Election News

Final Results in Kentucky Democratic Senate Primary Expected Today

June 30, 2020

Tuesday should bring a resolution to the highly competitive Democratic primary for Senate in Kentucky. Results from the state's two largest counties, Jefferson (Louisville) and Fayette (Lexington) will be released, along with any remaining absentee ballots, which had to be postmarked by June 23 (primary day) and received no later than June 27 to be counted. Complete election results are expected shortly after 6:00 PM ET.

Amy McGrath, a former fighter pilot, had long been the frontrunner in this race. However, Charles Booker, a state representative made a late run, staking out more progressive policy positions. The debate over racial injustice has also shaken up this primary: Breonna Taylor was killed by police in Louisville earlier this year. Booker, 35, is the youngest black lawmaker in the Kentucky House.

The pandemic caused the primary to be rescheduled from May 19, and turned it into a largely mail-in contest.  While the delay helped Booker in that his campaign only caught fire in the closing weeks, the mail-in component likely helped McGrath as many cast their ballots earlier in the process.

The winner of the primary will have an uphill battle against GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is seeking his 7th term.

There are a few U.S. House primaries that remain uncalled; those should be resolved today as well.

All Kentucky Results >>

The Road to 270: Oregon

June 29, 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.

In Oregon, a land of contrasts, traditional conflicts that have shaped the state are still alive and well. The Pacific Northwest is known for its environmentalism -- yet it was also once home to a vibrant logging industry. The state’s most populous city, Portland, is very liberal, but you don’t have to travel far before the state’s electorate takes on a working class attitude. Indeed, urban liberals and blue collar logging communities have very different interests that pit them against one another.

The Cascade Range divides the state east-west; the largely rural east is home to deeply conservative farmers and ranchers. With something of a libertarian streak, eastern Oregonians tend to be anti-government and often have a great of deal of frustration with the state's liberal government in Salem. Despite its reliable Democratic lean in presidential elections, its varying communities of interest characterize the state’s local politics.

Statehood and the history of Oregon

Oregon had been settled by indigenous Americans for thousands of years by the time Europeans arrived in the 16th Century. To understand how Oregon got to where it is, you have to go back to the beginning and look at its settlement. Following the explorations of Lewis and Clark at the dawn of the 19th century, pioneers and fur trappers, from both the United States and Britain, began to settle in Oregon.

Prior to admission to the Union in 1859, the Oregon Territory banned slavery in 1844. Still, Oregon was not friendly to freed slaves -- it had a number of Black exclusion laws on the books.  The state has seen several population booms over the years, such as the gold rush period and with the advancement in railroad technology in the 1880s. These periodic population booms brought competing groups to the state and led to the polarization so prominent in the 21st century.

Congressional Politics

In many ways, Oregon's politics were a lot like those in New England. From the late 1960s until the early 1990s, the state’s U.S. Senate delegation consisted of two liberal Republicans: Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood. Hatfield was an especially interesting fellow. Though a more conventional Republican on domestic issues, he was a deeply religious man (he opposed abortion rights) but was never comfortable joining forces with the social conservatives in the party. On foreign policy, Hatfield held some views that put him at odds with his party. He was a critic of the U.S. government's Middle Eastern policy, especially in regard to Israel. He was known as a dove on foreign policy -- having served in World War II, he was one of the few Americans to see Hiroshima in the immediate aftermath of its bombing. As a result, Hatfield became a staunch advocate for nuclear disarmament and consistently opposed every defense authorization bill. An early critic of the war in Vietnam, he strongly pushed for government aide for Vietnam refugees. 

Serving as Oregon's junior Senator for that time was Bob Packwood, who eventually chaired the Senate Finance Committee -- he was the Republican point man on taxes during the Reagan era. Although a free trader, Packwood was a staunch advocate for his state's timber industry. Around the time of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, Packwood became an outspoken opponent of restrictions on abortion rights. As with Hatfield, he was at odds with the increasingly influential social conservatives in his party.  

In 1992, Packwood's career came to an abrupt end with shocking accusations of sexual harassment. With some accusations going back to the 1960s, Packwood faced a firestorm over his alleged behavior. This matter was referred to the Senate Ethics Committee, which ultimately voted unanimously to expel him from the Senate in 1995. Instead, Packwood announced his resignation on the Senate floor after that vote. A special election was held in January 1996 and Rep. Ron Wyden (D) defeated Oregon State Senate President Gordon Smith (R) by 1.5%. Later that year, Smith would rebound and get elected to the state's other Senate seat.

Before his elevation to the Senate, Wyden served in the House. He was first elected to the House in 1980, and is now the Dean of Oregon's Congressional Delegation. In the Senate he has earned a reputation as a libertarian Democrat, known for his strong opposition to the surveillance state created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Wyden has proven to have significant crossover appeal: in his most recent election, he carried all five congressional districts -- including the Republican-held 2nd District in the east. As Trump carried the 2nd District by 20% in 2016, Wyden won it by five points. He has faced some controversy over the years for his lack of real residency in the state but he is omnipresent in the Beaver State, holding town halls in each county every year. It seems likely that Wyden's accessibility helps him to connect with voters who would ordinarily favor Republicans -- but they support him because he shows up and listens.

Oregon's junior Senator is Democrat Jeff Merkley. A mainstream progressive, Merkley was narrowly elected to the Senate in 2008, where he unseated then-Sen. Smith amidst the national Democratic wave. A former State House Speaker, Merkley does not enjoy the level of crossover appeal Wyden does, but he still represents this blue state quite well. Originally seen as a risky candidate in 2008, Merkley has become well-entrenched: he was easily reelected in 2014 and should have no problems this year, especially given that his opponent is a prominent supporter of the 'QAnon' conspiracy theory.

