Democrats’ blue-state headaches

October 16, 2022


By Josh Kraushaar

House Republicansare increasingly confident they can make unexpected inroads into some solidly Democratic congressional districts, including in some of the bluest states in the country: California, Connecticut, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island.

Why it matters: Following the money is as important as following the (limited) congressional public polling. Republicans are now pouring over $25 million into some of the bluest political battlegrounds on the map — a fresh sign that the political winds favor the GOP down the home stretch.

  • The Congressional Leadership Fund, aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, has spent or reserved over $23 million on ads in eight Democratic-held districts that President Biden carried by double-digit margins. (Ariz.-4, Calif.-13, Calif.-47, Calif.-49, Conn.-5, N.Y.-17, Ore.-4, R.I.-2.)
  • The NRCC is also spending $2.2 million on coordinated or hybrid ad buys with their nominees in five more Democratic-held districts that Biden carried by double-digits. (Calif.-26, Ga.-2, N.M.-3, N.Y.-4, Ore.-6).

Zoom in: Republicans are bullish they can win the Oregon governor’s race for the first time since 1982, boosted by an intra-Democratic feud. Democrats are playing furious defense in three Biden-friendly House battlegrounds in Oregon as well.

  • In a Rhode Island district that Biden carried by 14 points, a new Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll found Republican Allan Fung leading by eight points over Democrat Seth Magaziner.
  • In a Connecticut district Biden won by 11, Republicans are spending $2.7 million against Rep. Jahana Hayes. The seat hasn’t been seriously contested since 2012, but Republicans nominated a moderate Black state legislator, George Logan, who’s demonstrating broad bipartisan appeal.
  • Democrats are also concerned about several New York battlegrounds, even after an expectation-defying special election victory by Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.) in August. Outside GOP groups are spending money to flip four Democratic-held seats in the Hudson Valley and Long Island, while looking to protect an upstate Republican seat in Biden-friendly territory.

The intrigue: One of the New York seats in which Republicans are spending big bucks is the redrawn seat of DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney, whose suburban New York City district backed Biden by 10 points. Outside Republican groups are spending over $2 million in attack ads against Maloney to boost Republican state Assemblyman Mike Lawler.

Between the lines: One common denominator in most of these blue-state races: Crime. Murders have been on the rise in major metropolitan areas within these states and near these districts, and the GOP’s advertising has hit Democrats over bail reform, reallocating resources away from police, and an overall sense of disorder.

  • Another factor, according to one Republican official analyzing internal data, is that abortion isn’t quite as motivating of an issue — voters are more confident reproductive rights are secure in states where Republicans are in the minority.
  • In addition, none of these blue states have hotly contested Senate races driving up turnout, a dynamic that benefits Republicans. One House GOP strategist told Axios that their candidates are overperforming in these blue states, but not yet pulling away in typical swing districts where higher Democratic engagement has kept races closer.

The bottom line: The fact that Biden spent political capital in Democratic strongholds Oregon and California this week — less than a month before Election Day — speaks volumes about the national mood.