Election News

The Road to 270: Wisconsin

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 @DrewSav.

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

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

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 @DrewSav.

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

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

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 >>

Senate and House Voting History 1982-2018

The 270toWin state history pages have been updated to include recent congressional elections.  You'll be able to see the winning party for regularly scheduled general elections held from 1982-2018.

The example below shows the available information for Iowa.

 

The Road to 270: Michigan

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 @DrewSav.

Michigan - the birthplace of American auto industry and a booming industrial center in the Midwest has fallen on hard times in recent years. The increased outsourcing of manufacturing has been felt deeply in the state. Long past its golden age, Detroit has struggled to revitalize itself and has fallen behind other major cities in the country.

Geography

Michigan can be divided up into a few geographical regions that help explain its current political divide.

Northern Michigan: The northern half of Michigan can be split into two subregions. The first is the upper peninsula or as it is often referred to, the "UP". This largely rural and blue collar region has drifted away from the Democrats in recent years. On the far western end is Gogebic County, a former mining community. Like other such communities, it was once reliably Democratic but swung heavily towards Trump. 

The area below the UP is referred to as the northern lower peninsula. This rural region is where some of the most Republicans areas in the state are located. Particularly interesting in this region are two resort counties that, unlike other counties in the area, have trended leftward. Leelanau and Grand Traverse Counties swung heavily towards Democrats in 2018. By contrast, the counties in this region that border Lake Huron are more comparable to those on the UP. 

Central Michigan: Home to three major metro areas in Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Flint.  The Grand Rapids area, where Gerald Ford was raised, is a traditional Republican bastion that has trended Democratic in the Trump era. Meanwhile, the more industrial Flint area has seen a declining population and its heavily white working class suburbs have raced towards Republicans.

Western Michigan: Traditionally Republican, this area largely overlaps with the state's 2nd and 6th Congressional Districts. It is home to a sizable Dutch population that has influenced its conservatism. Republican Fred Upton has represented the 6th Congress since the late 1980's. Although he's generally had a lock on his Kalamazoo based district, 2018 saw the closest race of his career. This region is predominately suburban but still swung towards Trump in 2016. It saw a considerable shift back to the Democrats in 2018 and will be a crucial region for both sides in the presidential race this year.

Detroit Metro: Michigan's population hub, this region is the source of Democratic votes in the state. As residents have moved out of Detroit into the suburbs, the demographics of the suburbs have shifted. The small city of Harper Woods - northeast of Detroit, has seen a stunning demographic transformation in 20 years.

The Thumb: This rural region is mostly industrial and a Republican bastion. No Democratic nominee for President has carried this region since Bill Clinton in 1996. Like most rural white areas, this region swung heavily towards Trump in 2016. The Thumb based 10th Congressional District has seen quite a bit of turnover in the past few years, first with longtime GOP Rep. Candice Miller's retirement and then her successor's retirement this year.

Congressional politics

The past decade has seen considerable turnover in Michigan’s congressional delegation. House Dean John Dingell retired in 2014, with his successor as Dean, John Conyers resigning amidst a 'MeToo' scandal in 2017. 

Representing Southeastern Michigan in Congress for nearly 60 years, Dingell was a beloved staple of the state's politics. He first won election to the House in a 1955 special election held following the death of his father, Rep. John Dingell Sr. He had little trouble holding the seat, winning reelection with more than 60% of the vote all but twice in his career, one of which was in the Tea Party wave of 2010. A steadfast supporter of his state's auto industry and ally to organized labor, Dingell was a mainstream Democrat, though he broke with the party on gun rights. The family dynasty, which began in 1933, continues to this day: John Dingell passed the torch to his wife Debbie, who is now completing her 3rd term. 

Michigan has something of a fondness for dynastic politics as Democratic Reps. Dan Kildee and Andy Levin come from well-known political families. Kildee represents one of the most interesting districts in the state. The Flint based 5th district snakes up into several predominately white working class counties that prior to 2016 used to be quite friendly to Democrats.

