Election News

GOP Rep. Mark Walker Won't Run in 2020

December 16, 2019

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

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

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

The Road to 270: Hawaii

December 16, 2019

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

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Seth at s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.

Hawaii

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

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

Independent Kingdoms to American Annexation

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

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

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

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

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

Pearl Harbor, Statehood, and Economic Swings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawaii’s Modern Political History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawaii’s Son

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

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

Down-ballot Politics

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

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

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

Political Geography and Demographics

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

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

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

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

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

Democratic Divisions

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

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

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

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

Democratic Guardrails

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

Next Week:  Alabama

Reports in this series:

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

December 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 11, 2019

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

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

Andrew Yang Qualifies for Final Presidential Debate of 2019

December 10, 2019

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Road to 270: Oklahoma

December 9, 2019

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

The Road to 270 will be published every Monday. The column is written by Seth Moskowitz, a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. Contact Seth at s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.

Oklahoma

Small State, Big Impact

Oklahoma, while usually uncompetitive1 in presidential elections, has shaped American history and contemporary politics. Historical events seem drawn to the flat plains of Oklahoma: The Trail of Tears, the Tulsa Race Massacre, the Oklahoma City Bombing. Considering that it is home to just over 1% of Americans, the Sooner State has had an outsized influence in American politics. 

The Trail of Tears to Statehood

Oklahoma’s modern history begins with the Trail of Tears. The Indian Removal Act, signed by Andrew Jackson in 1830, forced Native Americans out of the Southeast. They traveled west; most of the ones who survived the treacherous journey settled in what is modern-day Oklahoma. Over time, the 3,000 square miles on which no tribes settled became known as the Unassigned Lands.

After many attempts to open Oklahoma to white settlers by his predecessors, President Benjamin Harrison declared that the Unassigned Lands would be open to settlement on April 22, 1889. On that date, settlers literally lined up to get their chance at some territory in what became known as The Oklahoma Land Rush. At the sound of a gunshot, they rushed onto the up-for-grabs land with wagons and horses.

The Land Rush and various other cessions following the Civil War had shrunk Indian territories to what is now the eastern half of Oklahoma. A year later, in 1890, Congress passed the Oklahoma Organic Act, which designated the western half of the future state as Oklahoma Territory and the eastern half Indian Territory. The goal was to eventually consolidate the two into one state. A proposal to create a separate state out of eastern Oklahoma called Sequoia to give the Five Civilized Tribes self-governance and independence was rejected. And so, in 1907, Theodore Roosevelt signed the proclamation admitting the 46th state, Oklahoma, to the Union.

The 46th State

The state grew. Fast. Americans moved westward into the new territory for farmland and oil. The population ballooned from 1.5 million to 2.4 million between 1907 and 1930. Then came the dust storms. The land had been overused, eroded, and plagued by drought. Wind whipped up dust that made life uncomfortable and difficult. As chronicled in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”, many Oklahomans opted to move west out of the Dust Bowl for California. Oklahoma’s population fell to 2.2 million by 1950. 

During the second half of the century, Oklahoma’s population tracked with the demand for oil. The population grew quickly during the oil shocks of the 1970s, more slowly during the 1980s and 1990s as oil prices fell, and ramped up again in the 2000s as prices rose.

The state’s Electoral College representation has reflected these population changes. Oklahoma entered the Union in 1907 with seven Electoral College votes and peaked in the 1930s with 11.  It lost one delegate following the 1940 Census and another two after the 1950 Census. From 1952 through the 2000 elections, Oklahoma had eight Electoral College votes. This dropped to seven after the 2000 Census and has stayed there since. Oklahoma’s electoral delegation is projected to stay at seven after the 2020 Census.

Recently, Oklahoma has increased its production of other forms of energy in addition to crude oil. Natural gas took off around 2003, with production nearly doubling between then and 2018. The state now ranks 4th in crude oil production,  4th in dry natural gas, and 6th  for shale gas. Shale gas, which requires hydraulic fracking, has been blamed for the spike in number of earthquakes that Oklahoma felt starting around 2009. Oklahoma, located in a wind corridor, now ranks 3rd for wind energy production. The drop in oil prices from 2014 to 2016 cost Oklahoma jobs and tax revenue, making clear that the state’s fortunes are still closely tied to the energy sector.

