Election News

Minnesota 2nd Congressional District Election Delayed after Candidate Dies

September 24, 2020

The November election in Minnesota's 2nd congressional district will be delayed after the death of Adam Charles Weeks, nominee of the Legal Marijuana Now Party. The seat will be vacant from the start of the 117th Congress in January until after a special election is held on February 9, 2021. 

Per Minnesota law, if a major party nominee dies within 79 days of Election Day, a special election will be held on the second Tuesday of February. The Legal Marijuana Now Party qualifies as a major party in the state.

Statement from Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon

District 2 covers the southern part of the Twin Cities metro area. Democratic Rep. Angie Craig flipped the seat in 2018, defeating incumbent Republican Jason Lewis. The GOP nominee this year is Tyler Kistner, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer.  Craig is favored to win a second term, although there is some disagreement among analysts about how strong her position is. Cook Political has the seat as Leans D; Sabato's Crystal Ball Likely D; Inside Elections Safe D.

Complicating an Electoral College Tie

This temporary vacancy may prove relevant should the presidential election need to be decided in the House of Representatives (e.g., in a 269-269 tie).  In that case, each state's U.S. House delegation gets one vote. The partisan split is currently 5-3 in favor of Democrats. There are three safe Democratic districts and two safe GOP districts. District 1 leans Republican. If GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn wins there, the split will be 3-3 with the majority decided by the result in District 7. This is a true toss-up: Democrat Collin Peterson is seeking a 16th term in a district that has grown progressively more GOP-leaning over the years. It voted for Donald Trump by 31% over Hillary Clinton in 2016, far and away his largest margin in any district represented by a Democrat in the House.

Interactive Map for the FiveThirtyEight Senate Forecast

September 22, 2020

FiveThirtyEight recently added a Senate forecast to its website.  As of this writing, their model gives Democrats a 62% probability of winning control.  The most likely outcomes are a 50-50 split, followed by a 51-49 Democratic margin. In a 50-50 split, the outcome of the presidential election will determine Senate control.  The 62% figure is therefore somewhat influenced by the site's presidential forecast.

We've created an interactive map based on this model. It will update every two hours, reflecting the then-current probabilities associated with each race. Click or tap the image below for full details and to use it as a starting point to create and share your own 2020 Senate forecast.

The Road to 270: Texas

September 21, 2020

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Drew Savicki, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Drew via email or on Twitter @SenhorRaposa.

As Southern college-educated whites have begun to vote like their Northern counterparts, the Lone Star State - long a bastion of the Republican Party - has emerged as a newly competitive state. Dominated by several large metro areas and a diverse economy, Texas has seen migration from across the country. Though its rugged, cowboy persona still characterizes the state, elections are being increasingly decided in the suburbs of its large metro areas.

Congressional politics

Texas has emerged as a major congressional battleground in recent years. Forecasters such as Sabato’s Crystal Ball put about a dozen Lone Star seats on the board this cycle, and almost all those districts are currently in GOP hands. By contrast, in 2012, the Crystal Ball ended the cycle by rating 34 of the state’s 36 seats as Safe for either party -- an indication of how the playing field has expanded there.

All of this year’s competitive Texas districts voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, but either gave Trump a lesser share, or outright flipped to Clinton four years later. The key factor is the education level. The Texas suburbs are home to no shortage of college-educated white voters -- a constituency that was receptive to Republicans like the Bush family but one that has been cooler toward Trump.

Let’s start with two seats that are currently thought of as reach targets for Democrats. These are seats that the Crystal Ball rates as ‘Likely Republican,’ meaning they have potential to be competitive, but Republicans have a clear advantage.

TX-2: Outer Houston suburbs. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R) was elected in 2018. Around the time of his election, Crenshaw came to fame after being mocked on SNL, and he later made an appearance on the show. A youthful veteran with a strong social media presence, Crenshaw seems likely to be around in politics for quite a while. Still, his district, which arcs north around Houston, is becoming less GOP. Trump won it by just nine points, after Romney carried it by 27% in 2012. Senator Ted Cruz (R) carried it by just one point in 2018. In his race, Crenshaw won the open seat by seven points in 2018. As the incumbent, he seems to have the upper hand now, but he’ll need to keep generating that type of crossover support.

TX-3: Plano and other northern Dallas suburbs. Rep. Sam Johnson (R) held this district for 28 years -- he retired in 2018 and died earlier this year. Respected on both sides, Johnson was a veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, and was a POW during the latter conflict. In fact, in Vietnam, he shared a cell with another congressional giant: the late John McCain. Taking up most of Collin County, this area was one of the first in the state to start voting Republican. Romney carried it 63%-34% but Trump brought that down to just a 55-41% win, while Cruz only won this district by 3.5% in 2018. This district boasts the highest number of college-educated voters of any Republican held seat . Given the exodus of college-educated whites from the GOP, this is a real race to watch in November. Rep. Van Taylor (R) was elected in 2018 by a ten-point margin but some polling suggests a close race. If Biden flips Texas, or comes close, there’s a good chance he carries this district. 

The Crystal Ball also rates districts 6, 25, and 31 as ‘Likely R’ but these seats are not seeing the same level of attention as the other discussed above.

Moving on to the more competitive seats, there are two that are favored to flip to the Democrats, one is rated a tossup, and another rated as ‘Leans Republican.’

TX-10: Western Houston to Austin. One of the wealthiest members of Congress, Rep. Mike McCaul has represented this district since 2005. In 2016, McCaul toyed with a 2018 intraparty challenge to Ted Cruz after the Senator declined to endorse then-nominee Donald Trump at the party convention. Eventually, Cruz warmed to Trump. McCaul faced the closest race of his career in 2018, winning by just 4%. By comparison, in the Senate race, then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke squeaked out a win in the district. Overall, there seem to be better Democratic targets this time: McCaul's personal wealth allows him to bankroll his campaign.

