Despite a favorable national climate, Democrats have struck out in the first two Congressional Special Elections this spring. To the casual observer (such as President Trump), you may get the impression that the GOP has fought back Dem challenges and will have a great chance to hold their ground in the mid terms. Well... that isn't actually the case. Democrats should have never even had a chance in either MT-AL or #KS04. Nate Silver posted a good comparison here to how Democrats have been performing in special elections in 2017 vs how they voted on the Presidential level in 2012 & 2016.
A 15.5% lean towards Democrats over an average between 2012 & 2016 is indicative of a year when Democrats have a decent chance of winning the house. Unlike KS-04, MT-AL and SC-5, Democrats actually have a chance in GA-6. Georgia 6 has been a reliably red seat in for both congressional and Presidential candidates. Despite running heavily for Price in 2016, against a Democrats that I am still not convinced actually ever existed (Look up Rodney Stooksbury and see if you can find out if it is a real person.), the district swung heavily from Romney +23.3% to Trump +1.5%.
While Georgia's 6th Congressional district is much more Caucasian than the state as a whole (GA-6 is 72.4% vs Georgia as a whole being 59.7%), Georgia 6 is also much more highly educated than the state as a whole: 56.3% College Graduation rate in GA-6 vs 35.5% College Graduation rate in Georgia as a whole. This suburban district is exactly the place where Democrats will need to capitalize on an anti-Trump backlash if they want to win back the House in 2018.
Democrats probably shouldn't be all that competitive here. That being said, Trump has maintained historically low approval ratings for such an early point in a Presidency. That coupled with the unique demographics of GA-6 and a less than stellar Republican candidate. Karen Handel ran for the Republican Gubernatorial nomination in 2010 and came in second behind Nathan Deal by 0.4%. In 2014, Handel ran for the open Senate Seat in Georgia and came in third behind Perdue and Kingston. This being said, she did win her 2006 election in Georgia for Secretary of State. While Ossoff the ideal candidate, he is no Quist.
Montana brought an interesting set of circumstances that we don't have in Georgia. Quist and Gianforte were both spectacularly terrible candidates. Gianforte's biggest blunder could be considered assaulting a reporter on the eve of the election. Quist still lost because, 1. Montana is really that red, 2. 73% of ballots had already been cast before election day, & 3. Assaulting a reporting probably encouraged some voters that were heavily behind Trump to come out and support Gianforte.
So, should Democrats be considered the favorite in GA-6? Well, it is ~3 weeks off. But, the race certainly appears to be sliding away from the NRCC and Karen Handel. A Handel win would not be a surprise, but it would suggest Democrats will be unable to win back the House in 2018 if the national climate doesn't worsen for Republicans. (It certainly could. The climate being this bad this early in a Presidency is not a good sign.)
This race was mostly ignored, but offered important insight into the upcoming GA06 runoff in June. Democrats did not even field a candidate for the 32nd State Senate district in Georgia for the 2012, 2014 or 2016 cycles. Never the less, Democrat Christine Triebsch came within 13.96% on Tuesday. Republican Kay Kirkpatrick won with 56.98% of the vote.
These results are certainly consistent with the premise that the GA06 runoff is still a dead heat. The GOP seems to have failed to make up the ground Trump lost them at the top of the ticket here in 2016. More than that, the GOP seems to be losing even more off that. If Trump remains unpopular here (relatively high College grad electorate here with 56.3%), Ossoff has at least a toss-up chance at winning this one narrowly. These are the type of districts that Democrats would need to win in 2018 to have a chance to take back the House with the unfavorably drawn maps they face in may states.
Here is a link to the precinct level comparison of Tuesday's SD32 election to the 2-party vote share in the GA06 Jungle primary: here.
Over the weekend, the Star Tribune released a poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research. The poll gave Minnesota's Senior Senator, Amy Klobuchar, a stunning 72% approval rating with only 19% disapproval. That 72% includes 95% of Democrats, 70% of Independents and even 51% of Republicans. The poll was a Registered Voter sample and had a partisan split of only D+2. Minnesota does not have political party registration. (Minnesota caucuses are semi-open and only require that a participant "generally" supports the party and the party's platform. There is nothing keeping someone from caucusing one year as a Democrat and another year as a Republican. Minnesota primaries are open, however voters cannot "cross over" within the same ballot.)
