Election News

Joe Biden Clinches Democratic Nomination

June 6, 2020

Former Vice-President Joe Biden clinched the Democratic nomination on Friday, having locked up the necessary delegates per the latest tabulation of The Associated Press. As of Saturday morning, Biden has won 1,995 delegates, four more than the 1,991 needed to win on the first ballot.

Biden has been the presumptive nominee since early April, when Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders exited the race in the midst of a pandemic that had essentially frozen the presidential race in place. 

Biden will become the party's standard-bearer on his third try for the nation's top office. His first two attempts, in 1988 and 2008 were unsuccessful, although the 2008 effort led to him becoming Vice-President for two terms under President Barack Obama.

There are 150 days until the November 3 presidential election.

Joe Biden 35 Delegates From Clinching Democratic Nomination

June 3, 2020

Joe Biden, the presumptive nominee for nearly two months, is just 35 pledged delegates away from the 1,991 needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.  This is based on the latest count of the Associated Press.  Biden has thus far claimed 390 delegates from Tuesday's primaries, with Bernie Sanders earning 33. There are 56 delegates still to be awarded.  

If Biden comes up a bit short after this week's primaries, he will almost certainly cross the threshold just after Georgia polls close next Tuesday.

After clinching the nomination, the next pledged delegate number of interest is 2,375. Surpassing that would give Biden a majority of the 4,7501 1This number, and thus the majority number, may vary slightly from this estimate. total Democratic delegate votes available this year. That seems likely, with about 800 pledged delegates available in the remaining primaries. Should that happen, superdelegates will be able to cast a vote on the first ballot at the party convention in August.  Superdelegates not voting unless the nomination was assured is one of the changes the party made for 2020.

Rep. Steve King Loses Primary; Seat Moves to Safe Republican in November

June 3, 2020

Nine-term incumbent Rep. Steve King was defeated Tuesday in the GOP primary for Iowa's 4th congressional district. King, more-or-less abandoned by the party after a long history of controversial comments, was defeated by state Senator Randy Feenstra. 

While Democrats are undoubtedly happy to see King go, his loss effectively takes the district out of play for November.  Democrat J.D. Scholten - renominated on Tuesday - held King to a three point win in 2018.  However, Donald Trump won this conservative district by 27% over Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Feenstra will likely be its next member of Congress.

Most pundits updated their rating to Safe Republican, and that is also reflected on the Consensus 2020 House Map.

King is the second incumbent to lose a U.S. House primary in 2020. In March, Rep. Dan Lipinski was ousted in the Democratic primary for Illinois' 6th district. We've added King's district to the House Retirement Map, which now shows 39 current members leaving after this term. 

Nine States and DC Hold Primaries Today: Overview and Live Results

June 2, 2020

Rescheduled primaries have led to June 2 being one of the busier days on the 2020 calendar.  Seven states and the District of Columbia will hold presidential primaries. Six of those states will also hold downballot primaries, as will Idaho and Iowa.  Those latter two states held their presidential primaries earlier this year.


Polls Close (Eastern Time)

Your individual polling place may have different hours. Do not rely on this to determine when to vote. Total Democratic pledged delegates by closing time* are displayed

6:00 PM 0 Indiana+ (ET)
7:00 PM 82 Indiana+ (CT) (82)
8:00 PM 328 District of Columbia (20), Maryland (96), Pennsylvania (186), Rhode Island (26), South Dakota+ (CT)
9:00 PM 50 New Mexico (34) South Dakota+ (MT) (16)
10:00 PM 19 Idaho^ (MT), Iowa, Montana (19) 
11:00 PM 0 Idaho^ (PT) 

*For states holding presidential primaries today.
+Indiana polls close 6:00 PM local time; South Dakota is 7:00 PM local time. Delegate count is listed with the later ET closing.
^Ballots not yet mailed can be returned to a drop box before 8:00 PM local time.


Democratic Delegate Count

Heading into June 2, presumptive nominee Joe Biden is 425 delegates short of the 1,991 he needs to clinch the Democratic nomination. 479 delegates are available Tuesday. While it is mathematically possible for Biden to get there, he'll need to hold Bernie Sanders below 15% in almost all the jurisdictions (states and individual congressional districts) distributing delegates today.  If he doesn't make it Tuesday, he'll almost certainly cross the threshold with primaries next week1 1If Biden is very close to 1,991 after Tuesday, the next opportunity will come with the Virgin Islands caucus this Saturday. Seven delegates are available. in Georgia and West Virginia.

