Election News

The Road to 270: Alabama

December 23, 2019

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 Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Seth at s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.

Alabama

Alabama’s history is reflected in its contemporary voting patterns. The region that once had thousands of slaves is still heavily African American and forms a horizontal strip across the state. In 2016, 12 of the 13 counties that Hillary Clinton won were in this territory. Donald Trump won every other county except one. To understand how the state became the GOP stronghold it is today, we have to go back over 200 years.    

Statehood to Civil War

In the late 1700s, what we now consider Alabama was split up between Spain and the Georgia. In 1795, Spain relinquished a strip of land to the U.S. that covered part of current-day Mississippi and Alabama. This was called the Mississippi Territory.  The territory expanded in 1804 and again in 1812 as Georgia and then Spain gave up more land. The territory opened to settlers after Andrew Jackson defeated and expropriated Native American land in the Creek War in 1814. Settlers and farmers rushed into the newly available and fertile land. Alabama and Mississippi split in 1817 and two years later, in 1819, Alabama became the 22nd state admitted to the Union.

Thousands of slaves were brought to Alabama to work on plantations in the Black Belt, a region stretching across central Alabama named for its fertile, black soil. Unsurprisingly, white Alabamans opposed the abolition of slavery and the state seceded during the Civil War. By that point, Alabama had over 435,000 slaves, composing 45% of the state’s population. 

Reconstruction and Brief Republican Dominance

Following the Civil War, the Republican Party briefly dominated Alabama politics. The 15th Amendment enfranchised recently freed slaves who voted, along with unionists and some poorer white farmers, for Republicans.  In both 1868 and 1872 Alabama voted for Republican (and former Union commanding general) Ulysses S. Grant.

Voter Suppression, New Constitutions, and Democratic Dominance

It wasn’t long before Democrats instituted voter suppression and intimidation tactics that would restrict access to the ballot box, primarily affecting blacks and poor whites. The party appealed to white racial unity and, in 1874, won the governorship. This began an era of Democratic state dominance that would last for nearly a century. It also allowed Alabama Democrats to call a Constitutional Convention.  

A new state Constitution passed in 1875 rolled back the reforms of Reconstruction. The new document segregated public schools and shrunk the government and public services. Republicans, while weak, still occasionally won local elections with a coalition that included blacks, small-scale farmers, labor. The Republican Party and Populist Party also ran successful fusion tickets that denied Democrats complete dominance through the 19th Century.

It was the 1901 Constitution, with its goal of “white supremacy and purity of ballot” that crushed Alabama Republicans. The new constitution established poll taxes and educational requirements to restrict access to the ballot box. It worked: Alabama’s vote totals dropped 30% from 150,000 to 100,000 between the 1900 and 1904 elections. And the Democratic margin expanded 27% in those four years.

Democrats continued to control Alabama throughout the first half of the 20th Century. The Republican Party found some support with northern Alabama whites and black voters who made it to the ballot box. However, The Great Depression and the New Deal would break down this coalition (Any supporting link?), bringing Democratic dominance to a peak in the 1930s. In the 1936 election, Democrat Franklin Roosevelt beat Republican Alfred Landon 86% to 13%.

Start of Democratic Difficulties

The National Democratic Party began to take more liberal stances — the most significant for Alabama being civil rights — that state Democrats opposed. The 1948 election marked a turning point. President Truman was, by the standards of the time, extremely progressive. He supported ending segregation in the army, eliminating poll taxes, and instituting an anti-lynching law.

A breaking point came at the 1948 Democratic national convention, when the party added a civil rights plank to its platform. The Mississippi delegation and half of the Alabama delegation walked out of the convention, created the States’ Rights Party, and nominated South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond as their candidate. In Alabama, Thurmond, who was listed on the ballot as the Democratic nominee, beat Republican Thomas Dewey 80% to 19%.

While Democrats would win Alabama in the following three elections, they would never regain their dominance of the earlier era. Shifting national policies reoriented Alabama and ended the state’s reflexive support of the Democratic Party. 

Civil Rights and the Modern Republican Party

Alabama was at the center of the civil rights movement. It was here that the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Selma to Montgomery marches happened; where Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his letter from Birmingham jail; where four girls were killed in the Birmingham church bombing; and where Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in the doorway at the University of Alabama to block black students from entering in defiance of a federal court desegregation ruling.

