Monday, October 24, 2016

The Trump Effect-- On The 2016 Senate Races... And Beyond


You may have read yesterday that new polls are showing Democrats surging in gubernatorial races. The Trump effect looks like it will be kicking in up and down the ballots, even in the Republican-friendly states like Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia and Missouri, that have gubernatorial races this year. “We’re in a map right now where we’re pleased, on a race-by-race basis, at how this looks,” said Jared Leopold, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association. “Everyone expected that 2016 would be a difficult cycle for Democrats because we were defending more.” Is Leopold celebrating that the Trump-like "Democratic" billionaire, Jim Justice, a detestable arch conservative who reeks corruption and has announced he won't vote for Hillary, is ahead? I called the Democratic Governors Association and they refused to comment on West Virginia. They'd rather talk about North Carolina and Indiana
A Ball State University poll released Wednesday, conducted for WISH-TV in Indianapolis, shows former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg (D) leading Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) by a 48 percent to 43 percent margin in the race to replace Republican Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate.

In North Carolina, another Republican-led state, three surveys released this week show Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) locked in a tight race with Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who has faced nationwide backlash over the state’s law on public bathroom use for transgender people. Polls conducted by CNN and Survey USA showed Cooper with a narrow lead, while a survey conducted by the conservative Civitas Institute showed McCrory slightly ahead.

Surveys in two states led by Democrats, Oregon and New Hampshire, show Democrats up by significant margins in gubernatorial races.

A University of New Hampshire poll conducted for WMUR showed Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern (D) leading fellow Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (R) 44 percent to 38 percent. A MassInc poll conducted for WBUR released last week showed Van Ostern up 47 percent to 44 percent.

...In Montana, both Democrats and Republicans believe Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is likely to win a second term.

Though governor races tend to be viewed differently by voters than federal races, some Republicans worry that Donald Trump’s increasingly perilous political standing could begin to bleed down ticket, especially in North Carolina and New Hampshire, two presidential swing states.
But it's the Senate where most attention has been focused. This should have been a relatively easy year for Democrats to win the majority and to bank seats for the expected GOP come-back in 2018. The 2018 midterm map favors Republicans as much as the 2016 midterm map favors Democrats. Unfortunately, Schumer and Tester, who run the DSCC recruited excruciatingly bad candidates and not only are the Democrats not banking the seats they need to offset expected losses in 2018, they could possibly manage to not even win the Senate back this year. The only reason Schumer's dreadful, Wall Street-friendly conservative recruits are even in contention at all is because of Trump's toxicity. "Without Trump," one progressive senator who's no fan of Schumer's told me, "we wouldn't have a prayer. Schumer screwed up royally in too many states."

There are 34 Senate seats with elections this year. 10 are safely Republican-- Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama, Kansas, Idaho and Arkansas-- and not looked at as worth contesting by the Democrats and 8 are safely Democratic-- California, Oregon, Vermont, Hawaii, Maryland, Connecticut, New York and Washington-- not looked at as worth contesting by the Republicans. That leaves 16 seats with vulnerable incumbents that the two parties are battling over: just 2 Democratic-- Nevada and Colorado-- and a whopping 12 Republican seats-- Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Illinois, Georgia, Alaska, Indiana, Arizona, Missouri, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina and Florida.

