Estate lurks in the shadows, waiting for any chink in the armor of former President Donald Trump’s legacy.
Arizona Gubernatorial Proxy War
One of the biggest races for the GOP is to determine who will take the governor’s mansion in the Grand Canyon state. Former local news anchor Kari Lake, backed by Trump, is leading the polling an average of 8.7% ahead of developer Karrin Taylor Robson. Robson has the endorsement of former Vice President Mike Pence.
This race is likely to be seen as a proxy war between two of the biggest contenders for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. If Lake loses, this story will be headline news across the country. OH Predictive Insights’ latest survey gives the Trump endorsee an 18-point lead, however, Emerson records Robson as having a one-point advantage.
While Arizona has elected a Republican for governor in eight out of the last ten gubernatorial races, President Joe Biden took the state in 2020 by 0.4%, a swing of almost 5% from 2016.
Democrat Senator Mark Kelly won a surprise victory in 2020, ousting Republican Martha McSally, who was finishing late Senator John McCain’s term. Kelly managed to sway an almost 13% reversal to win the seat by 2.4%. But whether Arizona is willing to back the Democrats come November is far from certain.
Hoping to topple the sitting senator are, among others, Trump-backed venture capitalist Blake Masters and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Masters has a commanding lead in most polls and will likely be the final candidate. He has not only the Trump endorsement but also that of notable right-leaning figures, including Fox host Tucker Carlson, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and billionaire tech guru Peter Thiel.
Kelly is polling a few points ahead of Masters at present, but some numbers indicate a much closer race.
Controversy in Missouri
The sprint to replace retiring Senator Roy Blunt is on, but it remains a precarious contest for the GOP in the Show Me state. Democrat voters appear to be rallying around Trudy Busch Valentine, a nurse and beer fortune heiress who is handily fending off her closest rival, former Marine Lucas Kunce. A self-described populist, Kunce says he can resonate with more rural voters, but the latest KMOV-TV/SurveyUSA polling gives Valentine a 26-point lead, demonstrating that a “down-home” message may not be enough.
For Republicans, the contest is, to say the least, controversial. Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens – who stepped down after just a year amid allegations of sexual assault and financial scandals – was initially the pack leader in the GOP primary. Although Greitens was cleared of all charges, he has managed to stay in the news for all the wrong reasons. Polling gave him a clear lead over Attorney General Eric Schmitt until he released a campaign video in which he said he was going “RINO hunting.” In the ad, the armed Greitens invited voters to, “Join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.” The video was removed from Facebook as the social media company declared it violated policies “prohibiting violence and incitement.”
After the ill-fated ad, Schmitt’s numbers began steadily improving, and he now holds a solid lead over Greitens. In a last-minute endorsement Monday evening, Trump took to Truth Social to cast his support for “Eric.” Whether that is Eric Greitens or Eric Schmitt remains unclear, and may be a case of the former president trolling the internet.
Abortion on the Ballot
Kansas voters will be the first in the nation to vote on abortion directly since the US Supreme Court sent such decisions back to the states. A ballot measure looks to overturn a state supreme court ruling from 2019 that said abortion rights were protected under the Kansas constitution. If the effort succeeds, it will hand the legislature more control.
Presently, Kansas is regarded as a “safe haven” for abortion, with almost 50% of these procedures performed on patients who have crossed state lines – higher than any other state. Recent polling by co/efficient suggests that 47% are planning to vote in favor of the amendment, with 43% opposed. A further 10% were undecided.
Tuesday’s Primary Concern
As Biden’s poll numbers continue to plummet, Democrats will be hoping for a sign that their party can survive the November elections with some power intact. While there is very little drama to be had in the Democrat primaries, both the left and the left-leaning media will be looking for hints that Trump’s clout has been diminished by either the Jan. 6 committee theater or by the SCOTUS ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson.
If polling on Tuesday’s primary is any indication, however, Biden’s predictions of a long, dark winter may be realized – at least for congressional Democrats.