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Primary Tuesday: GOP Chooses Senate Nominees in Three States Won by Trump in 2016

May 8, 2018

Tuesday brings the busiest primary day of 2018 thus far, with voters in four states going to the polls to choose party nominees for the November 6th midterm elections. Republicans in three of those states, all won easily by Donald Trump in 2016, will choose nominees to face off against Democratic Senate incumbents.

Polls in North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia will close at 7:30 PM Eastern Time. In Indiana, polls close at 6:00 PM local time. That's 6:00 PM Eastern for most of the state; 7:00 PM Eastern for the sections in the Central Time Zone.

A summary of the three Senate races follows.

West Virginia: This race has been getting the most attention in recent days, as former coal executive Don Blankenship has moved to be "Trumpier than Trump" in an effort to defeat two establishment opponents. His effort includes a campaign ad that won't soon be forgotten:

President Trump tweeted that Blankenship can't win in November, telling voters to choose one of his two opponents, Rep. Evan Jenkins or Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. 'Two' is the problem here for the GOP. It is entirely possible that those two split the mainstream vote while Blankenship wins a plurality. That scenario would significantly brighten the re-election prospects of Sen. Joe Manchin in a state Trump won by 42% in 2016.

Indiana

Three Republicans are also competing for the nomination in this state that Trump won by 19%. Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer don't like each other, although they and former state lawmaker Mike Braun all really like the president. The winner of today's primary will face incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly.

Ohio

Trump won Ohio by 8% in 2016. While a more competitive result than West Virginia or Indiana, it was the largest presidential margin of victory in that bellwether state since George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis by 11% in 1988. Rep. Jim Renacci is squaring off against banker Mike Gibbons and several others. All recent polling is like this one: Renacci is ahead but with a huge amount of undecided voters. The winner will meet incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Upcoming Primary Calendar

Aside from Memorial Day week, the next month will be very active. Here's the full calendar.

May 15:  Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania

May 22:  Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky

June 5:   Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota

June 12:  Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Virginia



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New Content: 2018 House Election Forecasts

May 7, 2018

The 2018 House Election Forecasts page is now live. At this URL, we'll keep track of the current projections from a number of forecasters. At present, these include Sabato's Crystal Ball, The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, CNN and The Crosstab. Click or tap any of the maps on that page for a full interactive version.

'Starting Views' have also been added to the 2018 House Interactive Map. These include some of the above, as well as a blank map, for those that want to start from 0-0. The default map displays a wide look at the most competitive races, based on one or more of Sabato/Cook/Inside Elections rating it as toss up or leaning. That map is also below. There are currently 64 races meeting this criteria.


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Similar forecaster pages also exist for the 2018 Senate and 2018 gubernatorial races.


Complicated by Redistricting, Vacant PA House Seats to be Filled on Election Day

May 2, 2018

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that the special election to fill the vacancy in the state's 7th congressional district will take place on Tuesday, November 6th. This is the same day as the general election. The incumbent, Republican Pat Meehan, resigned last Friday.

Wolf said he will handle any subsequent openings the same way, unless they occur within 60 days of the general election. This will cover an upcoming vacancy in the 15th congressional district. That incumbent, Republican Charlie Dent, has announced his intention to resign at some point in the next few weeks.

Complicating matters is a new congressional map imposed by the state Supreme Court that will be effective - for representation - beginning with the new Congress in January. Voters in all of the state's 18 congressional districts will choose party nominees based on the new district lines in the May 15 primary, with the vote for a two-year term on Election Day, November 6th. However, any special election will take place based on the existing boundaries, with the winner serving out the final two months of the current congressional term. The respective parties will choose the nominees for any special election.

This sets up the possibility that the nominees and/or winner of any special election might be different than for the general election. The court ruling has made both successor districts more Democratic. The existing 7th congressional district voted for Clinton over Trump by 2% in 2016. The new 5th district voted for Clinton by 28%. It is rated safe Democratic for the general election.

Meanwhile, the existing 15th district voted for Trump by about 8% in 2016. The new 7th district - not to be confused with the existing one discussed in the prior paragraph - voted for Clinton by 1%. It is rated toss-up for the general election.