With a sharp turn to the right among white working class voters, the district swung considerably towards Trump in 2016. Though Kildee saw his margin slip from 2016 to 2018, he’s still popular in the area, and he obviously has considerable appeal among white working class voters. On paper this should be a competitive seat, but Kildee's big margins have kept this district off the competitive radar. The Kildee family has represented this area since 1977 and that shows no signs of changing, although he has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Senate when a seat opens up.

Like Northern Minnesota, Northern Michigan used to be friendly to electing Democrats. From 1993-2011, Democrat Bart Stupak represented Michigan’s 1st District in Congress. A conservative Democrat, Stupak was known for his opposition to abortion rights. His stance on abortion played well with his district’s rural conservative voters. Stupak retired in 2010 and Republicans have held the seat since. Democrats have targeted it a few times over the years but its trend to the right has kept it out of reach for the party. That is not expected to change in 2020.

In contrast, 2018 saw Democrats pick up two traditionally Republican suburban seats outside Detroit and Lansing. The 8th District, which stretches from Lansing to northern Oakland County was represented by Republican Mike Bishop from 2015-2019. Generally a backbench conservative, Bishop lacked much of a profile and lost to Democrat Elissa Slotkin 51%-47% in 2018. Although this district has voted Republican for President in the past two presidential elections, Slotkin’s enormous fundraising scared off any top tier Republicans from running. Slotkin is not out of the woods just yet, as Trump could potentially carry the district, but her race is clearly not a top Republican priority. Likely out of an abundance of caution, both the Crystal Ball and Cook rate the district as ‘Leans Democratic.’ As Senator Debbie Stabenow's Congresswoman, Slotkin is often mentioned a possible successor to her down the line. 

A similar story can be found in the 11th District where Democrat Haley Stevens flipped the open seat in 2018. The 11th district is located in the traditionally Republicans suburbs northwest of Detroit. Moderate GOP Rep. Dave Trott chose not to seek reelection in 2018. A former Obama administration official, Stevens flipped this seat 53-47% and this district seems likely to go for Biden this time. Stevens has been an excellent fundraiser and the absence of a top tier challenger is why the Crystal Ball rates her race as ‘Likely Democratic’. Given the educated nature of this district, it seems like a plausible Trump/Biden district.

One other area of the state that is worth noting is the state’s 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of central and southeastern Michigan. Republican Tim Walberg represented this district from 2007-2009 and then again from 2011 to present. Walberg’s profile as a socially conservative pastor is not the best fit for this working-class district but the party affiliation is all that matters now in this strongly Republican trending seat. After this district went for Mitt Romney just 51-48% in 2012, Donald Trump carried it 56-39% four years later and Gretchen Whitmer didn’t carry it in 2018.

Michigan’s senior Senator is Democrat Debbie Stabenow. A former congresswoman, Stabenow defeated one-term Sen. Spencer Abraham (R) in 2000, and was not seriously challenged in 2006 or 2012. Generally a popular figure with voters, Stabenow has held elected office in the state almost continuously since 1979. If Democrats retake the Senate majority, Stabenow will the Senate Agriculture Committee, which will be a boon to the state’s farming industry.

Stabenow’s 2018 race was the closest Senate race in Michigan since 2000 -- she won reelection by 6.5% against Army veteran John James (R). Stabenow didn’t run much of a campaign -- she was more interested in helping other down-ballot Democrats -- but James attracted some attention from national Republicans. After his loss in 2018, Republicans recruited him to run again this year against Michigan’s junior Senator, Gary Peters.

In the Senate, Peters has kept a low profile but he’s no electoral slouch. His time in Congress started after the 2008 elections when was elected to a swingy House seat in Oakland County-- and he impressively held it in 2010. After redistricting, Peters found himself in the majority Black 14th District and in a redistricting contest against 13th District Rep. Hansen Clarke. That Peters won in a primary in a majority-Black district really shows the extent of his appeal. It is rare to see a white Democrat representing a majority Black congressional district.