Let’s look at the two that are likeliest to flip -- the Crystal Ball rates districts 23 and 24 as ‘Leans Democratic’:

TX-23: San Antonio suburbs, U.S./Mexico border, and El Paso. Rep. Will Hurd (R), a moderate Republican and the lone Black Republican in the House, is retiring after just three terms. In 2018, Hurd prevailed by less than 1,000 votes against Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones. Jones is back again and seems favored to flip this geographically vast seat. She maintains a considerable financial advantage over Republican Tony Gonzales.

TX-24: Northern Dallas suburbs. Democrat Candace Valenzuela seems favored to flip this diversifying district held by retiring Republican Kenny Marchant. Marchant has been a backbench conservative who narrowly fended off a poorly funded challenger in 2018. That year, O’Rourke, carried the district and Valenzuela seems to have an ideal background to build upon his performance. In a video kicking off her campaign, she outlined her biography as an Afro-Latina woman who grew up in poverty and is now on a local school board. Over the past two decades, the area has moved left quickly. Republicans have a serious nominee in former Irving mayor Beth Van Duyne, but if Texas is as close as state polling indicates, Biden could help Valenzuela flip the seat.

Looking at two Democratic held seats that the party flipped in 2018, both incumbents appear to be in good shape for reelection.

TX-7: Western Houston suburbs. In 2018, Democratic Attorney Lizzie Fletcher defeated nine-term Rep. John Culberson (R) in the state’s 7th District. Once represented by George H.W. Bush, TX-7 is one of the most historically Republican districts in the state. Encompassing much of western Harris County, the 7th District is home to a large population of affluent white voters. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) recently canceled ad buys in the Houston market, a sign that they are giving up on winning back TX-7. The Crystal Ball currently rates this as ‘Leans Democratic,’ but that could change given the cancellations by the NRCC. Republicans have a credible candidate in veteran Wesley Hunt. He has proven himself a strong fundraiser but it seems the trendline is too steep for him to overcome. As one of the few Black Republicans nominated for a congressional seat, Hunt has enjoyed considerable attention from the Republican establishment, including endorsements from President Trump and Senator Ted Cruz (a resident of this district).

TX-32: northern Dallas suburbs, this is the home district of former President George W. Bush. Former NFL linebacker and attorney Colin Allred defeated Rep. Pete Sessions 52%-46% in 2018. This district went for Hillary Clinton 49%-47% in 2016, after Mitt Romney carried it by 15 points in 2012. Allred has proven to be an outstanding fundraiser and this seat has fallen off the target list, as the Crystal Ball rates it as ‘Likely Democratic’.

Although he doesn’t represent a competitive district, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) (TX-28) is one of the more interesting members of the congressional delegation. The Laredo Democrat opposes abortion rights and was a close ally of then Governor W. Bush while he was in the Texas legislature. Cuellar faced a close primary earlier this year and will likely remain a big target for progressives in the future. Cuellar’s stance on abortion is to put it mildly, quite of step with the party. Given his friendliness with many Republicans in the legislature, Cuellar is a rare Democrat the party will try to shore up in redistricting, likely by removing the San Antonio suburbs where he was quite weak in his primary.

Texas also has a Senate election on the ballot this year, one that has taken on a much lower profile than the barnburner 2018 Cruz/O’Rourke race. Sen. John Cornyn (R) was first elected in 2002 and previously served as the Senate Majority Whip from 2015-2019. Earlier in his career, Cornyn was a County Judge, then State Supreme Court Justice, and in 1998 was elected Attorney General of Texas. This seat has not been a priority for Democrats seeking to reclaim the majority in the upper chamber. The Democratic nominee - Veteran MJ Hegar came close to flipping a House seat in 2018, but has struggled to raise the money necessary to compete in a very large and expensive state.

A villain among Democrats, Texas’s junior Senator, Ted Cruz, first came to the Senate in 2013. A former state Solicitor General, Cruz has straddled the line between establishment and anti-establishment conservative in the Senate. The son of an evangelical pastor, Cruz heavily targeted those voters in his ill-fated presidential bid in 2016. Cruz’s path to victory in the primary was predicated on strong support from evangelicals, Tea Party conservatives, and libertarians. When that 2016 primary ended as essentially a two-man race between Cruz and Trump -- with Ohio Governor John Kasich as a third wheel -- the Texas senator, ironically, found himself appealing to the party’s establishment elements. What Cruz couldn’t see coming when he launched his bid was Trump’s ability to bring out droves of newer, often less ideological voters, to Republican primaries.

State level politics

With Republicans support among college-educated whites declining, Democrats are making a play for the Texas House of Representatives this year. Unlike in Wisconsin, where Democrats are clustered into two major areas, Republicans face a geographic problem in Texas. Simply put, too many of their voters are located in the state’s sprawling rural areas. GOP strength in the Panhandle, Central Plains, and the eastern Piney Woods is close to being maxed out, and only so many voters are there.

By contrast, the Democratic-trending suburbs have seen explosive growth. After picking up 11 seats in 2018, Democrats need nine more to gain the majority. The party has released a flurry of internal polls showing them either leading or close in seats that would have once been unthinkable for the party to contest. Meanwhile on the Republican side, internals have been scarce. With rural Democrats being a thing of the past, the party is almost entirely on offense.

If there's one seat that's a bellwether in November, it's House District 134. Sarah Davis is perhaps the most moderate Republican in the chamber and the only Republican in the legislature who supports abortion rights. If she loses, Democrats will have taken the chamber. 