A late caveat:  Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf issued an executive order on June 1 extending the deadline for some ballots returned by mail to be received and counted. It applies only to six of the state's 67 counties, but those counties include Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  Since the ballots must be postmarked by June 2, we may still see some presidential vote counts Tuesday, and perhaps a projected winner. However, it is unclear how many delegates will be projected before the June 9 deadline.  As the state has nearly 40% of the 479 delegates available, this change may remove the possibility of Biden reaching 1,991 before next Tuesday. 

Results Summary

Results by State

Idaho Indiana Iowa Maryland Montana
New Mexico Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Dakota Washington, D.C.

The Democratic presidential primary results as well as results for other races we're watching closely are on this page, broken out by state.  There are links to the full results for each state, including - as applicable - presidential, congressional and gubernatorial primaries.

Idaho

Idaho held its presidential primary on March 10. 

June 2 is the extended deadline to receive ballots for a primary that has been conducted entirely by mail. 

Senate/House: While there are a couple congressional primaries, the U.S. Senate seat held by Jim Risch as well as both congressional districts are seen as safely Republican this November.

All Idaho Results >>

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Indiana

President: There are 82 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary.

House: While there are contested primaries in both parties in most of the nine congressional districts, the seven incumbents seeking reelection are seen as safe in November.  In District 1, 18-term incumbent Rep. Peter Visclosky is retiring. A very large field is attempting to succeed him, with the winner Tuesday likely to be the next member of Congress from this safely Democratic district. The leading candidates look to be state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and Hammond mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.

In District 5, Republican Susan Brooks is retiring. 14 Republicans are vying for the party's nomination. On the Democratic side, state Rep. Christina Hale is the likely nominee. The general election race for this suburban Indianapolis district is expected to be somewhat competitive, although most forecasters give the GOP a small edge.  

All Indiana Results >>

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Iowa

Iowa held its presidential primary on February 3.

Senate: Theresa Greenfield is favored to become the Democratic nominee, although the party's state convention will make the final decision if no candidate reaches 35%. Whoever emerges will face off against Sen. Joni Ernst (R) in November.  While not the most likely Democratic pick-up this year, the general election race is definitely on the competitive radar. Most forecasters see it as Leans Republican.

House: One of the more interesting races of the night is in the state's 4th district, where Rep. Steve King attempts to stave off a challenge from state Sen. Randy Feenstra. King is a nine-term incumbent, but one of the more controversial members of the GOP House caucus.  The party is supporting Feenstra.  The winner will meet Democrat J.D. Scholten, who held King to a 3 point win in 2018. A Feenstra nomination will make things much more difficult for Scholten in this conservative district that Donald Trump won by 27 points in 2016.

Iowa's other three congressional districts are all held by Democrats and are all seen as highly competitive in November. Incumbents Abby Finkenauer (IA-1) and Cindy Axne (IA-3) will be seeking a 2nd term. Axne is likely to face a rematch against former Rep. David Young, who she unseated in 2018.  Finkenauer's likely opponent is state Rep. Ashley Hinson.

In District 2, state Sen. Rita Hart will be the Democratic nominee; Rep. Dave Loebsack is retiring after seven terms. There is a contested primary among five candidates on the Republican side.

For any primary where no candidate reaches 35%, a nominee will be selected at a convention of county parties within the district.

All Iowa Results >>

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Maryland

President: There are 96 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary.

House: There are contested primaries in each of the state's eight congressional districts.  All eight incumbents are running, and all eight districts are safe in November. The only incumbent races that might have a bit of suspense are in the 5th and 7th districts.  In District 5, Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, is being challenged from the left by activist Mckayla Wilkes. She is hoping to replicate what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accomplished with her surprise primary win in the 2018 midterms. Wilkes has generated some buzz, but the demographics of the district make this a steeply uphill climb.

In District 7, Rep. Kweisi Mfume recently won a special election to replace the late Rep. Elijah Cummings. Mfume emerged from a crowded Democratic field - which included Cumming's widow - to win the nomination in February.  Because of filing deadlines, most of the candidates from the special election primary will again be on the ballot.  Regardless of who emerges, that person will almost certainly prevail in the general election; this is one of the bluest districts in the country.

All Maryland Results >>

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Montana

President: There are 19 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary.

Senate/Governor/House:  As discussed in the Montana Road to 270 article, the state isn't likely to be competitive at the presidential level in November. However, the races for Senate and Governor are expected to be closely-contested. The at-large House seat is open, as Rep. Greg Gianforte (R) makes a run for governor. The current governor, Steve Bullock (D), is termed-out and is running for Senate.  Bullock is expected to win his primary and face incumbent Sen. Steve Daines in the general election.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary is between Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and businesswoman Whitney Williams. Both candidates are doing well in fundraising and endorsements; with no polling to guide, the race is seen as a true toss-up.  Gianforte is favored in the GOP primary.

All Montana Results >>

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New Mexico

President: There are 34 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary.

