Saturday, April 07, 2018

Can David Brat Be Ousted In November?


Ali on the left is running as a Whig. Spanberger has the mic and Ward is on the right

VA-07 is mostly famous because a nutty tea-party character, Dave Brat, defeated Eric Cantor, House Republican’s #2 leader in 2014, Canter had spent $2,940,932 in the primary alone and Brat spent $1,469,113 in both the primary and the general election. The district runs from north of Culpeper down to the suburbs west and northwest of Richmond and along the 360 in the west and as far as the Fort Pickett Military Reservation in the south. Most of the voters live in small towns around Richmond, like Glen Allen, Short Pump, Tuckahoe, Midlothian and Bon Air. Of the 10 counties, just 4 have the big voting populations: Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover and Spotsylvania.

Trump did worse than McCain (54.3%) and worse than Romney (54.6%) but Hillary didn’t benefit. Trump beat her 50.5% to 44.0%, worse than Obama both times he ran. The PVI is R+6, which isn’t impossible for a Democrat in a wave election. Brat beat Eileen Bedell 217,968 (57.%) to 158,692 (42.1%). By the end of the 2017 FEC reporting deadline there were 7 Democrats competing to take on Brat, two of whom, Dan Ward, a Marine veteran and Abigail Spanberger, an EMILY’s List thing and former CIA agent, had raised enough money to run competitive races. (One, Helen Ali, has just decided to quit the Democratic primary and run as a Whig.)

The DCCC isn’t targeting it but if the wave is big enough, the district could flip. Gillespie’s margin of victory in the gubernatorial race was just 3.7 points. Local Democrats are optimist and say the district has the right blend of Democratic energy and Republican lethargy to become competitive in November.
“The district has suburban voters who are rejecting Trump, Democratic voters who are newly energized, and disaffected Republicans fleeing Dave Brat’s Tea Party-ism,” said Jesse Ferguson, a veteran Democratic operative who got his start in Virginia politics.

“It is an uphill race. But it’s not pushing a boulder up the hill.”

Republican officials concede the district may be competitive, and some are increasingly worried about the status of Brat’s campaign and the challenge he may face.  Former Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican who previously ran his party’s campaign committee, said he doesn’t consider it a top-tier race, but noted that Brat could be vulnerable to a wave election.

“I think David’s got to run through the tape,” Davis said. “This is the kind of year where the Republicans see a big storm coming. They just don’t know, if it’s a strong windstorm, if it’s a category one or a category five.”

…[Ward and Spanberger] concede there are few policy differences between them, particularly on the major issues: Both support an assault-weapons ban and universal gun background checks, and both back Medicare X, a public option proposal from Sen. Tim Kaine, though neither opposes single-payer health care. In interviews, both emphasized the need for broadband Internet access in the rural parts of their district. The difference between them is mainly one of approach and style.

In a candidate forum Monday hosted by the Richmond University College Democrats, Ward consistently turned his attention to the Trump administration, criticizing the president and framing the race through the lens of what he argued are Republican abuses of power.

“Our institutions are what protect our democracy and our institutions are under assault from the inside out,” Ward said in an interview prior to the forum. “These folks are like termites, they’re doing it from the inside out. We need to take the House of Representatives.”

Spanberger, meanwhile, said in an interview that while there are very few issues she agrees with Trump on, she aims to be more muted in her criticisms of the current administration, instead focusing more on the ins and outs of policy and her positive vision for the district.

“He talks a lot about Trump, and a lot about standing up to Trump, and I talk a lot about putting us back on the right path. They’re very different pivots,” Spanberger said.

To win this district requires surging Democratic turnout and crossover support from Republicans, and both candidates are developing strategies for support from across the parties. Ward argued his background as a farmer would help him win votes from rural Republicans.

“I’ve always thought in order to win in this district it was going to take a rural veteran,” he said.

Spanberger argued she also has strong crossover appeal given her background, though her base of support could hail from the heavily Republican suburban area where she lives.

“We have across the board been able to attract a lot of those people,” Spanberger said. “People will say, ‘Even though you’re a Democrat…’

“It’s about bringing civility to the conversation and being a Democrat who’s willing to talk to Republicans, being a Democrat who’s willing to talk to independents,” she added.

For Republicans, there are major signs of concern in the district that, historically, has not been competitive. Last fall, Democrats knocked off three GOP incumbents in the House of Delegates whose seats overlap the district, and both Spanberger and Ward outraised Brat in the fourth quarter of 2017, though he led them in cash on hand. A Brat spokesman declined to comment or make the congressman available for an interview to discuss the race. The two-term lawmaker recently told Politico: “All I talk is policy.”

To avoid a competitive race, Davis said Brat would have to mend fences with establishment Republicans in his district four years after defeating Cantor.

