Did Democrat meddling have an impact on Republican primaries?

After the 2020 presidential election, the Democratic Party spent millions of dollars boosting the campaigns of radical GOP candidates who were deemed as more beatable. Did it work?

Nov 4, 2022, 10:45 PM


This year, the Democratic Party has taken to a rather unconventional strategy to increase their chances of winning senate and gubernatorial races on November 8. Across nine states, the party has spent tens of millions of dollars boosting the campaigns of far-right Republican candidates, specifically those who questioned or outright denied the validity of the 2020 election. The reasoning behind this approach is that these extreme candidates will be easier to defeat on election day as they will be seen as too conservative and radical by voters.

The strategy usually involved running TV ads that either attacked less-extreme candidates that were seen as tougher to beat or running ads that drew more attention to the more extreme candidates’ campaigns. In Illinois, for example, Democratic incumbent candidate Gov. J.B. Pritzker worked with the Democratic Governors Association to spend approximately 35 million dollars purchasing ads to influence the gubernatorial primaries. These ads boosted the visibility of far-right, Trump-endorsed candidate Sen. Darren Bailey’s campaign and targeted the less extreme candidate Gov. Richard Irvine. Despite leading polls in late spring, Irvine lost the nomination and Bailey won with 55.2% of the vote. As of November 2nd, the Oracle of Blair predicts that Pritzker has an 86% chance of winning the race.

So far, total Democrat spending has amounted to at least 53 million dollars over nine states: California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. This begs the question— is it all worth it for the Democrats? Has this strategy really made a difference?


We used the results of each state’s 2018 governor race and Oracle of Blair’s prediction to determine if Democrat spending really made a difference in the governor elections Democrats meddled in. For each state, we calculated the difference between the Democrat win percentage in 2018 and predicted win percentage for 2022 and used these differences to create two distributions—the margin differences in states where Democrats meddled and in states where they didn’t. We then compared these two distributions to determine whether these campaigns had worked to effectively increase the predicted percentage of voters who voted for the Democratic candidate since the last gubernatorial elections.


Table1 Table 1: 2022 gubernatorial races in which the Democratic Party boosted far-right candidates.

Table2 Table 2: 2022 gubernatorial races in which the Democratic Party did not boost far-right candidates, to our knowledge.

Distribution2 Figure 1: Distribution of the differences between 2018 gubernatorial election results and the Oracle's result predictions in states where meddling did occur.

Distribution1 Figure 2: Distribution of the differences between 2018 gubernatorial election results and the Oracle's result predictions in states where meddling did not occur.

Analysis & Conclusion

The distribution of differences between the percentage of voters that selected the Democrat candidate for governor in 2018 and the Oracle of Blair’s prediction for that same race in 2022 for races where there was no meddling is very skew and not unimodal. The median here, in fact, is -0.039%, meaning that the average state had more Republicans vote for the Republican candidate in 2018 than the predicted amount for 2022. The median, however, for the distribution using states where Democrat meddling did occur was only 0.011%. These two percentages are very close, indicating that there was no substantial difference in voter behavior between 2018 and now as predicted by the Oracle of Blair Model.

Based on our tables, three out of the six (50%) gubernatorial races with Democrat meddling resulted in increased Oracle predicted Democratic win percentages compared to 2018 results. In races without meddling, only eight races out of 29 (27.59%) have an increase in Oracle predicted Democratic win percentages when compared to 2018 results.

Overall, we believe that these results are rather inconclusive. So far, we have little reason to believe that the Democratic’s new party has had a significant effect on the gubernatorial races in which they have employed it.