Friday, March 09, 2018

Even Establishment Stooges Are Sensing A Wave. By The First Wednesday In November They'll Be Certain


As we noted on Tuesday, the PA-18 special election 4 days from now, should be easy-peasy for the GOP. But they're on track to spend 40 times more money on this race than the Democrats! The PVI is R+11 and it's a district where McCain beat Obama 55-44%, Romney beat Obama 58-41% and then Trump eviscerated Clinton 58.1% to 38.5%. On top of that, the Democrats have a terrible candidate-- Conor Lamb a bland, wishy-washy Blue Dog who flies in the face of the energy that is motivating Democratic enthusiasm. He's worse than Ossoff-- but in a much redder district. And yet... polls show a tie, a toss-up, with Republican officials in DC peeing in their pants.

Yesterday Chuck Todd started the day by writing how Señor Trumpanzee has managed to turn the PA-18 special election into a major referendum on himself, exactly what Democrats were hoping for... and the only way to win a blood-red district like this with a crap candidate like Lamb. "[I]f there’s reason to pay attention to the outcome on Tuesday," Todd wrote, "it’s this: Trump has put his office’s prestige on the line. In addition to the president holding a rally with Saccone on Saturday, the Washington Post suggested last week that Trump’s move on tariffs is aimed at the voters in PA-18. 'In recent weeks, he has been told by associates that voters in places such as Pennsylvania’s 18th District are looking for more to be done by the administration, according to two people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations,' the Post wrote. 'The president has noted that the Republican in the race is struggling in a district where he won by a large margin, those people said.' So the race-- despite the new map and already-evident political winds-- matters because it matters to President Trump. A win, therefore, would allow Trump to crow that the GOP can still win in Trump Country. But a loss would be devastating for him: After all the money, the campaigning and the tariff timing, to have a Republican lose in a district Trump carried by 20 points would suggest there’s not more the president can do to help GOP candidates, even in Trump Country. In sum, Tuesday’s PA-18 is a perfect microcosm of much of the Trump Era: So much attention and such high stakes on something that didn’t have to be this big-- and in large part because Trump made it so."

As Alex Isenstadt reported this week in Politico, in anticipation of a possible loss, the NRCC is already starting to trash Rick Saccone. Yep, their candidate is as mediocre and lame as Connor Lamb. The NRCC bitching is all about what a bad fundraiser he is. They're pissed off that as of the Feb 21 FEC reporting deadline, Saccone had only raised $916,392 to Lamb's $3,869,247. Because of Trump's hysteria-- as well as Paul Ryan's-- the GOP has had to open their purses is the biggest possible way-- over $10,000,000 in independent expenses to bail out Saccone.

Meanwhile you have Pennsylvania's Republican U.S. senator, Pat Toomey, bad-mouthing Trump's trade war strategy. Toomey: "I think the tariffs are a big mistake. I think the policy is very, very counter productive. It makes no sense. If there is a problem with steel, a problem that needs to be addressed, it’s Chinese over capacity. The Chinese, in an attempt to accelerate their industrialization in decades past, they built massive capacity to make steel and that’s true, that’s a fact. We can have a good debate, about what American policy should be about that fact. Here’ s the reality, because of perceived violations of trading norms, we’ve already punished the Chinese in the past and today, American imports from China are trivial. They only provide 2 percent of the steel we import... We manufacture 75 to 80 percent of all the steel we consume domestically. Our biggest imported source is, for this modest amount that we do import, is Canada. By the way, Canada buys from us as much steel as they sell to us, we just happen to have an almost equal balance of in trade of steel with Canada. So what we’re doing is were slapping a tariff on Canadian steel, which makes no sense at all, they don’t impose that kind of tariff on our steel but we’re doing that. China is completely unaffected because we already don’t buy steel from China." He completely undercut Trumpanzee's foolish reasons to start a trade war (and help Saccone). "Since we signed NAFTA, Pennsylvania’s exports to Mexico are up 500 percent. I mean it just totally opened up Mexico to all kinds of chemicals and manufactured goods, transportation equipment, the things that we sell to Mexico, that we export generally from Pennsylvania have gone through the roof. The exports that we sell to the Canadian and Mexican companies add up to more than we export to the next 10 Countries. They’re number one and two."

