Republicans seem to get excited whenever a new poll comes out showing “generic” Republican approval rising across the country. These polls are 99% worthless, with the 1% being that they help to get a general flavor for how the nation feels. When it comes to the actual midterm elections, they have 0% value.
Everything comes down to very specific math in very specific areas. General sentiment means nothing on election day. Both the RNC and DNC know this which is why they put their eggs in baskets where the math gives them hope. Unfortunately for Republicans, I’ve seen dozen of instances just in the previous two elections when they put their eggs in some very wrong baskets. They often put too much emphasis on winning a safe seat while not putting enough into seats that really need attention. They often do this out of loyalty to long-time caucus members and status of the candidates. For example, they put a stupid amount of money and attention into “saving” Mitch McConnell’s seat in 2020 when there was about a 1% chance he could lose it. That idiotic attention helped him win by nearly 20-points, shafting other candidates in closer races like John James who lost his Senate race by 0.7-points after getting 1/5th the love McConnell received in campaign funding assistance.
The DNC doesn’t lack in strategic election thinking the way the RNC does. There are only a few “elites” in the party that they protect. Otherwise, they’re willing to cut their losses on one important member of the caucus if it means helping them pick up other seats.
It is up to Republicans and conservatives to put our attention on candidates who are able to win. Or, to be more accurate, we should focus on Democrat candidates we can beat. Since I’m not a big fan of American citizens donating to candidates or PACs unless they’re directly influenced by them, I encourage Republicans to use their resources to directly expose vulnerable Democrats. It’s unfortunate that modern political strategies favor negative campaigns over positive ones, but we cannot ignore the best weapons in battle just because they’re ugly.
The best bang for your political buck and, more importantly, for your political efforts at the national level is to fight the Democrats who are most vulnerable. The Washington Examiner put together the list below. It matches very well with the working list I’ve been editing for a few months, and while I disagree with a couple of people on the list as well as more than a few omissions, it’s a good list from which to work.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).Cortez Masto, a freshman elected in 2016, is up for reelection in a state that has not elected a Republican in a statewide federal race since 2012 — and that has not supported a Republican for president since 2004. But the political environment for Democrats is now so perilous that Republican strategists are pointing to Cortez Masto as the ripest target among their list of possible Senate takeovers. And that’s even with lingering GOP doubts about the quality of their own nominee: Republican Adam Laxalt, the former state attorney general.
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH).Hassan, a freshman elected in 2016, is up for a state that has not elected a Republican in a statewide federal race since 2010 — and that has not supported a Republican for president since 2000. But Republican strategists are optimistic about their prospects against Hassan, both because of the political environment and the last 18 months of polling that suggest to them she might be the weakest of all Democratic incumbents on the 2022 ballot. The only hesitation Republicans have in awarding Hassan the “most vulnerable” status is New Hampshire’s late primary. Voters in the state will not select a GOP nominee from the competitive field of candidates until Sept. 13, less than two months before Election Day.
Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA). Iowa has made a sharp right turn since the rise of former President Donald Trump, who won the state by nearly 10 percentage points in 2016 and 2020. This shift was compounded by decennial redistricting, with Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA) and the Republican-controlled legislature ensuring the newly configured House seats are less than friendly to the Democrats. Such is the case with southwest Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. Axne is running in a swing seat that would have supported Trump by nearly a half-percent in 2020. As drawn, the nonpartisan political handicappers rate the district as an R+2.
Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA). Pennsylvania is a perennial battleground that has become more friendly to Republican candidates in the Trump era, with many formerly Democratic voters who are culturally conservative switching their party registration. That transformation had little impact on northeastern Pennsylvania’s 8th District, which emerged from redistricting slightly less hospitable to the GOP. But the seat is, nonetheless, a majority-Republican district and one that would have voted for Trump over Biden by nearly 3 points had it existed in its current form in 2020. Rated R+8 by the prognosticators, that might be too much for Cartwright to handle if the red wave many are predicting materializes.
Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME). Golden ousted an incumbent Republican in 2018 in a conservative district Trump won by 10 points two years earlier. The likable Marine veteran and Democratic leader in the state legislature won western Maine’s 2nd District by vowing to oppose House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on key issues, like gun rights, and taking his party to task on other politically charged cultural issues. Whether his constituents in a district Trump won in 2020 by more than 6 points believe Golden delivered on those promises could determine his ability to survive a rematch against Republican nominee Bruce Poliquin. The handicappers rate this seat R+10.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). Kaptur is a victim of redistricting, plain and simple. For years she represented the solidly Democratic 9th District, adjacent to Toledo. But after Ohio lost a seat in redistricting, the Republicans who run the state capital drew Kaptur into a newly configured 9th District that is more rural, expansive, and designed to elect Republicans. Trump would have won this seat by nearly 3 points, and the handicappers rate it R+6.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI). Kildee’s Flint-area 8th District did not change too much in redistricting. While the congressman’s old 5th District was rated D+1, the new 8th District is rated R+1. But a swing district is an uncomfortable place for an incumbent to be when an electoral wave threatening to sweep your party from power in Congress is in the offing. Kildee is likable and attentive and carries a name well known in his part of Michigan. He succeeded his uncle, Dale Kildee, in Congress and, before that, spent years as a local elected official. Republicans look at Biden’s job approval cratering at 40%, or less, and see possibilities even in a seat the president would have carried by 2.1 points.
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA). Luria was among the Democrats’ prized recruits and celebrated winners in 2018, a Democratic wave year that saw Republicans lose 40 House seats and, with it, their grip on the gavel. The Navy veteran represents Virginia’s 2nd District and has taken a huge interest in foreign policy matters. A centrist, Luria has battled with the more liberal members of the House Democratic caucus. But the congresswoman also has been a reliable vote for Pelosi and key Democratic priorities. Republicans are convinced that is enough to sink her in the newly configured 2nd District, rated R+6 by the prognosticators, much tougher territory than the R+2 swing seat she was elected to nearly four years ago. Biden would have carried this district by 1.7 points in 2020.
Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ). If Malinowski loses, the blame might belong with redistricting — even more than Biden’s poor job approval ratings. Redistricting transformed the congressman’s western New Jersey 3rd District from a D+4 seat to an R+3. Biden would have won the district by nearly 4 points, giving Malinowski some cushion, theoretically. But in a wave election, the party riding the wave tends to scoop up swing seats such as this one.
Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ). O’Halleran, who was a Republican when he was a member of the Arizona legislature, had switched parties by the time he ran for Congress in 2016 and captured the vast 1st District, which has a history of changing parties. It might be due for a party switch again post-redistricting, with the seat now covering much of the same territory numbered the 2nd District. Not only is the political atmosphere working against the Democrats in this newly configured seat that Biden would have lost to Trump by nearly 8 points, the rating of the district itself, R+15 compared to the previous R+6 rating, suggests Democratic resistance is futile.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI). Slotkin was among the Democrats’ celebrated wins in 2018. The centrist Democrat captured the suburban Detroit 8th District on the strength of dissatisfaction with Trump prevalent in similar seats throughout the country. Slotkin then won reelection two years later. But the congresswoman’s bipartisan national security background — Slotkin worked for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama — and her willingness to criticize her own party’s more extreme tendencies might not be enough to save her in 2022. That’s despite trading in her R+6 seat for an R+4 seat in redistricting. Biden would have won the new 7th District by slightly less than 1 point in 2020. That’s hardly enough wiggle room for Slotkin to survive if voters rebuke the president the way they rebuked his predecessor when she was first elected nearly four years ago.
Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA). Wild’s task in eastern Pennsylvania’s 7th District is to overcome a seat made more difficult by redistricting and Biden’s political struggles. The newly configured 7th District is rated an R+4; the old seat was considered an even toss-up. Biden in 2020 would have won this seat by a mere 0.6 points, an even smaller margin than his 1.17-point advantage over Trump statewide. Although Democrats are optimistic about their prospects in the gubernatorial and Senate contests, Republicans believe the broader political winds make Wild’s district a prime pick-up opportunity.
To be perfectly clear, my real advice is not to get too involved in national politics at all. Where we can make out biggest impact is at the city, county, and state level. But I know there are those who love to focus on DC elections, so this list is relevant. Just remember, the people who get voted in locally have a far greater direct impact on your life than the people we send to DC.