Four polls released Sunday/Monday give Roy Moore a double-digit lead over Sen. Luther Strange in Tuesday's runoff for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate race in Alabama.
Alabama-based Cygnal, in conjunction with L2, gives Moore a 52 to 41 lead over Strange. Emerson college has it 50-40 Moore. Data analytics firm Optimus has Moore at 55%, with Strange at 45%. Finally, Trafalgar Group, who did an especially good job predicting Donald Trump's win last November, gives Moore a 16 point lead, 57% to 41%. Despite Mr. Trump's support of the appointed Senator, these margins indicate a Moore victory is likely on Tuesday.
Polls are open Tuesday from 7AM to 7PM local time, meaning results should be available starting at 8PM Eastern Time. The winner will face Democratic nominee Doug Jones in the December 12th special general election. The winner there will complete the term of former Sen. Jeff Sessions, now U.S. Attorney General. This seat is next up for its regular election cycle in 2020.
While 2017 is an off-year in the political cycle, there are still a few seats being contested this fall.
(9/26) Alabama U.S. Senate Republican Runoff: With no candidate achieving a majority, the top two vote getters from last month's Republican primary will meet next Tuesday, with the winner moving on to the special election in December. Roy Moore, former Chief Justice of Alabama's Supreme Court won that primary, with the incumbent Senator, Luther Strange finishing 6 points back. Moore has led in the polling conducted since the primary, sometimes by double-digits, although some polls have been much closer. The most recent poll has him up by a 50-42% margin. Strange has the endorsement of President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; both Trump and Vice President Pence will campaign for the incumbent prior to the runoff.
(11/7) Virginia Gubernatorial Election: One of two regularly scheduled gubernatorial races on Election Day. Incumbent Democrat Terry McAuliffe is term-limited. Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam will represent the Democrats, while former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie is the Republican nominee. Gillespie lost a 2014 race for U.S. Senator from Virginia, although the race against incumbent Mark Warner was much closer than expected. Warner prevailed by less than 1%. There have been quite a few polls in recent days. While Northam leads in most, all show a very competitive race. Sabato's Crystal Ball, The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections all rate the race as 'Leans Democratic'.
(11/7) New Jersey Gubernatorial Election: Term-limited Republican Chris Christie will be replaced by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno (R) or businessman and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy (D). The incumbent is highly unpopular, complicating Guadagno's efforts to prevail in this traditionally blue state. The only recent poll here, from Quinnipiac, gives Murphy a substantial lead of 25%. This week, Sabato's Crystal ball changed their rating to 'Safe Democratic', while Cook and Inside Elections are at 'Likely Democratic'.
(11/7) Utah's 3rd Congressional District Special Election: The race is to fill the open seat created by the departure of former Rep. Jason Chaffetz. It will be contested again in 2018 as part of the midterm elections. The Republican nominee is the Mayor of Provo, John Curtis. The Democratic nominee is a physician, Kathie Allen. Curtis led by 30 points in a recent poll. This race is 'Safe Republican'.
(12/12) Alabama Senate Special Election: The winner of next Tuesday's runoff will face off against Democrat Doug Jones in mid-December. The special election was necessitated after former Senator Jeff Sessions resigned to become U.S. Attorney General; the next regular election for the seat is in 2020. Jones is a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. Regardless of whether Strange or Moore wins the runoff, they will have the advantage in this deep red state, which last elected a Democratic Senator in 1992. (That Democrat, Richard Shelby, became a Republican two years later.) However, a victory by the controversial Moore could lead to a more competitive general election*. As Nathan Gonzales wrote last month:
"Democrats can only win a Senate seat in Alabama under extraordinary circumstances, and facing Roy Moore, the twice-barred chief justice, might be one of those circumstances.
According to party strategists tracking the race, Jones needs approximately a third of the white vote in the general election to win. For a reference point, statewide Democratic candidates tend to receive 16 percent to 19 percent. Potentially doubling that will be difficult for Jones, and he’ll need a batch of Republicans who are simply turned off by Moore’s focus on social issues or are uncomfortable with him after the attacks from the runoff.
National Democratic operatives have not hyped the race. But if Moore wins the GOP nomination, Jones could become the latest cause celebre for grass-roots Democrats across the country."
