As someone who enjoys a trip to the casino now and then, gambling can be a good time. Personally, I like to limit myself to games where I know the odds and the stakes. I always come in with a set amount of money I’m willing to ‘spend’ to entertain myself for a couple hours and I place my bets accordingly. For example, when you bet black or red on the roulette table, you have 47.4% of winning (0 and 00 giving the house the edge there). 

What I don’t typically do is gamble with my vision for the state or the nation.

That’s the approach that state and national Democrats have taken this year. It’s certainly not a new tactic, but this trend has increased dramatically in this cycle, impacting outcomes in key states like Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. 

Democratic campaigns and national organizations have placed major focus on the primary process this year, spending millions on ‘attack’ ads against more conservative opponents. Mail pieces in Illinois focused on the most conservative candidate calling him “too conservative for Illinois,” and “Pro-Trump, Pro-Life, and Pro-Gun.”

Now you might say that sounds like an attack piece coming from a Democrat organization. It is, but truth is in the eye of the beholder. A liberal voter getting that mail piece would likely say ‘no way, never voting for that candidate.” But what would a conservative voter getting that mail piece say? Many will say that they agree with those positions or they may even say wow, the Democrats are running scared of this candidate, he or she should be the one on the ballot in November. 

And by and large, it’s worked in 2022. 

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association spent upwards of $35 million dollars in advertising during the Illinois Republican Primary. That covered negative ads against the candidate they wanted to face the least, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, and the faux ‘attack’ pieces on the eventual nominee, Darren Bailey. When pressed, Governor Pritzker said he was “just trying to tell the truth” about State Senator Bailey, and convenient way of hiding the true intent of those ads. 

We’ve seen similar strategies this year in Pennsylvania and most recently, on July 19 in Maryland. PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro spent almost $1 million dollars on ads calling eventual nominee Doug Mastriano one of “Trump’s Strongest Supporters.” In Maryland, the DGA spent hundreds of thousands on ads calling now-nominee Dan Cox “Trump’s handpicked candidate” for the Maryland Governor’s Mansion. 

Here’s where the gamble comes in. Clearly, this strategy has worked in their favor thus far in 2020, but the electorate has shifted greatly in the last 10 years. Candidates on both sides of the aisle who were seen as unelectable 10 years ago, could very well win in November given the partisan divide that has been created after years of finger pointing. 

All of which begs the question: are Democrats prepared for these gambles NOT to pay off? What will be the response if the candidates they promoted through the primaries because they were “beatable” actually succeed in November? 

When I play roulette, I know the odds and I know the stakes, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case with these candidates. Organizations like the DGA are playing a high stakes game with too many unknowns. They’re betting the rent on what they think is a sure thing.

But that’s the catch with gambling: no such thing as a sure thing.