The Texas governorship has been a launching pad for presidential campaigns, and that seems likely to continue. Gov. Greg Abbott is a favorite of conservatives and as governor of a large state, he enjoys a large platform. It seems likely that Abbott will run for President regardless of whether Trump loses this year. Not bound by term limits, he’ll be up for reelection in 2022 and seems likely to seek a third term, much to the chagrin of some other state Republicans. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Attorney General Ken Paxton are known to have bigger ambitions, so Abbott may be creating something of a logjam. Another Texas politician to watch is Land Commissioner George Prescott Bush. Though the office is low profile, he’s notable as a member of the Bush family.

Texas is a rare state where arguably the Lt. Governor is a more powerful position than Governor. As President of the Texas Senate, the Lt. Governor has an outsized role in setting the majority's agenda and running the day to day operations of the chamber. The position greatly resembles the Lt. Governors of the old South, who also enjoyed similar powers but were reduced over the years. Like how it was in those states, the Texas Lt. Governor's powers are established by Senate rules rather than being enshrined in law. If a majority of Senators wanted, they could easily shift the powers to the President Pro Tempore. Although a Democrat, Lt. Governor Bob Bullock enjoyed a strong relationship with then Governor George W. Bush and was a key player in pushing Bush's agenda as Governor. Texas is also rather unique in that neither chamber is technically organized by party, but the divisions are quite clear.

Presidential politics

Texas Polls >>

Texas’s emergence as a presidential battleground is rather new. The state has reliably voted Republican for President since 1980 and has elected only Republican Senators since the  1990s. Texas lurched rightward in the Reagan era thanks to the Democrats increasingly becoming a party of social liberalism and environmentalism. The oil industry is a major economic powerhouse in the Lone Star state, employing thousands of people across the state -- indeed, pumpjacks have long been iconic fixtures that dot the west Texas landscape. With the party running liberal candidates in 1984 and 1988, there wasn’t much to offer to Texas voters.

In 1992, the state was more competitive, as the Democratic nominee was Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. Though President George H. W. Bush claimed Texas as his adopted home, another Texan on the ballot, Reform Party nominee Ross Perot, also made the race closer than usual. With then-Gov. George W. Bush on the ticket, Texas wasn’t in play in 2000, and Bush cleared 60% there in 2004. Despite the national wave that year, Texas wasn’t in play in 2008. By 2016, Texas Republicans had virtually maxed out in the state’s rural areas, but had considerable room to fall in the populous educated suburbs that dominate the state.

There has been limited high quality polling of the state this year but most recent surveys have been close, generally within the margin of error. Although Biden is seeing weaker support among Hispanics in Florida than Clinton did in 2016, Hispanics in Texas are a different bunch. His increase in support among college-educated whites offsets any losses among blue collar Hispanics in the Rio Grande Valley. Those areas don’t offer many votes.

The real battle for Texas is in the suburbs of places like Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Three counties in the Dallas metro area are worth watching this year: Denton, Collin, and Tarrant. To win Texas, Tarrant seems like a must-win county for Biden, and he’ll need to keep the other two within a few points.

What does Trump need to do to keep the state in his column? He needs to reverse his slide with college educated voters, particularly white women. Unlike in the Midwest, non-college educated whites are not a swing group in Texas -- a large majority of them will support Trump. If Trump continues to slide with college educated white voters, the Midwest won’t be his pressing concern -- it will be Texas. Fresh polling from CBS shows Trump leading Biden 48%-46% in Texas. CBS gives Trump a 53%-40% lead with white college graduates, but that’s a clear drop from the 62%-31% margin he earned with them in 2016.

Texas has 38 electoral votes, second only to California, a number that’s expected to grow by three after this year’s census. Trump has virtually no path to reelection without Texas, and, given the larger trends, future Republican nominees will have to work increasingly hard to keep it in the red column.


Next Week:  Ohio

Tentative Schedule:  Georgia (10/5), Iowa (10/12), Arizona (10/19), Florida (10/26), North Carolina (11/2). Dates subject to change. 

We use the model powering the 2020 presidential election simulator to determine the following week's state. Specifically, we will look at the 'Battleground 270' results of 25,000 simulations run late Sunday afternoon.  Of the states remaining, the next to be covered will be that with the highest likelihood of a Trump or Biden win as of that date. View the current state-by-state probabilities in the table at the bottom of the Battleground 270 page.

Reports in this series:

 

Polling Map with No Toss-ups

September 16, 2020

Our new polling map categorizes states as red or blue based on who is leading in the polling average. There are no toss-ups here unless the state is exactly tied. This map will update three times a day; the image below will reflect the latest update. Click or tap for an interactive version.

You can compare this to the more granular polling map, which rates states based on the margin between the two nominees. This map updates on the same schedule as the no toss-up map, so that they remain in sync.  Click or tap for an interactive version.

 

Delaware Wraps up the 2020 Primary Season: Overview and Live Results

September 15, 2020

Delaware holds the final primary of 2020 on Tuesday. Polls close at 8:00 Eastern Time. As always, your polling place may have different hours; don't rely on this schedule to determine when to vote.

To be honest, there's really not all that much to see here. 

Senate: Democratic Sen. Chris Coons should have little trouble winning his primary or a third term in November. 

Governor:  Democratic Gov. John Carney should have little trouble winning his primary or a second term in November. 

House:  At-large Democratic Rep. Lisa Rochester has no primary challenger and should have little trouble winning a third term in November.

All Delaware Results >>

The Road to 270: Wisconsin

September 14, 2020

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Drew Savicki, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Drew via email or on Twitter @SenhorRaposa.

Divided between a highly liberal and highly conservative electorate, Wisconsin is known for its increasing gap between the two parties. The traditional home of the American dairy industry, the Badger State is particularly famous for its cheese. A land of contrasts, Wisconsin is both the home of the modern progressive movement and the modern conservative movement.

