The Briefing, Vol. V, Issue 7-
- Trump’s travel ban: It’s popular.
- Republicans announce their House targets for 2018
- Which ones are realistic?
Travel ban: Say what you like about President Trump’s travel ban: It’s controversial. It’s tied up in the courts.
It’s also quite popular, according to a poll released last week by Morning Consult — more popular than he is, and more popular than any of his other policies. You wouldn’t think anything like that based on the hue and cry in the media and from Democrats and liberal activists. But that’s the way it is. Whether or not it survives in court — or, as appears likely, Trump issues a new version — Americans are not at all concerned with the idea that the feds would temporarily bar travel to the U.S. by people coming from the seven targeted countries.
We could well be seeing a replay of what happened during the election. Trump’s critics and opponents may be projecting their own morality onto the electorate, and failing to understand that they just don’t share the broader population’s values.
Kansas-4: First things first: The first Republican nominee for House in 2017 was chosen at a district caucus meeting to replace Rep. Mike Pompeo, who goes on to serve as CIA director for President Trump. State Treasurer Ron Estes won out over a large field that included former Rep. Todd Tiahrt. Democrats will pick their candidate later this month, but the seat is heavily Republican. The special election will take place on April 11.
Last week, House Republicans’ campaign arm — the NRCC — announced which Democratic districts they will be targeting. Every cycle they do this in order to prove to journalists that pickup opportunities really exist. It is an exercise whose details should not be taken too seriously, because they have to show that there are lots of good targets, and in doing so they inevitably over-represent opportunities that aren’t very realistic.
Republicans are victims of their own success. Because of their incredible success in the House in 2014, and their retention of most of the seats they picked up in 2016, there just isn’t much room left to grow. Between that and the headwinds they will face in Trump’s first midterm, it would be nothing short of a miracle were the GOP to gain House seats in 2018. Their chief preoccupation, in reality, will be preventing Democrats from taking over the House. That seems quite doable, but not a sure thing.
This week we go through the Republicans’ announced targets — not exhaustively, but just to get acquainted with the incumbents and to get some sense of how serious these opportunities really are.
We also look at how Trump did in some of these districts, using numbers from Daily Kos Elections, who were kind and public-spirited enough to aggregate and publish the results from all 435 congressional districts.
Arizona-1, 9: Arizona will be hot in this year’s House races — it’s a dry heat, of course.
Freshman Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D, is quite beatable in his relatively close fair-fight first district. Republicans nominated a weak candidate in 2016 and Trump underperformed Romney in nearly every county in the District, but he did just barely carry it.
Kyrsten Sinema’s Ninth district was not nearly as close — Trump didn’t even get 40 percent, although Republicans have previously come very close to beating her.
Note that Arizona’s redistricting map, created by an ostensibly non-partisan commission, is actually one of the worst gerrymanders in America, with all but on of the Republicans in the congressional delegation receiving nearly 70 percent of the vote in every election. All of the Democratic seats but one are relatively competitive.
California-7, 24, 36, 52: Even under ideal conditions in strong Republican years, these seats have proven to be out of reach. That’s surely in part because of the anemic condition of the California Republican Party. Were it a serious contender for power, as it was just ten years ago, it’s unlikely that Hillary Clinton could have racked up such an enormous margin of victory.
The story of California since 2005 has been one of Republicans gradually losing ground. Rep. Ami Bera defeated Rep. Dan Lungren in 2012. In every cycle since he has been a target. Even with the state and the district going to Clinton by a large margin, Republican Scott Jones came within three points of beating him.
That is the only district out of the four listed above where Trump even broke 40 percent. The other seats are probably three bridges too far.
Colorado-7: In 2002, this district was drawn to be a fair-fight seat, and it was won and held by former Rep. Bob Beauprez, R, until he ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006.
The district is more Dem-friendly now than it was then — Trump got only 39 percent there. This is also reflective of the state’s leftward drift as a whole. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who won the open seat in 2006, has easily held on through good and bad years. It’s not an impossible mission, but it will take an exceptional candidate and the right kind of environment to bring him down.
Connecticut-2, 5: For Republicans, Connecticut is the Probably Not State. Rep. Joe Courtney won the eastern second district in 2006, over Republican Rep. Rob Simmons — so yes, a Republican represented the district in prehistoric times. But it’s pretty hard to believe Republicans are suddenly going to take it back now.
The same applies for Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty in the fifth. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R, was always living on the edge in the land of the endangered Republican liberal before her defeat in 2006. Today, that kind of Republicanism is all but extinct, and voters in a relatively wealthy and liberal state like Connecticut are Trump’s worst demographic.
Florida-7, 13: The narrow, surprise defeat of Rep. John Mica, R, by Stephanie Murphy, D, is one result that could conceivably be flipped in the midterm. the right sort of year. Republicans are likely to contest this one for real.
In the thirteenth district, Rep. Charlie Crist’s reputation as a choker will always keep hope alive. But as with Murphy’s district, after court-ordered redistricting, it is harder for a Republican to win than it was when former Rep. David Jolly first won it in a 2014 special election. Still, he came within four points of keeping it in November.
Iowa-2: This is the most Democratic seat in Iowa. Republicans lost it to Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack in the 2006 wave. Despite Iowa’s overall Republican trend, it’s a real longshot to believe they’re going to win it back in 2018. Republican Chris Peters lost by eight points in November, even though Trump carried the district.
Illinois-17: Residents of this Quad Cities-area district easily re-elected a Democrat, Cheri Bustos, even as Donald Trump narrowly carried it. It is definitely a Democratic seat, drawn by Democrats to elect a Democrat, but Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., held it for one term after winning in 2010.
