This week: The Briefing, Vol. X, Issue 44
- Democrats’ closing message is a mess
- Republicans favored to win a House majority
- Schumer worried about Georgia’s Senate race
With one week to go, almost all signs point to the Red Wave that everyone was expecting. Republicans are, first of all, favored to take control of the U.S. House. The FiveThirtyEight.com model, based on a fancy algorithm run 40,000 times, points to an 81% likelihood of a Republican majority, with that majority ranging in number from a bare 220 to a more generous 230 seats. Based on the history of polls missing Republican voters — especially in an environment where they are being called terrorists and semi-fascists just for having opinions, we expect something bigger than that — at this point, to be conservative, we’d say more than 235.
In the Senate, it all hinges on their ability to win in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, and possibly Arizona. They will have a Senate majority if they can win two of those and hold everywhere else as expected.
But in a year like this one, expect the unexpected. What if Colorado unexpectedly flips, and Joe O’Dea (R) defeats Sen. Michael Bennet (D)? What if Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) unexpectedly comes up short against Donald Bolduc (R) due to low enthusiasm from her supporters?
We try to be conservative with our predictions. But the main reason to err in Republicans’ favor with predictions at this point is that Democrats’ closing message is such an obvious disaster. They chose two issues that people largely consider low-priority — abortion and January 6 — and devoted their entire Democratic campaign to them, spending millions on messages that don’t inspire or persuade. And now they are going with the very, very old message that Republicans are going to cut Social Security. (That one worked a lot better 25 years ago, when most senior citizens voted Democrat.)
Even better, Joe Biden himself is claiming that Republicans will “crash the economy” if they take over. But this is difficult to say with a straight face when 66% of voters already believe the economy is in recession.
Next week, we’ll take a final look at the key Senate races and provide an election night guide. This week, we have a few quick updates in the Senate, plus a look at the remaining competitive House races, as promised.
Georgia: Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer was caught on a Hot Mike telling President Biden that they are “going downhill” in the Georgia center race. Nearly all recent polls bear out what he said, with the exception of the New York Times/Siena College poll.
Indeed, football star Herschel Walker is putting enough distance between himself and incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) that he might be able to win this one without a runoff, assuming Republicans turn out the way they are supposed to. Leaning Republican takeover.
New Hampshire: Although Mitch McConnell’s super PAC pulled money from this race in order to redirect it to the hot Senate race in Pennsylvania, the NRSC is filling in the gap. Although this race remains a long shot for Republicans, this is the moment when the iron is hot, and they’d be foolish not to strike. Their party’s advantage right now is large and growing, and any investments at this moment could result in a huge gain in power over the next two to six years. Donald Bolduc (R) only has to be within a few points of Sen. Maggie Hassan (D); to have a semi-reasonable chance of catching her on election day. Leaning Democratic retention.
Pennsylvania: Finally, the first poll of the entire election showing Mehmet Oz (R) leading John Fetterman (D). And it was taken before the respondents would have seen Tuesday’s humiliating debate performance by Fetterman, whose true health condition was obviously hidden from the public by his staff and national Democrats. Fetterman’s inability to serve as a U.S. senator was so evident from his performance that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, historically the more liberal of the two newspapers in Pittsburgh, actually endorsed Oz. At this point we feel confirmed in our long-standing belief that Fetterman will lose. Leaning Republican retention.
Washington: Republicans would love to see Sen. Patty Murray (D) lose, and there are some polls that suggest that Tiffany Smiley (R) is statistically tied with her. But Washington State is a big black hole of disappointment in statewide races for Republicans. There are many other polls suggesting that Murray has a large lead. Leaning Democratic retention.
There hasn’t exactly been an abundance of polling in House races this year. But the polling is often not the most important thing. Given this year’s environment, and the current surge of Republican statewide candidates across the board, any competitive race should be considered a possible Republican pickup. And given one more week before election day, Republicans should be pressing their advantage absolutely anywhere they can.
Last week, the DCCC committed to sending a substantial amount of money to help its own chairman, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, In what is supposed to be a completely safe Hudson Valley congressional seat. Not Maloney will lose — boy, that would be something — but if he is in trouble, just imagine how nervous Democrats must be feeling about all of the more vulnerable members and the seats more competitive than his?
Alaska: Incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has openly endorsed Democrat Rep. Mary Peltola in this race over the two Republicans on the ballot. It is hard to say whether this is brilliant or short-sighted. Will it cause more Democrats to vote for Murkowski in a Senate race that has essentially become Republican versus Republican, between her and conservative Kelly Tshibaka? Or will it cause more Republicans to vote against her in the Senate race? Either way, Alaska’s flawed ranked-choice voting system is likely once again to hand victory to the Democrat in the House race.
California: Republicans’ only Democratic targets on the newly gerrymandered map are Reps. Mike Levin and Katie Porter. Although freshman Reps. Michelle Steel (R) and Young Kim (R) are believed safe, Republicans are playing defense for Reps. David Valadao and Mike Garcia.
Connecticut: It’s been a long time since Republicans held a congressional seat here. But they have a shot at the fifth district in northwestern Connecticut, where state Sen. George Logan (R) is attempting to unseat Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes and add to the ranks of black Republicans in the U.S. House.
Florida: As we’ve noted previously, the new Florida congressional map is a work of political genius. It is geometrically pleasing, preserves communities of interest, and largely leaves alone the state’s only oddly-shaped majority black district (now the 20th). Yes somehow, it manages to limit Democrats to holding a clear advantage in just eight out of 28 districts, while adding four additional seats where Republicans have a substantial edge.
This is a true mark of Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ leadership — he had to fight his own party in the state legislature to get this map. And indeed, he may win by double digits in his own re-election race.
Republican Anna Paulina Luna is favored to pick up the 13th District seat that Charlie Crist left behind to run for governor. They are also expected to pick up the 7th District seat where Stephanie Murphy chose not to run for reelection, and to win the newly drawn 15th District.
In the Tallahassee-based second district, Republican Neal Dunn is heavily favored in a member on member matchup against Democratic Rep. Al Lawson.
The two shakiest seats in the state, both of which taken parts of Little Havana in Miami-Dade County, should remain Republican this year. In fact, there is a serious chance that the Santa’s himself could carry Miami-Dade County.
Maine: Former Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) is attempting a comeback in the second district, which is R+10. The relatively moderate Rep. Jared Golden (D) is trying to hang on in the hurricane-force winds of this year’s political environment.
Michigan: With some polls showing even the long shot gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon drawing close to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, you can bet the Republican momentum in this state is massive. Republicans must not only defend the third district, where John Gibbs defeated Rep. Pete Meijer (R) in the primary, but they are also contending for the Lansing-area 7th District, against incumbent Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin.
Republicans are expected to pick up the new 10th District seat in Macomb County, for which 2020 Senate nominee John James (R) is running. They will also be contending for the Flint-area seat long held by Rep. Dan Kildee, which is natural territory for blue-collar Trump Democrats, although it may be deceptive how vulnerable Democrats are there.
Minnesota: there was very little change in The Congressional map here during redistricting. The only major race is for the Democrat-held second district in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis. Marine veteran Tyler Kistner (R) is attempting to upset Rep. Angie Craig, but he has been hurt by revelations that he exaggerated his service record.
Montana: Montana got a new district in reapportionment thanks to population growth. In practice, it means one more seat for Republicans, unless they mess it up very badly. Former Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is making his political comeback by running in the new district against former state bar association chairwoman Monica Tranel. He should win without great difficulty.
Nevada: All three of the Silver State’s Democrat-held congressional districts are in contention this year, in part because Democrats got greedy and stretched their support thin between three districts instead of contenting themselves with two. As a consequence, not one of them has a partisan rating better than D+5.
With unpopular Democrats Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto at the top of the ballot, and a national political environment where Joe Biden is completely toxic, Democratic House members are not safe — and in fact, even the state legislature, gerrymandered as it was by Democrats, could change hands. Rep. Dina Titus (D) is locked in a tied race with retired Col. Mark Robertson (R), according to the only recent public poll.
New Jersey: There is one interesting race in the Garden State, between Rep. Tom Malinowski (D) and Republican political scion and former state Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R).
North Carolina: Pending a court challenge to the state’s congressional map, the only race that appears competitive this year is the 13th district contest in Raleigh’s south suburbs between former college football star Bo Hines (R) and state Sen. Wiley Nickel (D). Hines is favored to win.
Oregon: Republicans have held just one Oregon House seat forever. Wouldn’t it be crazy if they suddenly held half of Oregon’s congressional seats?
Oregon’s addition of a new congressional seat has resulted in the first genuinely competitive congressional contest there in some time. In fact, there are two competitive races — in the Central Oregon 5th district and the Salem-based 6th District. Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer is narrowly favored to win in the 5th.
Pennsylvania: Republicans’ top targets here are Rep. Matt Cartwright in Scranton, Rep. Susan Wild in Allentown (7th District), and the open 17th District outside of Pittsburgh, which Rep. Conor Lamb left to make his unsuccessful Senate run. Republicans should be favored in all three of those races. They also have an outside shot at Rep. Chrissy Houlahan in the northwest Philadelphia suburbs.
Virginia: It is only natural that Republicans are going to be competitive in the Virginia Beach-based second district, where Rep. Elaine Luria faces a spirited challenge from fellow Navy veteran Jen Kiggans. But Republicans are also going on offense in the competitive 7th District, held by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D), whom Democrats tried to shore up when they drew the new map.
The more interesting race to watch might be Hung Cao‘s run at Rep. Jennifer Wexton in her Northern Virginia 10th District, home to Loudoun County. There has been immense backlash there over a proposal in the state legislature that would have called it child abuse for parents refusing to gender-transition their children, and it is not going over well even in the more liberal quarters of Northern Virginia.
Washington: Republicans are favored to hold the 3rd district, where Joe Kent (R) upset an anti-Trump Republican in the primary. The real contest is in the eighth district, where Matt Larkin (R) takes on Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier.
Wisconsin: after holding down what could have been a Republican seat for decades, Rep. Ron Kind has retired. Republican Derrick Van Orden is heavily favored to pick up his western Wisconsin 3rd District. Over the next decade, the only genuinely competitive seat in the state will probably be Rep. Bryan Steil‘s (R) Kenosha-based 6th District — the old seat of former speaker Paul Ryan. But It won’t be competitive this year.