When Sen. Carl Levin retired in 2014, Peters announced a bid for the Senate. This race was initially thought to be highly competitive but his opponent, former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, made a number of gaffes throughout the campaign. Ultimately, Peters won by 14% and will almost certainly be the last Democrat for a long time to carry a number of rural counties. Peters even won the highly rural 4th District in central Michigan, which Gretchen Whitmer would lose by 13% four years later.

Initially, the 2020 Senate race in Michigan was thought to be one of the most competitive Senate races in the county. Both candidates are excellent fundraisers but Peters continually leads in polls and the Trump campaign seems to have abandoned Michigan at this point. In an era of straight ticket voting, James needs Trump to win the state in order to beat Peters. It seems like this race has really fallen off the radar as the cycle has gone on.

State level politics

Despite its blue streak at the presidential level, Republicans have found great success at the state level in Michigan. Republicans have controlled the Michigan Senate since the 1980s and aside from a four year period in the mid-2000s, they have controlled the House since the late 90s.

In 2018, Democrats flipped both the Secretary of State and Attorney General’s offices for the first time since the 1990s. Four women were elected statewide in 2018, which makes Michigan one of the friendliest states in terms of electing female statewide officeholders. Former county prosecutor and state legislator Gretchen Whitmer won the open governorship by 10% but a number of towns that voted for President Obama in 2012, voted Republican. In contrast to those mostly working class towns, Whitmer won a number of suburban towns that voted for Mitt Romney six years earlier.

After making considerable gains in 2018, Democrats are once targeting the Michigan House this year and only need a few seats to flip it. After voters approved a redistricting amendment in 2018, the legislature will no longer have a role in redistricting every 10 years. A bipartisan citizens redistricting committee will be established in 2021 to draw new legislative and congressional district maps.

Presidential politics and 2020 outlook

Michigan Presidential Polls >>

It is a commonly recited fact that before Trump, Michigan had not voted Republican for President since 1988 -- that is true but it's an oversimplification of how competitive the state has been. Barack Obama won the state handily in two elections and that obscured the state's competitiveness. Al Gore and John Kerry only carried the state by a few points in 2000 and 2004. Obama's strength in the Midwest obscured how competitive the region really is, as he was a unique candidate with an impressive ability to win over rural voters.

One key battleground county in the presidential race will be the curious Macomb County. Divided between a more blue collar north and a more white collar south, Macomb is one of the swingiest counties. Although often labeled as the home of so called ‘Reagan Democrats,’ Macomb is not nearly as Democratic as many people thought. In 1996, Bill Clinton was the first Democrat to win the county since Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Donald Trump winning it in 2016 was by no means a surprise, though he may struggle to carry it again by the 11% he did four years ago.

Of the Obama/Trump states, Michigan has always made the least sense in the Trump corner. It is the most urbanized of the “Blue Wall” trio of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Polling has generally backed up this assertion. Biden has consistently led in polls and the 2018 results were across the board gains for Democrats in the state. As a relatively urbanized state, it seemed strange to see Michigan in the Republican column and polling this cycle indicates that it was a fluke. The Trump campaign has gone dark in Michigan and has instead turned their attention to Minnesota, which seems like a longer shot and offers fewer electoral votes than the Wolverine State. Neither campaign seems to be heavily contesting Michigan at this point but things could change as election day draws closer. For now, it seems like Joe Biden is favored to put this state back in the blue column once again.


