Tuesday’s Primaries Belong to the Women

Tuesday’s Primaries Belong to the Women
Paulette Jordan gets the Democratic nod for governor in Idaho. Photographer: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Four more states held primary elections Tuesday. The patterns we’ve seen so far are mostly holding: Democratic voters seem eager to vote for women; the flood of candidates has turned out to be less of a problem than I thought it might be; and while many liberal candidates are winning, for the most part we’re not seeing any kind of massive swing to the far left.

On the first point, a couple of surprises came in late Tuesday night. In Idaho, Paulette Jordan won the Democratic gubernatorial primary and will attempt (against the odds in Republican Idaho) to become the first American Indian governor. Meanwhile, in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, Kara Eastman appears to have narrowly defeated former member of the House Brad Ashford. Ashford was the more moderate of the two, and presumably his experience and name recognition would have helped, but he came up short. In both of these cases, women who were also more liberal won, although the women who were nominated in Pennsylvania were more of a mixed group.

That pattern is probably more pronounced in down-ballot races where voters have less information. For what it’s worth, women did very well in Democratic state legislative primaries on Tuesday. In Pennsylvania, two women defeated male incumbent state legislators, and another did so in Oregon.

In state legislative races with no Democratic incumbent on the ballot and in which the top two finishers were a man and a woman, Democratic women in Pennsylvania beat men in two state Senate seats and six of nine state House seats, and were leading with the final result unclear in three other races. In Idaho, women beat men in those seats twice, and a woman had a lead in a third seat. And in Oregon, women and men split the two state Senate races; in the House, women beat men in three such contests and a woman was narrowly losing a fourth one. That’s a whopping 14-to-4 margin, with leads in three of the four uncalled races. A caveat: I’m just looking at the New York Times results, which only list the top two candidates, so there may be races where women finished behind two men or men finished behind two women. And I didn’t break down the results by how competitive the seats might be, so this only hints at how many of these women will be winning in November. But overall? It does seem that Democratic voters (but not Republicans) are seeking out women.

On the question of party influence despite the complexities of very large candidate fields, the test case on Tuesday was Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, where one very conservative Democrat had a chance to be nominated if the rest of the vote was split. Instead, mainstream liberal Susan Wild defeated conservative John Morganelli and Bernie Sanders-backed candidate Greg Edwards. It’s hard to draw direct lines between party network actions and primary outcomes, but so far there haven’t been freakish candidates selected in primaries this year, at least in the contests covered by the national news media. That’s not to say that Democrats have always picked the most electable candidates; Jordan and Eastman (see above) probably fail that test. But there was a possibility that large candidate fields would produce goofy results, and that’s not happening.

Nor is the party lurching to the ideological fringe. That’s not to say that it’s a moderate party; the typical Democratic House nominee this year has been very much a mainstream liberal, and if they do win a House majority, I suspect there will be fewer conservatives, and even moderates, than there were in 2007, when they last took over. But beyond that, it’s the same mix they’ve had for some time, with Sanders Democrats getting regularly rebuffed. There’s not much sign of insurgent Democrats successfully running against Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, the way that insurgent Republicans regularly run against their own national leaders.

1. Seth Masket with a very interesting item on how Colorado’s Legislature has been surprisingly productive despite divided party government, and how term limits threaten it.

2. Dana El Kurd at the Monkey Cage on public opinion in the Middle East.

3. Leanne ten Brinke and Dacher Keltner at Mischiefs of Faction on aggression and politicians.

4. Dan Drezner argues that President Donald Trump’s goal in foreign policy is just to win news cycles.

5. And my Opinion colleague Danielle DiMartino Booth on the service-sector job market.

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