Seeking a more active role for the state in choosing the next Democratic presidential nominee, The California Legislature has approved a bill to move the presidential primary from June 2nd to March 3rd in 2020. The bill has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.
The state controlled over 11% of Democratic delegates in 2016, but Hillary Clinton was already the presumptive nominee by the time the state voted that year. If the move becomes law and assuming the same roster of Super Tuesday states - and delegate distribution - in 2020, approximately 1/3 of all delegates will be awarded that day, up from about 20% in 2016.
This is not the first time California has moved up its primary. According to Politico: "In 2008, the state tried to change that by holding a February primary. But more than 20 other states also moved up their contests in response, and while California drew a competitive race, the outcome was not decisive — Hillary Clinton won the primary here but lost the nomination." If something similar happens in 2020, it could mean a much shorter primary season than 2016, despite the likelihood of a much larger Democratic field.
The real beneficiaries of the move might be the prospective 2020 Democratic candidates from the state. These include Sen. Kamala Harris, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and the aforementioned Gov. Brown. (The latter will be leaving office in 2018 and will be age 82 in 2020, so he seems less likely to run than the other two). Any of these individuals would start with good name recognition in the state, meaning less introductory-type advertising in the state's expensive media markets. They would also be well-known to the large number of wealthy Democratic donors in the state.
The state's Republican primary will also be moved up. As New York Magazine noted: "The change would affect the Republican as well as the Democratic presidential primary in 2020, which could spell trouble for any potential challenger to Donald Trump. The president is not very popular in California generally, but has a strong following among Republicans, and under current party rules, the GOP presidential primary in California is closed to independents."
2nd term GOP congressman Dave Trott (MI-11) has announced he won't seek reelection to the House in 2018. Politico reports that "Trott is the third Republican to vacate a potential battleground district ahead of the 2018 midterm elections." The 11th district sits* to the north and west of Detroit. Trott won reelection last year by almost 13%, while Trump bested Clinton by 4.5%.
Last week saw similar decisions announced by Charlie Dent (PA-15) and Dave Reichert (WA-08). All three districts are now potentially in play for 2018, with the Michigan and Washington races seen as toss-up; Pennsylvania as leans Republican. Of course, the quality of the nominees from each party, as well as the overall political enviroment at this time next year will determine if these districts are actually competitive.
With Trott's decision, 25 House members, including 17 Republicans and 8 Democrats, have decided to retire or run for another office.
76 of 435 House seats are now seen as somewhat competitive in the 2018 midterms.
*Although by no means the only one in the state, Michigan's 11th is a nice example of a highly gerrymandered district. The odd shape allows it to capture some of Detroit's wealthier suburbs while avoiding Pontiac.
From Time: "The House voted overwhelmingly on Friday to send a $15.3 billion disaster aid package to President Donald Trump, overcoming conservative objections to linking the emergency legislation to a temporary increase in America's borrowing authority. The legislation also keeps the government funded into December."
The bill passed the House in a bipartisan 316-90 vote. The 90 no votes, all Republican, were primarily on a philsophical objection to tying debt ceiling and government funding actions to other issues.
Curious how your (or any) Representative voted? Click or tap the map below. On the landing page, you can see how your Representative voted, as well as the votes of those expected to be in competitive 2018 races. You can also click or tap any individual state to see how all that state's representatives voted.
The Washington Post reports that "Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, leader of an influential caucus of GOP moderates in the House, has announced he will not seek re-election to an eighth House term next year."
Dent has been a frequent critic of President Trump.
This somewhat surprising announcement puts Pennsylvania's 15th district in play for 2018. The rating moves from safe to leans Republican. Six of Pennsylvania's 18 districts, primarily those in the suburbs/exurbs of Philadelphia, look to be competitive this year:
Dave Reichert (WA-08) announced that this will be his final term. The seven-term Republican represents a swing district east of Seattle. While the incumbent easily won reelection last November, it is one of 23 GOP-held districts where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump. The retirement opens up a new targeting opportunity for Democrats in 2018, with the race rating moved from likely Republican to toss-up.
Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) will forego another term in the House to challenge incumbent David Ige in next year's Democratic gubernatorial primary. This is Hanabusa's 2nd attempt at departing the House for higher office; she lost the Democratic U.S. Senate primary in 2014. Hawaii is one of the most Democratic states in the nation, and both the congressional and governor's races are seen as safe Democratic holds next November.