What a mess! And that's Trump, Trump, who is leading the GOP into a massive oncoming tsunami, an unprecendent electoral disaster, that they absolutely deserve for enabling his every unhinged circus performance since he became their nominee. This week Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball didn't just move PA-18 from "leans Republican" to "toss up," he moved 25 districts across the country in favor of Democrats-- and not one in favor of the GOP! This is the shape of the GOP catastrophe in the making. [Keep in mind Sabato is a sad-sack establishment idiot and his prognosticating months behind reality. His comments are generally worthless, other than to indicate what the DC establishment is thinking. Example: his critique of Randy Bryce's campaign is not based on reality in any way shape or form. Bryce's campaign is-- by far-- the best run in the country, the envy of every single campaign on both sides of the aisle, but Sabato is parroting DCCC/Hoyer wishful thinking and envy.]

"Democrats have been consistently overperforming Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential performance in special elections held since Donald Trump’s election," wrote Sabato... Democrats have been running on average 13 points ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 margin in the nearly 90 races held so far featuring a Democrat and a Republican. That speaks to the overall political environment, which clearly favors Democrats right now."

We’re moving Reps. Ami Bera (D, CA-7), Tom O’Halleran (D, AZ-1), and Stephanie Murphy (D, FL-7) from Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic, and we’re moving Reps. Dave Loebsack (D, IA-2), Ann Kuster (D, NH-2), Sean Patrick Maloney (D, NY-18), Tom Suozzi (D, NY-3), and Ron Kind (D, WI-3) from Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic. If a Democrat was in the White House, many or all of these members would be Republican targets. Republicans still hope to push many of them this fall, but we’re just skeptical of their ability to do so given history and the overall environment. Of all of these changes, Bera is probably the closest call-- he barely won in both 2014 and 2016, and he has had to deal with the fallout of a campaign finance scandal that sent his father to prison. But memories of that scandal are likely fading, and he benefits, just like every other Democrat, from Trump being in the White House. A possible exception may be if first-term Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D, NV-4) decides to run for a second term after retiring earlier this cycle because of sexual harassment accusations. The Nevada Independent reported Wednesday that Kihuen might be reconsidering. We currently list his open seat as Leans Democratic.

...In addition to the new PA-17 and the soon-to-be defunct old PA-18, we have three additional Republican Toss-ups to add to a growing list of 50-50 races: Reps. Rod Blum (R, IA-1), Mike Bost (R, IL-12), and Erik Paulsen (R, MN-3). The first two, Blum and Bost, represent working-class districts with down-ballot Democratic strength that swung to Trump in 2016. Both should face strong opponents and the prospect of a Democratic snapback later this year. Brendan Kelly (D), a local state’s attorney, is set to challenge Bost, while Blum awaits the winner of a contested Democratic primary. Meanwhile, Paulsen represents a more affluent district in the Twin Cities suburbs where Trump underperformed in 2018. Paulsen is likely to face Dean Phillips (D), a member of a powerful Minnesota business family. The moves here are not related to a specific new development, but rather represent a fresh assessment of these races that takes into account what we believe is a challenging environment for Republicans in districts that both moved toward and away from Trump in 2016 relative to their previous presidential voting.

Goal ThermometerThe same applies to several other Republicans who are also moving to more competitive categories this week: Reps. Mike Bishop (R, MI-8), Ted Budd (R, NC-13), Robert Pittenger (R, NC-9), Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), Steve Chabot (R, OH-1), and Pete Sessions (R, TX-32) all move from Likely Republican to Leans Republican. These incumbents seem likely to face credible challengers, and Democrats have had success in some of this territory in the recent past. Zeldin in particular stands out as someone who may be a key Democratic target if only because his Suffolk County seat has been perennially competitive. Sessions, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is a very formidable longtime incumbent, but Tuesday’s Texas primary did demonstrate an urban/suburban Democratic energy in terms of significantly improved turnout from the most recent comparable election (the 2014 midterm). That may not be enough to change the statewide dynamic, where Republicans have long ruled the roost, but members like Sessions and another longtime Texas Republican, Rep. John Culberson (R, TX-7), may be endangered in districts narrowly carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016. The Democratic primaries to face both Texas incumbents are going to runoffs: Former NFL player Colin Allred (D) more than doubled the vote of his closest competitor for the right to face Sessions and is likely a big favorite in the May 22 runoff, while attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D) and activist Laura Moser (D) will battle to face Culberson. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee clearly prefers Fletcher, and the committee intervened (some would say ham-handedly) against Moser a couple of weeks ago. Moser ended up getting about 24% of the primary vote, second to Fletcher’s 29%, but Moser’s level of support grew from 22% in the early voting to 26% of the Election Day vote, perhaps suggesting the DCCC brouhaha actually helped her improve her standing in the latter stages of the race.

