By Harry Enten, CNN
Former President Donald Trump left office over a year and a half ago, and yet he is still dominating the news. Whether it be the FBI searching Mar-a-Lago or the Republican primaries in August, you might forget that President Joe Biden is the one who currently lives at the White House.
Speaking of those primaries, another Republican member of Congress who voted to impeach Trump went down to defeat this week when Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler conceded.
We’ll begin our roundup of the week in electoral politics with a different Republican who voted to impeach Trump and has been at the forefront of anti-Trump Republicans in Congress: Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney.
Cheney looks on the precipice of big loss
I’m going to cut right to the chase and say that it will take a small miracle for Cheney for her to win Tuesday’s Republican primary for Wyoming’s lone House seat. Statistically improbable things happen, but Cheney has both the polling and history against her.
The truth is that Cheney has been an underdog for re-election since she voted to impeach Trump at the beginning of 2021. Trump is the dominant figure in the GOP and voting to impeach Trump has turned out to be a sin in the voters’ minds that many have not forgiven.
For Cheney specifically, you can see this is in the CES polls of Wyoming voters taken in late 2020 and then late 2021. Cheney’s disapproval rating in this deeply Republican state went from 26% before her vote to impeach to 72% afterward.
Cheney’s high unpopularity led to a rush of primary challengers. The one who emerged from the pack and garnered Trump’s endorsement, attorney and former Republican National Committeewoman Harriet Hageman, looks to be a heavy favorite on Tuesday.
Based on my reading of all the data out there, Hageman is most likely going to win by somewhere north of 20 points. The betting markets put Hageman at more than a 95% favorite to be Wyoming’s next House member.
You can see the momentum behind Hageman in Wyoming in other data points as well. Although Cheney has raised over $9 million out-of-state to Hageman’s over $1 million, Hageman has more than doubled Cheney’s fundraising in-state (nearly $800,000 to more than $300,000).
It could be argued that Cheney might have stood a better chance if she hadn’t been consistently defiant of Trump. She’s the vice chair of the January 6 House select committee, after all. I’m not sure, though, it would have mattered what Cheney did after her vote to impeach Trump.
There were 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. Four announced their retirements before having to face the voters again. Three have been defeated in primaries and two managed to make it to the general election.
A look at the two who made it to the general election (California Rep. David Valadao and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse) doesn’t provide a lot of encouragement for Cheney. Both got about 25% of the vote and advanced to the general election in primary systems where all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, ran on the same ballot with the top two vote-getters advancing to November — which means there were a lot of non-Republicans voting.
Just one candidate will advance to the general election in Cheney’s primary, and 25% of the vote is likely not going to be enough to win.
And unlike California and Washington, Wyoming’s primary is partisan. You have to choose a Republican ballot to vote in the primary. Cheney has tried to encourage non-Republicans to pick up that ballot, but over two-thirds of Wyoming’s registered voters are Republicans. The effort is almost certainly a futile one.
The fact is about two-thirds of Republicans nationwide have said that the party should not be at all or not too accepting of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, according to the Pew Research Center.
Unless something dramatic happens in the next few days, that number, more than anything else, will tell the story of why Cheney’s days in Congress are numbered.
Democratic turnaround in special elections
You might have noticed that I mixed polling and real world data in our last section. That’s because I’m always looking for examples of what we’re seeing in the polling playing out when voters are casting ballots.
When it comes to whether Democrats have been picking up momentum nationally, recent special elections seem to be confirming what the polling is showing. Both show Democrats in better shape now than they have been in a long while.
Last week, Republican Brad Finstad defeated Democrat Jeff Ettinger in Minnesota’s 1st district special House election. His win, however, was by a mere 4 points. Trump had won in the district by 10 points. This was, in other words, a 6-point overperformance for Democrats compared to the 2020 baseline.
Interestingly, this was the second special election since late June where Democrats had encouraging news. The Democratic candidate outperformed the 2020 baseline by 6 points in the Nebraska 1st district special election on June 28.
What makes these elections unusual is that Democrats had, on the whole, been underperforming the 2020 baseline in special elections this Congress. Instead of Democrats doing 6 points better than the 2020 baseline, as they have in the last two special elections, they had been doing about 6 points worse on average in previous special elections.
It would be easy to dismiss these data points as outliers, but Democrats getting a sudden boost in support lines up with polling data and events.
Democrats trailed on the national generic congressional ballot by an average of 3 points a few months ago. That ballot test is now tied.
This comes as the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which polling shows was an unpopular decision. We saw that in Kansas, where voters in that deep red state overwhelmingly decided to uphold the right to an abortion.
Additionally, the unpopular Trump has been dominating the headlines because of the January 6 House select committee hearings and now the search of Mar-a-Lago.
Whether Democrats are able to keep up this momentum in the weeks and months to come is unknown at this point. We will get a few tests this month, though, with Alaska’s lone House district having a special election on Tuesday and two congressional districts in New York holding special elections a week from Tuesday.
For your brief encounters: WNBA playoffs begin this week
Ratings for the WNBA playoffs hit their highest level since 2017 last year with an average of more than 500,000 fans tuning in. We’ll see if that can be topped this season.
Like with their male counterparts, the highest-rated professional final game is actually outdrawn by the college final game. About 5 million people tuned in to watch the NCAA women’s basketball final earlier this year.
Facebook is no longer cool: Just 32% of American teens say they ever use Facebook, according to a new Pew study. From 2014 to 2015, 71% said they did. The sites and apps with over 50% usage among teens are YouTube (95%), TikTok (67%), Instagram (62%) and Snapchat (59%).
Americans aren’t cool with e-cigarettes: A new Gallup poll finds that 61% of Americans want the laws and regulations covering e-cigarettes to be more strict compared to 7% who say less strict and 30% who believe they should be kept as they are now. A majority of Democrats, independents and Republicans think they should be more strict.
More go hungry worldwide: Gallup now projects that about 10% of people were undernourished in 2021. If that projection ends up being reality, it would be the highest undernourished rate worldwide in over a decade.
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