The Shutdown Drags On

The Briefing, Vol. VII, Issue 1

This week:

  • The shutdown continues
  • Roberts’ retiring
  • The Republican Road Back, continued


As the partial government shutdown enters its third week, we seem no closer to a resolution. The Trump administration is taking the opposite approach to Obama’s from 2013. Rather than try to cause as much pain as possible in order to make a political point, Trump’s administration is trying to prevent pain. National parks are being left open, and Trump is allowing (pending possible legal challenge) park entry fees to be used to prevent the parks from going entirely to pot.

There’s no substitute, of course, for actually opening up the government. And it’s doubtful that Trump will be able to get the $5.7 billion for his border wall that he demanded earlier. But he might well get something more than the Democrats’ opening bid.

Trump’s negotiating prowess is being put to the test. He is supposedly considering a trade between statutory DACA protections and wall funding. But for the moment, Democrats don’t seem to feel any serious compulsion to make a deal. They believe that the shutdown is helping them. They should be careful — they also thought that in 2013.

But they seem to believe that this time, things will be different. And that could mean that the government shutdown will continue until it actually does start to hurt.

Senate 2020

Kansas: To no one’s surprise, Sen. Pat Roberts, R, announced his retirement Friday. Considering that Roberts nearly blew it and lost his seat in 2014, an excellent Republican year, you can imagine the relief within the state’s Republican firmament.

The other good news for them is that unless Republican voters do something monumentally stupid — for example, nominate Kris Kobach after he managed to botch the 2018 governor’s race — they are very likely to keep this seat whether they nominate a conservative or a moderate. Senate GOP leadership wants to recruit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, R, but he’d have to step down from a rather important job to make that run. If he doesn’t do it, there is an abundance of eligible Republicans who could make the run.

House 2020

This week, we look once again at the path through which Republicans will try to reclaim the U.S. House in the 2020 election.

Iowa-3: Rep. David Young, R, dropped this seat in November by just over two points to Rep. Cindy Axne, D. But the district, which includes Des Moines and suburban Dallas County as well as Council Bluffs, remains very winnable for the GOP in a state where President Trump overperformed mightily in 2016. Given a quality GOP nominee, Axne will have her hands full defending this one in 2020. Young himself has expressed interest. And he expects to face a primary if he does run, but given the small margin by which he lost in a tough year, Republicans could do a lot worse.

New Mexico-2: In 2008, Republicans lost this seat when Rep. Steve Pearce, R, ran for Senate. Two years later, he returned and reclaimed it. In 2018, Pearce ran for governor, and what is now an R+6 seat went to the Democrats once again.

Pearce has just been elected the new chairman of the state Republican Party, but he hasn’t promised not to run again for the seat he has held on and off since 2002.

The victorious Democrat, Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, carried the district by less than two points over Yvette Herrell. Torres Small is a bit on the leftish side for what is the most Republican of New Mexico’s three congressional districts. This seat will surely be a top target for the GOP in 2020.

New York-11: New York City’s only Republican House seat, which covers Staten Island and part of southwest Brooklyn, fell to the Democrats once again, for the first time since former Rep. Vito Fossella’s downfall in 2008. Republicans reclaimed it two years later with Rep. Michael Grimm’s victory, but Grimm later suffered his own downfall on tax charges. Rep. Dan Donovan, R, won the seat in a special election in 2015, and in 2018 he held off a comeback attempt by Grimm. But in November he was beaten badly by Democratic Afghan War vet Max Rose, losing by about 10,000 votes.

Donovan, like many suburban Republicans, suffered in part from the tax cut bill and its limits on deductibility of high state and local taxes. What’s worse, neither he nor the local party seems to have taken Rose’s challenge as seriously as he should have. The Staten Island GOP, like many local parties in the New York City area, seems to have atrophied and succumbed in some significant part to cronyism. Donovan spent $2.7 million, compared to his opponent’s $4.3 million.

Grimm reportedly wants back in, which would be interesting to watch but perhaps not the best matchup for Republicans. Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, R, is not ruling out a run either.

This is not your typical New York district — it’s a place where Republicans are sure to remain competitive in 2020. For context regarding the district and its voters, Rose promised to vote against Nancy Pelosi for speaker, and he followed through on his promise.

New York-19: Rep. John Faso lost by nearly 8,000 votes against Antonio Delgado after criticizing the latter’s rap career. Needless to say, this did not go over well with the local or the national media, which turned Faso’s campaign into a cautionary tale about racial dog-whistling. This Hudson Valley district remains an R+2 seat by Cook PVI, and it has changed hands a few times since 2000. Given a better GOP year and a strong recruit, Republicans will have a decent shot at winning this seat back.

New York-22: Rep. Claudia Tenney, R, who had been an outspoken early supporter of President Trump, narrowly lost a seat that had been drawn for a Republican — R+6 by Cook PVI. Again, here’s a situation and a district in a high-tax state where the tax reform bill was a clear negative for Tenney. There’s every reason to think Republicans will be able to compete for this seat once again against Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D.