The suburban shift -- or lack thereof

One of the defining political shifts of the Trump era is the considerable gains that Democrats have made among college educated suburbanites. Unlike other suburbs in the Rust Belt -- such as the areas around Detroit and Chicago -- the Milwaukee suburbs, known as the “WOW” counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington), remain blood red. These counties, located in the southeastern part of the state, are often the bane of Democrats in close statewide races. Over the past decade or so, the trio has routinely given Republicans two-thirds, or more, of the vote.

A key factor that separates this area from other suburbs, such as Chicago’s ‘collar counties,’ is demographics. Washington County -- the reddest and most exurban of the WOW counties – is roughly the same size as Kendall County, Illinois, but Kendall is much more diverse.

To be fair, not all southeastern Wisconsin’s suburbs have stayed red. Milwaukee County, a deep blue county which contains Milwaukee City, also includes a handful of suburban communities that have lined up more with national trends. Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker (more on him later) is from one such community in Milwaukee County, Wauwatosa -- he carried it by 4% in his successful 2014 reelection but lost it by 16% when he ran again in 2018. Despite these shifts, the enduring redness of the WOW counties dominates much of the discussion when it comes to the state’s political geography.

Congressional politics

With the aggressive Republican gerrymander in place since 2012, Wisconsin has seen no U.S. House races within a ten-point margin, and that isn’t likely to change this year. Despite being such a closely-contested state at all other levels of government, no congressional district in Wisconsin has changed hands since the current map was enacted. On paper, the western 3rd District should be competitive but Rep. Ron Kind (D) has locked it down over his more than twenty years in office. Still, since it is an Obama/Trump district, both the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate it as ‘Likely Democratic.’ Republican Derrick Van Orden has raised more money than previous candidates against Kind but the incumbent's 20-point win last cycle is keeping it out of reach for now. 

Located in what’s called the ‘Driftless Region,’ the 3rd District swung sharply rightward from 2012 to 2016. President Obama carried this district by about 13 points in 2012 but Donald Trump carried it by five points in 2016. Looking back a bit further, Obama lost much of his rural support from 2008 to 2012, with his margin dropping by seven points. Given his substantial crossover appeal, Democrats have long pined for Kind to run statewide. First elected in 1996, Kind is only 57 and thus could be around for quite some time. Kind has declined overtures to run for the Senate and governor over the years but Democrats would love to see him run for the Senate in 2022. It seems unlikely he’ll take the dive but no doubt he would be a very strong statewide candidate.

On the Republican side, Rep. Mike Gallagher seems likely to run statewide at some point. He represents the 8th District, which includes Green Bay, and some rural counties around it. A Marine veteran, the youthful Gallagher likely has a bright career in Wisconsin politics ahead of him. He is certainly a name to watch.

Fitting the state’s political divide, Wisconsin’s two senators have virtually nothing in common, and come from complete opposite ends of the political spectrum. Democrat Tammy Baldwin, from Madison, was first elected in 2012. The first openly gay senator, Baldwin has had a long career in Wisconsin politics: first as a state legislator and then a congresswoman.

In the 2012 Senate race, Baldwin defeated former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), who also served Health and Human Services Secretary under President George W. Bush. Having been out of office for 11 years, Thompson couldn’t clear the primary field and only won the primary by about four points, barely edging out businessman Eric Hovde. A progressive populist, Baldwin enjoys a lot of crossover appeal and was the party’s top vote-getter in 2018. Although on paper the race should have competitive, Baldwin won reelection by a solid 11 point margin.

Wisconsin’s senior Senator is Republican Ron Johnson. A healthcare businessman, Johnson is a reliable conservative vote in the Senate. Running as a “guy from Oshkosh,” he was first elected in 2010, when he defeated then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D). Much like Baldwin, Feingold was a populist progressive, but he put a special emphasis on civil liberties: he cast the lone vote against the Patriot Act in the Senate. He also worked to limit the influence of money in politics, notably working with the late Sen. John McCain. After the 2010 elections the Arizona senator called the Senate a “a much poorer place” without Feingold.

In 2016, Feingold sought a rematch. Many observers considered Johnson’s 2010 win a fluke, and even some Republicans were quick to write him off. But as the incumbent, Johnson ran a smart race and ended up winning the rematch 50%-47%, running ahead of Trump. Johnson pledged to serve only two terms in the Senate, but has since walked that back a bit.

State level politics

Swept into power in the 2010 midterms, Republicans held total control of state government in Wisconsin until the 2018 elections. Democrats made considerable gains at the state level that year -- they flipped three offices: the Governorship, the Attorney General’s office, and the Treasurer’s office.

Then the sitting State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Evers (though a Democrat, Evers technically held no party affiliation as Superintendent) narrowly defeated the arch conservative Gov. Scott Walker. The state has no gubernatorial term limits, and Walker was seeking a third full term. A villain to Democrats and a hero to the Tea Party movement, early in his tenure, Walker oversaw the passage of Act 10, a bill that was aimed at limiting the power of public sector unions. Act 10 inspired protests, and a round of recall elections the following year -- this very much set the tone for a divisive decade of state politics.

Walker leveraged his credibility on the right into an ill-fated presidential bid in 2016. He spent part of his childhood in Iowa, where his father was a preacher -- a profile that would seem appealing to evangelicals in that crucial early caucus. But his anemic campaign failed to catch fire and after two lackluster debate performances, he dropped out in September of 2015. Walker’s political style may have found success in Wisconsin, but it failed to break through at the national level.

In office, Gov. Evers has generally boasted decent approval ratings but his public battles with the legislature haven’t endeared him to Republican partisans, or Republican-leaning independents. Given the narrowness of his 2018 win -- and the bright purple hue of the state -- he is likely to face a strong challenge in 2022. Like almost every other governor in the nation, Evers got a bump in approval in the spring with the COVID-19 pandemic but that increase in approval has receded. Evers’s approval rating has taken a hit following the riots in Kenosha, though recent polling finds him at an overall positive 47%-41% approval spread.

Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug LaFollete is the longest currently serving state Secretary of State in the country. First elected in 1974, LaFollete is a distant relative of the legendary Robert ‘Fighting Bob’ LaFollette. Robert LaFollete served as Congressman, Governor, and Senator before leading the Progressive Party as its 1924 presidential nominee.

Secretary LaFollete has held the office of Secretary of State from 1975-1979 and then again from 1983 to present. During that interim period, he was the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor in the 1978 election. Due to the office’s low profile and few responsibilities, he faced only a few serious opponents over the years. He’s held on in some tough national years for the party, though often by single-digits.

Though the office was already relatively weak by the time Republicans took control of the legislature, the Secretary of State's budget was further reduced. Now a practically moribund office, the Secretary of State is little more than a glorified notary public. Similarly, the office of State Treasurer had much of its responsibilities transferred to other agencies, and there was even a referendum in 2018 on whether to abolish the office altogether. Voters rejected the constitutional amendment but unless Democrats are somehow able to regain control of both chambers, the Treasurer will continue to function as a zombie office with no real powers or duties.

Following the election of Democrats Tony Evers and Josh Kaul as Governor and Attorney General in 2018, Republicans convened in the lame duck session to reduce the powers of both offices and the conservative controlled State Supreme Court upheld the legislature’s actions. Despite a favorable year in 2018, the legislature remained solidly in Republican hands, and neither chamber is considered competitive this year. Democrats can realistically only hope to prevent Republicans from regaining veto-proof majorities. In addition to the Republican-engineered gerrymanders, the state’s geography puts Democrats at a natural disadvantage in the legislature: the party's voters are too heavily clustered in Madison and Milwaukee.

Outside political observers love Wisconsin for its marquee State Supreme Court elections, which take place in the spring. In presidential years, they’re held in conjunction with the partisan primaries. With Democrats shut out of the legislature, these races have grown in importance to liberals. Though technically nonpartisan, the party lines are quite clear (the parties endorse and campaign for court candidates). Republicans hold considerable majorities in both chambers of the legislature, so Democrats view these races as their sole way of keeping a check on the legislature. Members of the court serve ten-year terms and no more than one seat can be up in any given year. Though Democratic-aligned judges have won two of the last three elections, conservatives retain a 4-3 edge on the seven-member court.

Presidential politics and 2020 outlook

Wisconsin Polls >>

Wisconsin first became a swing state in the 1960 election and with the exception of 1964, the state would not be decided by double-digits again until 1996. By the late 1980’s though, Wisconsin began to take on a decidedly Democratic lean. Although Vice President George Bush handily won nationwide in 1988, he lost the Badger State to Michael Dukakis 51-48%, as the farm crisis of the 1980s hurt Bush in much of the Midwest. In that 1988 election, Wisconsin voted 11% more Democratic than the nation as a whole.

In the 2000 and 2004 elections, Wisconsin was among the nation’s most contested states. In both elections, the state was won by the Democratic nominee by less than one percentage point. Obama’s two big wins obscured the fact that Wisconsin is a very closely divided state. Having a Midwesterner on the ticket led to inflated Democratic margins and is one reason why so many Democrats, including those on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, took the state for granted in 2016.

Joe Biden, for his part, has promised not to repeat the mistakes of Hillary Clinton and has aggressively courted the state. Although polling got the state wrong in 2016, there is reason for optimism among Democrats. A recent poll from the highly-regarded Marquette University Law School found Joe Biden’s favorability to be a net -2, whereas Trump’s is way down at -12. Marquette’s findings really sum up the difference from 2016: Biden is a much more popular candidate than Clinton and Trump’s vote share continues to track closely with his favorability numbers, suggesting he’s having trouble getting people who dislike him to vote for him.

President Trump has tried to link Biden to the riots and protests in Kenosha but polls show voters don’t associate him with them and are likely to blame President Trump instead. In that same Marquette poll, 54% of likely voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the protests.

For Biden to carry the Badger State he must win back Obama/Trump voters, particularly in western and southeastern Wisconsin. As Crystal Ball editor J. Miles Coleman pointed out recently, northern Wisconsin might be a region to watch this time. Biden has consistently polled better than Clinton with older voters, and northern Wisconsin, though it’s taken on an increasingly GOP lean, has a population that skews older. Trump only carried senior voters in Wisconsin 49%-48% in 2016, so if he’s clearly behind with them, it could be problematic. Biden doesn’t need to win back every Obama/Trump voter in the rural areas, but reducing the Republican margins there is critical to a statewide victory.


Next Week:  Texas

Tentative Schedule:  Ohio (9/28), Georgia (10/5), Florida (10/12), Iowa (10/19), Arizona (10/26), North Carolina (11/2). Dates subject to change. 

We use the model powering the 2020 presidential election simulator to determine the following week's state. Specifically, we will look at the 'Battleground 270' results of 25,000 simulations run late Sunday afternoon.  Of the states remaining, the next to be covered will be that with the highest likelihood of a Trump or Biden win as of that date. View the current state-by-state probabilities in the table at the bottom of the Battleground 270 page.

Reports in this series:

 

New Hampshire and Rhode Island Primaries: Overview and Live Results

September 8, 2020

We're down to the final three primary states. New Hampshire and Rhode Island hold contests Tuesday, with Delaware wrapping things up in one week. 

Polls close at 8:00 Eastern Time in both states, although many polling places close an hour earlier in New Hampshire. As always, your polling place may have different hours; don't rely on this schedule to determine when to vote.


