Nevada and Minnesota: Two very different races, but the same Democratic message

The Washington Post by Jennifer Rubin
August 16, 2022

You wouldn’t think that Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District and Minnesota’s 2nd have much in common. But in both swing districts, the Democrats’ accomplishments this summer — and Republican opposition to a host of popular measures — have provided Democratic women running for reelection with a smorgasbord of issues to win over key swing voters. They also are leaning into the abortion issue, which their opponents are struggling to play down at a time when the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has created a ferocious backlash.

Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) reels off the list of items she and other Democrats have delivered. “Over 90,000 people in Nevada will see the Affordable Care Act subsidies extended,” she told me. That amounts to as much as $4,500 for a family. The $4 billion for drought relief is critical in a district where extreme heat has reduced Lake Mead to 27 percent of capacity. Las Vegas ranks as the second-fastest-warming U.S. city, according to one climate nonprofit, with Reno in first. “This disproportionately affects our workers,” Lee says.

Just as important is what Republicans have opposed en masse: semiconductor investment, a $35 cap on insulin and anti-gouging legislation to combat high gas prices. “I think Nevada voters understand Democrats have taken action,” she says. “I think Republicans like a talking point. We have solutions.”

While voters remain anxious about inflation, Lee saysthat rather than focusing on blame, they tell candidates: “Tell us what your plans are.” She has an answer: “We are getting things done.” As of now, Republicans don’t have anything approaching an anti-inflation plan.

In Nevada, access to abortion was codified in state law. That does not mean, however, that the issue has gone away. Lee has doubled down on abortion, claiming that her GOP opponent, April Becker, wants to ban abortion nationwide. Becker calls herself pro-life but has not specifically pledged to fight for a nationwide ban. She actually has not said much at all on abortion and continues to duck the issue. (If Republicans get the majority, they will almost certainly put a nationwide ban on the floor.) Lee says she has asked for a debate but has yet to hear back.

Health care and abortion are also front and center in Rep. Angie Craig’s race in Minnesota. In her state, 62,000 families were affected by the so-called family glitch regarding premiums. An early proponent of the fix, Craig introduced White House officials to a constituent who had a child and was expecting twins. Without the fix, her family would have been paying more than 25 percent of their income for coverage. Craig “hounded” the White House, the congresswoman tells me, finally getting an executive order.

Moreover, the Affordable Care Act subsidies that were due to expire took family coverage down from $25,000 to around $8,000 to $9,000. With the Inflation Reduction Act, the subsidies have been extended for three years.

Craig can now tell voters that on her No. 1 issue — health-care costs — she delivered. While inflation remains the top issue for her voters, substantially reducing health-care costs provides needed relief. Likewise, her attitude toward fuel costs has been, “Let’s get caught trying.” She can point to the anti-gouging provision for gas and the allowance for year-round ethanol, which provides cheaper fuel.

Minnesota is overwhelmingly pro-choice. A poll in June before the Dobbs decision found that 67 percent opposed a ban; even outside the Twin Cities and near suburbs, 61 percent (75 percent of women) oppose a ban. Craig has started running ads attacking her opponent for seeking to ban abortionsAlong with gay marriage, her social media stresses the issue, arguing that she faces an “extremist” GOP that threatens rights and liberties.

Her opponent, Tyler Kistner, whom she beat in 2020, had advertised himself that year as “100 percent pro-life.” Now his website is silenton the issue. He recently claimed to support limited exceptions, but when states are passing bans that cut off access in the first trimester and his party is pushing for a nationwide ban, Craig says, “If you don’t want to codify Roe, you’re useless” when it comes to choice. She says of swing voters, “They didn’t like masks. They didn’t want to be told they had to get vaccinations. And they sure don’t want politicians … taking away freedom to choose.” She adds, “Abortion is definitely a topthree issue. My opponent is just too extreme.”

In sum, these two swing-district Democrats have a host of accomplishments to showtheir constituents. Both Craig and Lee face Republicans who are pro-forced pregnancy and forcedbirth and would rather not discuss the issue — a sign of how dramatically the wind has shifted on abortion post-Dobbs. The Republicans either weren’t sincere when racking up endorsements from antiabortion groups or are madly trying to play down their unpopular views now.

In both races it is fair to ask: “What exactly are Republicans for?” The answer appears to be whatever will get them elected.