A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News. Delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Leading the Week
Voters in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North Carolina, Idaho and Oregon head to the polls on Tuesday (May 17) in what is set to be the most closely-watched day of the primaries to date.
Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary is undoubtedly the day’s most high-profile and competitive race. Trump-endorsed celebrity physician Dr. Mehmet Oz, businessman David McCormick, and political commentator Kathy Barnette are neck-and-neck in the polls for the seat being vacated by Pat Toomey. Donald Trump’s decision to support Dr. Oz has prompted criticism among some of his supporters, who question Dr Oz’s MAGA credentials. While Trump’s endorsement catapulted J.D. Vance to victory in Ohio, he failed to secure a win for Charles Herbster in Nebraska’s gubernatorial primary last week, calling into question his role as kingmaker within the party.
Though the rivalry between Dr. Oz and McCormick has dominated campaign coverage, it has also provided an opening for Barnette to rise in the polls relatively unnoticed. Barnette has been branded ‘Ultra-MAGA’, prompting fear among some Republicans that a primary win for her would hand the seat to Democrats come November.
The GOP race also marks the first major test of voters’ attitudes on abortion rights following the leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion. Dr. Oz has been criticized for expressing support for abortion rights in the past, and while McCormick opposes abortion, Barnette is by far the most enthusiastic advocate for the ‘pro-life’ camp, having released an emotional campaign video about her mother’s decision not to abort her after she was raped when she was just 11-years-old.
Whoever wins on Tuesday is likely to face progressive Lt. Governor John Fetterman in November. Polling indicates Fetterman is leading his nearest opponent, Congressman Conor Lamb, by a healthy margin.
In North Carolina, look out for the Senate Republican primary where Trump-endorsed Ted Budd leads the race for the seat held by retiring Republican Richard Burr, and the newly-redrawn 13th Congressional District, where controversial Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn is running, having switched from his current 11th district. Though Cawthorn is popular among MAGA Republicans, his recent scandals involving claims of cocaine-fueled GOP orgies and a seemingly ever-growing list of alleged law-breaking have drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle.
In Kentucky, Democrats Attica Scott and Morgan McGarvey are battling to fill the seat being vacated by House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth in the 3rd Congressional District, the state’s only Democratically-held district.
President Joe Biden pays his first visit to Asia since taking office as heads to South Korea and Japan on Friday (May 20), with China’s increasingly assertive role in the region and North Korea’s recent provocative actions likely overshadowing much of the trip. In Seoul, Biden will meet for the first time with new President Yoon Suk-yeol on Saturday (May 21), with the new leader having pledged a more hardline stance towards his northern neighbor. Biden then heads to Japan where (on May 23) he’ll hold face-to-face talks with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who has been outspoken in his condemnation of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and would expect similar support in the face of Chinese expansionism. The following day (May 24), there is the Quad summit, where Biden and Kishida will be joined by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the victor from Australia’s elections, which would be quite the running start for Labor leader Anthony Albanese, were he to win.
As mentioned, Australians vote this week (May 21) in federal elections, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison seeking reelection as leader of the conservative Liberal–National Coalition. But Morrison is trailing in the polls behind Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese, a former prominent figure among the left of his party who has since moved towards the center and now promises “renewal, not revolution”. Persistent inflation and rising interest rates have made it difficult for Morrison to make a case for reelection based on his stewardship of the economy, while his cautious approach to climate action has been undermined for many Australians by increasingly frequent extreme heatwaves and wildfires. Though Labor has not suggested much change when it comes to foreign policy, the news in mid-April that China had signed an agreement with the Solomon Islands has brought into question Morrison’s national security credentials. Albanese has described the development as “a massive foreign policy failure” that undermines Morrison’s narrative of having contained the threat posed by China. Having said all this, it is worth remembering that in the last elections, held in May 2019, Morrison had largely been written off by pollsters before securing what is widely considered one of the most memorable victories in the country’s history.
This week is once again jam-packed when it comes to developments related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Monday (May 16) sees EU foreign ministers gather in Brussels as negotiations on the controversial sixth sanctions package against Russia continue, with Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba participating in person. In Finland, meanwhile, also on Monday, the country’s parliament will consider the now all-but-inevitable move to join NATO, while in Sweden there is a debate on the subject and a rumored government meeting to sign off on a parallel move. In Moscow, Vladimir Putin is hosting a CSTO summit that is expected to see him also meet one-on-one with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. Tuesday (May 17) sees Finnish President Sauli Niinistö begin a two-day state visit to Sweden, while Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov delivers a speech on his country’s role in the world. Wednesday (May 18) is expected to see the launch of the European Union’s RePowerEU plan to diversify gas supplies, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will be in Denmark for a summit focus on North Sea offshore wind. And on Thursday (May 19) Secretary of State Antony Blinken is hosting a major UN Security Council meeting on the impact of the conflict on global food supplies, while NATO military chiefs gather in Brussels.