Sunday, July 1, 2018

The House Playing Field Continues to Shift Toward the Democrats

You can be forgiven for not thinking much lately about the upcoming election given the unfortunate Supreme Court events. But it's still being held and still represents a tremendous opportunity for Democratic pushback against the madness. It's fine to talk about "the Resistance" but people gotta show up when it counts or the talk is just talk.
And there is good election news to report, as Trump's and the GOP's hardline actions do not appear to be moving things in their direction. Kyle Kondik has released the latest House ratings from the excellent Crystal Ball site and the changes they show are all favorable for the Democrats.
"We have half a dozen House ratings changes, all in favor of Democrats....
If Democrats do in fact have a strong midterm election, the twin gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia from last November will be seen, historically, as midterm harbingers: Democrats strongly won both state governorships and, in Virginia, made large inroads in the state House of Delegates.
This year, both states are becoming increasingly promising sources of Democratic House hopes.
Let’s start in the Garden State. State Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D), noted previously here as a strong Democratic recruit in an open South Jersey swing seat, is well-positioned in the open NJ-2, held by retiring Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R), a moderate who long frustrated potential Democratic opponents. Meanwhile, Republicans appear to have nominated a dud against him, former Atlantic County freeholder Seth Grossman (R), who has been making news for a history of outlandish comments. NJ-2 moves from Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic.
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R, NJ-3) will be extremely well-funded thanks to his personal largesse, but he could face a stiff challenge from Andy Kim (D), a former Obama administration national security official. We’re moving this race from Likely Republican to Leans Republican, but two caveats: The first is that NJ-3 is a very expensive and inefficient district to target in advertising, because it’s split roughly evenly between the New York City and Philadelphia media markets, and the second is that Democrats bemoaned how the district was modified in post-2010 redistricting. Cherry Hill, a Democratic Philadelphia suburb, was carved out of the district, and although the district still voted for Barack Obama in 2012, it flipped to Trump in 2016. NJ-3 still ranks clearly behind three other New Jersey districts as Democratic pickup opportunities — the aforementioned NJ-2, as well as NJ-7, a Toss-up seat held by Rep. Leonard Lance (R), and the open NJ-11 — but it’s a better Democratic target than our Likely Republican rating indicated.
In the Old Dominion, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R, VA-10) has long stood out as clearly endangered, and Democrats nominated their most experienced potential challenger against her, state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D). Monmouth University found Wexton up about 10 points on Comstock. We were straining to give Comstock the benefit of the doubt, but we just don’t think that’s warranted anymore: Wexton is now a favorite as the race moves from Toss-up to Leans Democratic. A word of caution to Democrats, though: Sometimes the most vulnerable incumbents pull out victories, even in wave years.
Statewide, we know Republicans are very worried about bomb-throwing Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart’s (R) Senate candidacy, and there’s little indication he’ll really push Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). Kaine very well could run ahead of Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) nine-point 2017 victory over former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (R), who barely beat Stewart in the 2017 GOP primary. Gillespie performed poorly in typically Republican suburban areas, such as the House districts held by Reps. Scott Taylor (R, VA-2) and Dave Brat (R, VA-7), and many believe Stewart is likely to do even worse. While Trump won both districts in 2017, Northam actually carried the Hampton Roads-based VA-2, and almost carried VA-7, a suburban Richmond district that reaches up into more rural parts of Central Virginia. Democrats also nominated promising though unproven candidates in both seats: former Navy commander Elaine Luria (D) against Taylor, and ex-CIA officer Abigail Spanberger (D) against Brat. The combination of credible challengers and a challenging national environment that may be exacerbated in Virginia’s three big urban areas by Stewart’s candidacy prompts us to push both VA-2 and VA-7 from Leans Republican to Toss-up....
We don’t know how well primary results and turnout may predict the races in the fall, although there are some very promising turnout trends for Democrats in several key districts [in California]...Democrats actually led the two-party vote in CA-49, which we rate as Leans Democratic, and they significantly improved on their usual showing in several other districts that are traditionally Republican and were not seriously contested by Democrats last cycle but voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016: CA-39, CA-45, and CA-48.
Two of those three seats we already had at Toss-up, and we’re moving CA-45 from Leans Republican to Toss-up, too....
We’re not moving off our long-held belief that House control is something of a 50-50 Toss-up, but our seat-by-seat handicapping is only getting better for Democrats.
Today’s seven ratings changes are all toward the Democrats, and the overall ratings now show 208 seats at least leaning to the Republicans, 199 at least leaning to the Democrats, and 28 Toss-ups. To win the House under the current ratings, Democrats would have to win two-thirds of the Toss-ups. In the event of a good Democratic environment in the fall, that would not be unreasonable to expect."
So there you have it. Vote early and often and give 'til it hurts.
— Rep. Joe Crowley’s (D, NY-14) primary loss represents a changing of the guard in a diverse district. It does not necessarily suggest we should expect a flood of additional Democratic primary losers. As it stands, only three incumbent House members have lost renomination so far this cycle (Crow...

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