The 72% approval startled some people in my Twitter feed in Minnesota and around the country. That number shouldn't surprise anyone considering Klobuchar received 65.23% of the vote to GOP nominee Kurt Bills' 30.53%. Picking up ~7%, for a Democrat, moving from actual vote share (with a named opponent) to just a share of the state's registered voters is absolutely a reasonable figure. I haven't seen any push-back from the Minnesota GOP, which is an indication that they are seeing the same thing. The Minnesota GOP may just decide to mostly ignore the Senate race here and focus on the open races for Governor and State Auditor while trying to field a credible challenger for Secretary of State Steve Simon. This would also free up funds for the NRSC to focus on pick ups in more likely places: Indiana, Montana, Missouri, West Virginia, North Dakota & Wisconsin. The NRSC will also have to sure up incumbents in Arizona and Nevada. Pouring money into a race where the incumbent has a 72% approval rating isn't wise when you have so many other places to spend your money and man power more effectively.
All of that being said, who may run for the GOP nomination in 2018? Well, the most credible challenger would be Eric Paulsen. Problem there is that the NRC is going to want to encourage him to stay and defend his 50.8%-41.4% Clinton seat. If Paulsen is looking for a promotion to avoid a tough reelection battle, he may decide to take the plunge and run for Governor. That's really it. No one on the GOP side has even raised the possibility of running. This could change if a prominent Republican starts to take a hold of the Gubernatorial Nomination. If that happens, a member of the State Legislature may be looking to raise his or her profile by running a race that expectations will start so low that anything short of a 35% loss would be considered an improvement over 2012 and expectations for 2018.
On Thursday, one of the Republicans I identified as a potential candidate over the weekend, announced that he will be competing for the Republican nomination for Minnesota's 2018 Gubernatorial election. The Republican is State Representative Matt Dean of 38B in the Northeast metro.
Dean was the Minnesota House Majority Leader from 2011-2013 during Kurt Zellers' (not to be confused with potential 2018 candidate, and current Speaker of the House, Kurt Daudt) tenure as Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives. Dean first won his seat in 2004 when he beat Rebecca Otto (current State Auditor and DFL candidate for Governor) 51.59%-48.32%. For reference, that year George W. Bush was beating John Kerry 52.94%-46.05% in the same district. In 2003, Otto won the seat over Matt Dean 54.40%-43.47%. Obama won his district by 21 votes (49.30%-49.22%) in 2008. Dean won reelection in 2016 by over 3,400 votes for a 56.94%-42.95% margin while Trump was carrying the district by a much more modest 46.04%-44.89%. While Minnesota was much tighter in 2016 than is had been in 2008 or 2012, Clinton performed quite well in the suburbs. Dean's district was a prime example of this.
Dean isn't a stranger to fights both political and the personal. In 2011, Dean made some statements about author Neil Gaiman that he later apologized for being a "name caller." Dean said Gaiman is an author "who I hate," was a "pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota." It is worth noting that, according to Gaiman, the fee was actually $33,600 and was "donated to charity groups."
Dean isn't exactly the most moderate of Minnesota Republicans. He is currently promoting a petition on his website (MattDean.org and not his campaign site which is mattdeanforgovernor.com) to "kill" MNSURE. He vowed in his statement announcing his campaign to "kill and bury MNSURE and go back to doing healthcare the Minnesota way."
Dean's wife, Laura, was a Delegate to the 2016 National GOP Convention in Cleveland. Information is not readily available as to which candidate she was bound to. However, Dean was a District-wide delegate from MN-04. Therefore, we know she was either bound to Rubio (2 of 3 MN-04 Delegates) or Cruz (1 of 3 MN-04 Delegates).
I have posted a Google Spreadsheet that breaks down precinct level for Presidential races in 2012 & 2016 in GA-06 along with 2017 Jungle primary numbers broken down by party. I added together all Democratic candidates and all Republican candidates to create a two party vote share. The total vote number includes unaffiliateds and therefore will not add up to 100%.
Going to start posting some regular looks at the Minnesota races we have on tap for 2018. Trump came closer to winning Minnesota than any Republican Presidential candidate has come since Ronald Reagan did in 1984 when Walter Mondale carried the state by 0.18% (3,761 votes). Trump lost to Clinton in Minnesota by 1.51% (44,593 votes) while winning in 5 of Minnesota's 8 congressional districts. The third party share of the vote in Minnesota was 8.63%. That is the largest share of the vote since 1996 when third parties combined for 14.66%. 1996 paled in comparison to 1992 when third parties (almost entirely Perot) took 24.67% or 579,110 votes. These third parties are important to keep in mind when talking about Minnesota. Even when they don't win (Ventura, 1998), they regularly take a significant portion of the vote for Statewide races.