Oregon is divided up into five Congressional Districts. The 1st District, represented by Democrat Suzanne Bonamici since 2012, encompasses the northwestern portion of the state including places like Astoria and the western Portland suburbs.

The lone Republican-held district is the 2nd District. Represented by Greg Walden since 1997, this district includes all of eastern Oregon. Hailing from exurban Hood River, Greg Walden is a very interesting figure. For one, he is certainly more moderate than his district's partisanship would suggest. Walden has generally enjoyed significant crossover appeal, running far ahead of the top of the ticket over the years. In 2018, Walden faced the closest race of his career; after routinely winning 70% or more of the vote, he fell to 56%.

Walden announced his retirement in 2019, which set off a crowded field of candidates vying to succeed him. The primary included 2018 gubernatorial nominee Knute Buehler, a former State Representative from suburban Deschutes County. Perhaps wisely, Buehler ran to the center in 2018 as a statewide candidate, but had to lean right this year given the district’s more conservative electorate. Buehler found little support outside booming Deschutes County and finished second in the primary to State Senator Cliff Bentz. After representing rural eastern Oregon in the legislature for years, Bentz enjoyed an advantage that none of the other candidates did. Given the Republican lean of the district, Bentz is almost certainly headed to Congress next year.

Much of urban Portland is in the state's 3rd District. Represented by Democrat Earl Blumenauer since 1996, this district has seen its fair share of demographic and cultural changes over the years. The avuncular bicycle-riding Blumenauer is highly popular and easily beat a DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) backed candidate in the primary this year.

In the 5th District, which includes the southern suburbs of Portland, Blue Dog Rep. Kurt Schrader also beat back a more left-wing challenger this year. A point of trivia that political junkies will mention is that since OR-5 was created, for the 1982 cycle, all of its occupants (including Schrader), have gotten divorced while in office. Although the district only went for Hillary Clinton by 4% in 2016, Republicans have not seriously targeted Schrader and he is a safe bet for reelection.

The only district that could plausibly be competitive is the 4th District. Although Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Inside Elections both rate the race as 'Safe Democratic,' the Cook Political Report rates it as 'Likely Democratic'. OR-4 includes the state's two major college towns, Eugene and Corvallis, which are home to the University of Oregon and Oregon State, respectively. A populist progressive, Rep. Peter DeFazio has represented this district since 1987 and maintains broad appeal with both progressives and the working class voters. OR-4 almost backed President Trump in 2016, as Hillary Clinton won this district by fewer than 600 votes -- but that Trump took the same 45% that Mitt Romney got there in 2012 suggests the tight margin may have had more to do with Clinton or the third party share.

From 2010 to 2018, DeFazio faced perennial candidate Art Robinson. This year, Robinson is running for the State Senate and the Republican OR-4 nominee is veteran Alek Skarlatos. Although a credible candidate on paper, Skarlatos has fundraised poorly and has received no outside help. With Democrats maintaining a consistent eight-point lead on the generic congressional ballot and President Trump's low approval ratings, this isn't likely to be a Republican target. Now Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, DeFazio can deliver for his constituents and that is likely to resonate with voters in this industry-heavy district.

Ancestrally Democratic Coos County has taken a turn to the right in recent years. Sen. Merkley is the last Democrat to win the county, in 2014. Neither Sen. Wyden nor Rep. DeFazio have been able to flip it back. These heavily white working class communities were trending Republican prior to Trump but even more so in the Trump era. Compared to the state as a whole, Coos is 90% white and only 18% of the population aged 25 and over have a bachelor's degree.

State level politics

Though Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1982 -- after next-door Washington state, this is the GOP’s longest such losing streak -- it is not overwhelmingly blue at the state level. In fact, 1998 is the most recent election in which a gubernatorial race was decided by double-digits. It's hard for Democrats to get beyond that 15-20 point range of victory. With a Democratic trifecta, redistricting after 2020 will be more consequential than previous decades -- Oregon is expected to gain a district after the Census, getting its first new seat since 1982. Where the new seat will land, and what its partisanship will be, is a subject of much discussion. At the very least, Democrats will work to shore up DeFazio by probably pushing fast growing Deschutes County into his district.

Like many Democrats in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown has been a polarizing figure. Before she served as Governor, Brown was Oregon’s Secretary of State -- upon the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), she assumed the office in 2015. Brown is the second female Governor of Oregon and in 2016 became the first openly LGBT governor elected in her own right. Brown is term limited in 2022 and has often been mentioned as a potential successor to Sen. Wyden, should he retire that year.

Republicans have not had much success in recent years at the state level, but they struck gold with Dennis Richardson in 2016. A longtime state legislator, Richardson was well regarded by his Democratic colleagues. Although a conservative Republican, he became Secretary of State, defeating Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian by 4% in 2016. Richardson sadly died of brain cancer in February, 2019. Although his appointed successor, Bev Clarno (R) is not running for a full term this fall, Republicans will try to retain their sole statewide office.

Presidential outlook

At the beginning of the 21st Century, Oregon had some traits of a swing state. As with the national popular vote, although Bill Clinton won there twice, he never took a majority. The state's friendliness towards third parties resulted in Ross Perot receiving 24% of the vote in 1992 and 9% in 1996. Green Party nominee Ralph Nader received 5% of the vote in 2000 -- the state stayed blue, but Nader limited Al Gore to a 47% plurality. In 2008, Barack Obama carried the state by 16 points, which is the highwater mark for Democrats in recent years. Hillary Clinton carried the state with a narrow majority of the vote in 2016 but Trump finished with 39% of the vote, down from Mitt Romney's 42% four years earlier.

2016 saw a substantial third party vote in the Beaver State, as they accounted for nearly 11% of the vote. With Sabato’s Crystal Ball predicting a largely two-party election in the fall, it seems an open question as to how that third party vote will break. Either way, Joe Biden should have no trouble carrying Oregon and it will be interesting to see which Obama/Trump counties he can flip back. Although the Trump campaign made some noise about contesting Oregon, there's no prospect that the state is in play this year.