Senate: Sen. Tom Udall (D) is retiring; Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-3) will be the party's nominee for this safely Democratic seat.

House: The seven-candidate primary to fill Lujan's seat in the House is drawing a bit of added interest due to former CIA operative Valerie Plame being on the ballot.  This is a competitive primary in a safe Democratic district: whoever wins Tuesday is likely to be headed to Congress. 

In terms of November, the more important primary to watch is for the GOP nomination in District 2. Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small flipped the district in 2018; regaining it is a top GOP target.  The primary is between 2018 nominee Yvette Herrell and businesswoman Claire Chase. It has gotten rather personal around who is more loyal to President Trump. A Democratic PAC has also thrown money at the race, attacking Herrell as a Trump loyalist.  This will help Herrell in a GOP primary; so the thinking must be that she will be the easier Republican to defeat in November.

All New Mexico Results >>

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Pennsylvania

President: There are 186 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary.

House:  All 18 incumbents are standing for reelection in November.  Only two have a contested primary: Brian Fitzpatrick (R, PA-01) and Michael Doyle (D, PA-18). Although he is expected to prevail, Fitzpatrick's is the more competitive of the two. His District 1, as well as Districts 8 and 10 are seen as the most competitive in November.  Because of Gov. Wolf's order extending the mail-in deadline in parts of the state, we may not have race calls for all of the associated primaries until June 9.

All Pennsylvania Results >>

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Rhode Island

President: There are 26 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary.

The state holds its primary for other offices on September 8.

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South Dakota

President: There are 16 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary.

Senate/House: Sen. Mike Rounds and at-large Rep. Dusty Johnson have drawn primary challenges from GOP state representatives.  Regardless of how those play out, both seats are safely Republican in the fall. In fact, no Democrat qualified for the U.S. House primary, so the party will not field a candidate for that office in November.

All South Dakota Results >>

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Washington, D.C.

President: There are 20 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary.

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The Road to 270: Washington

June 1, 2020

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

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

Up in the Pacific Northwest, Washington state was known as something of a contrarian in presidential elections for much of the second half of the twentieth century. In four of the most high-profile presidential races of that era, it sided with the losing nominee: Nixon in 1960, Humphrey in 1968, Ford in 1976, and Dukakis in 1988. That Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis (D) carried Washington in 1988 was noteworthy because he lost in an Electoral College landslide. According to the Almanac of American Politics, Dukakis' win in the Evergreen State was also a surprise because the networks had called the state for Bush earlier that evening.

If Washington misses the mark in this year’s presidential election, though, it will be due more to partisan loyalty than to any contrarian streak. It supported Democratic candidates in the past three elections by double-digits, and it’s hard to see that changing soon.

The great divider

The Cascade Range both physically and politically divides Washington state. As a result, the state has a unique east-west split. While the Cascades’ divide is somewhat less useful today when it comes to politics, the split is important from a geographic perspective. West of the Cascades, Washington is predominately urban and suburban. The Seattle metro area -- anchored by King County -- is home to much of the state's population. Using the traditional definition of eastern Washington, the chart below shows how the two regions have voted in presidential elections since 2000. The number of votes cast have grown in both regions with each cycle, but eastern Washington has not seen the level of population growth the western half of the state has.

A changing Washington

The rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders played a key role in the changing nature of Washington politics. In the western and southwestern parts of the state, Donald Trump flipped four working class counties in 2016 (Clallam, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, and Pacific). At the same time, longtime progressive Seattle Rep. Jim McDermott (D) retired that year and was succeeded by Pramila Jaypal (D), a Bernie Sanders acolyte. Although McDermott's district went heavily for Senator Sanders in the non-binding Democratic primary that year, McDermott had already endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2015. The Seattle City Council has marched steadily leftward in recent years, inspired by Sanders' movement.

On the other side of the spectrum, Donald Trump’s campaign resonated with the culturally conservative voters of coastal Washington, many of whom used to work in the once-dominant logging industry. A combination of the logging industry's decline and the Democratic Party's embrace of environmentalism has pushed these voters into the Republican Party. Grays Harbor County stands out: in 2016, Trump became the first GOP nominee since Herbert Hoover, in 1928, to win the county. Down the ballot that year, voters remained loyal to Rep. Derek Kilmer (D) and Sen. Patty Murray (D), a known commodity in state politics. Still, in a sign of the hardening polarization, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) lost Grays Harbor County 52%-48% during her easy reelection in 2018.

Three of the four Obama/Trump counties in Washington are located in the state's 6th District. Represented by Kilmer since 2013, WA-6 stretches from Tacoma to more the working class coastal communities on the Olympic Peninsula. This district went for President Obama by 15% in 2012 and Hillary Clinton by 12% in 2016. 