Next Week:  Pennsylvania

Tentative Schedule:  Wisconsin (9/14), Florida (9/21), Texas (9/28), Arizona (10/5), North Carolina (10/12), Ohio (10/19), Georgia (10/26), Iowa (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:

 

Summary of Polling Resources on 270toWin

President

  • Most Recent Polls:  A listing of the latest polls in reverse chronological order.  You can also choose to see the most recent poll in each state where there has been at least one poll. Choose a location to see all polls and a calculated average.
  • Polling Averages by State: The 270toWin polling average for each state. Default sort is most recent poll, with options to sort by state, competitiveness (closest states first) and highest to lowest Biden or Trump %. Select the state name for its voting history. Select the 'All Polls' text to see all polls. There's an option to display polls where 3rd party candidates have been specifically named. Note that this 3rd party polling has been very limited.
  • Electoral Map Based on Polling: This interactive map categorizes each state based on the spread between Trump and Biden. Use the timeline above the map to see how the map has changed each day since late May. The 2016 actual spread between Trump and Clinton is used where there are no polls.1 1Many states are polled infrequently, so this map can sometimes show unlikely outcomes. For example, the only Arkansas poll, as of the date of this article, showed a two-point Trump lead. Therefore, the state shows as toss-up on the map, despite it being one of the most GOP-leaning in the country.  
  • Direct Links: Use the map below to link directly to the presidential polls in each state. Where district-level polling is available in Maine or Nebraska, it will be displayed. These pages also have the 'When did it last happen' feature.  Curious when the last time a Democrat won Florida while a Republican won the presidency? This will tell you (1924).  States in gray have not been polled, but you can still link to them for the historical feature.

Senate

  • Most Recent Polls:  A listing of the latest polls in reverse chronological order.  Choose a state to see all polls and a calculated average.
  • Senate Forecast Based on Polling This interactive map categorizes each state based on the polling average spread between the Democratic and Republican nominee. Many non-competitive races have not been polled; the 'safe' rating is used for those.2 2Senate polling is not frequent in most places. As with the presidential polling map, this can sometimes lead to ratings that may not reflect the current state of the race. 
  • Direct Links: Select a green-colored state in the map below to view Senate polls. States in the darker gray have not been polled; states in lighter gray have no Senate election this year.

GOP Runoff in Highly Competitive Oklahoma 5th District: Overview and Live Results

One of the largest surprises in the 2018 midterms occurred in Oklahoma's 5th congressional district. Democrat Kendra Horn defeated incumbent Republican Steve Russell by about 1.5% in this Oklahoma City-area district. Just two years earlier, Russell had been reelected by 20%, while Donald Trump won the district by more than 13 points over Hillary Clinton. Horn became the first Democrat elected in the district since the 1970s and the first in any Oklahoma district since 2010.

The district is a top GOP target in 2020. We're about to find out who the party's nominee will be. Businesswoman Terry Neese and state Sen. Stephanie Bice meet in a runoff election. Neither received a majority of the vote in a nine-way primary held June 30. Neese finished first with 36%, while Bice took second with 25%.

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

 

The Road to 270: New Hampshire

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 @DrewSav.

Editor's Note:  There are only ten weeks until the presidential election on November 3. At the bottom of this article, we list the current schedule for the remaining ten states in the Road to 270 series. 


The most conservative of the New England states, New Hampshire is known for its strong libertarian streak. Home to the nation's first presidential primary every four years, New Hampshire voters enjoy a front row view to American politics.

Geography

New Hampshire’s two congressional districts split the state east-west, and reflect the cultural, geographic, and political divides in the state well.

  • NH-1: The 1st District includes the Manchester area and the seacoast. This is traditionally the more Republican leaning of the two districts, partly due to its large presence of Massachusetts expats, many of whom fled the Bay State’s high taxes. The seacoast is home to wealthy towns and villages, with its largest city being Portsmouth. Saint Anselm College, which houses the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, is here -- it's hosted presidential debates, and is a must-visit venue for serious candidates during the primary season.
  • NH-2: Home to the state capital of Concord and the tech hub of Nashua, this scenic district covers western New Hampshire. Small, Trump-friendly working-class towns dot the landscape up north while its southern towns, along the Massachusetts border, usually preferred Republicans like Mitt Romney. Located in far northern New Hampshire is Dixville Notch, where every four years, residents cast their primary votes at midnight.