Goal Thermometer Despite poking around to see if he could get Wall Street whore and New Dem chief Ron Kind to run, Schumer didn't interfere in Wisconsin, where Russ Feingold was the overwhelming favorite of the state's Democrats and is kicking unpopular extremist Republican Ron Johnson's ass. Other states were-- and thereby are-- less fortunate. Schumer overrode Iowans to insert corporate shill Patty Judge, who is going down to a tremendous defeat. Schumer squelched the early enthusiasm for smart, young, ideas-driven candidate PG Sittenfeld in Ohio and forced walking corpse, conservative throwback Ted Strickland, into the race, where he's being slaughtered by dull and unaccomplished Republican Rob Portman. Schumer recruited reactionary New Dem Ann Kirkpatrick to run against the very vulnerable John McCain. The only way she will become senator is if McCain dies before election day. In Florida, Schumer promised Wall Street he would keep Alan Grayson out of the Senate and the vessel was Wall Street's favorite New Dem, Patrick Murphy, who the DSCC and their allies spent millions on to get over the primary finish line. The DSCC has now abandoned him to Marco Rubio-- a weak and flawed candidate Grayson could have eviscerated and beaten-- who is beating Murphy. In Pennsylvania, Schumer spent a fortune denying the nomination to the extremely popular Joe Sestak-- popular with real Democrats, not with establishment elites-- and Schumer's mediocre candidate, former fracking lobbyist Katie McGinty has been unable to put the reprehensible Republican, Pat Toomey, away. Even in the one race where Schumer's strategy worked-- recruiting very right-wing corporate whore Evan Bayh in Indiana, a state that would not have otherwise been in play-- even if Evan wins, it's a mixed bag, since he tends to vote with the GOP as much as with the Democrats and if he's in the Senate he will be constantly dragging the Democratic caucus further right on most issues. He's so bad that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have pointedly left him out of their appeals to Democrats to vote to give the party a Senate majority.

The Democrats could take back Alaska-- where the GOP is in a vicious civil war between mainstream conservatives led by Lisa Murkowski and fringy neo-fascists led by Trumpist Joe Miller (running as a Libertarian) but instead of embracing the Democrat in the race, progressive reformer Ray Metcalfe, Schumer tried recruiting the incredibly corrupt Mark Begich and when Begich turned him down, gave the OK for his allies in the party establishment to throw Metcalfe under the bus and support an independent candidate instead.

The state of the race as I see it now is that Schumer has thrown away Alaska, Arizona, Iowa and Ohio and that the GOP will win each of those states. Georgia and Louisiana are going to vote Republican. Colorado, Wisconsin and Illinois are safely Democratic and Indiana, Nevada, and New Hampshire will probably go Democratic. That leaves Florida leaning Republican, Missouri leaning Republican, North Carolina and Pennsylvania true toss ups.

Over at Politico yesterday, Burgess Everett wrote that the battle for the Senate is down to 6 states: "the traditional swing states of Nevada, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, and the newly competitive states of North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana, which historically lean Republican."
One wild card is Florida, where Democrats are engaged in an internal battle about whether to add the Sunshine State back into the battleground mix. President Barack Obama was just there hammering Sen. Marco Rubio, but Democratic groups have cut more than $15 million in ad buys. Some in the party are advocating that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) can win with a reinvestment of party resources, but the DSCC and Senate Majority PAC are for now unmoved.

Here's Politico's guide to the half-dozen states that truly dictate whether Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer will be running the show next year.

New Hampshire

Democrats just got their best poll of the race from UNH/WMUR, showing Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) losing by nearly double-digits to Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Democrats are crowing about it, but no one on the ground actually thinks it’s a blowout.

...Hassan is trying to make Ayotte pay for not disavowing Trump until this month.

“When it became untenable to stick with him ... she switched,” Hassan said of Trump in an interview this month.


Republican Todd Young's campaign is laser-focused on a glaring vulnerability that’s dogged Democrat Evan Bayh since he entered the race in July: The charge that he abandoned Indiana until he wanted to run for office again.

...Thought by Democrats to be a lock when the former senator and governor enjoyed a double-digit advantage three months ago, Bayh has seen his lead dwindle to single digits after a barrage of attack ads. Democrats are betting that Indiana voters’ long history with the Bayh family will be enough.


More than ever before, Democrat Katie McGinty’s campaign is hitching itself to the Clinton wagon and attempting to make GOP Sen. Pat Toomey’s indecision on Trump the race’s signature issue. Toomey has said he's still waiting for Trump to earn his vote.

...But nationalizing the race by making it about Trump carries risks for McGinty as well. While Toomey has carved out a brand distinct from Trump’s, many voters still see her as a generic Democrat. While Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has pulled away in Pennsylvania, McGinty and Toomey are running neck-and-neck.