Kilmer is a relatively backbench Congressman but now serves as Chairman of the center to center-left New Democrat Coalition, the largest caucus among House Democrats. Rep. Kilmer tends to stay away from the spotlight and focuses mostly on local issues. An Ivy League graduate with a business background, he’s quite different from other Democrats with strong working class appeal, like Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and fellow Reps. Joe Courtney (D-CT), Pete Visclosky (D-IN), and Tim Ryan (D-OH). Although a popular local figure, Kilmer has started to lose ground in working class Grays Harbor. 

In 2018, Kilmer outran Obama by double-digits in all but Mason and Grays Harbor -- the two most working class counties in the district. Kilmer only slightly outperformed Obama in Mason and did worse in Grays Harbor. The once reliably Democratic blue collar voters are increasingly opting to vote Republican downballot. Still, Kilmer has strong appeal with these voters and could very well be a Senator down the line, in the style of Senator Cantwell.

Congressional Politics

Washington's House delegation has remained relatively stable in recent years but it went through a period of upheaval during Bill Clinton's first term. After the 1992 elections, Democrats controlled eight of the state's nine U.S. House districts but after 1994, that became a 7-2 Republican advantage.

Washington enjoyed outsized clout during the late 1980's and into the mid 1990's when 5th District Rep. Tom Foley (D) served as Speaker of the House. Representing eastern Washington since the mid 60's, Foley rose through the ranks of House Democratic leadership quickly, though his ascent was due to some favorable circumstances.

The backlash to Watergate swept in a fresh crop of liberal Democrats to the House in 1974. At the time, the Agriculture Committee was chaired by Bill Poage, a conservative Democrat from Waco, Texas. According to the Almanac of American Politics, the more liberal caucus felt Poage was too conservative for the post; they elected Foley Chairman instead.

Though 1980 was a disastrous election for Democrats nationally, it strengthened Foley’s hand. As President Carter lost reelection, Republicans gained 34 seats in the House, and House Majority Whip John Brademas of Indiana was swept out in that red wave. Then an appointed position chosen by the Speaker and Majority Leader, the Majority Whip post was suddenly vacant and Foley, by then an ally of leadership, was chosen.

Ironically, Foley's rise through the party ranks complicated his standing back home. Eastern Washington, a more conservative region of the state, was growing increasingly friendly to Republicans. With the resignation of Speaker Jim Wright in the summer of 1989, he was elected Speaker of the House. By the early 1990's, Foley was the face of an increasingly liberal party. Initially, he seemed to bridge the gap well back home: he was reelected by a comfortable 38 point margin in 1990 but slid to just a 55%-45% win in 1992.

In 1994, the Republican Revolution was full steam ahead. Foley, an outspoken opponent of term limits, faced conservative Republican George Nethercutt that year. As Speaker of the House, Foley took positions that were mainstream within his caucus but out of step with his district's voters. Specifically, Nethercutt seized on Foley’s support of the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. In the end, Nethercutt became just the third person to defeat a sitting Speaker of the House for reelection. Winning by 4,000 votes, Nethercutt's victory cemented Republican grip on eastern Washington and the 5th district is still in GOP hands.

Today the 5th District is represented by Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R). As with Foley, McMorris Rodgers quickly rose through House Republican leadership: she served as Vice Chair of the Republican Conference from 2009 to 2013 and then Conference Chair from 2013-2019. Although Democrats targeted her in 2018, McMorris Rodgers still comfortably won reelection and it’s hard to see this district being heavily contested soon. The district houses Spokane -- the state’s second largest city -- as well as Pullman (home to Washington State University) but the rest of the district is quite red. With Republicans in the minority, McMorris Rodgers decided to step down from leadership and was succeeded by second-term Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

Looking at the House landscape this year, none of the Democratic-held seats are likely to be heavily contested. The 8th District is a largely suburban seat that was held for many years by Rep. Dave Reichert (R); it flipped when he retired in 2018. Republicans haven't put up any top tier candidates against his successor, Rep. Kim Schrier (D). The only open seat this year is Washington's 10th District, held by Denny Heck (D). Heck is retiring to run for the open Lieutenant Governor's office. While going Congress to Lieutenant Governor is certainly an unusual career move, it's not unheard of. Going into the 2014 cycle, Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin (R) announced his retirement but then pivoted to the Lieutenant Governor’s race and won.

