State of the Midterm Races: Will Republicans Hold The House and Senate?

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A shocking Wall Street Journal poll appeared in the past few days in which a mere one-third of Americans thought the Democrats were “in the mainstream.” In other words, two-thirds of Americans viewed the Democrat Party as radical.

For those paying attention at all, of course, this number probably seems low. This is truly the party of Bernie Sanders and the newest socialist on the scene, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez from New York. Yet supposedly the Democrats are poised for a good November, or so says Larry Sabato in his most recent guesstimate of House races. Generic numbers do not support such a conclusion, with the RealClearPolitics average at D+5, although a newly-released and always-biased Quinnipiac poll will skew that (with 51% saying they’d vote for a Democrat, 39% for a Republican). Reality? I’m told by one of the most reliable pollsters of 2016, who called the race dead on the money save Wisconsin, that the margin is in the D+3 or +4 range. Translation: most pundits (unless Trump is involved) think the Democrats need at least +5 to get above tossup range. Right now, they are slightly below that, but the radical sounds of the gulag work-gangs on the horizon seem to be pushing even that small difference in the Republicans’ favor.

Sabato, who badly missed the 2016 call, has also gone on record as saying that pollsters needed to add 10 points to any Trump poll. Maybe he should follow his own advice when it comes to other races.

At any rate, here are the on-the-ground reports from some key races:

*AZ Since November 2016, Arizona Republicans have out-registered Democrats almost 2:1, and have net gained over 13,000, adding a total of over 30,000 new Republican voters to the largest Trump-friendly county in America (Maricopa).

Whereas Sabato has AZ2 (which is an open seat, as Martha McSally is running for Jeff Flake’s senate seat) as “leans Democratic,” I am told by a very high source in the state GOP unequivocally “we will win” this seat. The other two seats in question in AZ will be hard flips—Kristen Sinema’s seat (running against either McSally or Kelli Ward) and T. O’Halleran’s seat in AZ1. In AZ8, Debbie Lesko, who just won a special election, faces the same opponent again (Hiral Tipirneni) who has outraised Lesko, but it is highly unlikely this will flip. In the primaries the Republicans crushed the Democrats in overall turnout.

As for the Arizona Senate race, it’s too soon to tell. The primary is August 28, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio continues to bleed voters from the more electable Kelli Ward. At this point, Joe will likely help ensure that the less conservative Martha McSally (described by one GOP wag as “John McCain with better flying skills”) will take on Sinema in the general, and until the GOP race is settled, all polls are meaningless. Republicans in Arizona are notorious for the “If not my candidate, no one!” attitude until it’s time to walk into the voting booth.

*My Ohio source, who is rarely wrong—hence my nickname for him “Ohio Wan”—flat out says “no GOP House members are in trouble.” That means Steve Chabot (OH1) is safe, and polls suggest that Republican Troy Balderson will win the special election for the open seat in OH12, probably easily.
Ohio Wan also says that Jim Renacci—a late replacement for Seth Mandel whom the Republicans thought was a shoe-in to take Sherrod Brown’s seat—after lagging early is making up ground. Sources think Renacci is down only 5-6, but has only 34% name recognition, while Brown is in the 90s. Renacci has money and Trump will come to Ohio to help. This race may be a lot closer than it looks, and whereas I wrote it off when Mandel departed, I now think it is close to a tossup.

*In Minnesota, there are two open Democrats seatsSabao claims are toss-ups that Republicans think will flip—MN1 and MN8. But Sabato also rates Jason Lewis’s MN2 a “toss up.” Probably safe. Though they have received little attention, the two Minnesota Senate seats could pose a problem for the Democrats: Trump nearly took MN (losing in early voting, and only losing the state on election day by 40,000 votes. Trump won every part of MN other than Minneapolis-St. Paul by 2:1 on election day).

*Much of the action will be in California, where Darrell Issa is retiring from CA49. Issa won by just 1% but current polling shows his successor, Diane Harkey, is polling +3. Dana Rohrabacher in CA48 has the name recognition and the money. He will hold.

