Not a day goes by when I don’t get asked who I think the Democratic nominee will be in 2020. My answer of "I don’t have any idea," is not always satisfying. But, it’s the only honest answer. There are simply too many unpredictable factors involved in the nomination process this time around to feel confident about any predictions this far out from the nomination. Here are five of those unpredictable factors:
The 116th Congress hasn't even been sworn in yet, and there's still no resolution in sight to one North Carolina race tainted by election fraud. But already, the 2020 battle for the House is shaping up to be highly competitive.
Just when it looked like the 2018 House outcome couldn't get any worse for Republicans than a 40-seat loss, a deepening absentee ballot fraud scam has cast into doubt an open North Carolina seat previously called for the GOP. The scandal is now a full-blown national news story and it's possible the state board of elections, which has refused to certify the race, could order a new election altogether.
For House Democrats, Election Day was the gift that has kept on giving. Democrat T.J. Cox's upset defeat of GOP Rep. David Valadao (CA-21) in California's Central Valley brings Democrats to an overall gain of 40 seats, at the very upper end of our forecast. With every race now decided (NC-09 is pending certification but looks certain to stay Republican), Democrats have won 235 seats to Republicans' 200.
Lost amid recounts in Florida, uncertainty in Georgia and a handful of uncalled House races is the special election run-off in Mississippi to fill the remainder of former Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s term. Playing in the background, though, is a multi-million-dollar battle for the last Senate seat on the board this cycle. But, for all the television ads and back-and-forth accusations, the most important factor in this race will be turnout. And, there’s probably nothing harder to assess than who will show up for what amounts to a special election.
Not long after the November 2017 elections, I had lunch with David Petts, a Democratic pollster and longtime veteran of congressional campaigns. He remarked that the Republican gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey performed within one to four points of President Trump in every congressional district in the state. The good news for the Republicans was that they didn’t lose districts that Trump easily carried. The bad news, even a GOPer not named “Trump” did not perform any better in districts Trump narrowly won or narrowly lost in 2016.
For a party that had a great night on Tuesday, Democrats aren’t really acting like it. Yes, they lost at least three Senate incumbents, but given the exposure they were up against, this is not such a bad result. They picked up at least seven governorships, including knocking off longtime Democratic adversaries like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. And, of course, they picked up at least 35 House seats!
It is a rare cycle in which both parties step back the morning after the election, survey the landscape of the same set of races, and walk away happy with the results.
Final House Ratings: 75 Competitive Races, Ten Rating Changes With Election Day finally upon us, the House battlefield is wider and more lopsided than at any time since 2010, when Republicans won their current majority. We rate 75 races as competitive, including 70 GOP-held seats and just five held by Democrats. A "Red Exodus" is contributing to the potential "Blue Wave:" of Republicans' 41 open seats, 15 are rated as Toss Ups or worse, and another five are only in Lean Republican.
The waning days of any election cycle are always the hardest as there is little more left for the political world to do but speculate and traffic in gossip. Nearly every conversation begins with, “So I heard …”.