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From “What the Hell?” to “Hell No”
Conceding Democracy VIII: hell is Democrats giving up fights only moderates can win
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WelcomePAC launched in 2021 with “Conceding Democracy”, an analysis of campaign finance data and electoral results that showed many potentially competitive Republican-held congressional seats were effectively going uncontested.
A Boston Globe headline captured the problem:
Over the course of the 2022 cycle, WelcomePAC’s quarterly Conceding Democracy reports highlighted 21 flippable red districts where Democrats were at risk of conceding races to Republicans by not fielding a credible challenge. Unfortunately, most were conceded - in 17 of the 21, no Democratic candidate passed even a low bar of $1m.
But in the 4 that were contested? Marie Gluesenkamp Perez flipped WA-3, Adam Frisch took Lauren Boebert to a recount in CO-03, and Will Rollins greatly overperformed against Ken Calvert in CA-41. All three that had $3.75m or more invested in a Democrat are now rated as toss-ups heading into 2024. Only MN-1 stayed “Safe Republican”, and that saw far less investment ($2.6m).
The Welcome thesis is that polarization is overstated and volatility is underrated. There are far more opportunities for competition than the polarization doomsayers acknowledge. To protect democracy, we have to practice it.
This is our most recent installment of Conceding Democracy, using public campaign finance data released on October 15. We still find too many “democracy deserts” where voters are not given a real choice.
Democrats: Stepping Up or Falling Short?
The July 15 campaign finance reports flashed warning signs in competitive GOP-held House seats. Three months later, not enough has changed.
Nearly half of 45 GOP-held stretch seats effectively uncontested (PVI between R+3 and R+8):
13 seats still have no Democratic challenger.
8 have a candidate filed who has not raised any money
Democratic challengers have $200k+ in just a quarter of stretch districts
24 Democratic challengers have reported some sort of fundraising in the 45 GOP-held districts with PVI between R+3 and R+8
12 having more than $200,000 on hand
Note: This data excludes seats in this PVI range already held by Democrats.
During the recent GOP speaker fight, Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner said “Hell No” to if she would ever vote for Jim Jordan. Wagner had been posting prayers after reportedly crying on the House floor after McCarthy’s ouster.
Then Wagner went and voted for Jim Jordan.
Why? Simple: because she may face a Trumpy primary challenger, but she has no general election challenger.
Wagner’s suburban St. Louis district is one of the most highly educated GOP-held district in the country - a race we wrote about last year.
Incentives matter. This is true even in defeat, as Lauren Boebert is trying to show with her “revamped campaign strategy”. Even the most extreme candidates try tacking to the center when competition comes from the general election instead of the primary.
Time to put more “Safe Republican” Seats into Play seats into play.