The 1964 election transformed Alabama politics. Earlier that year, Lyndon Johnson had successfully pushed Congress to pass John F. Kennedy’s civil rights bill following Kennedy’s assassination. He campaigned on an anti-poverty domestic agenda he called the Great Society. The Republican, Barry Goldwater, was a staunchly conservative senator from Arizona. He championed small government, criticized ongoing New Deal programs, and fought the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as government overreach.

Johnson crushed Goldwater nationally 61% to 38%. In Alabama, though, Goldwater received 69% of the vote,* becoming the first Republican to win the state since 1872. Republicans also flipped five of the state’s eight congressional seats, the first time any Republican in Alabama would win a congressional election in the 20th Century. The Goldwater Landslide ended the era of Post Office Republicans, a mocking nickname for only being able to secure positions (such as postmaster) through federal appointments and patronage.

Alabama would vote for the Republican nominee in every subsequent election except 1968, when it voted for third party candidate and former Alabama Governor George Wallace, and 1976, when it voted for fellow southerner Jimmy Carter. 

The Republican takeover began in 1964 and slowly trickled down-ballot. In 1980, the state elected its first Republican U.S. Senator since reconstruction. Republicans retook the majority of U.S. House seats in 1996 and haven’t relinquished the majority since.

In 1986, Guy Hunt became the first Republican governor since 1874. The governorship flipped between parties until 2003, and has been Republican since. Republican legislative power began to grow in the 1990s and by 2010 they had flipped both legislative chambers, giving the party a trifecta. The last statewide executive office, excluding judgeships, won by a Democrat, was for Public Service Commission back in 2008.

Recent Presidential Politics

Alabama has not had a competitive presidential election since 1980. That year, Georgia’s Jimmy Carter lost Alabama by just 1%. Ronald Reagan carried the state by 22% in 1984. Bill Clinton tightened the margin to 7% in 1992 and 1996, the most recent times that Alabama would be decided by single digits. Since 2004, Alabama has gone to the Republican nominee by 20% or more. Donald Trump’s 28-point victory over Hillary Clinton marks the largest margin since Richard Nixon’s landslide victory in 1972.

Of Alabama’s 67 counties, Clinton won just 13. She won Jefferson County (home to Birmingham and the biggest county in the state), as well as 12 counties that formed a contiguous horizontal strip across the middle of state. These regions have a much higher black population than the rest of the state — the legacy of slavery mentioned earlier — making it friendly Democratic territory. Trump won the rest of the state, including rural counties and the more urban Madison and Mobile Counties.

Party Dysfunction

The Republican dominance doesn’t mean the party is without problems. Governor Robert Bentley resigned in 2017 after he was accused of using state funds to have an affair and a recording of the affair the surfaced. This year, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard was convicted of 12 felonies and ethics violations.

Perhaps most significantly, Alabama Republicans lost a special U.S. Senate election in 2017. The seat opened after President Trump appointed Senator Jeff Sessions to be his Attorney General.  The seat should have been safely Republican, but the party nominated the controversial former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore, leaving the door cracked for Democrats. The month before the election, several women alleged that Moore had made sexual advances towards them when they were underage. Democratic nominee Doug Jones managed to edge out the damaged Moore by 22,000 votes.

The Alabama Democratic Party has had its own share of dysfunction. A battle over control of the state party led to the ousting of the old guard. The controversy, ostensibly about bylaws, but really about the direction and leadership of the Democratic Party, was divisive and racially tinged. (If you are interested, I strongly recommend this three-part series by the popular podcast Reply All on the war for the Democratic Party). 

Looking to 2020

Alabama entered the Union in 1819 with three Electoral College votes. This number steadily rose, reaching a peak of 12 in the 1910s and 1920s. The state lost one elector after the 1930, 1960 and 1970 Censuses, remaining at nine through the 2010 Census. According to population projections, Alabama is on track2 to lose another congressional seat, and therefore another electoral vote, following the 2020 Census.

Regardless of the outcome of the Census, Alabama will still have nine electoral votes in 2020. And they are almost certain to go to President Trump.    

1 The Democratic slate of electors in 1964 were unpledged due to the Alabama Democratic Party’s opposition to Lyndon Johnson.

2 The Census Bureau is expected to release its 2019 population update on December 30. Any changes will be reflected on the projected 2024 electoral map.

