Their emergence has confounded Republican and Democratic strategists, who worried they were losing voters to candidates willing to take absolute positions on vaccines and masks.
Understand the Aug. 2 Primary Elections
While the Trump wing of the Republican Party flexed its muscle, voters in deep-red Kansas delivered a loud warning to the G.O.P. on abortion rights.
“A lot of Democrats might think these voters are now unreachable, even if they voted for the party recently,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a Democratic political adviser to former President Barack Obama.
Nathan Leamer, who worked at the Federal Communications Commission during the Trump administration and is now vice president of public affairs at the firm Targeted Victory, said Republican candidates — some of whom have publicly been against Covid vaccine mandates — were better positioned to attract these voters. He pointed to last year’s surprise win in Virginia of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, after he gained the support of young parents by invoking their frustration over Covid-driven school closures.
Even so, Mr. Leamer said, these parents were a wild card in November. “The truth is that we don’t really know what these voters will do,” he said.
‘I Found My People’
Natalya Murakhver, 50, once considered herself a Democrat who prioritized environmental and food sustainability issues. Sam James, 41, said he was a Democrat who worried about climate change. Sarah Levy, 37, was an independent who believed in social justice causes.
That was before the pandemic. In 2020, when the coronavirus swept in and led to lockdowns, Ms. Murakhver’s two daughters — Violet, 9, and Clementine, 5 — climbed the walls of the family’s Manhattan apartment, complaining of boredom and crying that they missed their friends.