Rep. Pat Meehan Resigns from Congress; Previously Announced No 2018 Run

April 28, 2018

Rep. Pat Meehan resigned from Congress Friday, effective immediately. The four-term Pennsylvania Republican had already announced he wouldn't run in 2018 after revelations that he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment case. Meehan will reimburse the $39,000 paid out in that claim.

Per Pennsylvania law, Gov. Tom Wolf must declare the date for a special election within 10 days, with the date of that election to be at least 60 days after the announcement. Complicating matters is this year's redrawing of the state's congressional districts, ordered by the state Supreme Court after it was determined that the current map was an unconstitutional gerrymander.

Whether one agrees with the ruling or not, Meehan's 7th congressional district, nicknamed 'Goofy Kicking Donald Duck', is one of the most gerrymandered in the country. At its narrowest point, the district is the width of a hospital complex, with the 6th district to the north and the 16th to the south. 

The special election to complete Meehan's term will take place in this existing 7th district. That will be the case even if the election coincides with the November 6th midterms. This is a toss-up district with no incumbent: While Meehan won reelection by about 20% in 2016, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump here by 2 points. About half the 7th district is becoming part of the new 5th district, which is safely Democratic. If a Republican wins the special election, their time in Congress will likely be short, unless that person is also on the November ballot in another, more GOP-friendly district.

There are now 7 vacancies in the U.S. House, which is comprised of 235 Republicans and 193 Democrats. Republican Debbie Lesko (AZ-8) won a special election this past Tuesday to fill one of the open seats. A new vacancy is expected during May, as Meehan's colleague, Rep. Charlie Dent announced in mid-April that he will depart in the coming weeks.


Ratings Changes: After Arizona Special Election, an Expanding House Battleground

April 26, 2018

On the heels of Tuesday's narrow Republican win in Arizona's 8th district, we have an updated outlook and some ratings changes from the forecasters at Sabato's Crystal Ball. Ratings changes were made to 15 districts, including 10 new races that moved from safe to likely Republican.

In their own words:

"Overall, our House outlook remains the same: Democrats are about 50-50 to win the House. What these ratings change do is make clear that in the event of a big wave, there are some districts that might not seem competitive on paper that could flip, particularly because a deep bench of Democratic candidates is in place to capitalize on a potentially great environment in the fall. That’s where one could see Democrats picking up substantially more than the 23 net seats they need to win House control. However, the Democratic wave could fail to materialize, and Democratic gains could be limited to the teens. At this juncture, the range of possibilities in the House is wide. We realize that may be an unsatisfying and overly cautious assessment, but that’s where we’re at right now with the election still half a year away."

As most of the shifts were from safe to likely Republican, the overall forecast changes little, although the map isn't quite as dark red as it was. Republicans are favored in 211 seats, Democrats 198, with 26 toss-ups. 

Click the image for an interactive version. Note that we've added a 'Map Options' link, near the share buttons, below Florida. For those that don't want to rotate through as many colors when creating a forecast, you can choose a smaller palette there.

The latest ratings changes are in the table below. They include some high profile names. Read the full analysis for more background on these individuals and the rationale for the current rating.


Republican Debbie Lesko Wins Arizona Special Election

April 25, 2018

Republican Debbie Lesko won the Arizona 8th congressional district special election Tuesday, defeating Democrat Hiral Tipirneni by 5 points.

While the GOP prevailed, Democrats outperformed history and expectations in this conservative district. This continues a trend that has occurred in every special election since 2016. In this particular district, the prior incumbent Trent Franks won reelection by 37% that year, while Donald Trump bested Hillary Clinton by 21%.

Once Lesko is sworn in, there will be 237 Republicans and 193 Democrats, with 5 vacancies. These will be filled as follows:

  • June 30: TX-27,  (prior incumbent) Blake Farenthold (R)
  • August 7: OH-12, Pat Tiberi (R)
  • November 6: MI-13, John Conyers, Jr. (D)
  • Date TBD: NY-25, Louise Slaughter (D)
  • Date TBD: OK-1, Jim Bridenstine (R)

At this point, only OH-12 looks competitive. The remaining districts are expected to stay with the incumbent party.