Next Week:   North Dakota

Reports in this series:

Mapping the Impeachment Vote

December 20, 2019

President Trump was impeached by the U.S. House on Wednesday on a nearly 100% party-line vote. The maps below reflect the district/party voting for and against impeachment. Click or tap to see a full list of Representatives voting yes or no and their election status for 2020.

Supported Impeachment

230 members - 229 Democrats and one independent - supported at least one article of impeachment. One Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (ME-2) supported Article I and voted against Article II. Otherwise, the votes across the two were identical.

Against Impeachment

In the official roll call, 195 Republicans and two Democrats voted no on both articles of impeachment. However, Rep. Jeff Van Drew (NJ-2) has since left the Democratic Party to join the GOP; that shift is reflected on the map below. The only current Democrat to have voted no is Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-7), who represents a western Minnesota district that Trump won by 31 points in 2016.

Other

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2) voted 'Present'. Three members did not vote for different reasons: Reps. Duncan Hunter (R, CA-50), Jose Serrano (D, NY-15), and John Shimkus (R, IL-15). Additionally, there are four vacancies in the House.

 

Rep. Jeff Van Drew Switches to Republican Party

December 19, 2019

Rep. Jeff Van Drew left the Democratic Party for the GOP Thursday, pledging his "undying support" for President Trump during a meeting at the White House.

The switch had been expected, although the timing was previously unknown. As a Democrat, Van Drew was one of only two members of his former party to vote against both articles of impeachment on Wednesday*. 

With this change, there are 232 Democrats, 198 Republicans and one independent in the House. There are four vacancies. The Interactive House Map has been updated to reflect the change.  In anticipation of the party shift, several forecasters moved the 2020 election rating to Leans Republican earlier in the week. New Jersey's 2nd district voted for the president by about 5% over Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

* The other was Collin Peterson (MN-7), who represents a district Trump won by 31 points in 2016. Democratic Rep. Jared Golden (ME-2) cast a yes vote on Article I and a no vote for Article II. Golden was the only member that cast a different vote on each article.

GOP Rep. Mark Meadows Not Running in 2020; May Leave Congress Before End of Term

December 19, 2019

Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a staunch ally of President Trump, said Thursday that he would not seek reelection in 2020.  Meadows told Politico that he may leave Congress before the end of his term to take an as-yet unspecified role with the president. 

Meadows is in his 4th term representing the conservative 11th district encompassing much of western North Carolina. The district became slightly less hospitable after recent court-approved redistricting added in more of the Asheville area.  However, the changes were not significant enough that they would have affected Meadow's reelection prospects.   Under the current boundaries, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 29 points in 2016; that drops to 17 points with the reconfigured lines.  The district remains Safe Republican for 2020.  (Related:  2020 House Interactive Map)

35 current House members have announced they will retire or seek another office in 2020*. This includes 3 Republicans in North Carolina, all of whom have made their decision since the map was changed. Unlike Meadows, however, the other two - Reps. George Holding (NC-2) and Mark Walker (NC-6) were redistricted into heavily Democratic areas.

The list includes Rep. Duncan Hunter (R, CA-50) who is expected to resign in early 2020.

New Editing Features of the Historical Interactive Maps

December 19, 2019

The historical interactive maps have been updated with new editing features. You can now edit candidate names, parties and colors to change the course of history. Up to five candidates can be included in any prior presidential election. 

GOP Rep. Mark Walker Won't Run in 2020

December 16, 2019

Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina has announced he won't seek a 4th term in 2020.  As part of a recent court approved redistricting, the boundaries of his 6th district became virtually unwinnable for a Republican. Using the new borders, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by over 21% in 2016.

The retirement is not a surprise. There had been speculation Walker would challenge Sen. Thom Tillis in the GOP primary, but he said he won't seek any office in 2020.  He did say he would seriously consider running for Senate in 2022, when Republican Richard Burr is expected to retire.

Walker is the 2nd GOP casualty of North Carolina redistricting; Rep. George Holding recently announced his retirement in a district that is now safely Democratic. Overall, 34 current House members have announced they are retiring or seeking another office in 2020.  This includes Rep. Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, who is expected to resign in early 2020.

The Road to 270: Hawaii

December 16, 2019

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 Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Seth at s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.

Hawaii

Each of the past three presidential elections has seen Hawaii give the Democratic nominee their largest margin of victory of any state. The trend started in 2008 when the state’s most famous son, Barack Obama, was the party’s nominee. 