Minnesota is one of the few states in the Midwest where the Democrats have a large bench. Large may be selling it short. Republicans have not held a statewide office in Minnesota since Mark Dayton took office in January of 2011. Democrats hold a 5-4 majority in congressional seats in Minnesota. The last time the GOP held a majority of U.S. House seats in Minnesota was 1983. They only held a majority for the 1981-1983 term. Before that was 1973. The last time the GOP held both Minnesota Senate seats was 1991. The Democrats have had both Senate Seats since Franken took office in 2009 after a long recount and court battle.
The deep bench of the Minnesota DFL (This is what Minnesota Democrats have called themselves since 1944 when the Democratic and the Farmer Labor party merged) is evident when you look at the number of prominent DFL'rs that have entered the race. There have also been a few high profile passes: Former DNC Vice Chair and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, sitting Senior Senator Amy Klobuchar and sitting Lt. Governor Tina Smith .
Here is a list of the declared DFL candidates:
Here is a list of potential DFL candidates:
As I said before, most of these Republicans are very unlikely to run. The state GOP needs to recruit a likely sacrificial lamb to run against Klobuchar in 2014. They also need to field candidates for open races in MN-01 & the State Auditor's race. They have statewide races for Attorney General and the Secretary of State (the state-wide race with the closest margin in 2014) as well as trying to make pick-ups in MN-07 & MN-08. If someone like Erik Paulsen decides to jump in, look for most of the lower profile Republicans to start announcing for those other races.
One Democrat who is likely to stay put is Attorney General Lori Swanson. She may be more likely to make a run for Senate in the future should Franken or Klobuchar make a run for the White House. At the age of 50, she certainly could just wait to run for Governor in 2022 or 2026 as well. She has been able to stay above the political bickering to this point, so she may be looking to maintain that until she has a clearer path.
Former State House member from Golden Valley, Ryan Winkler (2007-15), announced his intentions to run for Attorney General. He mad it clear in his announcement that his run was conditional on Lori Swanson not seeking a fourth term. He spoke highly of her and said he would not run to challenge her. He began sending out emails to state DFL voters after the 2016 cycle about once a month. He has yet to move those emails from the general "advocacy of issues and current events" emails to any sort of campaign event and explicit pleas for contributions. His emails don't sound like a candidate that thinks he will be running.
I will be writing more on the Gubernatorial race in Minnesota in the coming days, weeks and months so stay tuned. Any news/campaign/polling tips or suggestions can be sent to email@example.com
I have locked in my final projections for the Presidential race and the battle for control for the Senate. I am projecting Clinton to win by a margin of 4.26% and 323-215 Electoral Votes. I am projecting the GOP to lose 3 seats, but keep a narrow, 51-49, Senate majority. There are a handful of close states that could go either way. The error bars aren't all that long... the races are just that close. For example, in the Senate, MO, NC, NH, FL, PA, NV, IN & WI could really go either way. Right now, I have the GOP favored to take 5 of those 8. If the Democrats were to take all 8 (extremely unlikely), Democrats would have a 54-46 Senate majority. Conversely, if the GOP took all 8 (slightly less unlikely), Republicans would hold a 54-46 Senate majority. So, Democratic pick-up range of possibilities: between 0 and 8. GOP pick-up in NV would be offset by the Democratic pick-up in Illinois.
The Presidential race also has states that could go either way. NH, AZ, CO, NV, FL, PA, NC, OH, ME-2, NE-2... Clinton, if she takes all of those, would have a 353-185 victory. If Trump takes all of those: he would win by 279-259. So, Trump's ceiling is likely 279. Clinton's is 353. Both are about equally as likely.
Election night, I am volunteering with DecisionDeskHQ.com. Their independent vote count will be covered by Buzzfeed and Tweet as well as some other outlets. I highly recommend that you keep that site open in your tabs on election night. We will be reporting results directly from the county election authorities and not from the AP. DDHQ strives to have the fastest and most accurate count.
Again, here are my "razor's edge" races. Today, Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia have joined the list. Not including these states: Clinton holds a 236-160 EV lead with the 5%+ races.
States on a "razor's edge" (Under 5% in my current popular vote projections)
A quick look at the changes in the "razor's edge" states I highlighted yesterday.
States on a "razor's edge" (Under 5% in my current popular vote projections)
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