INDEPENDENT STREAK — Ohio has become so heavily Republican in recent years that Joe Biden all but ceded the state to Donald Trump, who carried it by about 8 percentage points in 2020.
Yet in this year’s U.S. Senate contest, a series of polls — including a new Marist Poll out this week — suggest the race between Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance could be close.
If it ends up that way, it’ll be a departure from the state’s recent voting patterns. Part of it is that Vance is lagging with independents, narrowly trailing Ryan among them, according to Marist. And Ohio is far from alone. With the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, falling gas prices and the nomination of a raft of hard-line Republicans in the primaries, independent voters have been giving Democrats better marks and leaning toward them nationally in recent polls.
Last month, voters in Alaska, a reliably red state but with a famously independent streak and a new, ranked-choice voting system, sent a Democrat to Congress for the first time in nearly half a century. In Minnesota, which Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by fewer than 45,000 votes in 2016, Gov. Tim Walz was once expected to have a competitive race on his hands. But he is now leading his Republican challenger, Scott Jensen, by such a comfortablemargin that some in-state observers have been asking if it’s already over. One recent poll had Walz up with independents by 8 percentage points.
In part, the Democrats’ improving prospects is a function of what Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has referred to as “candidate quality.” Some Trumpian Republicans elevated by the former president in Republican primaries are widely viewed as less electable in the fall.
In Ohio, for example, Ryan is simply a better statewide candidate — and Vance is more problematic — than many people expected.
“Everything’s so close [in competitive states],” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, “that if you just mix in candidate quality to the fundamentals, you can have some atypical results.”
It’s also possible current polls are overstating Democrats’ advantages in some states — and that races they appear to be competitive in today, like in Ohio, will not be after a few weeks of heavy advertising. That’s certainly the Republican read of it. Jim McLaughlin, a veteran Republican pollster, said pollsters generally this year are “still making the mistake out there [of] under-sampling Republicans.” The GOP is still widely expected to take the House in November, and the Senate is up for grabs.
But the movement among independent voters is a real problem for the GOP. A New York Times/Siena College poll this month found independents with significantly improving — though still negative — views on Biden and the overall direction of the country. In a recent Wall Street Journal poll, independents narrowly favor Democrats in the November congressional elections over Republicans, a reversal from earlier this year.
The election is still weeks away, with time for the campaign to fall back into more familiar, partisan patterns. That’s one possibility, said Paul Maslin, a longtime Democratic pollster.
But there’s another possibility, too. In an environment where the overwhelming majority of voters are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States, everyone is upset about something. And unlike in a traditional midterm election, they may be willing to spread their dissatisfaction around — not just punishing the party in power.
“There are plenty of independents,” Maslin said, “who are willing to vote against somebody of either party depending on the situation.”
— National security risk review of material Trump kept at Mar-a-Lago resumes after appeals court ruling: Intelligence officials have resumed their national security risk review of top-secret documents that were seized at Trump’s Florida estate, according to a spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The resumption, which has not been previously reported, comes after a federal appeals court delivered the Justice Department a decisive win, unanimously blocking elements of a lower-court ruling that forced federal prosecutors to seek a pause in the highly anticipated intelligence review.
— Charges unlikely against Gaetz in federal sex-trafficking probe: The federal investigation into Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz’s alleged sexual encounters with teenage girls is winding down and no charges are expected to be filed against the firebrand Republican congressman, a person familiar with the probe said today. Federal prosecutors and the FBI began investigating Gaetz in late 2020 during the Trump administration over potential sex trafficking crimes related to allegations he’d paid women for sex and traveled overseas on at least one occasion to parties attended by teenagers who were not yet 18.
— Judge dismisses Arizona GOP chair lawsuit to block Jan. 6 select committee subpoena: A federal judge has cleared the way for the Jan. 6 select committee to access the phone records of Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward, dismissing Ward’s lawsuit to block a subpoena issued by the panel in January. In an 18-page ruling issued late Thursday, Arizona-based U.S.District Court Judge Diane Humetewa said the committee has a legitimate reason to obtain Ward’s call logs during the weeks between Election Day 2020 and the end of Trump’s term in office, a period in which Ward help organize a set of pro-Trump electors who claimed to be Arizona’s legitimate slate, even though Biden had won the state.
— Treasury Department helps expand internet access to Iranian people amid violent government crackdown: The Department of Treasury announced today it was updating guidance to expand internet service to Iranians, most of whom have been cut off from the internet by their own government amid its violent crackdown on peaceful protests. The Iran government on Wednesday cut off global internet access for most of its 80 million citizens, preventing Iranians from sharing footage of the country’s brutal response to peaceful protests.
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN — In July 1992, a 15-year-old schoolgirl rang the doorbell at her local branch of the Youth Front, a far-right student movement in Rome, and asked to be let in, writes Hannah Roberts.
The all-male group of radicals inside met her with bemusement, as she put forward her application to sign up to their cause. But, gradually, the girl earned their acceptance, taking on one leadership role after another, in her rise through the ranks.
Thirty years later, Giorgia Meloni is on course to become Italy’s first female prime minister, at the head of a right-wing coalition that polls suggest will win power in Sunday’s election.
Her rise is the story of a country choosing an outsider, after the collapse of the government run by Mario Draghi, the godfather of Europe’s economic establishment.
Learn more about Meloni and the end of Draghi’s centrist coalition here.
MATCH POINT — As men’s tennis great Roger Federer plays his final match today, Jake Nevins writes in New York Magazine about why his game — and his place in the sport even amongst other historically great players — is unique. The art of his play around the court and the apparent effortlessness are unmatched. We’ll always have the highlights.
OPINION: INSIDE BASEBALL — Michael Schaffer asks in POLITICO Magazine: Did Nina Totenberg know a secret that could have changed history?
It’s a question at the heart of Totenberg’s new book “Dinners with Ruth,” which chronicles her long friendship with the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Its implications — for women’s rights, the Constitution, the future of the republic — are more important than the by now familiar debate over whether a National Public Radio reporter’s controversial ties to a powerful jurist she covered violated journalism-school best practices.
It was 2020, an election was looming, and RBG was dying. During lockdown, we learn in the book, Totenberg’s home was the one place Ginsberg went other than her own apartment. Their weekly Saturday suppers made Totenberg one of the few Americans to lay eyes on the justice during the months of isolation. By July, Ginsburg could not climb the six steps into the house without a bodyguard holding her around the waist. At her apartment, she fell asleep midmeal, a fork still in her hand. She wore clothes meant to disguise how much weight she’d lost. Her gloves — which had become a fashion statement — were actually there to cover the IV wounds on her hands.
Totenberg, one of the most famous chroniclers of the Supreme Court, kept this under her hat. Should she have said something? Explained the dire situation? Schaffer’s review ponders these questions while also investigating where Washington chumminess leads.
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