Congressional Politics

New Hampshire is no stranger to competitive congressional races. For election junkies, there is perhaps no greater saga than the four consecutive contests between former Reps. Carol Shea-Porter (D) and Frank Guinta (R). Shea-Porter was elected to the 1st District in 2006, and held it in 2008. Still, Shea-Porter’s single-digit margins made her a Republican target in the 2010 midterms. Republicans snagged a top recruit in former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta. Although President Obama had carried the district by 6% two years earlier, Guinta won the election by 12 points. With Obama back on the ballot in 2012, Shea-Porter mounted a comeback and defeated Guinta. In the more anti-Obama 2014 midterm, the national environment favored Guinta, who won the second rematch. Bogged down in a campaign finance scandal, Guinta lost reelection to Shea-Porter in 2016.

An era ended in October 2017, when Shea-Porter announced she was retiring from Congress. Her retirement opened up a crowded field of candidates, including her former Chief of Staff, Naomi Andrews, Levi Sanders (the son of next-door Sen. Bernie Sanders), Marine veteran and Obama admin official Maura Sullivan, and Manchester Executive Councillor Chris Pappas. With support from both the state’s senators and Rep. Anne Kuster (D), Pappas won the primary with 42% of the vote, setting up a historic election. Pappas, an openly gay politician defeated Republican Eddie Edwards, a retired Black police Chief from South Hampton.

Given the historical competitiveness of the district, Pappas' 8.5% win is rather remarkable, and was slightly better than Barack Obama's win in the district in 2008. Pappas was able to appeal to traditionally Republican suburbanites and likely won back some blue-collar Trump voters. The Cook Political Report recently changed its rating for this district, from 'Leans Democratic' to 'Likely Democratic', citing Pappas' strong fundraising, mediocre opposition, and private polls that show him well-positioned to win reelection.

In western New Hampshire, Democrat Anne Kuster, a former attorney from Concord, has locked down the state’s 2nd District. Though Hillary Clinton only carried this district by 3% in 2016, Republicans largely threw in the towel against Kuster in 2018. Kuster has proven to be highly popular here and although the Crystal Ball rates the district as ‘Likely Democratic,’ other outlets like Cook and Inside Elections rate the race as ‘Solid Democratic’.

Compared to Obama, Kuster has seen clear weakening among blue-collar voters -- not too surprising, considering the inroads that Trump made with that group in 2016. Still, she made some gains along the Massachusetts border, where Trump’s support was comparatively soft.

The state currently has two Democrats in the Senate. This is unusual -- the last time both its senators were Democrats, Jimmy Carter was president. New Hampshire is ancestrally Republican but, unlike the other New England states, its GOP senators don’t have a tradition of moderation. Its previous senators, like Bob Smith, Judd Gregg, Gordon Humphrey, and, most recently, Kelly Ayotte, were all fairly conservative.

New Hampshire and Virginia are the only states where both senators are former governors. New Hampshire’s senior Senator, Jeanne Shaheen (D), served as governor of the state from 1997-2003. A mainstream Democrat, Shaheen has long been in state Democratic politics. She was the New Hampshire Chair of Colorado Sen. Gary Hart’s 1988 campaign for president and her husband served in that role for Vice President Al Gore’s campaign in 2000. Shaheen was actually on Gore’s shortlist for Vice President that year.

As a popular governor, Shaheen was recruited by national Democrats to run for an open Senate seat in 2002. Republicans nominated then-Rep. John E. Sununu, of the 1st District -- his father is former governor and White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu. President Bush’s approvals were high in 2002 -- the weekend before that election, the president made a stop in New Hampshire, which likely helped Sununu to a 51%-46% win. In a totally different political climate, Shaheen tried for a rematch in 2008, and beat Sununu by 6%. With that, she became the first Democratic senator elected from the state since John Durkin, in 1974.

