This week: The Briefing, Vol. X, Issue 43
- Republicans surging at just the right moment
- GOP favored in Oregon governor’s race
- A more detailed look at some key house races
Three weeks out from election day, Republicans appear to be surging just at the right moment. They have taken the lead on the congressional generic ballot for House races and pulled even in the Arizona and Pennsylvania Senate races. They also appear to be cementing leads in key statewide contests in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.
The wind is at their backs, and at just the right moment. They only require a strong finish and maximum turnout.
On the other side, Democrats are in a bit of a panic. Socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is sounding the alarm about young people not voting in sufficient numbers (or, more likely, not voting with large enough Democratic margins).
Senate control: The most important unanswered question of 2022 is the U.S. Senate.
Republicans have put themselves in a position where they can and should win all of the Senate races they are expected to win, plus perhaps a few that they aren’t.
The endorsement of Colorado Senate nominee Joe O’Dea by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was a very helpful stroke to help a candidate who has less than cordial relations with Trump, but also has a serious chance of winning if he gets a late nudge. This really could help put him over the top in a race where Republicans had few hopes to begin with against the never-too-popular survivor, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.
Senate races in Washington State and New Hampshire seem unlikely to come out in Republicans’ favor. But when a big wave comes, you never really know with the races on the periphery. Larry Hogan was never supposed to become governor of Maryland, and Sonny Perdue was never favored to become governor of Georgia.
Republicans have put a lot of promising races on the table in time for election day. That’s all they can do, aside from the ongoing turnout push that will be required to make them all count.
Arizona: The story in Arizona is an especially hopeful one for Republicans.The Democrats’ gubernatorial nominee, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, is imploding. Her refusal to debate her opponent, Kari Lake (R). has damaged her very badly. She has also behaved bizarrely, dodging questions from the media at one point by escaping from a building at ASU in a freight elevator. The recent scheduled debate was instead broadcast as an interview with Lake. Hobbs’ absence was noted repeatedly and unfavorably by both Lake and the host. Lake performed masterfully.
She is one of the strongest communicators in politics today. The former TV news anchor has a sharp tongue, a forceful personality, and a keen mind for public speaking and messaging.
This race keeps looking better and better for Republicans, and probably as a consequence, so does their Senate nominee, Blake Masters and the House races downballot (see below).
Oregon: Republicans appear to be headed for an unlikely victory in the three-way Oregon governor’s race. Former state Rep. Christine Drazan, the Republican candidate, leads all available polls, while Democrat Tina Kotec splits the left-wing vote with independent Betsy Johnson.
Fueling this race are the unpopularity of incumbent Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and runaway crime and homelessness in Portland, a once-beautiful city whose reputation has taken a serious hit in the time since the George Floyd riots of 2020.
Oregon has not elected a Republican governor since the Reagan era.
As promised, here is a first look at some of the key House races to watch on election night, November 8.
Arizona: Kari Lake’s bright prospects at the top of the ballot are good news for Republicans. But it should be noted that they were already poised for gains, just thanks to their undoing of the severe gerrymander that Democrats achieved last decade by gaming the ostensibly nonpartisan redistricting commission.
This time, Republicans learned their lessons and placed two Democratic incumbents into seats they cannot defend. One responded by retiring. The other, Rep. Tom O’Halleran, is expected to lose the northeastern second district seat to former Navy SEAL and business owner Eli Crane.
Republicans should also pick up the open 6th District seat along the state’s eastern portion of the Mexican border. The race for the extremely competitive 4th District seat against incumbent Rep. (and former Phoenix mayor) Greg Stanton (D) seems to be more of a longshot this year, but the district has been drawn to be highly competitive.
Colorado: The Centennial State gained a seat in the 2020 census, and it is a highly competitive seat. The Republican candidate, Barbara Kirkmeyer, is favored to win the newly created 8th District seat, which stretches from the Denver suburbs up toward Fort Collins.
Indiana: In a state where none of the seats are actually drawn to be competitive, Jennifer Ruth Green has a surprisingly good chance of poaching one of Indiana’s two Democratic-leaning seats. This is a blue collar, Rust Belt seat in Northwest Indiana with a large black population, especially in Gary — precisely the sort of place where Trump and Trumpism had an appeal that a lot of Republican voters wouldn’t normally understand. As a black candidate with military service running against a white Democrat (Frank Mrvan) who won his primary in 2022 with only 33% of the vote, Green has positioned herself at least to finish close in a Democratic district, created by state legislative Republicans in order to concentrate Democratic voters in Hammond, Gary, and Michigan City.