*Democrats also face three vulnerable open seats, two in NV and one in NH that Sabato has “leans D.” Perhaps, but open seats are a challenge under normal circumstances and the Trump economy and Democrat socialism works against newcomers.

*Sources in TX say none of the Republican districts are in trouble, despite Sabato’s listing of Will Hurd (TX23) and John Culberson (TX7) as “tossups.” Indeed, the primary turnout in TX as nothing less than awe-inspiring for the Republicans. Ted Cruz will have no trouble at all winning reelection. None.

*Probably the most difficult races to predict are those in PA, where Trump cleaned up outside the big cities. Unfortunately, PA was redistricted in a way completely favorable to the Democrats. Sabato has two of those seats (PA6 and PA8) flipping, as well as the currently red PA5 currently held by Glenn Thompson. He also has PA14, where Connor Lamb won a March 2018 special election by a razor thin 500 votes. Considered vulnerable, Lamb will be fortunate to hang onto this seat, which would be another flip.

In short, just in those cases where I can tap solid GOP sources, Sabato’s tossups are off by at least six, with another 2-4 open seats (especially those in MN) likely to yield D flips to R. Of the approximately 34 total truly competitive seats, just on the basis of those I know, the Democrats are down to about 26-27 truly competitive seats. This means that as of July they are already very close to needing to carry every single contested seat and holding every single seat they now control in order to re-take the House. Likelihood of that happening? My “crystal ball” says the Republicans hold the House, and that the final number varies between Republicans losing a net of two-to-six in the House and gaining up to four.

As for the Senate, the Democrats are in deeper trouble. Currently Republicans are polling ahead in Democrat-held seats in IN, FL, MO, and ND. John Tester in MT leads in polling, but Richard Baris of People’s Pundit Daily insists that Tester “polls high” and likely is already in a dead heat. Joe Manchin, perennially thought to be “in trouble,” will likely save his WV seat again by voting for Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. So the GOP looks to flip four, and possibly five, Democrat-held senate seats. However, as noted above, Jim Renacci is doing well in OH and this will be competitive. MI hasn’t had its primary yet, but likely blew an easy shot at removing Debbie Stabenow when rock singer Kid Rock declined to run. Yes, he would have been extremely unorthodox (Trump-like) but he almost certainly would have taken the seat. WI represents another blown opportunity to get rid of Tammy Baldwin in a state that is trending Republican. In PA, although the Republicans nominated the best candidate they could in Lou Barletta, it is unlikely he can beat Bob Casey.

There are other question marks on both sides, however. Bob Martinez in New Jersey is just corrupt enough that Republican Bob Hugin, who is polling well, may unseat him. And in both AZ and NV, Republican held seats are under assault, with AZ an unknown until the primary. In NV, Dean Heller has under-polled and as a neverTrumper seems unlikely to ignite the base in state with a Democrat registration advantage.

My prediction is that the GOP gains a net of three to five seats in the Senate. However, the better news is that these almost all represent net TRUMPER gains, with Marsha Blackburn likely to replace Bob Corker in TN, Chris McDaniel taking Wicker’s seat in MS, and Trump-friendly candidates leading in FL, MO, ND, and IN. In other words, while the GOP gain may only be a net of five, it is possible that the “Trumper” gains could be seven or eight. Now, if all goes well, all the dominos line up, and McSally/Ward defeat Sinema, Tester is ousted, and there is just one upset (MI or NJ) to offset a possible flip in AZ or NV, it is possible for the Republicans to gain a net of six or seven senate seats. And finally, there lingers John McCain, who will almost certainly be replaced by a conservative and probably a Trumper when he dies. The senate looks very, very good for the GOP—which explains the hysteria over Kavnaugh, because the left knows that if Ruth Ginsberg retires or dies, and if Steven Breyer retires in the next few years, Trump will have easy sailing for his Supreme Court picks.

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