November 24, 2021

As Stacey Abrams goes so will the Democrats in 2022.

Abrams ran for Georgia governor in 2018, lost by 54,723 votes in a 1,976,685 turnout, and then founded the Fair Fight Action voting rights organization to combat what she claimed was “Republican voter suppression.”

So successful was she in generating a huge spike in African-American voter turnout in the Atlanta area that Donald Trump lost GA to Biden-Harris. His 2016 win of 266,341 votes in a 3,966,867 turnout was transformed into a 2020 loss of 11,779 in a turnout of 4,935,487.

Those efforts were also rewarded in the Jan. 5 runoff. Democratic senatorial candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won, respectively, by 55,232 and 103,472 votes, making Chuck Schumer (D-NY) the U.S. Senate majority leader. Abrams was on Joe Biden’s short-list for vice president, but was passed over for attorney general and Democratic national chair after inauguration because it was presumed she was running for governor again in 2022.

Thus far she is not. Although the election is 11-and-a-half months away, she may not, taking a pass until 2026. And that concerns national and GA Democrats, who need high-profile candidates, particularly women and non-Whites to be on the ballot and generate a high turnout among the Biden/progressive/minority base. There are a bunch of woke Democrats seeking statewide or senatorial office in NY, PA, OH, MI, WI, TX, FL, OR, NC, KY and MD in 2022, and the U.S. House “Squad” will add acolytes in KY, FL, NC, NY, PA and TX. But the dubious presumption is that a leftist agenda will motivate the base more than motivate the non-base.

There is no doubt that the Nov. 2 Virginia governor result has had a chilling effect on Democratic recruitment, and on Abram’s intentions. Like the 2018 anti-Trump wave, when Republicans had headwinds, 2022 looms to be an anti-Biden wave, when Republicans have the tailwinds. Abrams’ notoriety and relevancy is based on the fact that she almost became the first Black woman governor of the once-Republican Georgia. Next year was supposed to be her date with history. But to run and lose would destroy her narrative and her relevance.  A cardinal rule of politics is that you can lose creditably and get a second chance, but another rule is that you cannot lose, even well, when you get that second shot.

But a potential hostile environment is not inhibiting other Leftists. Outgoing NYC mayor Bill de Blasio is running for governor in NY, Beto O’Rourke, who pledged to confiscate everybody’s assault weapons when he ran for president in 2020, is running for governor of TX, and CA congresswoman Karen Bass is running for LA mayor. Portland mayor Ted Wheeler, whose city experienced months of “peaceful demonstrations” in 2020, is running for OR governor. Nikki Fried, the FL agriculture/consumer commissioner and a critic of governor Ron DeSantis’s COVID-19 policies, is running for governor. And PA lieutenant governor John Fetterman is running for senator.  A Bernie Sanders-endorsed African-American is running for KY senator, and a BLM champion woman is running for an open congressional seat in the racially-polarized Louisville. An African-American woman will win the St. Petersburg seat in FL. And 30-year Manhattan congresswoman Carolyn Maloney will lose her primary.

In urbanized cities and states, barely 35 percent vote in primaries, and most in Democratic primaries. A left vote equivalent to 15 to 20 percent of the registered voters is enough to win.
In Virginia, the 2020 Republican/Trump based turned out, while the 2020 Democratic/Biden base shriveled by about 800,000. Glenn Youngkin (R) defeated Terry McAuliffe (D) by 1,663,596-1,600,116 votes. In the 2013 election McAuliffe won by 76,425; in 2017 the Democrat won by 230,444. In 2016 Clinton beat Trump by 211,830, and in 2020 Biden won by 451,129.

Surging population growth in the liberal Washington, D.C. suburbs (Fairfax County) coupled with the state’s one-fifth Black demographic turned VA Democratic in the early 2000s. McAuliffe’s failed strategy was to rely on the base, not expand it. After all, it was a majority. But fluidity is inherent in politics. Today’s concern/challenge/crisis may not be tomorrow’s. Youngkin managed to peel away suburban voters by stressing critical race theory and parental control of their children’s education. Fairfax went for Biden by 251,000 votes; it went for McAuliffe by 125,000.

One lesson – and one contradiction – from VA is that nationalizing an election is counter-productive. McAuliffe brought in a bunch of outsiders, like Biden, Harris, Obama and Abrams, and made the election a referendum on Biden-Harris, tying the Republicans to Trump. That failed miserably. Youngkin localized it, and made the campaign about local issues. That moved voters. “All politics is local.”