Massachusetts-9: It’s been more than 20 years since a Republican represented a House seat in Massachusetts. It’s not for lack of trying to beat Rep. Bill Keating in his district in the southeastern portion of the state, which includes Martha’s Vineyard. The voters just don’t cooperate. Then again, Massachusetts did elect a Republican senator for a brief moment there.
Maryland-6: In an effort to ensure that Republicans can only win one district in their state, Democrats drew the nation’s most geometrically offensive gerrymander. Rep. John Delaney is one of the current benefactors, representing a district that runs all the way from the panhandle to the uber-liberal Montgomery County suburbs of Washington. Although Dan Bongino came close in 2014, he is now a Floridian. This seat should not be viewed as a likely pickup until the evidence proves otherwise.
Michigan-5, 9: Rep. Dan Kildee‘s district takes in Flint, Bay City and part of Saginaw. Sander Levin’s district takes in parts of Macomb and Oakland Counties in Detroit’s northern suburbs. Trump did reasonably well (mid-40s) in both districts, but both districts were drawn by Republicans to contain as many Democratic voters as possible, so that Republicans could win more easily in other districts.
Republicans would probably need to win these seats if they wanted to gain a two-thirds majority in the House. For the moment, it seems somewhat far-fetched.
Minnesota-1, 7, 8: These three seats are all winnable, and in fact were all nearly won in November. On aggregate, Democratic Reps. Tim Walz and Rick Nolan retained their seats by less than 5,000 votes in total. Rep. Colin Peterson, one of the last remaining conservative Democrats in the House, won by more than that, but his five-point victory was far closer than what he’s used to.
Trump carried all three of these districts by large double-digit wide margins. In Peterson’s case, Republicans would really like to see him retire — they will almost certainly take over the seat when he does. In the other two, Republicans can win if they find candidates who can appeal to the voters the way Trump does, arguing that the Democrats are misrepresenting the district with their resistance to Trump’s agenda.
New Hampshire-1, 2: Rep. Carol Shea-Porter is now beginning her fourth term in the House, but only two of those terms were consecutive. In fact, this seat has probably been handed back and forth between the parties in the last ten years more than any other in the nation. Shea-Porter triumphed this time over an incumbent facing a campaign finance scandal. This seat is truly winnable in the right sort of year.
Rep. Ann Kuster, D, who represents the more Democratic of New Hampshire’s two districts, will be much harder to beat.
New Jersey-5: The downfall of Rep. Scott Garrett, R, was not, as you might assume, the result of distaste for Donald Trump in New Jersey’s New York suburbs. In fact, Trump narrowly carried his district even as he narrowly lost. This is a seat Republicans should hold.
New Mexico-1, 3: Santa Fe is kind of like a hot, dry version of Portland. So Republicans probably shouldn’t get their hopes up about nabbing the seat of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is running for governor.
Republicans have not managed to gain much traction against her cousin in Albuquerque, Rep. Ben Lujan, but the district is much more favorable and winnable under the right circumstances.
Nevada-3, 4: The Silver State was an island of disappointment for Republicans in November. Rep. Jacky Rosen, D, took over the very winnable suburban Las Vegas seat of Republican Joe Heck, who had run unsuccessfully for Senate. This one is worth the Republicans pouring some money into it, because it’s winnable.
The fourth district, on the other hand, probably isn’t. Former Rep. Cresent Hardy managed to win in the 2014 GOP blowout (Democrats failed to field a serious candidate for governor), but the way the seat is drawn it’s really a stretch to expect much unless Rosen makes some big mistakes.
New York-3, 18: Long Island went heavily Democratic in the Bush era, but some parts of Long Island have tracked back to the GOP. Trump failed to carry the third district of freshman Rep. Tom Suozzi, but the defeated former County Executive’s victory was narrow enough that it’s probably worth taking another shot in earnest.
On the other hand, Trump actually carried the upstate 18th district of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, which Republicans have represented in the recent past. Former Rep. Nan Hayworth came quite close to defeating him in 2014, so this is a legitimate target as well.
Ohio-13: Contrary to what Nancy Pelosi said, Hillary Clinton did win Rep. Tim Ryan’s Youngstown-area House seat. But not by much, considering it was created as a Democratic vote sink that takes in all of Youngstown and part of Akron. This is truly Trump Country, the old Jim Traficant district. But if even Trump couldn’t carry the district as drawn, it’s definitely a longshot for Republicans.
Oregon-4, 5: Trump did better than Romney in both of these districts. But Republicans have banged their heads against these two Oregon seats, held by Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, for many years without a victory. As in Colorado, the state has generally been drifting leftward ever since George W. Bush came within a few thousand votes of carrying it in 2000.
Pennsylvania-17: Yes, Trump did astoundingly well in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, carrying this district by ten points. But it isn’t going to be easy to find a Republican congressional candidate who can replicate that feat in in a district that was essentially created by Republican legislators to be a Democratic vote sink so that Republicans could win in surrounding districts.
Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright begins as an overwhelming favorite, but his is not the craziest name to show up on this list.
Washington-6, 10: Trump did not do well at all in the western shore district of Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer or the Olympia-area district of Rep. Denny Heck. Nor have Republican challengers in the recent past. These are longshots.
Wisconsin-3: If Democratic Rep. Ron Kind does run for governor, a Republican could have a serious shot of picking up his seat in the western region of the state. This is the portion of rural and small-town Wisconsin that Trump turned Red — he carried the district by five points. Kind faced no Republican on the ballot in 2016, but previous challengers such as Dan Kapanke in 2010 have come awfully close to defeating him. Then again, the seat used to be more Republican — some Democratic areas were swapped in from Republican Rep. Sean Duffy’s seventh district after the 2010 election.
Still, in an open-seat situation, the Trump era presents a new ballgame in seats like this one.