When it comes to rating races, it has long been our practice not to move extremely vulnerable incumbents into the other party’s territory until well into the election cycle – generally around Labor Day. Even then, they rarely move further than Lean. There are lots of good reasons for this policy, most of which grew out of lessons learned the hard way.
This Des Moines district has frustrated Democrats before, but it's exactly the kind of seat that will decide the House. Barack Obama won it by four points in 2012, but it voted for President Trump 48 percent to 45 percent in 2016. GOP Rep. David Young hasn't cracked 54 percent since winning the seat in 2014, and the former chief of staff to Sen. Chuck Grassley lacks a truly independent political brand. Last year, he voted for the AHCA and the GOP tax bill.
One of the best parts of working at the Cook Political Report is the chance to meet the candidates who are running for Congress. Data analytics, polling and digital optimization can’t capture the most essential and important part of any campaign: the candidate him/herself. And, while many of the candidates we meet with won’t be successful, we can get a pretty good sense of what the incoming class of freshman members will look, sound and act like from sitting down with them before the election.
This week, we're updating our ratings in ten districts, mostly in Democrats' direction. We rate 58 seats as competitive (54 GOP-held, four Democratic-held), including 24 Toss Ups (22 GOP-held, two Democratic-held). Most notably, GOP Rep. Dave Brat (VA-07) joins the Toss Up column four years after taking out House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. And GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) moves from Toss Up to Lean Republican.
In February, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dealt freshman GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) a small setback when it drew the Lansdale area into his Bucks County seat, making it one point less Republican. But Fitzpatrick may have received an even bigger gift when multi-millionaire attorney and philanthropist Scott Wallace won the Democratic primary in May. Wallace has the ability to self-fund but may have problems money can't solve.
Nitroglycerine. That’s how one long-time political strategist recently explained the politics of immigration to me. It’s one of those issues, he said, that can just as easily explode in your face as it can blow up the other side. Right now, it looks like the Trump administration is juggling bottles of the stuff. The policy of separating those who cross the border illegally from their children is overwhelmingly unpopular among independent voters, and recent polls show a substantial number of Republicans disapprove of it.
For much of 2017 and early 2018, GOP consultants of a certain age would tell us that this election had the same look, feel and smell of 2006; the last time Republicans had a terrible midterm election. The President was unpopular, the Democrats were motivated and GOP members were retiring rather than opting to run for re-election in what was shaping up to be an awful, no good, terrible year.
A coal country district that voted 73 percent to 23 percent for President Trump might sound like mission impossible for Democrats. Yet this race could turn out be one of the wildest of the cycle. A new Monmouth University poll shows Trump-voting Democratic state Sen. Richard Ojeda leading state Del. Carol Miller 43 percent to 41 percent for the seat Rep. Evan Jenkins vacated to run unsuccessfully for Senate.
Two-term GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock (VA-10) is a tough, resilient campaigner who has persevered as the prosperous Northern Virginia suburbs have zoomed away from her party in the Trump era. In 2016, she won reelection by six points while Hillary Clinton carried the seat 52 percent to 42 percent. But in the current political environment, Comstock is the single most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the House.
As the political universe fixates on the battles for control of Congress, little attention is being paid to the 36 gubernatorial contests on the ballot in November. But, the stakes for control of governorships are high given that most of the Governors elected this year will be in office during redistricting in 2021. And, races are starting to become engaged and more interesting.