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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Fight for the Hill

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. The update looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.  Our next book will explain 2020. As of early May, the signs are negative for the GOP.

Some moderate House Republicans are downplaying Trump. At Politico, however, Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan write that most Republican senators seeking reelection are sticking with Trump.
It’s the latest sign that Trump has nearly total control over his party. And that Republicans see their own political fortunes tied to the president’s, amid a global pandemic that will dominate both the presidential race and the battle for the Senate over the next six months.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), whose race could easily decide the Senate, said Americans won’t necessarily be voting with today’s drumbeat of 2,000 deaths a day and endless quarantines in mind. He predicted by August everything will look different.

“We’ll be doing million and millions of tests, we’ll do the antibody tests, we’ll have good reports, I think, on the beginnings of economic progress,” Tillis said. “And I think all those things will benefit the president and they’ll benefit me.”
Ask a Republican about Trump’s response to the outbreak, instead of edging away from the president, you’ll likely hear cheers that he shut down travel to China early and praise for his focus on the disease.
“Generally, I feel [Trump’s] done a very good job,” said GOP Sen. Joni Ernst, who faces a tough reelection race in Iowa. “He was right on it from day one prohibiting travel from certain countries and so forth. I think it was the right thing to do.”


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After POLITICO reported that candidates received a memo instructing them to blame China and not defend Trump on the coronavirus, the Senate GOP campaign arm publicly rejected the strategy and made clear that Republicans are sticking with the president.

In a generic ballot test for the House the Monmouth University Poll  finds 52% of voters for the Democrat and 42% for the Republican.

One reason Democrats are starting in such a strong position is few of their incumbents are retiring or seeking another office. In total, only 11 Democratic-held seats have no incumbent running (including that one vacant seat) compared to 31 for the GOP (including those four vacant seats).
True, 22 of those 31 open GOP-held seats are currently rated as “safe,” but the other nine are competitive — including three where the Democrats are favored. The Democrats, on the other hand, only hold two open seats that are rated as competitive.
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Take the 30 seats the Democrats won in 2018 but Trump won in 2016 — Democratic incumbents are defending 29 of them (all but the Iowa 2nd, where the Democrat is retiring). If House Republicans are going to make up ground in 2020, these are the first seats you’d expect them to gain. But so far, it’s mostly good news for Democrats: Yes, 12 are rated as toss-ups, but no seats currently lean toward the GOP even though Trump carried 13 of these districts by at least 5 points in 2016.