The New Deal and the Southern Strategy

Along with almost the entire country, Oklahoma voted for Franklin Roosevelt in his four presidential elections from 1932 to 1944. Roosevelt’s popularity and New Deal coalition was less sticky in Oklahoma than in the state’s deep south neighbors to the east. Oklahoma quickly flipped to Republicans in 1952, while most of its southern neighbors stayed with the Democratic Party until 1964.

Oklahoma briefly returned to its Democratic roots in 1964, voting for Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater. But the Republican Party’s Southern Strategy — winning over white southern voters with race-based appeals — succeeded in Oklahoma. The state voted for Richard Nixon in 1968 and every Republican since.

Recent Presidential Elections

Since 1996, every Republican presidential nominee has expanded upon his predecessor’s margin of victory. Bob Dole beat Bill Clinton in 1996 by 8%, but Clinton still carried most of the state’s southeastern counties in historically blue Little Dixie. Four years later, George Bush won with a 22% margin. He had flipped most of Little Dixie and Al Gore carried just 9 counties statewide. In fact, Gore was the last Democratic presidential candidate to win any county in Oklahoma.

Republican nominees John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Donald Trump won with 31%, 34%, and 36% margins, respectively. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton 65% to 29% in 2016. This 36% margin is the largest of any Republican in Oklahoma except Richard Nixon’s 50 point blowout over George McGovern in 1972. Even in her best county — Oklahoma County, which comprises the core of Oklahoma City — Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump by 11%.

Only six of the state's 77 counties were bluer in 2016 than in 2012. Five of these counties — Oklahoma, Canadian, Cleveland, Payne, and Tulsa — are concentrated in or around the urban regions of Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The sixth is Texas County, where Clinton improved on Obama’s margin by 5%, losing by a 65% margin rather than 70%. The other 71 counties all swung towards Trump. The ancestrally Democratic counties in the east and southeast swung the hardest. 

Success of Down-ballot Democrats

Oklahoma’s Democratic identity from the first half of the century was stickier down-ballot. The state had many Democratic U.S. Senators throughout the 20th Century. Likewise, the House delegation was majority Democratic from 1933 through 1994. The 1994 midterms, known as The Republican Revolution, marked the end of a competitive Democratic Party in Oklahoma’s federal politics. Since then all of the state’s U.S. senators have been Republican and only a handful of representatives have been Democratic.

Democrats held on longer at the state level. In 2002, the party held the State House, the State Senate, and had just won the governorship. The party’s fortunes reversed quickly. They lost the State House in 2004, the Senate in 2008, and the governorship in 2010. Ever since, Republicans have had a hammerlock on state politics. As recently as 2014, though, the state had more registered Democrats than Republicans. As politics becomes increasingly nationalized, though, the Republican Party’s dominance on the presidential level has trickled down-ballot.

Republican hegemony, however, has also caused problems for the party. A New York Times headline from 2018 read, “Republican Purges and Feuds in Oklahoma Show the Pitfalls of One Party Rule.” Infighting between different wings of the party — moderate, conservative, Tea Party, evangelical — has irritated what should be a safely Republican electorate and opened the door to local Democratic politicians in urban areas. 

Oklahoma Geography: Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Little Dixie

Oklahoma City, located in the center of the state, is home to 650,000 people. The next largest city is Tulsa, northeast of Oklahoma City, with 400,000 residents. These metropolitan areas, along with the northeast rural areas, are ancestrally Republican. From Oklahoma’s first presidential election in 1908 until the 2004 election, these counties usually voted more Republican than Oklahoma as a whole. This Republican bent, relative to Oklahoma overall, intensified in 1932 with FDR’s first election and lasted through 2000.  Like in the rest of the country, Oklahoma’s metropolitan areas have trended Democratic in recent years. From 2004 through 2016, these regions were more Democratic than the state as a whole.

The eastern and southeastern portions of the state were Democratic strongholds. Much of the population in this region had migrated from the more Democratic states to Oklahoma’s south and east. This part of the state, called Little Dixie, was heavily Democratic. The jobless and economically depressed voters that stayed here through the Dust Bowl latched onto FDR and the New Deal Democratic Party. Even as Republican presidential candidates were winning Oklahoma, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Clinton all won in Little Dixie. Likewise, local and downballot elections in Little Dixie were dominated by Democrats.