In southwest Washington’s 3rd District, Democrats are looking to give Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R) a competitive race, after she was reelected by just 5% in 2018. She’s likely to face a rematch with her 2018 opponent, Carolyn Long. Still, Herrera Beutler has some bipartisan appeal and, as discussed earlier, southwest Washington is home to many Obama/Trump voters. What keeps this district competitive is suburban Clark County. Immediately north of Portland, Oregon this growing suburban county is starting to vote like other similar suburban counties. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates WA-3 as Leans Republican. As a rare minority and woman in the heavily white and male House Republican Conference, defending Herrera Beutler is a top priority for many in the party.

Washington's two Senators are Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Murray ranks third in Senate Democratic Leadership and has often been mentioned as a future Senate Democratic Leader. She is the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and has generally worked well with Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The state's junior Senator is Maria Cantwell, a former congresswoman who was swept out in the 1994 wave but staged a political comeback in 2000. Cantwell keeps a lower profile and is generally considered the more moderate of the two; she’ll frequently work across the aisle with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Still, on big issues, both of Washington’s senators are reliable party votes.

State level politics

At the state level, Washington is blue but not overwhelmingly so. Democrats hold small majorities in both chambers of the legislature and control all but two statewide offices. The two Republicans are Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Treasurer Duane Davidson. Both face strong challenges this year from a pair of state representatives. Wyman has generally been regarded as a competent bureaucrat so the election will be a test of whether she can overcome the state's partisanship. Running for a third term this year, she does have history on her side -- the Washington Secretary of State’s office has been in Republican hands since 1964. Wyman only faced nominal opposition in 2016 and Davidson won in a unique scenario where Washington's top-two system led to two Republicans facing off.

Gov. Jay Inslee (D), a former congressman, holds high approval ratings and faces no serious opposition from Republicans this year. He is likely to cruise to reelection. His brief presidential bid last year, where he emphasized climate change, does not seem to have hurt him, and it almost seems like a distant memory at this point.

For redistricting, Washington uses a bipartisan commission comprised of five members, one appointed by each of the majority and minority leaders from the legislature. A fifth non-voting member is chosen by the four to serve as Chair. Such commissions generally prioritize incumbent protection for both parties. Redistricting is likely to be quite uneventful. The most likely change will be to shore up Kim Schrier and draw a much safer seat for her. The population boom in Washington will be the primary cause behind any major changes to the district boundaries.

Presidential outlook

Washington Polls >>

Although Trump flipped a number of heavily working class counties in southwestern and western Washington, Hillary Clinton did 1% better statewide than Obama in 2012. Trump’s struggles in the Seattle suburbs completely erased whatever gains he was able to make elsewhere. Although some Obama/Trump counties may not flip back, Joe Biden seems likely to improve upon Clinton’s showing across the board. The Evergreen State’s 12 electoral votes are solidly in the Democratic corner.

Next Week: Missouri

Reports in this series:

The Road to 270: Mississippi

May 25, 2020

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

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

After receiving the 1980 Republican nomination for president, Gov. Ronald Reagan headed down to the Neshoba County Fair, in Mississippi. In his first post-convention speech as the party’s nominee, Reagan emphasized support for states' rights. The significance of the location was not lost on political observers: in Philadelphia, just a few miles away, three civil rights activists were murdered in 1964. While Reagan’s supporters saw the cause of states' rights as fitting into a larger message of economic freedom, critics accused him of pandering to southern conservative whites.

Either way, Mississippi, once part of the Democratic ‘Solid South’ -- Franklin Roosevelt never received less than 93% of its votes -- seemed like prime territory for Reagan. Whites there had been drifting Republican as the national Democratic Party became more liberal. With its 6 Electoral Votes, Mississippi is a firmly red state today.

The rise of the Mississippi Republican

The decade before Reagan’s speech marked a period of change in Mississippi. In 1972, President Nixon carried the state in a landslide, and swept in two Republican congressmen on his coattails: Thad Cochran and Trent Lott. Both would go on to become enormously influential in state and national politics. Cochran and Lott's victories marked the first time since Reconstruction that Republicans had more than one member in the congressional delegation.

In 1978, after three terms in the House, Cochran ran for the Senate seat being vacated by longtime Senator Jim Eastland (D). Eastland, a conservative Democrat, was known for his steadfast support of segregation. Cochran’s election to the Senate was the first time the state had popularly elected a Republican since the enactment of the 17th Amendment, which went into effect in 1914. Ideologically, Cochran was conservative, but in terms of his political style, he was described by the 1982 edition of the Almanac of American Politics as "closer to Majority Leader Howard Baker" -- in other words, gentlemanly and congenial.

That 1978 Senate election was an interesting contest. Cochran, who at the time represented the Jackson area in the House, faced former Marion County District Attorney Maurice Dantin (D), and independent candidate, Charles Evers, the mayor of Fayette. Evers, who is African-American, split the Black vote with Dantin, which allowed Cochran to win with a 45% plurality. In the Senate, Cochran established himself as a master appropriator known for his ability to steer federal funding to his home state. He rose in seniority over the years, eventually chairing two committees during his time in the Senate.

