Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake announced today that he will not seek re-election in 2018. While Flake was considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents on the ballot this cycle, his decision to retire may not improve Republicans' chances of holding the seat.
We may have already reached a critical juncture in the 2018 Senate midterm elections, so beware of simplistic interpretations. Too often people look at possible electoral outcomes in a binary way; everything is either a zero or a one. In this case, it’s either Democrats cannot win a majority in the Senate, or Republicans will lose their majority. Many people turn a deaf ear toward nuances and “what if’s.”
Late last week, I joined my colleague David Wasserman for interviews with about half-a dozen Democrats running in competitive swing districts currently held by Republicans. It was a good reminder of just how disconnected DC and the cable networks are from what Democratic candidates and campaigns are talking about back home.
President Trump and GOP control of Congress have sparked a 2018 Democratic candidate bonanza. Don't call it "recruitment:" for the most part, these aspirants decided to take the plunge on their own. Many are political newcomers; others have waited years for the right moment to run. And in light of national polling, it was only a matter of time before more GOP-held House seats joined the ranks of the vulnerable.
By now we are all familiar with the GOP formula in competitive House races. Take the Democratic candidate. Put his or her picture next to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in a TV ad. Warn voters that the Democratic candidate shares Pelosi’s "San Francisco values" and will be a foot solider in Pelosi’s liberal army if he or she gets to Washington. Rinse. Repeat.
Earlier this year, Sen. Elizabeth Warren gave a speech to the annual gathering of liberal activists known as NetRoots Nation, where she made clear that her brand of progressive politics, not the more centrist brand practiced by President Clinton and Hillary Clinton, was the core of the Democratic identity.
Despite the over-caffeinated news coverage, little of what happens on a day-to-day or even week-to-week basis in American politics has real meaning or long-term consequence. An exception was the victory Tuesday of controversial former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore over appointed Republican Sen. Luther Strange of Alabama. It was a very big deal.
Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake is getting challenged from both the right and the left in his bid for a second term. The first hurdle will be a competitive primary. If he clears that obstacle, he will likely face a competitive challenge from Democratic U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who announced her candidacy via YouTube video last night.
Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee became the first incumbent this cycle to announce his retirement at the end of this Congress. His retirement also means that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell loses an important ally, and it opens up the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee in the next Congress.
There seems little question that President Trump has enjoyed his September dalliance with the two top Democratic leaders in Congress, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Aside from the Supreme Court confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, which isn’t technically legislation, this is the only significant legislative victory the president has had this year.