But Hawaii hasn’t always been the Democratic stronghold it is today. In fact, the state was accepted into the Union because it was expected to lean Republican. Before looking at this modern history, it’s important to understand how an island in the Pacific Ocean, 2,000 miles off of the continental U.S., became a state at all.

Independent Kingdoms to American Annexation

Polynesians first discovered the Hawaiian Islands around 500 A.D. Until the 19th Century, Hawaii was a collection of kingdoms formed on separate islands. Kamehameha I, a religious leader of royal descent, began to unify the islands in 1795, creating the Hawaiian Kingdom. The unification was complete by 1810.

The new kingdom quickly integrated with the rest of the world. Trade with Pacific neighbors — the United States and the Far East countries — boomed. Whalers and missionaries came in 1820, and the kingdom’s global economic ties progressively deepened. Along with these other economic endeavors, sugar cane production was especially influential in strengthening the United States’ relationship with Hawaii.

The sugar industry was dominated by white missionaries who saw a financial opportunity on the islands. Starting in 1851, they began to invest and take over sugar plantations. This would eventually lead to a sugar dynasty and the “Big Five” companies that controlled much of the sugar industry as well as economic and political life on the islands.  In 1874, King Kalakaua was elected over Queen Emma largely because of his support from the sugar industry. Kalakaua supported reciprocity between the United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom. Queen Emma did not, something that became a sticking point for sugar magnates.

After Kalakaua’s election, the sugar industry still wanted more. U.S. annexation of Hawaii would mean a complete and unthreatened free market into which they could export their sugar. This economic potential, along with their distaste for the nationalistic Queen Liliuokalani — the sister of King Kalakaua who ascended to the throne following his death — pushed the American minister of Hawaii to carry out a coup. In 1893, the minister, with the help of 150 U.S. marines, removed Liliuokalani from power. Two weeks later, Hawaii became a U.S. protectorate.

To the frustration of the sugar industry, President Grover Cleveland refused to annex Hawaii and the islands remained a Republic for the next five years. Finally, in 1898, the sugar industry got what it wanted when William McKinley annexed the islands. The Hawaii Organic Act of 1900 closed the door on autonomy, officially designating Hawaii as a territory of the U.S. 

Pearl Harbor, Statehood, and Economic Swings

After annexation, the United States began to build up Pearl Harbor’s ship capacity. In 1908, America established the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, setting the table for one of the most important events in American and Hawaiian history.

In response to Japanese aggression in Manchuria and China leading up to and during World War Two, the United States began to build up its military presence in Hawaii. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 — sinking or destroying six U.S. ships, killing over 2,400 U.S. personnel, and drawing America into World War II — highlighted the importance of the U.S. military presence in the Pacific.  Rather than retreat from the islands after the attack, the U.S. military rebuilt and expanded Pearl Harbor and the Hickam Air Force Base, which was built by the Army Air Corps in 1934. Before the attack, in 1940, there were 28,000 U.S. personnel on the island. By 1944 there were 378,000.

Most of these personnel left the island after the war, halting economic growth from 1945 to 1949. However, as air travel became more accessible and military members spread the news of beautiful Hawaii, tourism boomed. The military presence in Hawaii was again crucial during the Korean and Cold Wars as it eased access and transportation to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The military presence grew from 21,000 to 50,000 between 1950 and 1958.

Hawaii’s economic and strategic importance to the United States brought questions of statehood. Through most of the 1950s, Southern Democrats who opposed integration and believed Hawaii would further the cause of Civil Rights successfully delayed Hawaiian statehood. A compromise between the two parties led Congress to admit Alaska and Hawaii together in order to keep partisan balance in the Senate and Electoral College. At the time, Hawaii was expected to lean Republican while Alaska was expected to be Democratic. So, in 1959, Congress admitted Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th states.

From statehood through the 1980s Hawaii’s economy boomed. Tourism and agriculture were strong and the Cold War kept up a military presence on the Islands. In the 1990s, though, recession in America and Japan trickled into Hawaii. Tourism, one of the first things to go in tight-belted years, declined. Sugar and pineapple agricultural production dropped as international competition strengthened. Military spending dried up with the end of the Cold War. Economic growth fell to one third of the rest of the country and real per capita income did not grow between 1991 and 1998.

