Election News

The Road to 270: Washington

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.

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

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.

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.


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

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

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

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

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 >>


The Road to 270: Delaware

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.

Straddling the Mason-Dixon line, Delaware is quite a curiosity. With just three counties, it is the second smallest state by area in the United States. Home to affluent whites and a sizable African-American population, there's no state quite like the First State. Delaware gets to know its politicians and expects to see them. Voters get to know their representatives and, in Congress, that means they pretty much stay there as long as they want.

2000: A legend falls

In 2000, longtime Senator Bill Roth (R) faced a spirited challenge from Governor Tom Carper (D). This was a watershed election. Roth had never faced a competitive reelection bid as Senator but with Delaware's shift to the Democratic Party, he was viewed as being on shaky ground. A two term Governor, Carper was by 2000 a fixture of Delaware politics. Having served six years as State Treasurer, 12 years as Delaware's Congressman, and then eight years as Governor, Carper was the ultimate Democratic candidate to take on Bill Roth.

Roth, 79 at the time, was a political legend in Delaware. A two term Congressman before he entered the Senate in 1971, he was known for his expertise on taxes and other financial issues. Per the Almanac of American Politics, Carper had been mentioned as a candidate against Roth in the 1988 and 1994 cycles. Carper opted to run for reelection in 1988 and then successfully ran for Governor in 1992. Bill Roth was not in the best of shape by 2000, having collapsed twice during the campaign including during an interview. Carper won by 12 points and has easily won reelection ever since, having garnered at least 60% of vote in his three races since then.

Carper's performance was about 1% worse than Al Gore's that year. Looking beneath the surface, Carper was weaker than Gore in the Wilmington suburbs and around the state capital of Dover. Tom Carper really showed much stronger appeal with rural voters than Al Gore did.


Delaware's geography is relatively simple. The state has three counties, each of them unique in their own way.

  • New Castle County: Home to Wilmington, New Castle County comprises about 60% of the state's population and is the heart of Democratic support in the state. The once Republican suburbs are now almost all blue.
  • Kent County: A mixture of suburban and rural areas, Kent is home to Delaware's capital - Dover. Kent is the only swingy county in the state, frequently alternating between Democrats and Republicans.
  • Sussex County: Southern Delaware is the most rural part of the state and home to a number of poultry plants. Dominated by Republicans at all levels of government, Sussex last voted Democratic for President in 1996.

Congressional politics

During his long tenure in the Senate, Joe Biden participated in a number of significant events. By 1987, Biden had risen through the ranks to chair the Senate's powerful Judiciary Committee. Biden faced enormous pressure from outside liberal groups to derail the nomination of Robert Bork to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. President Reagan had nominated Bork in July 1987, a month after Biden declared his intention to run for President in 1988. According to the Almanac of American Politics, Biden helped sway wavering Senators Howell Heflin (D-AL), Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ), and Arlen Specter (R-PA) from breaking ranks and advancing Bork's nomination to the full Senate.

Joe Biden's 1988 bid for President ultimately fell apart after plagiarism allegations surfaced. Biden would try again 20 years to no avail, though it did result in him becoming Barack Obama's running mate that year. After eight years as Vice President, Joe Biden considered running for President again in 2016 but ultimately decided against it - following the death of his son Beau. Biden would make his third bid for the Presidency in 2020 and after a long slog, ended up rather easily defeating his main rival, Senator Bernie Sanders.

In his three presidential bids, Joe Biden's biggest opponent has always been himself. Known for his off the cuff speaking style, Biden has demonstrated an ability to connect with voters of all stripes. Frequently gaffe prone, Biden has a habit of sticking his foot in his mouth - having on a number of occasions over the years told people not to vote for him.

Since November 2010, Delaware's junior Senator has been Chris Coons. A moderate Democrat, Coons was elected in a 2010 special election against Republican nominee Christine O'Donnell. In response to a resurfaced 1999 clip of her on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect which featured her admitting to having dabbled in witchcraft, O'Donnell produced an iconic video where she addressed her comments by saying "I'm not a witch". In a stunning upset, O'Donnell had defeated Rep. Mike Castle in the Republican primary earlier that year. Castle, a moderate Republican was enormously popular in the state, had won reelection in 2008 with 61% of the vote -- in fact, before that 2010 primary defeat, he had never lost an election.

Castle would have been the clear favorite to win the Senate seat amidst the national Republican wave of 2010. Despite the national environment, Democrats flipped Castle’s open House seat with former Lt. Governor John Carney – it was one of just three seats that flipped from red to blue that year. Democrats have held the seat since. Castle also remains the last Republican elected Governor of Delaware, with his reelection in 1988.

Coons often rankles the left, drawing a primary challenger this cycle just as his senior colleague did in 2018. According to Morning Consult's most recent poll from Quarter 4 of last year, Coons had a net approval of +56 among Democrats so he should be in little trouble. The general election is not expected to be much of a race either with it rated as 'Safe Democratic' by the three major political forecasters.

