Podcast Playback

How the Ohio 11 election went against the grain

National Journal columnist Josh Kraushaar says Jewish vote likely swung the election

Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Shontel Brown talks to press after winning Ohio's 11th Congressional District.

After an upset in Ohio’s special election, National Journal political columnist Josh Kraushaar joined Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast” co-hosts Richard Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein to analyze the results — including how Jewish voters may have swung the election for Shontel Brown — what the results mean for the Democratic party and the winning streak of “kingmaker” Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC). After weeks spent focused on Ohio, Kraushaar, who pens the influential “Against the Grain” column, also previews the upcoming races to watch.

Jewish vote: “Cleveland’s Jewish community is both large and well organized. And I might even add, it’s more unified, in a sense, where you had more liberal Jews who are not maybe quite as observant in Beachwood, all the way to the more religious Orthodox communities in Cleveland Heights that were all on the same side, were all pretty early on supportive of Shontel Brown. So while I think one of the stories we’ve seen in some of these contests, these primaries between left-wing and more moderate Democratic candidates, there’s been division within the Jewish community on this in this race, pretty much everyone was pulling on the same row. They all were 100% behind Shontel Brown, organizationally and institutionally. So I think that’s sort of an example… the power of what happens in a district with a sizable Jewish community… and what happens when everyone’s kind of on the same page, sending the same message and really working together for the same result. If you look at the final result in the race and the margin that Shontel Brown won by — about 4,000 votes — just looking at the early numbers and the precinct by precinct data, it’s fair to conclude that the Jewish vote may have easily made the difference — a more than 4,000-vote margin for Shontel Brown — than her ultimate winning margin. So it’s not an exaggeration to say that the Jewish community was responsible [and] played a big role at the very least in electing Shontel Brown to Congress.”

The kingmaker: “This was a ballsy move for Jim Clyburn to get involved, to endorse and then eventually campaign for Shontel Brown when this was far from a sure victory. I mean, if Joe Biden looked like an underdog before South Carolina in the presidential primary, Shontel Brown was an even bigger underdog… So Jim Clyburn is the kingmaker, but he’s not just the kingmaker who gets in a race and endorses the candidate who’s ahead. He, in the last year, has now endorsed two underdogs. And really, I think his insight is very important, because he appreciates that despite all this noise on social media that tends to favor left-wing candidates, left-wing activism, he understands that the majority of the Democratic vote in most of these states and districts lies with African Americans, who are much more moderate than your average Democratic voter, and your moderate center-left White voters in that district as well. And that was the winning coalition for Shontel Brown.”

Gutsy call: “The biggest question after last night is how does this affect the pro-Israel Democratic community’s strategy in looking ahead to 2022? Is this a one-off? Is this a race that was a perfect storm where, yes, it took a lot of guts to get involved against Nina Turner and to invest so much money early on, but you had Clyburn, you got Hillary Clinton, you got the whole community that had sympathies with her overall message. And it’s a lot different than taking on a sitting incumbent, even if they’re part of The Squad. It’s a much different political calculus both back home in those districts and against leadership. [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi endorsed [Rep.] Ilhan Omar, for example, last year during her competitive primary. While I think this is encouraging for the pro-Israel Democratic community that they were able to win a very important race, they’re still playing defense a lot. I think you’re gonna see a lot more emphasis on protecting incumbents that are pro-Israel, rather than going after left-wing Squad lawmakers who have made antisemitic comments. I just think that’s the reality within the party, that there may be a political opportunity to go in an open-seat race against a very left-wing candidate like Nina Turner, but I don’t know if Jim Clyburn and Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress would welcome Democratic pro-Israel groups from engaging against an incumbent. Even if they’ve made antisemitic comments. Even if they have a very left-wing, anti-Israel posture.”

Fresh air: “[New York City Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams] is really a breath of fresh air for the Democratic Party. It was fascinating that [President] Joe Biden was almost taking lessons from Eric Adams’ campaign. He invited Eric Adams within days of his nomination to the White House, front and center. I talked to a lot of folks in the Biden White House, even going back to the Biden campaign, and there are a lot of folks in the administration that want to say what Eric Adams did, but they’re uncomfortable with saying it publicly. Eric Adams gives them a potential future mayor who understands these issues intuitively, who has a track record as a former cop and someone who advocated for reform as a cop at the NYPD, but as someone who can say things that Joe Biden and a lot of other Democrats are uncomfortable saying. They just don’t want to alienate their base. And Adams is sort of bulletproof. I mean, he won the election pretty convincingly. And he speaks to what a lot of Democrats talk about and think privately, but maybe they’re afraid to engender any backlash from the left.”

Races to watch: “The two big races I’m looking at are the governors races, one in Virginia, and then the [California] recall, which is coming up next month. It’s hard to believe that we’re gonna have a huge California recall election that’s going to be decided mid-September. I think Governor [Gavin] Newsom is gonna survive. It’s hard to imagine given the state of the Republican opposition that Newsom would lose. Keep in mind, by the way, that the question on the recall isn’t, ‘Do you support Gavin Newsom or the Republican?’ It’s simply ‘Do you support recalling Gavin Newsom?’ And the numbers have been uncomfortably close lately for Gov. Newsom… Virginia is always an important test of where the mood of the country is. It always comes a year after the presidential election. On paper, Republicans have a good opportunity to win back the governorship. They are running against Terry McAuliffe, who’s trying to make a comeback as governor, and they have a businessman named Glenn Youngkin….The problem is, and I wrote about this today, in my column, [Youngkin] just doesn’t have a real message, like the issues that we’re talking about here on this podcast he hasn’t really talked about yet on the campaign trail very extensively. I think he has an opportunity to lean into crime, lean into inflation, lean into some of these worries that swing voters have in Virginia and across the country. But he hasn’t yet shown that he’s really built a real clear message, a real clear argument as to why Virginia voters should elect him. So there’s still time to come. It’s not till November, the election, but that’s a big bellwether in my mind as well.”

Lightning round: Favorite Yiddish word? Schmuck. Favorite Jewish food? Potato blintzes with sour cream. Recent book recommendation? Josh Rogin’s Chaos Under Heaven: Trump, Xi, and the Battle for the Twenty-First Century. Favorite campaign to cover? Al Franken vs. Norm Coleman in the 2008 Minnesota Senate race. “If you wrote Al Franken’s name in a story or a blog at the time, that was your ticket. People read it. People wanted to hear what Al Franken was doing. He could have been eating a pastrami sandwich and that was enough to drive traffic to the site.”

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