New Hampshire

Senate: Incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen is seeking a third term. Shaheen is not expected to have any issues with her primary. Attorney Corky Messner and Army special forces veteran Don Bolduc are the leading candidates seeking the Republican nomination. President Trump has endorsed Messner. There have been two polls in recent weeks. Messner led by 21 in one and by 2 in the other - so that doesn't give us much to go on. Messner has a considerable lead in fundraising, although he has self-funded a significant portion of the campaign.

Looking ahead to November, most forecasters rate this Likely or Safe Democratic. Polling gives Shaheen a double-digit lead against either candidate.

Governor:  New Hampshire is one of only two states (Vermont the other) where governors have a two-year term.  Incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is seeking a third term. He has a nominal primary challenge. State Sen. Dan Feltes and Excecutive Councilor Andru Volinsky are seeking the Democratic nomination. Very limited polling has been within the margin of error. 

Regardless of who advances, Sununu will be favored in November.

House: Both seats are held by Democrats and that is not expected to change in 2020.

Historically, the first district has been more competitive. In the recent Road to 270: New Hampshire article, Drew Savicki recounted the four consecutive elections between Democrat Carol Shea-Porter and Republican Frank Guinta in the 2010-2016 period. They each won twice, alternating victories. Shea-Porter, then the incumbent, announced her retirement in 2017. Democrat Chris Pappas won by about 8% in 2018. He is not facing a primary challenge. Matt Mowers and Matt Mayberry appear to be the frontrunners for the GOP nomination but either will have an uphill battle against the incumbent.

In District 2, Anne Kuster faces a nominal primary challenge. She is not expected to have much trouble with that or winning a 5th term in November.

All New Hampshire Results >>

Rhode Island

House: Both seats are held by long-time Democratic incumbents. David Cicilline in District 1 won a 5th term by nearly 34% in 2018, he has no primary challenge and is expected to easily win reelection.

District 2 is also seen as safely Democratic in the general election.  However, to get there, ten-term incumbent Jim Langevin must fend off a primary challenge from the left. Attorney Dylan Conley entered the race in June. While the last two cycles have seen insurgent progressives knock off several long-time incumbents, Conley faces an uphill climb to do the same.

 

All Rhode Island Results >>

 

The Road to 270: Pennsylvania

September 7, 2020

The Road to 270 is a weekly column leading up to the presidential election. Each installment is dedicated to understanding one state’s political landscape and how that might influence which party will win its electoral votes in 2020. We’ll do these roughly in order of expected competitiveness, moving toward the most intensely contested battlegrounds as election day nears. 

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Drew Savicki, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Drew via email or on Twitter @SenhorRaposa.

Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, first emerged as a key battleground state in the 1960 election. John F. Kennedy's win in the state came as a surprise given its historical animosity towards Catholic candidates. Despite the changes in the United States and our politics since 1960, the Keystone remains one of the nation's most competitive states at all levels of government. A near perfect mixture of urban, suburban, and rural keeps the state politically balanced.

A changing Commonwealth

Broadly, the Trump era has been defined by two key trends: Democrats have done worse with non-college educated whites but are doing better with their college-educated counterparts. Let’s examine how these trends have played out in Pennsylvania and what it means for the state’s politics. There are two counties I want to highlight that serve as good examples of these trends. First let’s start with Chester County, which is one of the “collar counties” around Philadelphia. This historically Republican county is considerably wealthier and more educated than Pennsylvania as a whole.

From 1968-2004, Chester was reliably Republican at the presidential level -- but by the 1990s and early 2000s, the GOP advantage slid into single-digits. In 2008, Barack Obama carried Chester County by a nine-point margin, after Bush carried it 52%-48% four years earlier. It briefly returned to its Republican roots in 2012, giving Mitt Romney a plurality, but swung almost 10% to Clinton in 2016. As a result, Chester became the only Romney/Clinton county in an Obama/Trump state. Further highlighting this county’s trend to the left, Sen. Bob Casey carried this county by 20% in 2018, a considerable departure from his two-point win six years earlier.

The swing in places like Chester has been counterbalanced by the strong gains Republicans have made in places like Luzerne County. Located in northeastern Pennsylvania, Luzerne is a former coal mining county home to plenty of blue-collar white voters who took to Trump’s message -- in the 2016 Republican primary, it gave him 77%, making it his best county in the state. Luzerne has picked the state winner in every presidential election since 1936, which made it a good bellwether for Pennsylvania. However, Trump’s roughly 20% margin there in 2016 suggests it may stick with him, even if he loses the state.

Congressional politics

As one of the nation’s most competitive states, Pennsylvania is home to a number of swing congressional districts. In January 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the existing congressional map, in place since 2012, was an unconstitutional Republican gerrymander.  A more favorable map, combined with a strong Democratic year, helped Democrats net three seats in the 2018 midterms. 

Let’s look at the competitive seats this year.  Northeast of Philadelphia is the state’s 1st District, which is largely comprised of Bucks County. Represented by Brian Fitzpatrick, a moderate Republican, this district should be highly competitive, but Democrats have struggled to take out Fitzpatrick. He has proven to have decent crossover support among Democrats and, although polling shows Joe Biden with a substantial lead in the district, Fitzpatrick is holding his own with Democrats. He has established a local brand for himself so the Crystal Ball rates this race as ‘Leans Republican.’

In South-Central Pennsylvania is the state’s 10th District. Represented by Republican Scott Perry, this district is based in York and Harrisburg. A member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, Perry is an odd fit for this suburban seat, and is facing a tough challenge from state Auditor Eugene DePasquale (D). DePasquale narrowly carried this district in his 2016 reelection and is backed by the moderate Blue Dog Coalition. Perry defeated a weaker Democratic candidate by an underwhelming margin in 2018 and with Trump’s fortunes appearing to sag in the Keystone State and in this district in particular, both the Crystal Ball and Cook rate this race as a ‘Tossup.’ Perry is in for a tough race and unlike Fitzpatrick, his conservative views limit his crossover appeal. 

