Last week, the Washington Post reported that Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT-05) had retained a chief of staff who had been accused of sexual harassment and assault for three months after she first learned of the allegations in 2016. Today, under heavy pressure from colleagues and a Friday Hartford Courant editorial calling on her to resign, Esty announced that she would not seek a fourth term in her northwestern Connecticut district 2018.
Even as Stormy swirls, the president seems to have found his footing. Reporting from the White House press corps is that after a year of on-the-job training, the president is feeling much more confident and eager to follow-through on his 2016 campaign promises. Since the beginning of the year, he’s cleaned house at the cabinet level, taken a harder line on tariffs, especially on Chinese products, and is planning a sit-down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. At the same time, Trump’s overall job approval ratings have been on the upswing.
Over the weekend, moderate GOP Rep. Ryan Costello (PA-06) confirmed that he wouldn't run for reelection, reversing course just days after filing petitions to put his name on the ballot. The move deprives Republicans of a well-liked incumbent with $1.3 million in the bank in a suburban Philadelphia district and puts Democrat Chrissy Houlahan in the driver's seat to take over a very favorably redrawn seat.
There’s always something of a disconnect between what Washington, DC is obsessed about and what the rest of the country is worried about. In DC, of course, the story is Robert Mueller, Russia and White House chaos. Out in congressional races, however, Democratic candidates aren’t talking about any of those things. Instead, their primary focus is health care; specifically, their criticism of GOP attempts to repeal Obamacare.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant announced today that he has appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith, the state's Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce to fill the seat of GOP U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who said earlier this month that he would resign effective April 1.
A lot of ink has been spilled and much TV airtime has been cluttered with opinions and analysis of the PA-18 special election. Some good. Some bad. Some ridiculous and overblown.
I’m not interested in rehashing or debunking all of it. Nor do I think it’s healthy to read too much into one special election.
But, there are some important takeaways from this election that will tell us something about the road ahead for both parties in 2018.
Democrat Conor Lamb's near-certain win in a western Pennsylvania district President Trump carried by 20 points brings his party one seat closer to the 24 they need to pick up for a majority, but it's another broad sign of danger for House Republicans.
At this writing, Lamb holds a 627 vote lead over Republican Rick Saccone with all precincts and absentee votes counted. Although a handful of provisional and military ballots remain and Saccone can technically request a recount, it's extremely unlikely those would change the result.
I spent some time watching a bunch of campaign ads for candidates running for Congress, Senate and Governor. Most were from early primary states like Texas and Illinois. President Trump plays a starring role in many, if not most of them. Democratic candidates pledge “to stop Donald Trump” while Republicans boast of their support for the president and/or identify with his cultural and policy proposals.
The game plan for congressional Republicans in 2018 isn’t all that complicated. Talk up the growing economy, while also highlighting the benefits of the tax cut legislation (More money in your pocket! Bonuses to workers!). Do good opposition research on Democratic challengers, hope Democrats nominate the weakest candidate out of these multi-candidate primaries and spend the fall tying those Democrats to Nancy Pelosi.
Bing. Bang. Done.
It’s always interesting what people and political parties do and don’t choose to worry about. It’s a source of never-ending amazement to me that so many Democrats wring their hands about their party lacking a message or a clear leader, while ignoring the broader direction their party is taking.