From 2003-2005, Cochran chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee, a position of great importance to his rural and farm heavy state. From 2005-2007, and again from 2015-2018, Cochran chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee. A soft spoken man, he earned himself the nickname the "Quiet Persuader." In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and when it came time for Congress to put together a relief bill, the Louisiana congressional delegation asked for a $250 billion relief bill. Their effort was unsuccessful but Cochran put his foot down and secured $29 billion in relief funds for the storm stricken communities along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. 

In the twilight years of his career, Cochran began to draw attention from the right. When he was up for reelection in 2014, he faced a strong primary challenge from State Senator Chris McDaniel. McDaniel, a Tea Party-style Republican was an opponent unlike anyone Cochran had ever faced. The quiet gentleman Cochran vs the brash, fiery partisan Chris McDaniel reflected the divide among the state's Republicans. Whereas Cochran represented the traditional Mississippi Republican, McDaniel represented where the party was going. In the primary, McDaniel placed first, but with less than 50%. To win his runoff, Cochran made an unusual decision for a Republican, especially a southern one: he courted the black vote. Although a reliably Democratic voting bloc, African-Americans make up nearly 40% of the state.

With no party registration in Mississippi, any eligible voter who did not cast a ballot in that year's Democratic Primary (which was uncontested) was eligible to vote in the Republican runoff. Cochran's gambit paid off in a big way. He carried the black-majority 2nd Congressional District by a lopsided 27 point margin. Being the most Democratic district in the state, the 2nd District naturally casts the fewest votes in Republican primaries, but that kind of margin proved decisive for Cochran -- he won the runoff 51%-49%.

Citing his health, Cochran announced he would be resigning from the Senate in 2018 -- he died in May 2019, at age 81. Cochran’s resignation triggered a 2018 special election, which was concurrent with the regular election for state's other Senate seat, held by Roger Wicker (R). GOP Governor Phil Bryant appointed then-state Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) to Cochran's seat. Originally elected to the State Senate as a Democrat, she switched to the GOP in 2010. In 2011, she was elected Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce and was easily reelected in 2015. Hyde-Smith stood for the Senate special election, and had the full support of the party establishment, including Cochran himself and President Trump. McDaniel ran in that race too, but was not much of a factor.

For special elections, Mississippi borrows from its western neighbor, Louisiana, and uses a 'jungle primary' system: all candidates run on the same ballot, though with no party labels. Democrats rallied around former Agriculture Secretary and Congressman Mike Espy, though Republicans were quick to attack Espy over ethics issues that led to his resignation as President Clinton's Agriculture Secretary. Hyde-Smith had a number of gaffes during the campaign, such as insensitive remarks regarding lynchings. With the lean of the state on her side, Hyde-Smith won the runoff, but Espy’s 46% share was better than what other recent Mississippi Democrats got. The two will have a rematch in November.

Geography

Mississippi's four congressional districts represent the state's geography well.

  • MS-1: Northeast Mississippi. The 1st District includes the northeastern portion of the state as well as the Memphis suburbs. This is the most ancestrally Democratic of the four districts. Even in his 1980 loss, President Carter took 60% in some counties here -- by 2016, Hillary Clinton was struggling to crack 20% of the vote in many of them. This district was the birthplace of a number of the state's most influential figures ranging from Thad Cochran to Elvis Presley. One of its main cities, Oxford, houses the University of Mississippi - "Ole Miss" as it is commonly known.
  • MS-2: Western Mississippi: This district encompasses the Mississippi River Delta Region, home to the majority of the state's African-American population. Although this district looks rural, the bulk of the population is in Jackson. Given its demographics, this is the only district that votes Democratic.
  • MS-3: Central Mississippi and Southwestern Mississippi: This mostly rural district covers mostly rural white counties, the wealthy white Jackson suburbs, and a few small majority Black counties.
  • MS-4: Southern Mississippi: Roughly divided between urban and rural population, this district includes the Pine Belt and the Gulf Coast region. The northern half of the district is quite rural and heavily forested while the southern portion is home to a number of the state's larger cities such as Biloxi and Gulfport.

Congressional politics

Owing to the state's red lean, Mississippi's congressional delegation is overwhelmingly Republican. Since 2011, the lone Democrat in the state's delegation has been 2nd District Rep. Bennie Thompson, a longtime figure in the African-American community in Mississippi. One of the most senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Thompson was elected to the House in a 1993 special election to succeed Espy. Espy had resigned to lead the Department of Agriculture, under the Clinton Administration. With Democrats in the majority, Thompson is once again Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Immigration is a touchy subject in Mississippi, given its large agricultural industry and that industry's reliance on undocumented immigrants as workers. With Democrats in control of the House, the Magnolia State's 3-1 Republican House delegation carries little sway.