On the Democratic side, there are two or three seats where Democrats are favored but could be competitive if things turn around for Republicans.

To the north of PA-1 is the state’s 7th District, represented by Democrat Susan Wild. This redrawn seat was previously held by moderate Republican Charlie Dent for over a decade. During his last term in Congress, Dent was one of two pro-choice Republicans in the House (the other being Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey). Dent, an Allentown native, was highly popular in this area and his recent endorsement of Joe Biden could be a boon for Wild.

Wild won this open seat by 10% in 2018 and since it only narrowly went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, Republicans think they’ve got a shot at flipping it. If things improve for Trump nationally and in Pennsylvania, then Wild could be in some danger. The district overlaps with the Lehigh Valley, which is prime swing territory. For now though, the Crystal Ball rates this race as ‘Leans Democratic.’

Probably the most interesting congressional district in the state is the 8th District. The birthplace of Joe Biden, this Scranton-based district is heavily blue collar and home to many Obama/Trump voters. The industrial heartland of Pennsylvania, PA-8 was once home to a vibrant coal mining industry. The decline of that industry can be felt in this region, and Hillary Clinton’s environmentalist platform found little support among these voters. Northeastern Pennsylvania has been represented by Democrat Matt Cartwright since 2013. In 2012, Cartwright primaried longtime Blue Dog Rep. Tim Holden from the left but has found himself quite popular here.

Given that Donald Trump carried this district by 10 points in 2016, Cartwright should be a major Republican target but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s backed candidate, Army veteran Earl Granville, failed to make it through the primary. Despite the rightward trend, both Cook and the Crystal Ball rate this race as ‘Leans Democratic.’ Cartwright has proven appeal with these blue-collar voters but if Biden can’t claw back those voters in his childhood home, Cartwright might end up in a tough race.

If there is one seat Republicans would really love to win back in the Keystone State, it is the 17th District, represented by youthful Democratic rising star Conor Lamb. Lamb came to fame by flipping the old 18th District in a 2018 special election. The old PA-18 supported Trump by 20 points, and Rep. Tim Murphy (R) had only infrequently faced challenges over the years. Amidst a #MeToo scandal, Murphy resigned, and Democrats eyed this ancestrally Democratic seat as ripe for a flip with the right candidate. Lamb narrowly won the special against Republican State Rep. Rick Saccone. Following the state Supreme Court’s decision to order redrawn maps, Lamb opted to run in the significantly more Democratic 17th District, which only voted for Trump by a few points. This led to a rare showdown between two incumbents. 12th District Rep. Keith Rothfus (R) found himself in this much more Democratic seat but opted to run anyways. Despite the President holding a rally for him -- and four Twitter endorsements -- Rothfus lost 56%-44% to Lamb.

Following two defeats, President Trump has been eager to oust Lamb, and personally drafted veteran and Fox News commentator Sean Parnell to run against him. With the President’s enthusiastic backing and a national donor network thanks to his TV appearances, Parnell has fundraised quite well but he has his work cut out for him. Lamb’s strength as a candidate and the suburban nature of the district make him the clear favorite. All major forecasters rate this race as ‘Likely Democratic.’ PA-17 profiles as the type of district that could flip from Trump to Biden, which contributes to Lamb’s advantage.

Pennsylvania’s two senators could not be more different. A Scranton native, the mild-mannered Bob Casey Jr. has been a longtime figure in Pennsylvania politics and has remained quite popular ever since he defeated Sen. Rick Santorum (R) in 2006. As the son of the beloved former Gov. Bob Casey Sr., it seems likely he benefits greatly from styling himself after his father. For the most party, Casey is a mainstream Democrat aside from his stance on abortion rights. Though Casey Sr. was known for his stringent opposition to abortion rights, his son has something of a more mixed record, and generally votes with party leadership. Casey easily won reelection in 2018 against Rep. Lou Barletta (R), who was something of a proto-Trump figure. Barletta, a former mayor of Hazelton, hailed from neighboring Luzerne County, which resulted in a rare Senate race where both candidates were from the same region of the state.

Pennsylvania’s junior Senator is Republican Pat Toomey. A steadfast conservative, Toomey was a Tea Party conservative before it was trendy -- from 2005 to 2009, he led the anti-tax Club for Growth. He was elected to the House in 1998, where he was one of the most conservative members. In 2004, Toomey came close to defeating moderate Sen. Arlen Specter in the Republican Primary. Although Specter had the support of President Bush, his liberal views on issues like abortion and immigration drew skepticism from the party base. In 2010, Specter switched parties and, despite the endorsement of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, he lost in the Democratic Primary to Rep. Joe Sestak that year. Sestak would go on to lose the election to Toomey. Toomey’s future intentions are unclear, but he has openly weighed a bid for governor in 2022. Either way, he could face strong competition given his underwater approval ratings.

State level politics

Democrats have fared pretty well at the state level in Pennsylvania in recent years -- perhaps a little too well. Three statewide officeholders are considered plausible candidates for governor or the Senate seat held by Toomey; both contests are in 2022. Assuming they are reelected this year, Treasurer Joe Torsella and Attorney General Josh Shapiro will be term limited, thus posing a problem for two men with ambitions for higher office. In addition, Reps. Conor Lamb and Chrissy Houlahan are thought to have higher ambitions as well. There are a plethora of ambitious Democrats but only a limited number of statewide offices to go around. With Pennsylvania set to lose a US House seat again after the Census, that's also weighing on the minds of many.