In 2014, Shaheen faced former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R). Though he represented the Bay State from 2010 to 2013, Brown spent portions of his childhood in Portsmouth, where his parents were from. National Republicans lined up behind Brown, but his loose ties to the state seemed hard to overcome. Public polling showed a tight race and, in the end, Shaheen pulled off a three-point win. Though her overall margin was reduced from 2008, Shaheen actually improved in much of the north -- that area of the state is, geographically, farthest away from Massachusetts, so Brown’s carpetbagging may have been especially suspect to those voters. In addition, northern New Hampshire is outside the Boston media market so voters in that area would not have been terribly familiar with Brown.

Shaheen is up for reelection this year but Republicans are not making a major play for the seat. After Gov. Chris Sununu (R) opted to run for reelection in 2020, Republican interest in this race quickly disappeared. Although the Crystal Ball is maintaining its rating of ‘Likely Democratic’ for now, Cook has rated it ‘Solid Democratic’ the whole cycle. In contrast to its presidential primary, New Hampshire has among the latest congressional primaries -- it'll be on September 8 this year. Both leading Republican candidates have military backgrounds, though Trump endorsed attorney Corky Messner. Regardless, Shaheen shouldn’t have much trouble in the fall. Given her strength as an incumbent and her fondly remembered tenure as Governor, she has proven to be an enduring figure in the Granite State's politics.

New Hampshire’s junior Senator is Maggie Hassan. A longtime state Senator, Hassan was elected governor in 2012, when Gov. John Lynch (D) retired after serving an unprecedented four-term tenure. After two terms as governor, Hassan ran for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Ayotte. Like the presidential race that year, New Hampshire’s Senate race was extremely close: Hassan won by 1,017 votes, out of almost 740,000 cast. Following the release of the Access Hollywood tape, Ayotte was one of many Republicans who withdrew her endorsement of Trump, which may have cost her support on the right. Hassan credits her son, who has cerebral palsy, for her interest in public service -- in office, she is highly attentive to issues that impact the disabled.

Looking at where Hassan did better than Clinton is quite interesting and shows that Ayotte struggled with a lot of Trump voters. She showed clear weakness in 'Trumpier' blue collar towns while running ahead of Trump in the state's urban and suburban areas. It wasn't enough for her to win though.

With the New Hampshire primary enjoying so much attention every four years, the state's congressional delegation is highly sought after for endorsements but only Rep. Kuster made one this year. Kuster endorsed former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg - who ultimately finished a respectable second place in the state.

State level politics

New Hampshire is one of just a few states in the country that elects no statewide executive offices, besides its governor. Occupants of its other row offices, like the Attorney General and Secretary of State positions, are elected by the legislature. Institutionally, its governor is considered one of the nation's weaker executives. The governor's power is partially shared with a separate executive body, called the Executive Council of New Hampshire. Five members are elected via districts (as of August 2020, Democrats hold a 3-2 majority). The governor retains the power to veto legislation, but the power to make certain executive or judicial appointments is shared with that of the Council. Depending on the party control of the governorship and the Council, they can work in tandem or hamstring one another. New Hampshire, along with neighboring Vermont, are the only states with two-year gubernatorial terms.

The legislature -- known as the General Court -- is among the nation’s most curious. The state Senate is comprised of 24 members, who serve two year terms. The state House is the largest legislative chamber in the nation, with an astonishing 400 members. Due to the General Court's enormous size, legislators receive just $200 per term as compensation -- so New Hampshire has what is often called a ‘citizen’ or ‘volunteer’ legislature. Members have outside jobs that they hold even while they are in session. Such legislatures are most common in New England and the western U.S.

