By Athan Koutsiouroumbas
September 29, 2022
In late September, ABC News/Washington Post released a national survey to little fanfare, as its findings underscore what we already know: The economy and inflation are the top priorities of likely voters this midterm election.
No other issue comes close. In fact, “education and schools” tops “abortion” by 15 points.
However, buried in the poll was an astounding finding as it relates to “competitive” congressional districts which are typically found in suburban and exurban communities.
By a 21-point margin, the survey found that suburban and exurban congressional districts favor Republican candidates.
Comparing those “competitive” districts with so-called “safe Republican” districts, the survey found that voters in the “safe Republican” districts favored Republican candidates by a 24-point margin.
In other words, “competitive” and “safe Republican” congressional seats are favoring Republican candidates by nearly the same margin.
Here in Pennsylvania, that translates to portions of the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs voting like they just returned from John Dutton’s Yellowstone Ranch. These “generic ballot” numbers are stunning.
In fact, they may be unprecedented. One would have to go back to 1994 or 2010 to find anything similar.
This suburban-exurban trend is manifesting itself in another more tangible way that is both historic and underreported.
In the Philadelphia suburbs, Democratic and Independent registered voters are changing their party to Republican in numbers not seen since these statistics were first tracked by the state government.
In the Philadelphia suburb of Bucks County, voters are changing their party affiliation to Republican at a 2:1 margin over Democrats. Change-of-party trends continue to favor Republicans in the remaining three Philadelphia suburban counties. In the City of Philadelphia, Republicans are leading party-switchers by a 10-point margin over Democrats.
The trend is more pronounced in western Pennsylvania’s suburbs. Voters are switching parties to Republican at a greater than 2:1 margin in Butler County, outside of Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, the trend is 60/40 Republican.
Democrats contend that they lead with new registrants and that the U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision blunted the change-of-party trend. As a byproduct of motor voters laws, new voter registrations are generally a lagging indicator. Since the summer, the stunting of the change-of-party trend appears to be fleeting.
With suburban and exurban voters forecasting a GOP electoral landslide unlike any other, the Pennsylvania statewide races continue to remain close. This is a function of candidates and campaigns.
For Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, polling indicates that his path to victory is not in persuading swing voters, but by getting base Republicans on his team who were given pause by a brutal, multi-million-dollar primary fight. For these base Republicans on the fence, Democratic nominee John Fetterman is a non-starter.
In the gubernatorial race, a remarkable campaign is taking shape that will test all political conventions. Despite Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro spending more money on one week of YouTube than Republican nominee Doug Mastriano raised in his last finance report, public polling has the race within striking distance for Mastriano. All told, pro-Shapiro efforts may have already spent more than $40 million while Mastriano may not spend more than $3 million for the entire general election campaign.
For races like the Pennsylvania state Senate and state House, including Congress, down-ballot campaigns remain stubbornly competitive for Republican candidates in the suburbs and exurbs despite the whopping generic ballot advantage.
Democratic candidates have convinced themselves that abortion is keeping the races competitive. However, the ABC News/Washington Post poll seems to argue quite the opposite.
These suburban and exurban races are not “in play” and are fool’s gold for Democrats. The reason is that redistricting substantially changed the composition of these districts in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. In some of these suburban and exurban districts, portions once part of a district for generations are replaced with entirely new communities. In some instances, the change is greater than 50%.
With these campaigns starting in earnest, voters are unlikely to know which down-ballot candidates are even on the ballot, let alone which candidate is the Republican. Voters are just now learning the identities of these candidates through effective methods like direct mail and social media, which take longer periods of time and more repetition to communicate a message.
Ultimately, basic blocking and tackling will yield Republican wins down-ballot in the suburbs and exurbs of Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Republican candidates are executing.
In his campaign kickoff speech for governor, Yellowstone’s John Dutton explains, “I am the opposite of progress. I am the wall that it bashes against, and I will not be the one who breaks.”
Suburban and exurban voters appear to be channeling their inner John Dutton to stop the Biden administration’s vision of progress.
Athan Koutsiouroumbas is a managing director at Long Nyquist and Associates and a former congressional chief of staff. Follow him on Twitter at @Athan_K.
#GOP #Doug Mastriano #Mehmet Oz #economy and inflation #“competitive” congressional districts #Philadelphia #Philadelphia suburbs