In some ways, Bennie Thompson is a Democratic equivalent to Thad Cochran. Cochran was a Republican who could court black voters while Thompson is a rare southern Democrat who has strong appeal with black voters and can also peel off a non-trivial number of conservative whites. According to the Almanac of American Politics, Espy had similar appeal with the district's white voters -- his 1988 race, Espy carried more than 1/3 of white vote (impressive by Deep South standards). Bennie Thompson shares this distinction with a few southern members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Thompson outran Obama by five points in 2008 and really improved over Obama in the areas with the highest number of white voters. A native of Hinds County, Thompson outran Obama in the white suburbs of Jackson but fared less well in Jackson proper. He also demonstrated great appeal with the district's large number of rural voters, particularly with the white voters.

The Magnolia's State senior Senator is Republican Roger Wicker. An appropriator like Cochran, Wicker represented the state's 1st District in the House from 1995-2007. When former Majority Leader Trent Lott resigned from the Senate in 2007, then-Gov. Haley Barbour (R) appointed Wicker to the Senate. Democrat Travis Childers flipped Wicker's old House seat in a May 2008 special election and won a full term in the fall of that year -- in 2010, the seat fell back into GOP hands. In the Senate, Wicker is generally regarded as an establishment conservative who usually supports the majority's agenda. Wicker has however bucked the party in relation to the President use of a National Emergency Declaration that essentially bypasses the appropriations process and funds construction of his border wall.

The state's population shifts since 2010 pose an interesting problem for redistricting. In terms of partisanship, there will likely be no changes to the delegation's partisan composition. The state's majority-black 2nd Congressional District is protected under the Voting Rights Act. The Delta region's significant population loss over the course of the last decade could make redistricting a bit difficult. Other than that though, redistricting will be largely uneventful.

State level politics

Until 2019, Mississippi generally lagged behind the national urban/rural realignment at the state level. White Democrats held some deep red districts in both chambers of the legislature. Democrats also held the state Attorney General's office from 1878 until January of this year. A.G. Jim Hood opted to run for Governor in 2019 rather than reelection -- Hood lost that race 52%-47% and the GOP, predictably, picked up his old office. At the local levels, Democrats continue to hold many local offices in otherwise deep red counties. 

The Magnolia State is known for its quirky state-level electoral college. A remnant of the Jim Crow era, Mississippi law has an unusual requirement if no statewide candidate receives a majority of the vote. If that’s the case, the leading candidate must win a majority of the state house districts or the election is decided by the State House, much like the federal Electoral College. Even in his near 11 point win in 2015, Jim Hood still failed to carry a majority of state house districts.

Presidential outlook

At the presidential level, Mississippi is solidly red and highly inelastic: blacks routinely give Democrats 90% of the vote, while white voters are almost as loyal to Republicans. With that, political analysts characterize Mississippi as a ‘high floor, low ceiling’ state for Democrats -- Democrats can easily get 40% of the vote (slightly higher than black percentage share of the overall population), but getting much past that is a challenge. Indeed, no Republican nominee has won the state with more than 60% of the vote since Ronald Reagan, in 1984. Since 2000, the Republican win margin has ranged from 11.5% to about 20%. This year's election result is likely to be in that range.

In 2012, Mississippi was just one of six states where President Obama improved from his 2008 performance, even though he slid nationally. Obama, as the first black president, inspired strong turnout with that group while Mitt Romney -- a wealthy, technocratic Mormon – was a poor fit for working class whites in the state. Obama took 44% in Mississippi that year, but in 2016, Hillary Clinton couldn’t match his enthusiasm with blacks and faced an opponent better suited for the state -- she fell to 40%.

If Biden is polling closer to Obama’s 44% than Clinton’s 40%, it may be a sign of his strength with black voters. Otherwise, the only interesting things to watch are whether Joe Biden can win back the four Obama/Trump counties (Benton, Chickasaw, Panola, and Warren) and whether he can make any significant inroads in the state's few suburban counties.

Next Week: Washington

Reports in this series:

Hawaii Democratic Primary Results

May 23, 2020

Hawaii Democrats released results Saturday for the state's party-run primary.  Joe Biden finished first with 63% of the vote, winning 16 of the 24 pledged delegates. Bernie Sanders received 37% of the vote, winning the other 8 delegates.  Note that voting in this primary began before Sanders withdrew from the race on April 8.

The primary, originally scheduled for April 4, was changed to be run exclusively by mail in response to the pandemic. Ballots were due back by May 22.

