After her victory in yesterday’s Republican primary with Donald Trump’s last-minute endorsement, Leora Levy will surely make the case for a return to successful Trump policies.
She will have a strong hand. The contrast couldn’t be more dramatic between the prosperous years of the prior administration and today’s disasters – high inflation fueled by Biden’s massive and unnecessary $1.9 trillion sixth round of Covid assistance, an embarrassing cut-and-run surrender in Afghanistan, an ongoing huge wave of illegal immigration across the southern border, etc.
Her opponent, Dick Blumenthal, will be hard pressed to defend the indefensible. Moreover, he begins the race against Levy with polling approval below 50%, always a dangerously vulnerable position for an incumbent.
The left-leaning Connecticut media has attacked Levy for calling Trump “vulgar, ill-mannered…” in a 2016 oped, and, then, accepting his endorsement in 2022. The media and Democrats have accused her of flip-flopping. Well, it should not be news to those on the left that many Trump supporters cringe at his boorish behavior but still strongly support him for his policies. If Levy is smart, she will focus on policy.
Perhaps the greatest positive in Levy’s victory is that she will present Connecticut voters a real choice. Too often in the past, Connecticut Republicans have shied away from GOP issues and positions for fear that they will offend Democrats and progressives. The calculus has been that, if there are more donkeys than elephants – Democrats far outnumber Republicans, then offending the donkeys is a mathematically losing proposition. Somehow, this thinking has prevailed despite the obvious reality that the donkeys are never going to vote for the elephants anyway, no matter how much the elephants seek to placate the donkeys.
The placation strategy has several weaknesses. First and foremost, by avoiding positions that might motivate some people to vote against you, inevitably, you eliminate reasons that other people would vote for you. Relying heavily on this placation strategy, “moderate” Republicans lose potential voters on top of the Democrat voters who will never vote for them anyway.
The real challenge in deep blue Connecticut lies in the middle ground. In Connecticut, there are more unaffiliated voters, or independents, even than Democrats. Arguably, they reflect the Democrats’ registration advantage, namely more lean left than lean right.
Obviously, a GOP candidate must convert many left-leaners in order to win. Not only must a GOP candidate win the middle itself, but he/she must win by a margin big enough to offset the Democrats registration advantage.
This point is critical, so it merits an illustration. Let’s assume that there are 7 independent, 5 Democrat and 3 Republican voters. If a GOP candidate wins the middle 4 to 3, he/she still loses because her/his total vote is 7 (4 from the middle plus 3 GOP voters) vs. 8 for the Democrat (3 from the middle plus 5 Democrats) .
Winning big in the middle is a major challenge. It requires three things: message, money and motivation. The GOP message must be well-chosen and compelling, but not strident. Trump economic and trade policies attracted increased working class and minority support. Money must be available to drive home the message.
Finally, the message must be sufficient to motivate two different, if not opposing, audiences: (1) it must convert and motivate a lot of left-leaners in the middle ultimately to vote Republican (Trump succeeded at this), and (2) it must motivate a lot of GOP volunteers to join the army required to carry out an effective “ground game,” namely make phone calls, stuff envelopes, walk neighborhoods ringing doorbells of potential voters, etc.
Recruiting and motivating volunteers comes first, because the ground game must begin immediately, while voters only vote on the last day of the contest. Certainly, Levy knows that, given her last minute surge based on Trump’s 11th-hour endorsement.
If Levy is smart, she will meet immediately with her primary opponents. They have volunteer forces already up and running. They are the best bets to immediately bolster Levy’s own forces.
As a Republican National Committee member and a prodigious fund-raiser for GOP candidates over the years, Levy should be able to raise money.
No Republican has won an election for federal office in Connecticut since 2006, so Levy faces a daunting challenge. However, solid Trump-era policies offer a powerful message compared to Biden’s disastrous policies. She has access to money. Republicans are motivated this cycle, so she should be able to build an army of volunteers. Finally, while incumbency is a tremendous advantage, Dick Blumenthal is a particularly weak incumbent.
Don’t count out Leora Levy.
Red Jahncke is a nationally recognized columnist, who writes about politics and policy. His columns appear in numerous national publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, USA Today, The Hill, Issues & Insights and National Review as well as many Connecticut newspapers.