“Has he built bridges or has he just gone back to his base? He can’t win this with base voters,” Davis said. “He’s going to need some more moderate Republicans that he’s not traditionally catered to.”

Nationally, Brat has built bridges-- Speaker Paul Ryan’s PAC maxed out a $5,000 donation to his campaign last year, along with those of more than a hundred other incumbents, and Rep. Steve Scalise, the Republican whip, is headlining an annual breakfast fundraiser for Brat next month.

Still, Republican operatives are prepared for the race to become competitive and believe an injection of outside money could prevent a damaging loss.

“Do I think that Brat is vulnerable? Yes. But Brat will be saved from electoral defeat because national Republicans will save the seat,” said the national strategist familiar with Virginia, who requested anonymity to speak frankly. “It won’t be anything that he’s done or will do because he’s not really putting himself in a position to win.”

Both Democrats are themselves potentially vulnerable to outside attacks. Republicans have made two things central to their campaigns this year: talking up their tax cuts, and linking Democrats to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

On the tax bill, Spanberger criticized it as “wholly irresponsible” because it added to the national debt, and said she doesn’t support making the individual tax cuts, which are currently set to expire in a decade, permanent. Ward said he supports repealing the entire tax law outright. Though Republicans are likely to run ads saying Ward would back tax hikes if he becomes the nominee, he said he welcomes that debate.

The “tax break these folks have received has been nominal,” he said of middle-class cuts compared to those for the wealthy and corporations. “It’s been pennies compared to where most of the money is going.”

On the other issue, Pelosi, the candidates diverge. Spanberger praised the former speaker, but said she would “very much like to vote for someone else,” and said the party needs new leadership. She acknowledged, however, that Republicans were “100 percent” likely to still run ads linking her to Pelosi if she becomes the nominee, and admitted they might be somewhat effective regardless of her position.

Ward, on the other hand, said he’d have no problem backing Pelosi as leader-- though he said he could also vote for a challenger depending on who emerged. When asked about ads linking him to Pelosi and the potential to damage his campaign, he responded: “Let them run the ads.”

“Why do we Democrats allow Republicans to demonize our people?” he said. “If we acquiesce to that pressure to replace Nancy Pelosi as speaker, whoever follows her is going to be Demon No. 2, and we have to stop giving them that space.”

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At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Why do we Democrats allow Republicans to demonize our people?”

Because your people are demons. pretty simple.

Rs do it because they're Rs and need to scare their nano-cephalitic voters. But the democraps still can't find it in themselves to be good people and stand for even those nano-cephalitics who aren't racists.

2009 proved to me that your people are pure evil as they refused to address anything in that seminal voter mandate. Your people paid the price in 2010 for that evil.

We've all been paying for that evil since 1980.

At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the "democrats" bungled the recent Delegate special election in VA, I'm not sure I'd trust the DxCC to take out the garbage anymore. They'd probably drop it and scatter it all over, then leave it for someone else to clean up.

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous", in the first comment, seems extremely familiar with "evil". I think I'm beginning to understand why he seems to think so. Disappointment Derangement Syndrome.

At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rhetorical question:
who is more evil, the one who says he's going to steal your money, rape your wife and burn down your house... or the one who comes over to celebrate your birthday with you, steals your money, rapes your wife and burns down your house?

My vote is for the latter. Yes, that makes Pelosi more evil than tom delay. And it isn't even close.

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At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two military industrial complex candidates, neither of whom support medicare for all or reining in American imperialism. Why not just vote for the Republican? What's the difference?

At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:17, if you subscribe to the binary, lesser-evilest theorem, then you will either vote for the Nazi or nancy Pelosi's vision of things (candidate is irrelevant). We know what that means. We saw that from 2006-2010. It includes nothing for anyone who did not donate at least 7 figures.

So, in that world, there *is* no difference except sometimes the democrap is female and/or not white.

another rhetorical question (assuming the Whig thing isn't an April Fool's thing):
How stupid is someone who is running as the only Whig since 1855? If you're FDR-democrat-adjascent, why not just run as a Green or Independent? You think the label "Whig" will get you votes?

Fyi: The whigs were a mixture of a lot of the worst of both today's democraps and republicans. And once their 2 charismatic leaders died, they were too schizophrenic to survive on their own. They were formed as an opposition to Andrew Jackson's actions but their advocacy was never really well defined. Kind of like today's democraps who SAY they are lefty but GOVERN like they are Mussolini.

Claiming allegiance to the moribund skeleton of the Whigs automatically DQs anyone in my book, almost as absolutely as claiming to be a democrap (whether running as a savior or disciple) or republican.

So I guess I now have 3 "parties" I'll never vote for ever again. I should write this down.

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen Ali chose to be a Whig??? Why take on the mantle of a dead, failed party when one could be a DINO-Whig, rake in millions in DxCC capital, and still be a member of a dead, failed party?


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