More recently, the Great Recession crushed the Hawaiian economy as the tourism and housing industries tanked. As the nation recovered, though, so too did Hawaii. At its low point in 2009, Hawaii had just 6.5 million visitors. By 2018, it had 10 million. Unemployment, which reached 7.3% in mid-2009, has fallen to 2.7%.

Hawaii’s Modern Political History

When Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state, it was expected to lean Republican. The Big Five sugar-producing companies still loomed over the Islands’ economy and politics and favored Republicans. In the state’s first gubernatorial election, this expectation was realized; the Republican candidate won with a 2.5% margin.

However, behind the scenes, a Democratic machine was taking shape. Over the previous 65 years, Hawaii’s sugar plantations imported laborers, mostly from Japan, The Philippines, China and Korea. This Asian-American constituency became so large that in 1950, they outnumbered Caucasians 280,000 to 124,000. The Japanese-American population was the largest, numbering 186,000.

John Burns, a Hawaiian former police officer tasked with assessing Japanese loyalty during World War II, was crucial to the Democratic takeover. His relatively sympathetic attitude towards Japanese-Americans in Hawaii during his police stint would help him build his coalition. Burns organized plantation and dock workers, unions, and Japanese-American veterans into a new Democratic Party. This coalition unified grievances against Hawaii’s politically dominant Republican Party and its economically dominant white business and plantation owners.

The Democratic machine would be just strong enough to begin winning elections as the state first voted for president in 1960. John F. Kennedy managed to edge out Richard Nixon by 115 votes that year. Thereafter, the parties would continue to sort by ethnicity, with Asian-Americans and Native Hawaiians voting Democratic and white voters and military personnel leaning Republican.

In every presidential election except the Republican landslides in 1972 and 1984, Hawaii would vote for the Democrat. But the state’s early voting history isn’t as Democratic or easy to categorize as this would suggest.

The chart below shows Hawaii’s popular vote margin, the national popular vote margin, and Hawaii’s popular vote compared to the national popular vote in every presidential election from 1960 to 2016. A positive margin indicates a Democratic lead and a negative margin indicates a Republican one. Hawaii had three electoral college votes in 1960 and four in every subsequent election. This number is not expected to change after 2020 Census.

In 1964 and 1968, Hawaii voted 35% and 22% more Democratic than the country overall. In 1972 and 1976, the state moved back in line with the rest of the country. Starting in 1980, though, Hawaii was consistently more Democratic than the country as a whole. This was even true in 1984 when it voted for Republican incumbent, Ronald Reagan.

Still, Hawaii has voted more Democratic relative to the country since 1976 and has voted for the Democratic nominee in every election since 1988.

Hawaii’s Son

In 2008, Hawaii’s own Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination for president. While John Kerry beat George Bush in 2004 by 9%, Barack Obama dominated John McCain by 45%. Obama repeated the thumping in 2012 with a 43% margin of victory over Mitt Romney.

Hillary Clinton won Hawaii in 2016 by the wide (but not Obama-level wide) margin of 32%. 

Down-ballot Politics

Unsurprisingly, Democrats have a lock on down-ballot offices as well. Both U.S. Senators and both U.S. Representatives are Democrats. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor — the only two partisan statewide offices — are Democrats. The State Senate has 24 Democrats and one Republican and the State House has 46 Democrats and five Republicans.  

There has not been a Republican elected to statewide office since Linda Lingle won a 2nd term as governor in 2006. Only able to serve two terms per state law, she subsequently ran for Senate in 2012, a race in which she lost to current Senator, Mazie Hirono, by 25%.

Democrat Neil Abercrombie won the 2010 gubernatorial election. He proved to be incredibly unpopular, but that didn’t hurt the party’s prospects of holding the seat. In 2014, Abercrombie was defeated in a contentious Democratic primary. His Democratic vanquisher still went on to beat the Republican nominee by a safe 12% margin.

Political Geography and Demographics

Due to its history of immigration, Hawaii has a diverse demography. Twenty four percent of the population identifies as two or more races, the highest of any state. Therefore, the following percentages will not add up to 100%.

57% of the population identifies as Asian, 43% as White, 26% as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 10% as Hispanic or Latino, 3% as Black, and 2% as Native American.  Given its high proportions of non-white voters, it's unsurprising that Hawaii is so Democratic. Additionally, 45% of Hawaii’s white voters have a college degree. Non-college white voters, a strong base of the GOP, make up just 14% of the population.