Meanwhile, Reps. Vern Buchanan (R, FL-16), Jack Bergman (R, MI-1), Fred Upton (R, MI-6), Tim Walberg (R, MI-7), and Steve Russell (R, OK-5) move from Safe Republican to Likely Republican. Russell in particular may seem like a curious addition, but Democrats have had some of their best special election performances in Oklahoma so far this cycle, and the Oklahoma City-based district shifted from 59%-41% for Mitt Romney in 2012 to 53%-40% Trump in 2016, perhaps indicating some anti-Trump sentiment that could contribute to a Democratic opening in a good year. Noah Rudnick, a sharp young analyst, recently published a long piece looking at OK-5 and questioning why House handicappers were ignoring it. We were sufficiently intrigued to include it in our ratings. The other four Safe to Likely Republican districts mentioned, three in Michigan and one in Florida, are also deep sleeper Democratic targets.

One final change of note: We’re moving Speaker Paul Ryan (R, WI-1) from Safe Republican to Likely Republican, too, for a variety of reasons.

The first is that Ryan’s district is actually competitive, on paper at least: Barack Obama narrowly won it in 2008, Mitt Romney (with Ryan as his VP nominee) carried it by four points in 2012, and Trump won it by 10 in 2016. So the district seems to be trending Republican — but, remember, we’re in an electoral period where Democrats are making districts Trump won by 20 points into Toss-ups, like PA-18.

Still, Ryan has been untouchable, never winning less than 55% in his 10 victories dating back to 1998. Ironworker Randy Bryce (D), one of Ryan’s potential general election challengers, has become a minor celebrity on the left, and he raised more than $1 million in the last quarter, a lot of money for a House candidate (though he burned through almost all of what he raised last quarter, which calls into question how he is running his campaign). Still, in a big wave environment, it’s not impossible that Ryan could be vulnerable, particularly because voters don’t seem to reward senior leaders the way they used to (it’s probably not a coincidence that Ryan’s weakest general election performance in the House came in 2012, when he was also on the ballot as the vice presidential candidate and thus a highly nationalized figure).

However, the main reason we’re including Ryan’s district on the list is to account for the possibility that he may not even be running in the fall. A few months ago, some well-connected congressional reporters, Politico’s Tim Alberta and Rachael Bade and Huffington Post’s Matt Fuller, suggested Ryan was not long for the House, and in late January, Ryan was non-committal about running for reelection, and Wisconsin’s filing deadline is not until June 1. Could Ryan decide not to run? Or might he run this year and then resign after winning reelection, perhaps necessitating a special election in 2019? It’s hard to say, but Ryan may keep us all guessing for awhile, because if he retires he could prompt even more of his colleagues to also retire. Ryan is also a vital (and very strong) fundraiser for his caucus, and he might not raise as much if donors explicitly knew he was heading for the exits.
So what that chart-- which Sabato comes up with by talking to the clueless imbeciles at the DCCC-- tells us is that Republican incumbents Vern Buchanan, Rod Blum (IA), Mike Best (IL), Jack Bergman (MI), Mike Bishop (MI), Fred Upton (MI), Tim Walberg (MI), Erik Paulsen (MN), Ted Budd (NC), Bob Pittenger (NC), Lee Zeldin (NY), Steve Chabot (OH), Steve Russell (OK), Keith Rothfus (PA), Pete Sessions (TX) and Paul Ryan have joined the ranks of the vulnerable.

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At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Saw Randy Bryce on Chris Hayes last night. He presented himself and spoke very well. A stand up, honest guy with common sense and his feet on the ground. Gee, if only Congress were run by similar people, what a great country America would be!

At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did I first hear that "irrational exuberance" thing?

At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Democrats have been running on average 13 points ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 margin ... That speaks to the overall political environment, which clearly favors Democrats right now."

Maybe Occam's Razor should be employed here. It probably speaks at least as much to the quality (as in rancid, fetid) of $hillbillary and all $he $stand$ for as a candidate.

The overall environment clearly DIS-favors Rs due to the trump stink on top of the normal R stink -- like a 2-week old pile of dead skunks in a lake of fermenting pig shit. Build a rendering plant a millimeter to the left of that lake and THAT would be the democraps. Stinking to high hell, but still better than the lake.

At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to believe that the Republicans will take a heavy hit this fall. But until the "democrats" finish their primaries, we have no data with which to form any exuberant exultation that we can realize this goal. There remains much time for the Party leaders to blow this opportunity.


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