While Biden is the presumptive nominee, he has not yet reached the 1,991 delegates needed to officially clinch the nomination.  That could change on June 2, when the first set of primaries after the Memorial Day holiday is held. 7 states, as well as the District of Columbia will hold contests that day, several of them rescheduled from earlier dates.

479 pledged delegates will be available on June 2. Biden needs 425 of them, based on the latest count by NPR and the Associated Press.1 1AP recently reallocated 40 delegates from candidates dropping out to Biden. We don't have specifics, but these are likely statewide delegates which cannot be retained by candidates who leave the race, per party rules. The delegate count of Sanders was not affected, as the Biden and Sanders campaigns reached an agreement whereby the Vermont Senator would effectively keep those delegates. That may be a reach, with Bernie Sanders still seeing enough support in some locations to add to his delegate count.

House Ratings Changes from Inside Elections

May 23, 2020

On Friday, Inside Elections updated its House ratings for the November elections, shifting 15 races.  Changes were made to eight competitive races, with seven more moving to safe, taking them out of play - per this forecaster - for November.  

The main takeaway from the full report (subscription required): "Even after losing 40 seats in 2018, there’s no guarantee Republicans won’t lose more in November. With less than six months to go before Election Day, not only is the House majority not at risk, Democrats could gain seats. Right now, the most likely outcome is close to the status quo and fall into a range of a GOP gain of five seats to a Democratic gain of five seats."

Three seats moved to safe Democratic:  CA-10, CA-45, NY-19. Four more moved to safe GOP: NC-9, OH-12, TX-2, TX-31. In terms of competitive races, CA-25 starts at Tilt Democratic after the Republican victory in this month's special election. The other seven changes moved one category each in favor of Democrats.  NY-22 and UT-4 now sit at Tilt D, with IL-14 and NJ-3 moving to Lean D. NV-3 is now Likely D.  The final two seats are GOP-held, with MT-AL now at Likely R and TX-21 at Leans R.

2020 Electoral Map Based on Polling Averages

May 21, 2020

In response to many requests, we've created a map that will track the electoral vote based exclusively on polling averages. While good as a benchmark, keep in mind that polling this far from the election may ultimately prove to be of limited predictive value.

If the difference between Biden and Trump is less than 5%, these will display as toss-ups. States are shown as leaning toward a candidate if the margin is 5 to 9.99%.  Likely is 10 to 14.99%, with states shown as safe where the margin is 15% or more.

Where polling is not yet available, we are using the actual margin between Clinton and Trump in 2016.  

Oregon Primaries: Overview and Live Results

May 19, 2020

Oregon holds its regularly-scheduled primary elections Tuesday. With a long history of mail-in voting, the state was not forced to change the date due to the pandemic. Ballots can be returned by mail or dropped off at official drop boxes across the state. In either case, ballots must be received by 8:00 PM local time.1 1The entire state, except for a portion of Malheur County in the southeast corner of the state, is in the Pacific Time Zone. Live results will appear below after 11:00 PM Eastern Time.

President (Democratic): Firmly entrenched as the presumptive nominee, Joe Biden won all 29 delegates in last week's Nebraska primary. Notable in that it was the first time this year it has happened.  Heading into Tuesday, Biden has 1,464 of the 1,991 delegates needed to win the nomination.  61 additional delegates are available in Oregon. 

Looking ahead, Hawaii (24 pledged delegates) results are expected on Saturday.  After that the next contests are June 2, which, due to schedule changes, has become one of the busiest dates on the Democratic primary calendar. 479 delegates, across 7 states and the District of Columbia are available.  It is mathematically possible that Biden could cross the 1,991 threshold on that date, although he'd have to win almost every available pledged delegate starting from today.

Congressional: There is a contested GOP primary for U.S. Senate, as well as for both parties in each of the state's five congressional districts. However, there isn't expected to be all that much to see here in the fall.  Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley should cruise to a 3rd term in November, and Democratic incumbents in the state's 1st, 3rd and 5th districts are also seen as safe.

In the 4th district, 17-term incumbent Democrat Peter DeFazio is seen as safe by most analysts, although Cook and Politico rate the district as 'Likely Democratic'. This district is more evenly split politically, with Hillary Clinton winning here by just 0.1% over Donald Trump in 2016.

In the state's lone GOP-held district - the 2nd - incumbent Greg Walden is retiring after 11 terms. There are competitive primaries in both parties to succeed him, although the seat is seen as safely Republican come November.  The mostly rural district covers the eastern 2/3 of the state.  In terms of land area, it is the 6th largest congressional district in the United States, trailing only the 2nd district in New Mexico among states that have multiple districts.2 2The four largest are the at-large districts in Alaska, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.

More Oregon Results >>