Serving as Delaware's sole representative in the House is Lisa Blunt Rochester (D). A former staffer to Tom Carper during his governorship, Blunt Rochester is well versed in Delaware politics. A member of the center to center-left New Democrat Coalition and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Blunt Rochester is the most liberal member of Delaware's congressional delegation. Her committee assignments - Agriculture and Education - reflect her state's priorities well. A prominent African-American female politician in the state, Blunt Rochester is often mentioned as a successor to Tom Carper should he retire in 2024. To date, only two black women have been elected to the U.S. Senate1 1The first, Carol Moseley Braun (Illinois) was elected in 1992, serving one term. Kamala Harris (California) is serving her first term after being elected in 2016. and should Blunt Rochester run, she would be heavily favored to win in this solidly Democratic state.  

State level politics

At the state level, Delaware is increasingly dominated by Democrats. The party has controlled the Governorship since 1993 and maintained a trifecta since 2009. 2018 marked a turning point for Republicans in the state. Two members of GOP leadership were defeated for reelection. Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle and House Minority Deborah Watson were defeated in upsets. Treasurer Ken Simpler, a moderate Republican was defeated and State Auditor Tom Wagner retired, resulting in the office flipping to Democrats.

At the gubernatorial level, Democrats have won six of the last seven races by double digits. Governor John Carney was elected in 2016, defeating State Senator Colin Bonini (R). Carney was elected Congressman in 2010 when Rep. Mike Castle (R) ran for the Senate seat vacated by then Vice President Joe Biden. Prior to his three terms in the House, Carney served as Lieutenant Governor of Delaware - under Governor Ruth Ann Minner (D). As Governor, Carney has generally posted high approval ratings (even pre-pandemic) and none of the major elections forecasters consider the race competitive. Republicans are likely to nominate a replacement level candidate against him.

Joe Biden's son Beau, a former National Guardsman and Attorney served two terms as Delaware's Attorney General. Beau Biden was a popular figure in the state, facing no Republican opponent for his second term in 2010. Biden declined to run for a third term in 2014 and instead announced a bid for Governor to succeed term limited Governor Jack Markell. Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn ran for the open Attorney General's office and won. After several years of battling brain cancer, Beau sadly died in 2015. Attorney General Matthew Denn surprisingly announced his retirement in August 2017, after twelve years of holding statewide office. 

In the 2016 elections, Republicans gained one seat in the Delaware Senate. In addition, Senator Bethany Hall-Long (D) resigned to become Lieutenant Governor, meaning the chamber was deadlocked. In Delaware, the Lieutenant Governor serves as President of the Senate and Hall-Long broke the tie in favor of her party, thus giving them the control of the chamber. Democrats successfully defended Hall-Long's district in a special election in 2017, giving them 11 seats to Republicans 10. The party picked up an additional seat in 2018, giving them the current 12-9 majority.

Presidential outlook

Hillary Clinton only carried the First State by 11% in 2016 but with Joe Biden likely atop the ticket, Delaware's three electoral votes are solidly in the Democratic corner this year. Its been a long time since Joe Biden was on the ballot in his home state. A lot has changed in the intervening years and Delaware's urban/rural divide has only grown stronger. However given the former Vice President's popularity in his home state, it stands to reason there will be a number of voters who cast their ballots for Trump in 2016 but will vote for their former Senator this time around.

Next Week: Mississippi

Reports in this series:

Reversing Course, Justin Amash Will Not Run for President

Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan said Saturday that he would not run a 3rd party campaign for president in 2020.  

Amash, who left the Republican Party last summer to become an independent, announced in late April that he was forming an exploratory committee to seek the presidency. He officially joined the Libertarian Party, becoming its first U.S. House member.  He was expected to seek the party's nomination at its convention later this month.

As Michigan law precludes running for both president and congress, Amash said at the time he would not seek reelection to his House seat.  It is not clear if his position on that will shift with today's announcement.


Cook Political Sees Perdue's Georgia Seat as Increasingly Competitive

Cook Political updated its 2020 Senate ratings Friday, moving Georgia - the seat held by David Perdue (R) - from Likely to Leans Republican. This aligns it with the special election being held for Georgia's other Senate seat, as well as the forecaster's rating for Georgia in the Electoral College.

Read the Cook analysis >>

Here's the updated Cook Senate ratings map.  Click or tap for an interactive version to create and share your own 2020 Senate forecast.

GOP Gains U.S. House Seat as Mike Garcia Wins California Special Election

Republican Mike Garcia has won the special election in California's 25th congressional district. His opponent, Democrat Christy Smith conceded Wednesday afternoon, citing Garcia's lead in the vote counted thus far.

The current vote tally:

Garcia's victory is welcome news for California Republicans after the party lost seven congressional seats (including this one) in the 2018 midterms.  Once seated, Garcia will complete the term of former Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned last fall. Smith and Garcia will face off again on November 3, this time vying for a full two-year term in the 117th congress.