Big day for progressive candidates may limit Democratic gains in the House
Given historical trends on the number of seats lost by the president’s party in the first midterm, the number of GOP retirements this cycle, and redistricting in Pennsylvania ordered by the state’s supreme court and created by a university professor to favor Democrats, prospects for Democrats taking the House remain quite good. But not quite as good as they were the day before yesterday.
Last night, progressive candidates had a good night in the Democratic primaries in the Keystone State, as well as springing an upset in the competitive 2nd district in Nebraska. In Pennsylvania, a state where Republicans now hold 12 of the 18 House seats under the old map, Democrats had more total voters in 10 of the state’s 18 districts in primary races yesterday. However, 2 of those were about even. If Republicans wind up with 9 or 10 seats in Pennsylvania this year, that would be far from a worst case scenario.
The winners for the Democrats may represent the energy in the party that now veers sharply left. But in Pennsylvania and Nebraska, it may result in Democrats missing some pickup opportunities. In essence, in districts with strong ideological or partisan bends, it really does not matter which candidate wins a primary. But in competitive districts, and in culturally conservative districts such as several in Pennsylvania, and Nebraska 2, the Democrats might have done better to pick the centrist candidate in the primary. The Republicans now have the opportunity to highlight how far left the Democrats have moved which may improve their prospects for holding several seats.
In a few suburban districts around Philadelphia, the Democrats nominated women candidates, hoping to capitalize on President Trump’s weakness among suburban women, in districts which resemble the Georgia district north of Atlanta, where Karen Handel barely held onto Tom Price’s seat when challenged by John Ossoff.
But in other competitive districts in the state, Democrats may have hurt their chances by selecting the more progressive candidate. In Nebraska 2 (Omaha), Barack Obama won the district in 2008 and the Democrats have won the House race there in the past as well, but their former Congressman was beaten in the primary by a more progressive candidate, making a pickup more difficult.
The national media love to discuss the self destructive Republican infighting. But they are but one of two parties experiencing ideological stresses.