President Trump plans to nominate Republican Jim Bridenstine (OK-01) to serve as NASA's next administrator. If confirmed, a special election would be held to fill the remainder of his term. Note that Bridenstine had previously indicated that this term, his third, would be his last. This is a safe Republican district.
The president has nominated Republican Tom Marino (PA-10) to be the next drug czar. If confirmed, a special election would be held here to fill the remainder of his term. This is also a safe Republican district.
The announcements by Reichert and Hanabusa bring to 23 the number of House members not seeking reelection in the 2018 midterms. The updated chart follows.
Republican 4th term Rep. Lou Barletta (PA-11) will forego reelection to the House next year to challenge incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Casey. This race is currently rated Likely Democratic by Sabato's Crystal. Ball. In their latest review, from late August, they said:
"Let’s start in the two states that hypothetically should be the easiest for [Democrats] to hold, Michigan and Pennsylvania. They, like New Jersey and Virginia, are rated as Likely Democratic, but we include them here as potentially more fruitful GOP targets, both because of the states’ 2016 turn toward Trump and also because of the potential for intriguing Republican nominees against Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Bob Casey (D-PA).
In the Keystone State, it appears as though Trump ally Rep. Lou Barletta (R, PA-11) is going to run. While there are other candidates running, Barletta would have the biggest profile, although Casey’s two victories both have been fairly comfortable."
Barletta was an earlier supporter of President Trump, who, in-turn, has urged the Congressman to run for the Senate. The state is one of 33 Senate seats up for election in 2018. Create and share your forecast with our Interactive Senate Map.
Update on House Retirements
Barletta becomes the 21st House member to announce they are not seeking reelection to that body in 2018. The updated list is here:
Our last update, from early August, also showed 21 announced retirements. In the interim, Colorado's Ed Perlmutter reversed his earlier decision and will seek reelection in 2018. Perlmutter had previously announced a run for Colorado Governor. However, his path to that office was not looking promising. He withdrew from the race in mid-July.
The Cook Political Report has made five ratings changes in their 2018 Senate forecast. Four races have moved to toss-up, including Indiana, Missouri, Nevada and West Virginia. Of those, only Nevada currently has a Republican incumbent.
Republicans currently have 52 Senate seats, to 48 for the Democrats. The Democratic number includes two independents that caucus with that party. Given the current political climate, it would seem that the party should be well-positioned to gain seats and control in the 2018 midterms. However, as we've noted before, that is unlikely to happen. Only 9 of the 34 seats to be contested - including this year's Alabama special election - are held by Republicans. Of those, only two, Arizona and Nevada, are likely to be competitive. That means even if Democrats hold all 25 of their seats -- many of which are competitive -- and win those two Republican seats, they still only get to 50 seats. In that scenario, Vice-President Mike Pence would break the tie vote, and Republicans would retain control.
Roy Moore and Sen. Luther Strange took the top two spots in Tuesday's Alabama Senate Republican primary. As neither received more than 50% of the vote, they will meet in a runoff on September 26th. The winner that day will face off against Democrat Doug Jones, who advanced to the general election by winning over 60% of the vote in the Democratic primary. The general election will be held on December 12th.
This off-year special election came about after former Sen. Jeff Sessions resigned to become the U.S. Attorney General in the Trump administration. Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Luther Strange, then the state's Attorney General, to take Session's spot, scheduling a special election in November of 2018 to fill the seat for the final two years of Session's term. At the time, Strange was investigating Bentley regarding a purported relationship the governor was having with an aide. This raised a few eyebrows in the state.
Bentley eventually resigned, and was succeeded by Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey. She moved the special election to this year.
Strange's main challengers in the primary were Roy Moore, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and Mo Brooks, who represents Alabama's 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Moore was suspended from the bench for ethics violations, and subsequently resigned his position to run for Senate. Having been eliminated from the Senate race, Brooks has plenty of time to decide if he wants to defend his House seat in 2018.
This seat has been in Republican hands for about 20 years. While the seat is highly likely to stay with the GOP, a runoff win by the controversial Moore could lead to a more competitive general election than would otherwise be expected in this deep red state.