The newly drawn version of the district is rated as just seven points more Democratic than the electorate as a whole, so it may gradually drift into the Republican column if things go well.
Iowa: Republicans are favored to win all four congressional seats this year, even though three of them are true fair fight seats. State Sen. Zach Nunn is favored to defeat Rep. Cindy Axne(D).
Kansas: The only competitive race in the state will be in its bleeding third district, where Republican former Capitol Hill staffer Amanda Adkins is favored to defeat Rep. Sharice Davids In a rematch of 2020.
New York: There has been a lot of political drama in the Empire State this year. First, a late court decision flipped the script on redistricting in Republicans’ favor.
Then much was made of Democrats’ special election victory in the Hudson Valley over the summer. This was mostly because it allowed the media to attribute Democratic success to the abortion issue, with which the media and Democratic partisans are obsessed. But it must be emphasized that that special election race was quite weird, in that the candidates were running in different districts and against different opponents than the ones they face in three weeks.
With current polls showing Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) surging at the last minute against incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), and possibly even poised to defeat her, Republicans’ prospects In several New York districts should be considered very good.
This includes the open Long Island 3rd District seat, where two openly gay entrepreneurs are running against each other — George Santos (R) and Robert Zimmerman (D). In the 19th District, Dutchess County Executive Mark Molinaro (R), who lost the special election race over the summer in a different district and against some different opponent, should be favored against Democrat Josh Riley this time.
Under the right conditions, Republicans may even have a chance in the 18th District, where newly elected Rep. Pat Ryan faces Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (R).
The GOP will be playing defense in the 22nd district seat of retiring never-Trump Republican John Katko. The Republican nominee, Brandon Williams, is favored to win there.
Ohio: In spite of an uncooperative state supreme court, Ohio Republicans have managed to get their map in place for this year’s House races. (There will be further litigation after the election, but by then the court’s composition will have changed, hopefully in their favor.) The new map crams as many Democrats as possible into two deep blue districts, in Cleveland and Columbus. It also leaves two fair fight seats — one in Cincinnati, and the other in the Youngstown area. Republicans are widely expected to win both of those seats this year. In the Youngstown-area 13th district, left open by Senate candidate Tim Ryan (D), former Miss Ohio Madison Gesiotto Gilbert (R) is favored to win. This distinctly Trump-flavored seat is expected to become more Republican as time passes.
Republicans probably missed an opportunity in the Toledo area when their nominee made false claims about his military service. But even if Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) survives this year, the seat is now Republican-leaning and it’s just a matter of time.
Rhode Island: The focus here is on the second district, where moderate former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (R) is favored to win this open seat over Seth Magaziner (D), former state treasurer and son of former Clinton advisor Ira Magaziner.
Texas: In redistricting, Republicans wisely consolidated Democrats’ gains from the last decade, strengthening their districts and packing Democratic voters into very blue seats. There was an important exception to this, however.
In South Texas, they left all three seats within remote striking distance for either party. These seats’ partisan voting index numbers probably cannot be taken at face value, because they are heavily Hispanic seats that have been surging toward the Republican Party in the last several elections.
The thinking here is sound. Democrats will find these seats harder and harder to defend as the decade progresses, and the newly active Republican presence in South Texas will help make the map even more favorable to Republicans over time.
In this election, the South Texas districts will be the only ones people watch closely.
In the 15th District, Monica De la Cruz Hernandez (R) is favored to defeat her Democratic opponent, Michelle Vallejo. De la Cruz came within a hair of defeating incumbent Rep. Vicente Gonzalez in 2020, and as a consequence he is running in the more Democratic neighboring 34th district this year.
In that race, Gonzalez can be slightly favored over the Republican incumbent, Rep Mayra Flores, who won the district under the old, less Democratic lines over the summer in a special election. In Gonzalez’s favor is the fact that the new seat is D+17. However, Flores’ incumbency and the shift of Hispanic voters toward Republicans (which makes the district’s partisan rating less reliable than it might be otherwise) are working to her advantage. So is the loutish, overtly sexist campaign that Gonzalez is running.
To the west, in the Laredo-based 28th District, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) defeated a far-left progressive primary opponent by the skin of his teeth right after his home was raided by the FBI In a case somehow related to Azerbaijan.
His district is only D+7. He is slightly favored, but he faces a credible challenge from former Ted Cruz staffer Cassy Garcia (R).
Coming Soon: House races in Alaska, California, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.