2022 will be the obverse. Republicans will nationalize, making a pro-Republican vote an anti-Biden vote, and Democrats will try to localize it, touting an Infrastructure and Build-Back-Better vote and helpful to the local economy.

Another lesson is that retreads are unwelcome. McAuliffe was governor 2014-18, and left office popular. But voters don’t want to revisit the past.

Political advancement requires risk-taking, especially a bid for governor or senator. One needs ambition, motive, access to money and above all a non-hostile political environment and an opportunity As shown in Virginia, a shift of 3 to 5 percent in the base, either by turning out heavier or lighter, creates the headwinds or tailwinds  Motive means opportunity. Republicans are on track to win 25 to 40 House seats, but need to flip the 50-50 Senate to totally abort the Biden-Harris agenda.  That means pickups in GA, AZ, NV and holds in OH, PA, NC, WI, FL, MO, KY and IA. Here’s a snapshot of interesting races:

IOWA: Trump won the state by 147,119 votes in 2016 and 138,611 in 2020.  Incumbent Chuck Grassley (R) was elected senator in 1980, will chair the Judiciary Committee if Republicans take control, and will be 89-years old in 2022. Polling shows him at 55 percent, which is fabulous for any incumbent. Safe Republican.

FLORIDA: Trump won by 22,911 in 2016 and by 371,186 in 2020. This is a clear Republican trend. DeSantis is clearly running for president in 2024. COVID is still evolving and mutating, so the governor’s non-masking, open-schools and businesses, and elderly-first will be judged at a later date – in Nov. 2022. DeSantis he needs to win by 400,000 in 2022, which would be a validation of his governance. Challenging the woke Fried in the Democratic primary is Republican ex-governor (2007-10) Charlie Crist, a Democratic congressman 2017-present. Polling puts DeSantis up around 49-42 in aggregate polling, and up 47-29 in the most recent poll.

In Rubio’s contest there are 12 Democrats running, the top-two being Orlando congresswoman Val Demings, the city’s ex-police chief who was on Biden’s VP list, and woke ex-congressman Alan Grayson. Demings is age 64 so she has to make an up-or-out move now. Rubio is at or near 52 percent in recent polls.  Demings is presumed to be running in 2022 to position herself to run against senator Rick Scott (R) in 2024.  A 400,000-vote loss will not bode well.

As for 2024, both Rubio and Scott, a former governor, have presidential ambitions. DeSantis freezes them out.

GEORGIA: The state is a spectacular Republican recruitment success, with an instant contender and the pathway to a senate majority. Herschel Walker was an NFL player, a UG Bulldogs superstar, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner. He is also a conservative endorsed by Trump in a state with a 32 percent Black population. Polls show him with 74 percent in the Republican primary and losing to Warnock 48-46.

TEXAS: It may not be quite the Alamo, but the state is under siege. An estimated 400,000 migrants were intercepted at the southern border in October, with another 100,000 projected getaways. The political backlash is anti Biden-Harris and anti-Democrat, especially among Mexican-Americans along the border.

Trump won the state by 807,779 in 2016 and 621,171 in 2020. Governor Greg Abbott  (R), who was re-elected in 2018 by 600,000 votes, faces O’Rourke, who lost for senator in 2018 by 250,000 votes. There is a demographic realignment underway, with non-urban Mexican-Americans embracing the party of Trump and Abbott’s Lone Star project of sending Texas Rangers to the border will hit a flash point soon. Biden is trying to turn TX blue, but there is huge pushback. Abbott will bury O’Rourke by 800,000 votes and be a 2024 contender.

NEVADA: Trump lost by 27,202 in 2016 and by 33,600 in 2020, due to a Hispanic trend in a state that is 28 percent Hispanic. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto won by 49 percent in 2016, and is opposed by ex-attorney general Adam Laxalt.

ARIZONA: Mark Kelly (D) won the senate seat in 2020, with 51.2 percent and faces attorney general Mark Brnovich (R) in a state where border crossings are a major issue. Republicans could win both seats.

NEW YORK: Trump got under 40 percent both times, but COVID-19 mandates and Andrew Cuomo’s antics have soured New Yorkers. New governor Kathy Hochul (D) must beat de Blasio, and will face Long Island congressman Lee Zeldin (R).

This will be 2022’s biggest upset