But local and national forces alike have pushed Little Dixie rightward in recent years. First, Little Dixie had legendary Democratic leaders throughout the 20th Century. But as these figures left politics in the 90s and early 2000s, party loyalty waned. Second, the ancestrally Democratic voters in Little Dixie were conservative, rural, religious, and white. These voters have, on a national level, fallen in line with the Republican Party. While it may have taken them longer here, those voters in Little Dixie shifted toward the GOP as well.

The urban shift to Democrats and the rural shift to Republicans, which shuffling the underlying electoral cards, has not changed the topline presidential results. Republicans continue to win Oklahoma, as they did for most of the second half of the 20th Century. 

Oklahoma Demographics

Compared to other Republican strongholds, Oklahoma has a relatively racially diverse population. Only about 74% of the population is non-Hispanic or Latino white.

Oklahoma still has a large population of Native Americans, who make up about 7% of the state’s residents. Only Alaska and New Mexico have larger populations, by percentage, of Native Americans. The eastern and northeastern regions of the state have the highest portion of Native Americans. Oklahoma doesn’t currently have traditional Indian reservations, although a case is pending a Supreme Court decision as to whether the eastern half of Oklahoma is an Indian reservation. The questions is unanswered because Congress never explicitly revoked treaties granting land to the Muscogee Creek Nation.

And while there are differences between tribes, one study found that Native Americans favored Democrats by about 30 points in the 2018 midterms. This is a big split, but not quite as large as the gap by which Blacks and Latinos support Democrats. These groups make up 7% and 5% of the state, respectively, and are concentrated around Oklahoma City.

With this relatively diverse population, it might be surprising that Oklahoma is so overwhelmingly Republican.  But Oklahoma’s white population is heavily non-college educated. Only 27% of Oklahoma’s whites have a Bachelor’s Degree, meaning that the Republican base — non-college educated whites — make up 54% of the population. It’s also a heavily rural state, with just 55 voters per square mile. And most of this density is in concentrated in Oklahoma City and Tulsa; the rest of the state is overwhelmingly rural and sparsely populated. 

Uncompetitive, But Still Relevant

Even the least competitive states on the presidential level can be important in national politics.

Elizabeth Warren, a leading candidate in the 2020 Democratic Primary, was born in Oklahoma City. Her Oklahoman origin was the center of a dust up that nearly tanked her campaign when she tried to prove her Native American ancestry with a DNA test that backfired. The kerfuffle has faded, but led to President Trump nicknaming her “Pocahontas” and could haunt her in the Democratic primary or in the general election. 

Oklahoma also came into the national spotlight during the 2018 midterms when Democrat Kendra Horn won an upset in the 5th Congressional district, centered around Oklahoma City. Before Horn, the last Democrat to represent the state federally was David Boren, from ancestrally Democratic 2nd district in eastern Oklahoma. Horn beat the Republican incumbent, Steve Russell, who had won reelection in 2016 by over 20% in a district that Trump carried by 13%. Horn is now a top Republican target in 2020.  

Related: 2020 Battlegrounds - Oklahoma's 5th District

Oklahoma has a tendency to make history and shake up American politics. The state may not competitive on the presidential level, but it is still one to watch for its political quirks and down-ballot contests.

1Only seven of the state's 28 presidential elections have been decided by a margin of fewer than 10 points.

Next Week:  Hawaii

Reports in this series:

Introducing the 2020 Democratic Delegate Calculator

December 7, 2019

The road to an uncontested Democratic nomination requires a candidate to earn 1,990 pledged delegates1 and begins in Iowa on February 3. To that end, the first version of our 2020 Democratic Delegate Calculator is now available.  It is based on available statewide polling.  An interactive version, where you can create your own forecast, will be available in the near future.

As we launch, the display shows all candidates projected to earn delegates based on polling, as well as anyone with a national polling average higher than that of the lowest delegate-qualifying candidate.  As of now, five candidates would earn delegates based on polling: Biden, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar.  Also displayed are Bloomberg and Yang, who have a higher national polling average than Klobuchar.

