Axios Today Podcast: The New Senate Landscape for the Midterms – Axios | Mega Mediakw

Five states held primary elections this week in a major test of Trump’s political power. In Kansas, the victory over abortion rights cements the Democrats’ focus on abortion ahead of the midterms.

Guests: Axios’ Margaret Talev and Josh Kraushaar.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Alex Sugiura and Ben O’Brien. Music is composed by Evan Viola. you can reach us at [email protected]. You can send questions, comments, and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo at 202-918-4893.

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Niala: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday August 5th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today: An abortion rights victory changes the game for Democrats.

The new Senate landscape for November, that’s one big thing today.

NIALA: Five states held primary elections this week in a major test of former President Trump’s political power. In Kansas, the abortion rights victory cements the Democrats’ focus on abortion before the midterms. This is President Biden

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Kansas voters have sent a strong signal that this fall the American people will vote to uphold and protect the law and refuse to let politicians snatch it away. And my administration stands behind them.

NIALA: Axios Senior Politics Editor Margaret Talev and Axios Senior Political Correspondent Josh Kraushaar are here to talk about this week in Politics. Margaret, let’s start with the aftermath of that vote in Kansas. How much does this pro-choice victory give Democrats renewed confidence for November?

MARGARET TALEV: Niala, it gives you a huge renewed confidence and I’ll tell you why. This was an 18-point loss for the other side. This led to long lines of female voters in the suburbs, which are crucial in swing races. And what those voters were saying was that if there was an absolute like abortion ban, which that would have paved the way for, they would be willing to run in a primary in an interim year when turnout is usually very low, near historical points. That could have implications well beyond Kansas for key states that will decide Senate control, paving the way for the 2024 presidential election. We’re talking about Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia. And these are all places where Democrats worry about their ability to hold out. And now that gives them a clear new reason to believe that they can spread something that isn’t inflation, and get their own party excited about turnout and swayed them, and maybe some Republican voters who stand up for Democrats.

NIALA: Josh, let’s talk about Arizona because the other thing we saw this week was how many Trump-backed candidates got through in the primary.

JOSH KRAUSHAAR: Right. Arizona was the pinnacle, the epicenter of the MAGA movement, where Republicans defeated a MAGA candidate in almost every contentious primary that supported Trump. Arizona is probably home to one of the more extreme Republican electorates, but the state itself leans more towards the center. And Democrats hold both seats in the state Senate and voted for Joe Biden, clearly in 2020. So it’s going to be very, very interesting to see how these MAGA candidates do in the general election. Trump may have won the battle in the Arizona Republican primary, but the war between those candidates and the Democrats in November may end up being more revealing.

Niala: Right. So Josh, how does it fare in a place like Michigan where Rep. Peter Meijer lost? Was that a surprise?

JOSH: It wasn’t a big surprise. Trump backed his, uh, challenger John Gibbs, who narrowly won the primary. But again, Michigan is a state that has been lean democratizing in most of the recent presidential elections. So you see a Republican party that doesn’t seem to have learned any lessons from the recent general election, where moderate mainstream candidates in both parties tend to do better than people at the extremes. Michigan, like Arizona, has a number of officers statewide. The Attorney General, Secretary of State, who hails from the Trump wing of the party. Tudor Dixon, the gubernatorial candidate who may not be quite as extreme but is a pro-choice Republican, is already concerned that her stance could harm her in a general election. So yes, as in swing states, where independents and moderates and suburbanites make the difference in narrow races, there is a real concern in Republican circles that candidates who are too far right, too extreme, could cost the party winning races.

MARGARET: Niala, Tuesday night’s competition simultaneously re-empowered Trump within his own party, somehow they underscore his standing, his enduring influence on the party, but it also ups the ante for the former president, right. When the midterms come and go and Republicans lose contests they should have won because of the Trump back nominees who ousted him. And what will be the competitions in November? There will certainly be a struggle for control of the House and Senate. But they are also the prelude to the 2024 campaign, which will begin literally weeks later. And former President Trump’s standing in what is likely to be a contentious Republican primary will depend very much on how his activism ultimately contributed to the Republican balance of power.

NIALA: Okay, a short break and then we’re back to a moment with more about this week in politics.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I’m Niala Boodhoo. We chat with Axios’ Josh Kraushaar and Margaret Talev about what this week’s primary means for Republicans and Democrats ahead of the midterms. Josh, so we expected Republicans to come out on top in the midterms. Does that change this week?

JOSH: Republicans still have the edge, especially when it comes to house races. The environment is tough. President Biden’s approval rating averages under 40%. Economy, inflation, still dominant issues. But in races where Republicans have nominated candidates outside of the political mainstream, and abortion is one way Democrats can make that point, they have a chance of winning despite the unfavorable political environment for their party. The Senate races in particular are looking like real trouble for Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell approached Fox this week and even suggested that Democrats could keep their Senate majority, which is quite remarkable considering he’s been more optimistic in recent months.

MITCH MCCONNELL: I think when the smoke clears from this Senate race, we’re probably still going to have a very, very tight Senate, either with us or the Democrats.

JOSH: There are other candidates in Arizona, Blake Masters, Pennsylvania, Dr. Oz, Herschel Walker in Georgia. All those who underperformed in the polls in the Congressional election, where Republicans should be doing right now. And the appearance of abortion is a key, key, key through line in all these races.

MARGARET: History says the Democrats are ready to lose the House. And there’s nothing in Tuesday’s competition to suggest there would be such a big change. The problem really is and always has been Senate control. And after this past week, Democrats feel a lot better about where they stand.

NIALA: We are only a few months away from the general elections in November. What are you looking out for in the coming months?

MARGARET: You know, President Biden has actually had a string of victories that would be high-profile victories in normal political times, everything from the assassination of Ayman al-Zawahiri in recent days to some good economic numbers and the potential for a breakthrough with Joe Machin if Kyrsten Sinema joins, on a deal for the climate. But we haven’t seen the President really take a political hit, political credit for it. Abortion could potentially help reverse this dynamic. Democrats are looking for anything to reverse Joe Biden’s momentum and are keeping him at arm’s length in the meantime. You’ve seen all these talks over the past few days about whether you would support President Biden for a second term, and many Democrats saying no or hedging, which is worse than saying no. And what happened in Tuesday’s vote in Kansas could change a dynamic that has been almost exclusively negative so far.

NIALA: Margaret Talev Axios Editor-in-Chief for Politics. Josh Kraushaar is the senior political correspondent for Axios. Thanks, people.

MARGARET: Thank you, Niala.

JOSH: Thank you Niala.

NIALA: One last thing before we go today – we’ve collected your news of rising rents across the country.

GARRETT: My rent went up $300 in June.

AMANDA: One of the reasons I’ve lived here all my life is because it’s a really cheap and good place to live, but the area has outperformed the rest of the country in housing costs and scarcity.

NIALA: On Monday we’re speaking to Axios’ Emily Peck about the data and what’s driving this trend, so keep sending us your voice notes at (202) 918-4893. Tell us where you are and whether high rental costs are bothering you or making you reconsider where you live.

That’s it for us this week.

We are produced by Nuria Marquez Martinez and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineers are Alex Sugiura and Ben O’Brien. Alexadra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehelani Goo is the Editor-in-Chief of Axios. And special thanks to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Niala Boodhoo. Stay healthy and enjoy your weekend.

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