Wednesday, July 20, 2022


As I've been saying, I'm fine with Democrats promoting less electable Republicans in primaries. It might not work out well everywhere, but I see no problem with Democrats' decision to run ads portraying Dan Cox as ultra-MAGA in the Maryland gubernatorial primary. Cox probably would have won anyway -- with some votes still to be counted, he's winning by 16 points -- but he's clearly an easier candidate for Democrats to beat. The Cook Political Report has now changed its rating of his race from Lean Democratic to Solid Democratic.

Democrats' many interventions this year have some pundits wondering whether the party will try to promote the 2024 Republican presidential candidate who seems easiest to beat -- Donald Trump. I hope they don't.

Critics of the Democrats' boosting strategy point to 2016, when many people thought Trump was the easiest Republican to beat, as proof that the outcome of elections is unknowable. I think there's a different lesson to be learned from 2016 (and 2018, and 2020): Trump's voter base includes many voters who don't go to the polls regularly. They surprised us by showing up in 2016, and they also nearly put him over the top in 2020. However, they didn't show up in 2018, and Democrats regained the House. It seems as if Trumpists who aren't Donald Trump lack his star power -- they're less likely to win when polls say they're losing. Trump's base includes voters who are simply starstruck by him.

On the other hand, this may be an outdated assumption. There seems to be a contingent of voters who showed up for Trump in the past but now think it's time for a change; also, right-wing propaganda may have made the supporters of certain ideas -- for instance, that critical race theory is the greatest evil in human history -- likely to turn out for those ideas the way they turned out for Trump in the past. Glenn Youngkin's win in Virginia last year might be a sign of that.

I'm still betting that Trump's appeal will remain hard to measure -- in a general election, I think he'll still draw a lot of infrequent voters. So don't help him. Don't trust polls that suggest he's weaker than Ron DeSantis or other Republican alternatives. But I think boosting these other clowns is a reasonable risk to take.

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