Where to Find Results for Arizona Special Election

April 24, 2018

This New York Times page should be a good source of results from the special election for Arizona's 8th congressional district. Polls close at 10:00 PM Eastern Time; the first results expected around 11:00 PM.  According to the Secretary of State, these first results will be from early voting. This is expected to be a majority of the vote in the election, so it is possible we'll have an idea of the outcome at that time. Subsequent results - today's voting - are not expected until midnight or later.

See our article from earlier Tuesday for more information on the election.


The Polls are Open: Arizona Special Election Today

April 24, 2018

Voters in Arizona's 8th congressional district will go to the polls today to elect a new congressional representative. The polls are open until 7:00 PM Mountain Time (10:00 PM Eastern Time; Arizona doesn't participate in Daylight Savings Time). The 8th district is entirely within Maricopa County*, and includes portions of the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The election pits Republican Debbie Lesko, a former state Senator, against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a physician.

FiveThirtyEight has a good overview of the election, including why a repeat of last month's Democratic win in the PA-18 special election is unlikely despite the fact that Donald Trump won both districts by about 20% in 2016. 

Much of the voting for today's election was cast during early voting. For those that are interested, the state provides a nice level of detail on the composition of those that voted during this period. While it doesn't tell us how people voted, about 75% of the returned ballots were from those over 55; the median age of all early voters is 67. Just under half the early voters are registered Republicans, compared to about 28% Democrats and 23% independents. 

According to the Arizona Secretary of State, the early vote counts will be released at 8:00 PM (11:00 PM ET), after which there will be a lull for an hour or more before counts from today's vote begin to be posted.

* Although Maricopa County encompasses just 8% of the state's geographic area, portions of it are included in all but one of the state's eight congressional districts. 

 

 


Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine Resigns; Sworn In as New Head of NASA

April 24, 2018

Oklahoma Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine resigned from Congress on Monday. He was subsequently sworn in as the new head of NASA. Bridenstine had been nominated by President Trump for the position last September, but was only confirmed by the Senate last week.

Gov. Mary Fallin will need to call a special election to fill the remainder of Bridenstine's term. It is unclear if that will take place prior to the November 6th midterm elections. 

Bridenstine won a 3rd term without opposition in 2016 in a district that Donald Trump won by 29%. The oddly-shaped first district is expected to remain in Republican control.

There are now six vacancies in the U.S. House. One of those, in Arizona's 8th district, will be filled in today's special election. Republicans now control the house by a 236 to 193 margin. A full list of retirements and vacancies can be found here.


200 Days from the Midterms, Updating the Battle for Control of Congress

April 20, 2018

April 20th marks 200 days until the 2018 midterm elections, scheduled for November 6, 2018. There will be elections for all 435 House and 35 Senate seats. There will also be 36 gubernatorial races contested that day. 

The maps below highlight the races seen as more competitive at this time based on a consensus of forecasts from Sabato's Crystal Ball, The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections. Click/tap any of them for an interactive version. Links to a blank map are also provided.

House of Representatives

There are currently 237 Republicans and 193 Democrats, with 5 vacancies. A 6th vacancy is forthcoming as Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R, OK-1) was confirmed Thursday to head NASA. One of those vacancies, in Arizona's 8th district, will be filled in a special election on Tuesday. If we assume all the vacancies stay with the incumbent party, Democrats will need to gain 23 seats on November 6th to take control in 2019. There are currently 65 seats rated toss-up or leaning by one or more pundits. Those are shown as tan on the map below. A blank House map is also available.

Senate

Republicans currently have a 51-49 edge over Democrats, who need to gain two seats to take control in 2019. There are two special elections among the 35 races this year. Eleven seats look to be most competitive, with six of them rated toss-up by all three pundits.  These include Republican-held Arizona and Nevada, along with Democratic-held Florida, Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. Democrats hold 26 of the 35 Senate seats, including five seats that Donald Trump won by 18% or more in 2016. 

The battleground map is below; a blank Senate map is also available.

Governor

Republicans sit in 33 of the 50 governors' chairs, while Democrats hold of them. Alaska governor Bill Walker is an independent. 36 seats will be contested in 2018, of which 16 look to be competitive at this point. Most of the governors elected this year will be in office when redistricting occurs after the 2020 Census. As a result, these state races have more national implications than usual.

The battleground map is below; a blank gubernatorial map is also available.



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