A major wildcard is the state’s popular Lt. Governor, John Fetterman. In 2018, Fetterman won the Democratic primary for Lt. Governor in a crowded field of candidates including the incumbent, Mike Stack. As mayor of the small town of Braddock and a 2016 Senate candidate, Fetterman was already a known quantity in the state. In contrast to Stack, Fetterman is known for his strong relationship with Gov. Tom Wolf.

Gov. Tom Wolf has a low-key bureaucratic style, but has enjoyed high approval ratings. If Fetterman is the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2022, it’s easy to see Democrats holding the open seat.

Republicans have dominated the Pennsylvania legislature for years but Democrats have a real shot this year at flipping the state House. Flipping the House would give Democrats a leg up in the redistricting process and perhaps help Wolf advance some of his priorities. Speaker Mike Turzai briefly ran for Governor in 2018 and had been weighing another bid come 2022. Turzai had previously announced his retirement from the chamber but abruptly resigned earlier this year to take a private sector job. Turzai was already a Democratic target and with this seat open, it looks to be a real pickup opportunity.

The State Senate does not look to be a realistic flip opportunity for Democrats, after longtime Senator John Yudichak left the Democratic Party to become an independent who caucuses with Republicans. A native of blue collar Luzerne County, Yudichak had often disagreed with the increasingly liberal Democratic Caucus but was quite popular with his constituents. The rightward drift of Northeastern Pennsylvania could pose problems for Democrats if they want to regain control of the upper chamber anytime soon.

Presidential politics

Pennsylvania Polls>>

Every four years, the Keystone State is one of the most contested states in the nation. Candidates barnstorm it and bombard the airwaves with ads. Prior to 2016, Pennsylvania last voted Republican for President in 1988. So how did Trump do it? Trump was able to get lopsided margins out of small towns across the state that outweighed his losses in the suburban collar counties surrounding Philly.

In 2020, Trump faces two big problems: decreased support among non-college educated whites and a huge drop in support from their college educated counterparts. He must improve his margins in outstate Pennsylvania in order to cancel out further drops in the collar counties. In 2016, Pennsylvania was won and lost in small towns but in 2020 it will be decided in the affluent suburbs.

Pre-pandemic, the Trump campaign made some noise about trying to get the Amish out to vote. The Amish don’t really play a role in the state’s politics because, by and large, they don’t vote. This is a strategy George W. Bush’s campaign pursued in 2004 to little success. Given their conservative views, the Amish would be naturally aligned with the Republican Party on social issues but for the most part, most aren’t interested in the political process. If Republicans were to finally turn out the Amish in decent numbers, that could be a boon for them in statewide races.

Pennsylvania is a key part of both candidates’ strategies but, for Trump, polling there suggests a familiar problem: He simply can’t get much above the mid 40’s in polling. Without a substantial third party vote this year, it’ll be harder for Trump to carry the state again with a 48% plurality. As of this writing, the 538 model has Pennsylvania as the tipping-point state, meaning it is the state that is the most likely to put Joe Biden over 270 electoral votes in scenarios where he wins the presidency. Needless to say, Pennsylvania is a must win state for both campaigns and given the long term trends, it seems like Pennsylvania will remain one of the nation's closest states for years to come.


Next Week:  Wisconsin

Tentative Schedule:  Texas (9/21), Ohio (9/28), Arizona (10/5), Florida (10/12), Georgia (10/19), Iowa (10/26), North Carolina (11/2). Dates subject to change. 

We use the model powering the 2020 presidential election simulator to determine the following week's state. Specifically, we will look at the 'Battleground 270' results of 25,000 simulations run late Sunday afternoon.  Of the states remaining, the next to be covered will be that with the highest likelihood of a Trump or Biden win as of that date. View the current state-by-state probabilities in the table at the bottom of the Battleground 270 page.

Reports in this series:

 

Moderators Named for Presidential Debates

September 2, 2020

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced moderators for the 2020 general election debates. Each debate will have a single moderator and run from 9:00 - 10:30 PM ET.

Massachusetts Primary Overview and Live Results

September 1, 2020

Four of the more interesting primary contests remaining take place Tuesday in Massachusetts.  These are all Democratic contests in safely blue seats; the primary winners will be prohibitive favorites in the general election.

Polls close at 8:00 PM Eastern Time. Live results will appear below after that time.

Senate: Sen. Ed Markey is seeking a third term. He is being challenged by Rep. Joe Kennedy III (MA-04).  Something has to give. As the Washington Post notes, "Markey has never lost an election in his 47 years of public service, but no Kennedy has ever lost an election in Massachusetts." Kennedy led in the polls earlier this year but more recent polls have swung strongly in the incumbent's favor. Markey currently has an 11 point lead in the Real Clear Politics average.

Markey, 74 is nearly twice as old as Kennedy, who is 39. Despite the generational gap, and a much longer political career, the incumbent has been able to position himself as the favorite of progressives in this race. 

 

House 

District 1: 16-term Rep. Richard Neal is chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Despite that, he's picked up a strong primary challenge from Holyoke mayor Alex Morse. This is another battle of establishment Democrats vs. insurgent progressives, which has led to several prominent incumbents losing their seats in the last two cycles. Neal has the backing of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while Morse has been endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

Neal has led by 5-10% in limited recent polling.

District 4: A large field is looking to succeed Joe Kennedy III in this suburban Boston district. A recent poll showed Jake Auchincloss (23%) in a statistical tie with Jesse Mermell (22%); Becky Grossman was in third with 15% support.

District 8: Another incumbent being challenged from the left. Physician Robbie Goldstein is challenging ten-term incumbent Stephen Lynch in this Boston-area district. Goldstein's strong fundraising earlier this summer, as well as a more recent poll showing Lynch with only a seven-point lead has put this race on the radar as one to watch.

All Massachusetts Results >>