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Doug Schoen: Tuesday’s primaries had 2 big winners — here’s what that means for November

There are two key takeaways from the outcome of Tuesday’s primary elections in Kansas, Michigan, and Missouri.

Ultimately, the results underscore the delicate balance between moderates and progressives in the Democratic party and the potential peril that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden faces if the progressives are able to push him too far to the left.

First, Tuesday’s primary election results were a win for the Republican party. In several races, establishment-backed pro-Trump candidates, who are favored to win the general election, pulled out victories over their politically-risky challengers, whose nominations may have cost the Republican party the seat in November.

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Most notably, in the Republican Senate primary in Kansas, Kris Kobach, the former Kansas Secretary of State, was soundly defeated by Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., a conservative congressman and the choice of establishment leaders.

A polarizing figure, Kobach is known for his hardline stances on a range of issues. His victory would have put Republicans in peril of losing an otherwise safe Senate seat, thus risking their already precarious Senate majority.

While Trump chose to stay out of the race and didn’t lend an endorsement to either candidate, both candidates campaigned on their ties to Trump and ran ads featuring Trump—a sign of the president’s considerable influence, especially within the Republican party, even as his national polling numbers falter.

Further, on the heels of the victory of Tommy Tuberville, who received a full-throttled endorsement from Trump in the Alabama Senate primary last month, two Republican-held Senate seats that were potentially at risk should remain reliably in hands of pro-Trump Republicans—thus complicating the Democrats’ path to winning the Senate.

Similarly, the Republican establishment-backed candidate won in Kansas’ 2nd congressional district primary. Rep. Steve Watkins, R-Kan., who had been charged with voter fraud and was viewed as an incredibly vulnerable general election candidate, handedly lost to primary challenger Jake LaTurner.

To be sure, LaTurner struggled with fundraising during the primary campaign and will face a tough general election race against Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla. However, Watkins’ loss inevitably gives Republicans a leg-up to hold the seat, and we can expect the party to spend on elevating LaTurner, a young conservative serving as the Kansas State Treasurer.

Second, the results of Tuesday’s primary elections — especially when taken together with the results of several other primaries held this year — indicate the strength of the progressive movement within the Democratic party, and the weakness of Democratic centrism.

Moreover, it is clear that the multitude of victories by left-leaning Democrats will put more pressure on Joe Biden to adopt more progressive policies on reducing if not defunding the police, climate change and raising taxes.

Indeed, we can expect that this string of progressive victories will force Biden to move out of the center and make him more vulnerable to attacks by the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign has already been pushing the message that the Democrats are a far-left party, and Tuesday’s results in Missouri and Michigan, as well as the results of the June primaries in New York, bear that out and make Trump’s reelection case more credible.

In Missouri’s 1st congressional district, Cori Bush, a progressive insurgent who has been active in local politics for merely six years, unseated Rep. William Clay, D-Mo., a 20-year incumbent, winning by over 3-points.

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Ultimately, Bush’s victory marks yet another victory for progressive candidates, who have run on a message of radical ideological change and racial justice, and another sore loss for centrist-Democratic incumbents.

Further, Bush’s upset victory will undoubtedly traumatize and unnerve mainstream Democrats, who have now experienced several instances of underfunded left-leaning insurgent candidates defeating establishment-backed candidates and even longtime centrist-Democratic incumbents.

Following Jamaal Bowman’s victory over incumbent House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel and Mondaire Jones’ victory in an open seat in New York’s Hudson Valley in June, it is clear that the progressive movement is on the march, and Clay’s loss represents a stunning upset of a 50-year father-son dynasty.

Indeed, this insurgent progressive path was in many ways charted by Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., in 2018, when she unseated longtime Democratic congressman Joe Crowley, as well as other members of the “The Squad” of progressive freshman representatives.

One of the members of “The Squad,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., also won her congressional primary on Tuesday in Michigan’s 13th district by a 2-to-1 margin, indicating that the progressive movement within the Democratic party has only gotten stronger.

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Thus, it is clear that Tuesday’s primary results — especially when taken together with the results of other recent primaries — are a positive sign for the Republican party and a worrying sign for Democrats.

Consequently, there are now several key questions, with less than 100 days until the presidential election:

Can Joe Biden stay above the fray and avoid being pulled hard to the left by the Sanders progressive wing of party?

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And can President Trump take advantage of the opportunity that the Bush and Tlaib primary victories present in his uphill reelection campaign?

Time will tell…

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