Unlike the GOP, the Democratic Party allocates pledged delegates the same way in each state. It is a proportional allocation, with a 15% minimum to qualify for any delegates. However, within each state, delegates are split into groups.  There is some variety, but in most states this means some delegates are allocated based on the statewide vote, with the remainder based on the vote within each congressional district. The 15% threshold is applied to each location, meaning a candidate who gets less than 15% statewide could still earn some delegates

Several important caveats here:

  • Due to the Thanksgiving holiday - and probably the holiday season in general - there hasn't been all that much recent state polling released. Until that catches up, this page may lag the true state of the delegate race. 
  • As noted above, statewide polling - which is all we have to work with - is unlikely to mirror the vote within each district.  That means even if the polling average we've calculated ends up being exactly right, the actual delegate allocation could be somewhat different. 
  • While the overall number of pledged delegates for each state is known, the numeric distribution by groups is not final.  As those become better understood, the calculation for each state could change slightly, even if the polling doesn't.  You can click/tap the '+' in each state row to see the estimated breakdown.
  • The primaries and caucuses take place over a four-month period, with each contest influenced by the ones before it. Candidates will gain/lose momentum, and many will drop out. The point is that polling today may in no way reflect the race closer to a state's primary.  The interactive version we are building will give you the option to predict a dropout date for each candidate as a way to somewhat model this dynamic.

This number might still change slightly. 

Rep. George Holding to Retire; First Casualty of Redrawn Congressional Maps

December 6, 2019

GOP Rep. George Holding of North Carolina has announced he will not seek a 5th term in 2020.

Holding is the first casualty of North Carolina's new court-approved 2020 congressional map. From the Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman: "Talk about a 'total makeover:' under the new map, the 2nd CD sheds Republican outer suburbs and picks up all of the city of Raleigh, converting it from a district President Trump carried by 12 points to one Hillary Clinton carried by a massive 24 points - and rendering it unwinnable for any Republican."

Here is a comparison of the old and new maps, from Sabato's Crystal Ball.

The new map is expected to net the Democrats two additional seats in what is currently a delegation of 10 Republicans and 3 Democrats. The new 6th district "unite(s) the urban Greensboro and Winston-Salem areas. In the old map these two cities were split between the 13th and 5th districts. With the shift, the 6th District would move from a Trump +15 district to Clinton +21." That seat is held by Mark Walker, now in his third term. There has been some speculation that Walker will challenge incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis in the Republican primary next year.

The new map will likely only be in effect for the 2020 cycle. Most states will redraw their districts in 2021 based on the outcome of the 2020 Census. Those new boundaries will be used beginning in 2022.  

Holding is the 31st current member of the House to announce they won't seek reelection in 2020. 

The 270toWin Consensus House Map includes ratings changes around redistricting as they become available.  However, the lines on the map itself are still the old boundaries. We'll have that updated in the next few days.

Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia Will Not Seek Reelection in 2020

December 5, 2019

Six-term Republican Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia will retire at the end of this term, he announced Thursday. Graves first won election to congress in a 2010 special election in the state's 9th district. In 2012, he ran in the new 14th district, established in redistricting after the state gained a congressional seat from the 2010 Census.  

The 14th district is in the northwest corner of Georgia, and is one of the most heavily Republican in the country. Donald Trump won here by 53 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016, the president's 10th largest margin of victory by congressional district that year.  The district is therefore expected to stay in GOP hands.

Graves is the 30th current member of the House to announce they will at the end of this term. 21 are Republicans, 9 Democrats. Of these 7 Republican and 1 Democratic seat are seen as competitive for 2020. Click or tap the map below for more information.

Rep. Denny Heck of Will Not Seek Re-election in 2020

December 4, 2019

Democratic Rep. Denny Heck of Washington announced he will not seek a 5th term in 2020. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee, which most recently conducted a high-profile impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The findings were sent on to the the House Judiciary Committee, which began formal hearings Wednesday morning.

Heck is the only person to have ever represented Washington's 10th district, created after the 2010 Census gave the state an additional representative in Congress. The district sits in western Washington, encompassing the capital, Olympia and the southern portion of the Seattle Metropolitan Area.

Heck won his 4th term in 2018 by about 23 points, while Hillary Clinton won the district by about 11.5% over Donald Trump in 2016. Democrats are likely to hold the district in 2020 despite the loss of incumbency.