Next Week: South Carolina

Reports in this series:

Rep. Eliot Engel of New York Defeated in Primary; 4th House Incumbent to Lose this Year

June 24, 2020

Rep. Eliot Engel has lost his primary to progressive political newcomer Jamaal Bowman.  As of about 1:30 PM Wednesday afternoon, Bowman held a 62% to 35% advantage over the 16-term incumbent. 

Our election results partner, Decision Desk HQ, noted that Bowman took an unexpectedly large lead in the early and Election Day voting and is ahead in the portion of both counties (Bronx and Westchester) that make up the district. While absentee ballots remain to be counted, the margin Engel would need is such that the call for Bowman can be made.

This article from Forbes details some of the missteps Engel's campaign made along the way.  

This is a deep blue district: Engel was unopposed in 2018 and no Republicans filed to run this year. While there may be one or more 3rd party nominees on the ballot, Bowman is all but certain to be the next member of Congress from the district.

Engel becomes the fourth member of the House to lose a primary this year. As Dave Wasserman notes, that is right around the average for recent cycles.

GOP Holds NY-27 as Chris Jacobs Wins Special Election

June 24, 2020

Republican State Sen. Chris Jacobs won the special election in New York's 27th congressional district Tuesday. The seat has been vacant since last October, when former Rep. Chris Collins resigned, pleading guilty to insider trading charges that same day.

Under indictment at the time of the 2018 midterms, Collins won reelection by less than 0.5% over Democrat Nate McMurray, who was again the party's nominee Tuesday. The special election outcome, with Jacobs up by nearly 40% at the time of this writing, more closely reflects the conservative lean of the district. Donald Trump won here by 25% in 2016.

Jacobs also prevailed in the regularly scheduled Republican primary Tuesday, setting up a rematch in November. McMurray had no Democratic opposition and will get a third opportunity to try and win the seat. 

After Jacobs is seated, Democrats will hold a 233 to 198 advantage over in the U.S. House. An additional seat is held by a Libertarian. Three previously GOP-held seats remain vacant: CA-50, NC-11, TX-4. No special elections are scheduled for any of them. 

June 23: Kentucky, New York, Virginia Hold Primaries; a Congressional Vacancy is to be Filled

June 23, 2020

New York and Kentucky hold their rescheduled presidential primaries Tuesday. We'll be watching to see if Joe Biden can cross another delegate threshold.  Those two states, as well as Virginia also hold their congressional primaries. There's also a special election in New York for a vacant congressional seat.  Finally, there are two runoff U.S. House primaries, one each in Mississippi and North Carolina.

The large vote-by-mail nature of these elections will cause delays in the ability to call some competitive races. This will be particularly true in Kentucky and New York, where we may need to wait a week or more to find out the winners of some important primaries.


Polls Close (Eastern Time)

Your individual polling place may have different hours. Do not rely on this schedule to determine when to vote. 

6:00 PM Kentucky (ET)
7:00 PM Kentucky (CT), Virginia
7:30 PM NC-11
8:00 PM MS-02
9:00 PM New York

 


Democratic Delegate Count

New York has 274 pledged delegates available Tuesday. That's more than any state except California. Kentucky adds 54 more for a total of 328.  Joe Biden starts the day at 2,144. If he reaches 2,376,1 1This number may change slightly depending on the final count of superdelegate votes. which seems likely, he will have amassed pledged delegates totaling more than 50% of ALL Democratic delegates (pledged + superdelegates) available this year. As a result, superdelegates will be allowed to participate in the roll call vote at the convention.


 

Results by State

Kentucky New York Virginia NY-27 Special Runoffs

 

Kentucky

President: There are 54 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary.

Senate: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is seeking a 7th term this year.  A member since January, 1985, he currently has the 3rd longest tenure in the U.S. Senate.2 2Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont (1975) has the most seniority, followed by Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa (1981). McConnell has nominal primary opposition.

A very competitive primary exists on the Democratic side. Amy McGrath, a former fighter pilot had long been the frontrunner. However, state representative Charles Booker has come on strong in the final weeks of the contest.

A formidable general election challenge awaits the winner, especially with a popular Republican president headlining the ticket in this deep red state.  A recent poll showed McConnell with a double-digit lead over either Democrat.

House: Kentucky has 6 congressional districts, but not much general election drama. All incumbents are running; a couple have primaries but should advance. The Lexington-area 6th district is the only one that is on the radar in November, but just barely.  In 2018, the race there received national attention after the aforementioned Amy McGrath launched a campaign for that seat with this video.  Although she raised millions, incumbent Republican Andy Barr held on by 3%. Barr, whose wife passed away unexpectedly last week, will likely face Democrat Josh Hicks in November.

All Kentucky Results >>

Back to Top

New York

President: There are 274 pledged delegates available in the Democratic presidential primary.

House: Only a small number of New York's 27 congressional districts will be competitive in the general election, but there are quite a few interesting primary contests. Three long-time members of the House are retiring this year and at several incumbents are facing credible challengers.

District 2: Peter King (R) is not seeking a 15th term in this district along the South Shore of Long Island. There are primaries in both parties, which have drawn some national attention in advance of what should be a fairly competitive general election.  Suffolk assemblyman Andrew Garbarino (R) and former Town of Babylon trustee Jackie Gordon (D) are favored to advance. 

District 9: Yvette Clark faced a serious primary challenge from community organizer Adem Bunkeddeko in 2018. She prevailed by about 4% before going on to win the general election by 79% in this heavily Democratic Brooklyn district. Bunkeddeko is back for another try, and a few other candidates are on the ballot as well.  The New York Times endorsed Bunkeddeko in 2018 and has done so again this year.

District 11: Democrat Max Rose flipped this district from the GOP in 2018, winning by 6%. The most Republican-leaning area in New York City, the district covers all of Staten Island and a small part of Brooklyn. Donald Trump won here by 10% in 2016.  The likely GOP nominee is state assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. Her primary opponent is Joe Caldarera, a former prosecutor.  The general election is seen as a toss-up.

District 12:  This is a pretty similar situation to District 9. Here the incumbent Democrat Carolyn Maloney fended off a 2018 primary challenge from businessman Suraj Patel before going on to win by 74% in this deep blue district that covers parts of three NYC boroughs.  Patel is on the ballot again this year, along with a few other aspirants.

District 14:  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a stunning upset in the 2018 primary, defeating a long-time incumbent in this Bronx/Queens district.  Now Ocasio-Cortez is herself being challenged, by Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former business journalist and CNBC host.  Caruso-Cabrera has received considerable support from business-friendly interests.  

District 15: Democrat Jose Serrano is retiring after 16 terms. Voters in this Bronx district gave him 96% of the vote in 2018, so it is safe to say that whoever emerges from the party's primary Tuesday will be the district's next representative. A large field is vying for that honor, with most of the attention going to two city councilman: Ruben Diaz Sr. and Ritchie Torres.  Diaz is a well-known but controversial figure, with positions not well-aligned with the party. A recent poll showed the race statistically tied, with about 1/3 of voters undecided.

District 16: In the House since 1989, Eliot Engel last had a competitive primary in 2000. He has a serious one this year, and is perhaps the most endangered of New York's incumbents seeking another term. Engel is being challenged from the left by Jamaal Bowman, a high school principal. The New York Times has endorsed Bowman, while Engel has the support of Democratic party leaders as well as the Congressional Black Caucus. This district covers the northern Bronx and southern Westchester county and is safely Democratic. Engel ran unopposed in 2018 and no Republicans have filed to run this year.

District 17: Nita Lowey is retiring after 16 terms, opening up another safely Democratic seat, this one covering Rockland and northwestern Westchester counties. Eight Democrats are vying to fill the seat, with several of them drawing double-digit support in a recent poll. 

District 22: Republican Claudia Tenney, who narrowly lost to Democrat Anthony Brindisi in 2018 is attempting to win back the seat this year.  She'll first have to survive the GOP primary against teacher George Phillips. The general election for this central New York district will be among the most competitive in the state again this year.

District 24:  This Syracuse-area district is expected to be competitive in November. In 2018, incumbent Republican John Katko beat Syracuse University professor Dana Balter by 6%. Balter is again seeking the nomination. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won here by about 3.5% over Donald Trump.

All New York Results >>

Back to Top

Virginia

Senate: Three political newcomers are vying for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in November.  The incumbent is expected to have little trouble winning a third term. 

House: Three seats flipped to Democratic candidates in 2018. Two of those, in Districts 2 and 7 look to be the most competitive for the general election this November.  In District 2, Republican Scott Taylor, who lost his seat in 2018, is looking for a rematch against Democrat Elaine Luria.

The GOP nominee in District 7 will be chosen at a party convention instead of the primary, which is an option under Virginia law.  It's an option that may have cost Republican Denver Riggleman his job. On June 13, a District 5 GOP convention chose Bob Good over the incumbent. This is a Republican-leaning district, but the choice of Good put District 5 back on the competitive map for November per some analysts. Four Democrats are seeking the nomination to oppose him.

All Virginia Results >>

Back to Top

NY-27 Special Election

This seat has been vacant since last October 1, when former Rep. Chris Collins resigned, pleading guilty to insider trading charges that same day. Under indictment at the time of the 2018 midterms, Collins won reelection by less than 1% in a district Donald Trump won by nearly 25 points in 2016. With Collins out of the picture, the vote should more closely reflect the heavy Republican lean of the district, making state senator Chris Jacobs the favorite.

Regardless of the outcome, Jacobs and Democratic nominee Nate McMurray are very likely to meet again in November. Jacobs is on the ballot for Tuesday's regularly scheduled NY-27 GOP primary.  McMurray has no primary opposition.

Back to Top

Runoffs

MS-02:  Brian Flowers edged Tom Carey by 1.5% in the March 10 GOP primary, but neither crossed the 50% required to avoid this runoff.  The eventual nominee will have little chance against 14-term incumbent Democrat Rep. Bennie Thompson in November.

NC-11:  The runoff threshold in North Carolina is 30%, but with a field of 12 competing in the March 3 GOP primary, nobody received more than 23%. Despite being redrawn to include Asheville, the district remains safely Republican, with Tuesday's winner likely headed to victory in November.  

Note that this seat is currently vacant. Former Rep. Mark Meadows announced late last year he would not seek a 5th term. He subsequently resigned in late March to become the White House Chief of Staff.  At present, no special election is scheduled. 

 

Back to Top

 

The Road to 270: Indiana

June 22, 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.

Indiana has produced six Vice Presidents: from Schuyler Colfax, who held office when much of the Postbellum South was still under military rule, to the current incumbent, Mike Pence. Though it was often competitive at lower levels, the Hoosier State has voted blue for president just five times since 1900. Outside the major metro areas, industrial towns dot the landscape. Home to the nation's third largest Amish population, Indiana has gained a reputation for its social conservatism.

2008: Barack Obama does the impossible

In 2008, Indiana was considered among the most Republican states in presidential races -- as the only state in the Great Lakes region that wouldn’t support Bill Clinton in the 1990s, it had last voted Democratic for president in 1964. Still, Barack Obama, who perhaps had an extra dose of Midwestern appeal as the senator from next-door Illinois, contested it. The Obama campaign ultimately spent $17 million on the state and visited it eight times during the course of the 2008 campaign. After John Kerry lost the state by 21% in 2004, Obama carried it by 1% -- outside of his native Hawaii, Indiana was the state that swung most to Obama.

Since every county got more Democratic from 2004 to 2008, looking at the swing -- or the outright change in the margins -- isn't terribly instructive. Instead, let's look at what some call the ‘trend' or change in the deviation. Essentially what this measures is the change in how each county voted vs the change in the statewide margin. For example let's look at Marion County (Indianapolis). In 2004, it voted 23% more Democratic than the state as whole but in 2008 it voted 28 points left of the state so that means it shifted five points towards Democrats. There's no perfect measure to accurately capture the swing but this is an alternative way to look at the change.

Southern Indiana’s shift is notable. Strictly speaking, none of Indiana is located in Appalachia, but its southern portion would, culturally, fit right in. All but two counties along the Kentucky border trended rightward from 2004. Though it accelerated in 2016, the decline in Democratic performance in the south could be seen pre-Trump. The suburban shift can also be seen here, with Obama's gains in the northern Indianapolis suburbs, as well as Allen County (Fort Wayne). Some of the more usually Democratic counties -- like Lake in the northwest, situated near Chicago -- trended rightward simply because there wasn't much room for Obama to grow the margins.

In their post-2008 book How Barack Obama Won, Chuck Todd and Sheldon Gawiser claim that the foundation of Obama’s Hoosier State upset was in the May primary. By the time Indiana voted in May, the Democratic primary was a true two-way race between Obama and Hillary Clinton. Though Obama came up slightly short to Clinton, his campaign made serious investments in their state apparatus -- this would be useful to him in the fall.

Congressional Politics

The 2010s have seen an almost complete turnover in the state's congressional delegation. In 2012, the late Sen. Dick Lugar -- a veteran Republican moderate, whom Obama even cites as a mentor -- lost renomination to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party-backed candidate. In the general election, Mourdock made some controversial comments on abortion that were eerily similar to those from fellow GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin, over in Missouri (we recently profiled Missouri and mentioned Akin’s race). Democrats ran Rep. Joe Donnelly, a moderate Blue Dog from the South Bend area. Though the Obama campaign ignored the state in 2012, ultimately losing it by 10%, Donnelly won 50%-44%.

Like Missouri's Sen. Claire McCaskill, Donnelly had Republicans gunning for him in 2018. Early in the cycle, the Republican primary seemed like a contest between sitting congressmen Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, while former State Rep. Mike Braun looked like a third wheel. Still, as the two congressmen turned their fire on each other, Braun seized an opportunity to contrast himself with his opponents. A businessman, Braun struck a populist chord by painting his opponents as typical politicians -- in this popular ad, he featured cardboard cutouts of the two. It worked: Braun won the primary with a 41% plurality, as the other two split the remainder of the vote about evenly. In the end, despite his moderate profile, Donnelly lost 51%-45% -- basically the same margin McCaskill lost by that year, as well.

Indiana's two most recent Senate races highlight the changes in the state’s coalitions well. In 2016, Sen. Dan Coats (R) retired and Rep. Todd Young kept the seat for the GOP. Democrats ran former Sen. Evan Bayh, who held that seat before Coats. His father, Birch Bayh, was an iconic liberal senator, but Evan made his name as more of a centrist -- as governor from 1989 to 1997, he passed tax cuts. Bayh was last on the ballot in 2004, a less partisan time when the GOP didn’t seriously target him. He was also considered as a possible running mate for both Obama and Clinton in 2008. Much changed in the intervening years, though. Bayh lost by 10% in 2016, but two years later, Donnelly couldn’t match his performance in most rural areas.

As Democratic margins in western and southwestern Indiana dropped, the Indianapolis metro area shifted leftward. Democrats were buoyed this year by the retirement of Rep. Susan Brooks (R) from the 5th Congressional District, which encompasses Indianapolis's northern suburbs. In 2016, Sen. Young carried the 5th district by 12 points but in 2018, Donnelly carried the 5th district by half a percentage point

Upon Brooks’s retirement, Sabato’s Crystal Ball moved the race from ‘Safe Republican’ to ‘Leans Republican.’ Although the district went for Trump by 12% in 2016, it is a well-educated and high income suburban seat. In the primaries, Democrats nominated former State Rep. Christina Hale while Republicans chose State Sen. Victoria Spartz. Republicans have the advantage in the district but don’t be surprised to see a close race in November.

The Dean of Indiana's Congressional delegation is Rep. Pete Visclosky (D) from the state's 1st District. A union-friendly Democrat known for his support of the steel industry, Visclosky has represented IN-1 since 1985. Visclosky came to Congress by primarying Rep. Katie Hall in 1984 and, although he has faced some ethics issues over the years, he remains quite popular. His 28% win in 2018 was bigger than Obama's 2008 margin in the district. In 2019, Visclosky surprisingly announced his retirement and he endorsed North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan. Comprising the northwestern corner of Indiana, the 1st District has trended rightward bit but, as the nominee, Mrvan is not expected to face any issues winning the seat. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates the race as ‘Safe Democratic.’

A particularly consequential Senate race in Indiana history was 1980. Sen. Birch Bayh (D) was seeking a fourth term that year against two-term Republican Rep. Dan Quayle. During his time in the Senate, Bayh authored what would become the Twenty-Fifth (concerning presidential succession) and Twenty-Sixth (setting now minimum age to vote at 18) Amendments. Since the days of the Founding Fathers, no other legislator has written multiple constitutional amendments. More liberal than his state’s partisanship would suggest, Bayh cobbled together a string of three close wins. In Bayh’s last successful reelection, 1974, he faced then-Indianapolis Mayor Dick Lugar (Lugar would win the state’s other seat in 1976).

In 1980, Ronald Regan carried Indiana by 18%, and swept Quayle into office, who was just 33 at the time. In describing Indiana’s two senators, the 1982 edition of the Almanac of American Politics summed up: if Lugar was the kind of class intellectual and valedictorian, Quayle was the class athlete and student body president. In 1988, running as the GOP nominee, Vice President George H. W. Bush was seeking to shore up his credibility among the right and chose Sen. Quayle as his running mate. Prone to gaffes, Quayle has not held office since his single term as Vice President. His launched a campaign for President in 2000 but it went nowhere, as he was overshadowed by bigger names like Sen. John McCain and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

State level politics 

Indiana used to elect Democratic governors with some regularity but the state's increasing Republican tilt in the 2000s marked the end of era for Indiana Democrats’ dominance of the governorship. Republicans control all statewide offices in the Hoosier State and benefit from having gubernatorial races in presidential cycles -- a dynamic that helped Republicans in 2016. In 2012, popular Gov. Mitch Daniels was term limited and was succeeded by then Rep. Mike Pence (R). The Democratic nominee was former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg. Gregg, a Democrat from southwestern Indiana, was the state’s longest serving Democratic Speaker of the House. Pence won, but the margin was less than 3%.

A darling of the Tea Party, Pence governed as a staunch fiscal and social conservative. In 2015, one of his signature pieces of legislation as Governor was the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which basically states the government cannot infringe on one’s right to practice their religion unless it can prove it has a reason to do so. A law hailed by the religious right, it was met with an immediate firestorm of criticism from LGBT rights and business groups. Various organizations and figures boycotted the state as a result of the bill. Pence initially stood behind the bill but as the national outrage persisted, he backed some changes to it.

In 2016, as Pence was gearing up for what looked like a rematch against Gregg, Donald Trump, then the presumptive GOP nominee, tapped him to join the national ticket. Pence's Lt. Governor, Eric Holcomb, was chosen by Indiana Republicans as the replacement nominee. As a more generic Republican and a fresher face, Holcomb was elected in his own right by a decent six point margin. Now Governor, Holcomb is not expected to face much of a challenge. He has boasted generally solid approval ratings and Democrats lack any real bench in this red state. Thus forecasters like Sabato's Crystal Ball rate the gubernatorial race as 'Safe Republican.' In a telling sign of the state's partisanship, then South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg sought the Democratic nomination for President in 2020 rather than run for Governor. 

One downballot race to keep an eye on this year is the race for Attorney General. Incumbent Attorney General Curtis Hill (R) was elected in 2016 and has faced numerous accusations of sexual misconduct. Gov. Holcomb and many other Republicans called on him to resign in the summer of 2018 but Hill has resisted such calls. In May of this year, the Indiana Supreme Court found that he "committed acts of misdemeanor battery, conduct that under the circumstances of this case violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules..." and ordered the suspension of his law license for 30 days.

In Indiana, the nominations for certain offices, such as Attorney General, are decided via party conventions rather than primaries. Hill faces three challengers for renomination: Decatur County Attorney Nate Harter, former Rep. Todd Rokita, and Indianapolis attorney John Westercamp. Due to the ongoing pandemic, ballots will be submitted via mail and the results will be announced in several weeks. Democrats had a convention of their own and nominated former Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel. Given the red lean of the state, Democrats are hoping Hill wins renomination as that would clearly give them their best shot at winning the office.

With their supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature likely to hold, Republicans will have full control of redistricting in 2021. They could try to crack the two Democratic-held districts by diluting their voters among the neighboring districts. As the GOP’s hold on the suburban IN-5 has grown somewhat shaky, shoring up that seat will also likely be a priority for legislative Republicans.

Presidential outlook

Indiana Polls >>

As it moved back into the red column after 2008, Obama’s win in Indiana is looking like a fluke. With no Senate race there this year and IN-5 looking like the only competitive House race, national Democrats don’t have much reason to invest in the state. In the southwest, Vigo County (home to the city of Terre Haute) is one of the nation’s bellwether counties: it’s picked the winner of every presidential election since 1956. This fall, that streak may end. In 2016, Trump carried it by a robust 55%-40% vote and in 2018 Sen. Donnelly carried it by just 1%. It seems likely that even if Trump is ousted, he’ll hold Vigo County.

Next Week: Oregon

Reports in this series:

Interactive Electoral and Senate Maps Based on Polling

June 18, 2020

These maps will track the state of the race based purely on available polling. Where there are no polls, the consensus rating is used.  The maps are automatically updated three times each day.

The final daily update is added to the timeline, which appears above the map. This will let you see how the map evolves over time.

States where the margin is <5% are shown as toss-up. Leaning is <10%, likely <15%. Safe is 15% or higher.

The polling maps will shift more frequently than and may vary significantly from the consensus maps, although those differences should narrow as the election draws closer. The discrepancy has to do with the fact that polling is a snapshot in time - and we are still about 140 days out from Election Day. There is also limited polling in some states, which may or may not reflect the current state of the race.

Related: Direct links to polling by state

The images below are embedded, and will update as the map changes. Click or tap for the interactive version and timeline.

Electoral Polling Map

The consensus map as well as a number of other forecasts can be found here.

Senate Polling Map

Use particular caution with this map, as Senate polling is extremely limited in most states.  Also, this map is new as of June 18; we will add the timeline once we have a few days of history.

The consensus map as well as a number of other forecasts can be found here.

The Road to 270: New Jersey

June 15, 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.

Last year, as it become increasingly clear that House Democrats would pursue articles of impeachment against President Trump, one New Jersey congressman’s name began to reappear in articles: the late Peter Rodino. First elected in 1948, Rodino represented the Newark area for 40 years. A Democrat, he chaired the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate scandal, and oversaw the impeachment effort against Richard Nixon. Nearly 50 years later, Rodino’s (relatively) bipartisan approach was cited as a model for Democrats to follow. While New Jersey isn’t a swing state in presidential politics, Rodino shows that its members can have a lasting impact on Capitol Hill.

Two New Jerseys: an upscale north and a blue collar south

If there is one consistent theme in New Jersey politics, it is the north-south divide. Located about 30 miles west of New York City, Morris County is something of a focal point of North Jersey, and encapsulates the region’s political trends well. A traditionally Republican suburban county -- the state’s most prominent Republican in recent memory, former Gov. Chris Christie, hails from there -- 54% of voters there have a bachelor's degree. Perhaps not coincidentally it’s also one of the wealthiest counties in America. Morris County has voted Republican for President in every election since 1968 -- but it seems ripe for a flip this year. In 2012, Mitt Romney fit the county well, and carried it by 55%-44% margin. Trump’s populism proved a harder sell in Morris County, and he held it with less than 50% of the vote in 2016.

In 2018, Democratic candidates for Congress carried Morris by a seven point margin. A populous county, it’s split between two congressional districts: NJ-7 and NJ-11. The 7th District portion, which accounts for roughly a quarter of the county, leans more Republican: even as he was voted out of office, GOP incumbent Leonard Lance won that area by 4%. In the 11th District portion, Democrat Mikie Sherill won 55-45%. Aside from its income level, Morris's growing Asian and Hispanic populations play a role in its leftward-trending politics. 

If Morris County sums up North Jersey, on the state’s other extreme, Cumberland County represents South Jersey well. Cumberland County's median income is about $53,000 -- half of Morris's $111,000 -- and just 15% of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Although it’s more racially diverse than some of the North Jersey suburbs -- it has much larger Hispanic and Black populations than Morris -- the white voters in South Jersey swung sharply rightward in 2016. Hillary Clinton carried the county by just 6%, down from Obama’s 24 point margin four years earlier.

Located entirely in New Jersey's 2nd District, Cumberland swung back towards Democrats in 2018 but it didn't return to its pre-Trump partisanship. Although a popular local figure at the time, then-state. Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D) still ran behind Obama in most towns within the county. With Van Drew now a Republican (more on that later), it will be interesting to see how his support holds up in places like Cumberland. Following last year's legislative elections, Cumberland County's legislative delegation is now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Given its large minority population, it seems unlikely that Cumberland entirely flips to Republicans but certainly the trendline is not encouraging for Democrats.

In 2018, New Jersey’s congressional delegation saw a massive shakeup. Democrats went into the cycle controlling seven of the state’s twelve districts; after the midterms, they held all but one. Republican incumbents Rodney Frelinghuysen (from one the state’s best-known political families) and Frank LoBiondo retired. Frelinghuysen, who supported abortion rights, and LoBiondo, with his unusually strong ties to labor, were two of the most moderate members of the House GOP and were both elected in 1994. Veteran and lawyer Mikie Sherrill (D) flipped Frelinghuysen’s open NJ-11 (which includes Morris County) by a convincing 15% margin and, at the other end of the state, Van Drew won the South Jersey NJ-2. In between those districts, two other Republicans, Leonard Lance and Tom McArthur, lost reelection.

A member of both the centrist Blue Dog Coalition and center-left New Democrat Coalition, Sherill is widely viewed as a rising star among New Jersey Democrats and a top candidate to succeed Senator Bob Menendez (D) when he retires. President Trump carried two of North Jersey’s Democratic-held seats -- the 5th and 11th districts -- but Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates both as ‘Safe Democratic.’

In South Jersey, NJ-2 has trended the other way. A more culturally conservative region than the upscale northern suburbs, the 2nd District includes most of the state's rural and working class communities. Van Drew was a longtime State Senator known for his centrist views, and national Democrats had tried to recruit him for years -- with LoBiondo’s retirement, they got their wish. Though the controversial Republican nominee was disavowed by the national party, Van Drew flipped the seat by a less than convincing margin. Citing the pressure of the impeachment process, Van Drew switched parties in December 2019, thus making the delegation 10-2 Democratic.

Van Drew’s party switch and subsequent endorsement from Kevin McCarthy and the President scrambled the race in the 2nd District. Businessman David Richter was already running against Van Drew as a Republican but the party essentially froze him out once the party switch became official. Richter eventually opted to run in the neighboring 3rd District, represented by freshman Democrat Andy Kim. Party officials were initially happy with their recruit in former Burlington County freeholder Kate Gibbs but her fundraising has proven mediocre. Although it is an Obama/Trump district, the lackluster GOP field prompted Sabato’s Crystal Ball to move the race from ‘Tossup’ to ‘Leans Democratic’.

Perhaps the most competitive race in the state may be in NJ-7. State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R) -- whose father was a popular governor in the Reagan era -- is running for Congress again this year, against freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D). There is no doubt Kean is a strong candidate but he faces an uphill battle in the Dem trending district. NJ-7 voted for Mitt Romney by 6% in 2012 and Hillary Clinton by one point in 2016. Joe Biden seems likely to expand Clinton’s margin there. Kean was the GOP’s nominee for Senate in 2006, and would have carried the district by 12% then, but the area has shifted blue as Donald Trump has become the face of the national party. Either way, NJ-7 is the lone competitive race in the northern half of the state.

The state’s lone safely Republican seat is NJ-4. Represented by Republican Chris Smith since 1981, it encompasses some of the capitol Trenton area, plus takes in some ruby red parts of Monmouth and Ocean counties, closer to the state’s famed Jersey Shore. Known for his steadfast social conservatism, Smith consistently ranks as one of the House’s most bipartisan members. The dean of the New Jersey delegation, Smith is a fascinating figure. He is an ardent opponent of both abortion and LGBT rights but is otherwise one of the most moderate Republicans on fiscal and economic issues. In fact before he ran for office, he was a Democrat.

The Garden State’s two Senators are Democrats Bob Menendez and Cory Booker. Menendez represented now-defunct NJ-13 (it was based around Jersey City and Newark) for seven terms before he was appointed to the Senate in 2006 by Governor Jon Corzine (D). Menendez won the full term that year by nine points against State Senator Tom Kean Jr. In the Senate, Menendez has never been especially popular but the state’s partisanship insulates him from any real general election threat. In 2018, he faced a credible opponent in Republican businessman Bob Hugin, who spent nearly $40 million on his own campaign. True to some of the state’s political stereotypes, Menendez was the subject of an ethics trial in 2017, which gave Hugin more ammunition -- Menendez was eventually cleared but admonished.

Most forecasters saw Menendez as the favorite in 2018 but not prohibitively so. Both Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Inside Elections rated the race as ‘Likely Democratic’ but The Cook Political Report made a bold move and rated the race as a tossup. Despite his unpopularity, the state’s partisanship came through for the Democrat and he won by 11%. In fact, despite his aura as a machine politician, Menendez overperformed most in the suburbs -- a sign of nationalization.

New Jersey’s junior Senator is Cory Booker. Booker, a former Mayor of Newark, who has long been viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party. He made an unsuccessful bid for President for 2020, though his effort was praised in some quarters. If Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Joe Biden, hadn’t committed to picking a woman as his running mate, Booker would be a strong possibility. In any event, Booker is up for reelection this year but faces only trivial opposition.

Prior to 2018, Republicans last came close to winning a U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey when it looked like another scandal-plagued incumbent, Bob Torricelli, was going to seek reelection in 2002. In October 2002, Torricelli dropped out of the race and was replaced as the nominee by former Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Lautenberg had retired himself in 2000 -- and was in fact a longtime rival of Torricelli’s -- but in the interest of the party, came out of his brief retirement. Sure enough Lautenberg returned to the Senate with 54% of the vote in 2002. He held office until his 2013 death, and became New Jersey’s longest serving senator. Upon Lautenberg's death, Governor Chris Christie appointed state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to serve out the remainder of the term. Chiesa declined to run for the seat in that year's special election and it was won by then Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

State level politics

New Jersey is one of the few states in the country that elects no statewide offices below Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Democrats control both chambers of the New Jersey legislature, but a number of moderate Republicans continue to hold districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. In an interesting reversal of the trends in the state, the most powerful Democrats in the state, the Norcross brothers and State Senate President Steven Sweeney, hail from South Jersey.

New Jersey is one of those states with an old fashioned political machine. Although he holds no formal position in the party, businessman George Norcross is generally thought of as the leader of New Jersey's Democratic Party. In 2013, thanks to the help of his brother and son, Norcross got some long sought-after tax breaks from the state, as the legislature overhauled the state’s tax system that year. The Norcross family's business reaped benefits of the tax overhaul, receiving $1.1 billion in tax breaks. Norcross's son Donald, then a State Senator and now a member of Congress, was a co-sponsor of the bill. In this business heavy state, George Norcross wields considerable power.

One of the most unique facets of New Jersey politics -- and something that is a vestige of its machine-dominated past -- is the “party line.” To get a preferred spot on county ballots in primary elections, candidates appeal to local parties.

Presidential outlook

New Jersey Polls>>

Although the Garden State will see several competitive House races, do not expect any action at the presidential level. New Jersey is a mildly, but inelastically, blue state: Democratic candidates can easily win a majority of the vote, but getting more than 60% is rare. New Jersey was one of just six states where President Obama improved his showing from 2008 to 2012, though much of that can be attributed to his handling of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath. In 2016, Hillary Clinton saw a drop in support in the southern half of the state but made up for it by gaining ground in the state's more upscale northern suburbs.

The state was last competitive in 2004. With its proximity to New York City, the impact of 9/11 was especially poignant in New Jersey; electorally, this aided George W. Bush. A mid-October Quinnipiac poll put John Kerry’s lead at just 48%-43%. Kerry would go on to win the state by a more comfortable 53%-46%, but Democratic nominees since then have won the state by double-digits -- and that should be the case again this year.

Next Week: Indiana

Reports in this series:

GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman Loses Renomination Bid at Virginia Party Convention

June 14, 2020

Freshman GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman was defeated in his bid for renomination at a district party convention Saturday.  He lost to former county supervisor Bob Good, who challenged Riggleman from the right.  

While most nominees are chosen in a traditional primary process, Virginia allows district party committees the option to instead choose their nominees at a party convention. The state's regular primaries are scheduled for June 23.

The 5th district is the state's largest by land area, stretching from the exurbs of Washington D.C. southward through the central part of the state to the North Carolina border. Riggleman was elected by 6.5% in 2018 after his predecessor Tom Garrett (R) did not seek reelection. Donald Trump won the district by 11 points in 2016. 

The general election had been seen as Likely Republican, but this nomination may put it more on the competitive radar. Sabato's Crystal Ball is expected to move their rating to Leans Republican.

Riggleman is the third House member to lose renomination Fellow Republican Steve King (IA-2) and Democrat Dan Lipinski (IL-3) were ousted in traditional primaries earlier this year.  This brings to 39 the total current members retiring from the body at the end of 2020.

Carolyn Bourdeaux Avoids Runoff; Wins GA-7 Democratic Primary

June 13, 2020

Carolyn Bourdeaux has won the Democratic primary for Georgia's 7th congressional district, avoiding an August runoff.  As ballots from the largely mail-in primary continue to be counted, she has crossed the 50% threshold, with that number expected to continue to grow as the remaining ballots are counted.

The race was called late Saturday afternoon by our results provider Decision Desk HQ.

Bourdeaux, a professor of public policy, was the 2018 nominee in this district, losing to incumbent Republican Rob Woodall in what would be the closest congressional race of the midterms. Woodall has since announced his retirement. She will face off against physician Rich McCormick, who won the Republican nomination.

Most forecasters see the race as a toss-up.