North Carolina

It’s all tied up in North Carolina, where Democrat Deborah Ross has steadily gained on Sen. Richard Burr, a low-key and relaxed lawmaker who vowed not to start his campaign until October. Now, Republicans are betting it all on an advertising blitz about the “radically liberal” stances Ross took while at the American Civil Liberties Union. The spots slam her for voicing concern over the state’s sex offender registry, defending flag burners and even for advocating for an adolescent who was convicted of sexual assault. (The ACLU believed he had been given too harsh a sentence for someone his age.)

Burr, however, waited to launch the attacks, causing much grumbling among national and local Republicans, who say an aggressive summer ad campaign to define Ross would’ve put the race out of reach for Democrats. Republicans familiar with Burr’s campaign said there was not enough cash to do so, as other Senate races were seen as “higher priorities.”

So the political winds, for now, are behind Ross, a former state legislator and a late-round draft pick for her party. Trump trails in the state, as Clinton airs wall-to-wall ads. And the GOP brand has suffered during a months-long fight over the state’s transgender “bathroom law,” which a majority of voters don’t support.


The GOP assumed Trump’s popularity would guarantee GOP Sen. Roy Blunt’s reelection. But while Trump’s numbers in the state slid slightly over the past month, Democrat Jason Kander gained momentum and kept outperforming Clinton on the Democratic ticket.

Kander got reinforcements from the Democratic Party’s liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren on a recent Friday in Kansas City before a capacity crowd of over 1,000 people. Warren delivered a roaring indictment of Blunt as “part of the problem” in Washington and tied him to special interest groups such as the Koch brothers.

Warren has limited appeal in red Missouri, but her depiction of Blunt as a career politician with deep ties to Washington lobbyists-- including within his own family-- syncs with Kander’s central message in the race.

Polls show Blunt with only a slight lead, and Republicans have privately urged Blunt to hit back at the Democrats' attacks more forcefully. But Blunt has instead focused on criticizing Kander over his support for Clinton and Obamacare.


The Silver State is the most diverse swing state up for grabs and the only one in which Republicans are on offense. Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) has been a solid recruit for the GOP, acquitting himself well in the Democratic-leaning state against former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. The winner will claim a big prize: the seat of Democrat Harry Reid, the retiring minority leader.

Heck has led for most of the year, though polls are showing the race beginning to tilt Cortez Masto’s way. Polling in Nevada is notoriously unreliable due to the difficulty of reaching casino workers and cellphone users. The past two surveys showed Heck up 3 percentage points and Cortez Masto up 7.

But one thing is more certain: Heck is taking plenty of heat from conservatives for unendorsing Trump.

"No Cortez Masto supporter was going to change their vote and vote for him" because Heck unendorsed Trump, said Chuck Muth, a former state GOP executive director, on Nevada radio this month. It’s one of several similar clips being circulated by Nevada Democrats.
So let's imagine that the Schumer curse is somewhat ameliorated by the Trump curse and that Democrats win Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Indiana and even Missouri and Florida. Hard to imagine, but play along. Two years later, unless Hillary suddenly turns into FDR (rather than the more likely Richard Nixon), the Democrats will face an electoral nightmare. Of the 33 Senate seats up, 9 are held by Democrats who will be considered vulnerable-- the governor-filled Kaine Virginia seat, Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Sherrod Brown (OH), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Bill Nelson (FL), Jon Tester (MT) and Joe Donnelly (IN). On top of that Bob Menendez (D-NJ) will either be super-vulnerable or in prison. Independent Angus King (ME), who caucuses with the Democrats, will also be vulnerable if LePage decides to challenge him (likely). And among Republicans, only Dean Heller (NV) could be thought to be vulnerable to a Democrat.

So... say the pretty much everything within reason goes for the Democrats-- even Missouri and Florida-- they going into 2018 with 54 seats. That's 2 years into an obstructed Hillary term and with weak candidates in red states North Dakota (Heitkamp), Missouri (McCaskill), Montana (Tester), and Indiana (Donnelly), who-knows-what in Virginia, New Jersey and Florida, where Nelson is likely to run for governor and Rick Scott will probably run for the Senate. And no Trump on the ticket. I'm sure McConnell likes those odds better than the one's he's looking at today.

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