The New Hampshire legislature is frequently one of the most competitive legislatures in the country -- the state House has flipped four times over the past dozen years -- and this year will be no exception. Democrats are currently considered slight favorites to hold the Senate while their majority in the House looks firmer.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner (D) is an institution in the state’s politics and is a fierce defender of his state’s presidential primary. Serving since 1976, he has remained in office even when the General Court has been in GOP hands. In December 2018, with a newly-elected Democratic majority in the legislature, Gardner faced a real race from 2016 gubernatorial nominee Colin Van Ostern. Gardner was criticized for taking part in President Trump’s (now-defunct) Commission on Election Integrity -- to many Democrats, he was legitimizing the president’s politically-motivated commission. Gardner ultimately kept his job, though the vote was close.

Gov. Chris Sununu was elected in 2016 and reelected in 2018. He is in a historically rare situation: for the first time since the 1870s, the state has a GOP governor and Democratic-controlled legislature. Still, his approval ratings are high, and he’s favored for reelection. His political future is uncertain, but he is often mentioned as a possible challenger to Sen. Hassan in 2022.

Presidential politics and 2020 outlook

New Hampshire Polls >>

It is impossible to discuss New Hampshire’s role in presidential elections without discussing the New Hampshire primary. Every four years, the state holds its ‘first in the nation’ presidential primary (although the Iowa Caucus is the first contest where delegates are awarded). According to New Hampshire state law, “The presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a date selected by the secretary of state which is 7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election.” In other words, the state is legally obligated to maintain its status as the first presidential primary.       

New Hampshire has held a presidential primary since 1916, but the contest gained its modern-day significance in 1952. That year, voters began to vote directly for candidates. After a poor showing in the primary that year - he lost the state to Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver, President Truman dropped out of the race. On the Republican side, it was Dwight Eisenhower’s first foray into politics -- his Granite State win showed he was a viable candidate for the nomination. 

In an increasingly diverse Democratic Party, New Hampshire’s relevance in the Democratic nominating process has been questioned. Its heavily white and liberal electorate simply does not match the Party’s base. This was shown when Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders carried the state in both his unsuccessful presidential runs. Joe Biden -- who won the nomination in large part from his strength with Black voters in later contests -- placed fifth in the Granite State primary.

On the Republican side, New Hampshire is a much better fit for the party’s base. In the past three cycles, the winner of the New Hampshire primary has won the GOP nomination. In 1992, incumbent president George H. W. Bush’s weakness in the primary -- he beat conservative challenger Pat Buchanan by only 53%-38% -- foreshadowed his general election loss.

The Granite State emerged as a swing state in 1992, when Bill Clinton narrowly carried it over Bush. In fact, aside from Clinton’s Arkansas home, New Hampshire saw the biggest blue shift from 1988 to 1992: Bush's share plunged from 62% to 38% between the elections. That drop was surely exaggerated by the presence of Reform Party nominee Ross Perot on the ballot. Perot earned nearly a quarter of the vote, polling relatively well in the blue-collar north. For 1996, it basically matched the national vote, going to Clinton 49%-39%. In 2000, George W. Bush won the state with a 48% plurality, thanks to Green Party candidate Ralph Nader receiving 4%.

2000 remains the last time the state voted Republican but, by raw vote margin, it was the closest state in the country in 2016. This cycle, polling of the state has been scarce, and the two campaigns seem more interested in larger electoral prizes. With much of the state located in the expensive Boston media market, the state isn't a terribly efficient one in which to air ads. 

As of 2018, 36.5% of Granite State adults hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, making it one of the nation’s most educated states. New Hampshire is one of those states where Democrats trading blue collar voters for college educated whites isn't likely to hurt them. The Trump campaign will be holding a rally in Manchester this week but with it playing defense in states like Iowa and Ohio, and given the strength Democrats have shown with college graduates in the Trump era, it seems Biden is favored to carry the state. 


Next Week:  Michigan

Tentative Schedule:  Pennsylvania (9/7), Wisconsin (9/14), Florida (9/21), Texas (9/28), Arizona (10/5), North Carolina (10/12), Ohio (10/19), Georgia (10/26), Iowa (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: