Politico, the chronicle of ruling-class Washington politics, put out a piece fascinating to analyze under the “they will tell you who they are” banner. It popped up on Sunday morning.
And the piece, by Elena Schneider and Christopher Cadelago, quoted a number of Democrat operatives and strategists all saying the same thing: the House and Senate are largely lost causes in this fall’s midterms, and the party’s last stand is going to be keeping a number of its incumbent governors from slipping beneath the waves as the tsunami comes in.
Ahead of the midterm elections, Democrats are expanding their scope far beyond congressional contests and on to governor races in battleground states, seeing them as existential for the party’s presidential prospects, if not democratic governance itself.
Party leaders, deep-pocketed donors and leading super PACS were already planning to prioritize November’s gubernatorial contests, which have long been an afterthought on national election maps. But their focus has intensified this past year after Republicans attempted to undermine and overturn the last election and Democratic-led federal voting rights legislation went up in smoke.
Cooper Teboe, a donor adviser based in Silicon Valley, said he’s “seen a real shift” among major Democratic donors in their approach to state-based races. “Of the pool of major donors — of big, institutional donors behind the DNC and the DCCC — I’d say 50 to 60 percent of them are now putting that same effort into governors, and I expect that group of donors to only grow.”
Much of the focus from donors on down has centered on the governor races in key battleground states, though there is an expectation that more money and support will also trickle down to candidates for secretaries of state and attorney general as well. Democratic governors in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — states President Joe Biden narrowly won in 2020 — have all touted their roles as bulwarks for free elections, and those running for governor in Republican-held state capitals of Arizona and Georgia are pitching themselves as the last opportunity for the party to ensure that those states aren’t lost to Donald Trump-supporting election conspiracists.
“My entire donating life has always been centered around Congress, but I really think that if you care about democracy, you need to worry about these governors’ races,” said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic donor and lobbyist. “This is critical for us to win in 2024.”
When your definition of a victory is getting Tony Evers, Roy Cooper, and Gretchen Whitmer re-elected in a cycle where you lose the House and Senate, it’s fair to say you’ve lowered your expectations to the point at which you’ve accepted things will be fairly ugly this fall. But that’s where the Democrats are — it’s so bad that after a cacophony of wailing last Tuesday night after President Joe Biden’s catastrophic State of the Union speech, the modern low ratings of which actually ended up as a slight positive given the clown show antics of our demented president and the deranged Speaker of the House behind him, the party’s pundits were by Thursday spinning the narrative of a State of the Union-led turnaround.
Which doesn’t quite jive with Sunday’s Politico piece establishing gubernatorial races as The Last Stand For Our Democracy, does it?
This piece was published before Monday, when the nation awoke to gas prices higher than anyone can remember — not to mention news that the Biden administration has decided they’ll now give away the store to the Iranians in order to buy their oil and release sanctions on the Venezuelan regime to buy its black gold.
No word on when sanctions against domestic oil producers might be lifted. Hamstringing our own oil and gas industry seems to be the hill they’re willing to sacrifice Congress on.
But not Gretchen Whitmer, for some reason.
What’s perhaps most interesting about this is what it says about 2024. The Democrats have all but conceded that the House elections are going to wipe out their party in swing districts from coast to coast, and it’s beginning to look like the Senate map might be expanding with a few incumbent Dems’ electoral prospects going wobbly. Meaning that when the smoke clears after November’s elections, what will be left of the Democrats is going to be a rump collection of safe-seat leftists, more shrill than ever but even further removed from the political mainstream than the party currently is.
And they know that Biden would count himself fortunate simply to make it to 2024, much less run in a presidential election that year. Kamala “Ukraine is a country in Europe” Harris is clearly not what they can hang their hat on. There is nobody in that cabinet, moreover, and particularly not Gay Mayor Pete Buttigieg and his birthing-bed dithering from the supply-chain crisis, who can run and win.
Outside of Team Biden, it gets worse, if that’s possible. Hillary Clinton is anything but a savior eight years removed from her humiliation at the hands of Donald Trump. And Bernie Sanders, twice screwed out of their nomination (and for good reason), is waiting to take the party over, even if by proxy.
So what’s a Democrat to do? They have to run somebody for president, and having Bernie send up Nina Turner or Stacey Abrams as the nominee is unacceptable. Not just because Turner or Abrams would get rightly slaughtered by Trump, Ron DeSantis, or whoever the GOP nominee will be, but because the party’s nominee controls the party. A Democrat Party run by Stacey Abrams and Bernie Sanders puts their minions in control of all the state party organizations and most of the local ones, and that means the “moderate” crowd, the Steny Hoyer/Dick Durbin old-school machine hacks, get dumped into the canal.
It’s one thing to lose an election for these people. It’s another entirely to be put out of politics.
So they’ve got to save somebody among their governors they can nominate for president as a “fresh face” in 2024. That’s why saving their governors is now a priority.
Here’s a news flash for our Democrat friends, though: if hanging on to Gretchen Whitmer so you can run her in 2024 is your killer app, you’re apt to get killed.
Best of luck to you guys. Let the races begin.