Hawaii is composed of five counties: Honolulu, Hawaii, Maui, Kauai, and Kalawao. The chart below shows the latest Census estimates for demographics of the counties.

Honolulu County comprises the island of Oahu as well as some minor surrounding islands. Its population of one million makes it the most populous county by far, casting about 65% to 70% of Hawaii’s total vote. Of all the counties, Honolulu is the densest and most educated. It also has the highest percentage of Asians (43%) and the lowest percentage of Whites (18%).

On the other end, there is Kalawao county, which has all of 88 people. It’s the smallest county, by population, in the entire nation. In 2016, one person here voted for Donald Trump while 14 voted for Hillary Clinton. 

Democratic Divisions

Although Democrats have a safe hold on Hawaii’s politics, the party is not unified. A rising progressive spirit has created a rift between wings and demographics of the party.

The tension peaked in the 2014 senate primary between Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa. Here’s the backdrop: Senator Daniel Inouye, a political giant in Hawaii, died in 2012. On his deathbed, Inouye asked Governor Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa to his seat. But Abercrombie ended up appointing Schatz a few days after Inouye died. The special election was held in 2014 and both Schatz and Hanabusa ran in the primary.  

Hanabusa, a descendant of Japanese immigrants, was supported by a more conservative, Asian-American and older coalition. Schatz, who is white, had a more progressive, whiter, younger base of support. Schatz won the election by under 2,000 votes.

The progressive wing of the party has continued to grow, as Bernie Sanders’ success in the state’s 2016 caucuses would show. That year, Representative Tulsi Gabbard — who is now running for president, but was then Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee — resigned from her DNC post to endorse Bernie Sanders. That year, Bernie Sanders won 17 of the state’s delegates to Hillary Clinton’s 8.

Democratic Guardrails

Republicans hope that this division, along with the state’s other problems that have worsened under Democratic leadership —including high taxes, homelessness, and pension debt —will push voters to their party. But, given the Democratic guardrails of ancestral party loyalty, favorable demographics, and massive recent presidential margins, this seems unlikely in the foreseeable future. Hawaii looks all but certain to remain dark blue in 2020.

Next Week:  Alabama

Reports in this series:

Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey to Switch to GOP

December 14, 2019

Freshman Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey is planning to switch parties and become a Republican. Van Drew, who has been one of the few in his party to consistently oppose impeachment, met with President Trump Friday to secure his blessing for the move. The announcement may be timed to take place just as the articles of impeachment are voted on by the full House.

Van Drew won this open seat South Jersey congressional seat in 2018 by about 7.5% over GOP nominee Seth Grossman, who lost the support of the national party after making racist comments. The incumbent Republican, twelve-term Rep. Frank LoBiondo did not run for reelection that year. 

The district voted for Trump by 5% over Hillary Clinton in 2016; one of 31 districts that voted for the president who are currently represented by a Democrat.

As an opponent of impeachment, Van Drew was nervous about losing his seat, either via a primary challenge or in the general election.  With the support of President Trump, he is not likely to face a challenge and may be in a better position to be reelected in this GOP-leaning district.

The last member of the House to leave a party was Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who left the GOP earlier this year to become an independent. The last member to switch parties was then-Democratic Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, who became a Republican during his 1st term in 2009. He was defeated in the party's 2010 primary.

Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida Won't Run in 2020

December 11, 2019

Rep. Ted Yoho said Tuesday that he will not run for re-election in 2020. He represents Florida's 3rd congressional district, a solidly Republican district in the northern part of the state.  Yoho won his 4th term by 15% in 2018; Donald Trump won here by a similar amount over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

By retiring, Yoho is honoring a pledge - to serve no more than four terms - that he made when first running for Congress in 2012. He is the 32nd current member of the House to announce they will not run in 2020.

Andrew Yang Qualifies for Final Presidential Debate of 2019

December 10, 2019

Andrew Yang has become the 7th Democrat to qualify for the party's final debate of the year. He received 4% support in a Quinnipiac poll out Tuesday, giving him enough qualifying polls to make it.

Yang will join Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren on the debate stage.

Qualifying ends Thursday night for the December 19 debate which will be co-hosted by POLITICO and PBS. Tulsi Gabbard remains one qualifying poll short but she has indicated that she will not participate even if she receives an invitation. Michael Bloomberg is two polls short, but he is not taking campaign contributions and thus cannot meet the donor threshold set by the Democratic National Committee.