The biggest threat to the GOP majority no one’s talking about

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — A glut of GOP retirements has House Republicans defending a record number of open seats this fall — further fueling the odds of a Democratic takeover.

Of the 44 districts left open by incumbents who are retiring, resigning or seeking higher office, Democrats are targeting almost half of them. They need to gain 23 seats to win the House majority.

The open seats may be an overlooked factor in an election season dominated by GOP angst over a potential voter backlash against President Donald Trump. Recent history explains why Republicans are so concerned: In the past six midterm elections, the president’s party has not retained a single open seat he failed to carry two years prior, according to an analysis by the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman.

“Retirements and open seats could be our biggest problem right now,” said Brian Walsh, a Republican consultant who leads the Continue reading “The biggest threat to the GOP majority no one’s talking about”

White men in the minority among Democratic House candidates

A flood of women, minorities and first-time candidates is poised to radically alter the composition of Congress next year after winning Democratic primaries in record numbers in 2018.

White men are in the minority in the House Democratic candidate pool, a POLITICO analysis shows. Democrats have nominated a whopping 180 female candidates in House primaries — shattering the party’s previous record of 120, according to Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics. Heading into the final primaries of 2018 this week, Democrats have also nominated at least 133 people of color and 158 first-time candidates to run for the House.

The numbers are even starker in the districts without Democratic incumbents. In the 125 districts where a Democratic incumbent is leaving office or a Republican seat is at risk of flipping, according to POLITICO’s race ratings, more than half the nominees (65) are women. An overlapping group of 30 Continue reading “White men in the minority among Democratic House candidates”

The last remaining puzzle piece on the 2018 Senate map: Arizona

The last big primary day of the 2018 midterm elections was worth the wait. It features a fierce Republican primary for a must-win Senate seat in Arizona, a half-dozen races with major implications for the battle for the House and competitive primaries in three key governor’s races.

Republicans are choosing a replacement for Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, picking between Rep. Martha McSally, the establishment choice, and two other lightning-rod candidates best-known for their inflammatory rhetoric. The results — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has publicly acknowledged that the party’s only real chance to keep the seat is to nominate McSally — will put the final definition on the 2018 Senate map.

In the nation’s biggest swing state, both parties will pick nominees for the most competitive, big-state governorship up this year: the race to succeed Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Tuesday also signals the official kickoff of Scott’s high-profile challenge of Continue reading “The last remaining puzzle piece on the 2018 Senate map: Arizona”

‘Negativity and nastiness’: Dems fret over rowdy Arizona House primary

TUCSON, Ariz. — A wild, downright nasty primary brawl is threatening the Democratic Party’s prospects in one of the nation’s most competitive House races, magnifying divisions that have split Democrats around the country this year.

The race between former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick and Matt Heinz, who was the party’s nominee in the Tucson-based 2nd District in 2016, has settled on familiar lines, with Heinz running as a progressive anti-establishment candidate against the more moderate, DCCC-backed Kirkpatrick. But it has also gotten vicious in a way that many other primaries have not, featuring several negative TV ads, a lawsuit, a private investigator and a recent, controversial statement by Heinz comparing Kirkpatrick’s political career to meth addiction.

Local Democrats worry that the mudslinging ahead of Tuesday’s primary will harm the party’s efforts to flip an inviting swing seat, one of 25 held by Republicans but carried by Hillary Clinton in the last Continue reading “‘Negativity and nastiness’: Dems fret over rowdy Arizona House primary”

Once-safe GOP seats threatened by blue wave

CINCINNATI — Republicans who represented some of the safest congressional seats in their party for years are suddenly under intense pressure in 2018, with Democratic challengers threatening to overwhelm them in suburban districts where President Donald Trump has struggled.

One of those districts belongs to Rep. Steve Chabot, an 11-term Republican who has gone years without a serious challenge in the southwestern corner of Ohio. He has been outraised — and, some Republicans say, outworked — by Democrat Aftab Pureval, the 35-year-old clerk of courts in Cincinnati’s Hamilton County, who argues that the congressman has lost touch with a diversifying, suburbanizing district changing beneath his feet.

"The momentum is with us … even though people can’t even pronounce my name," Pureval said to laughter at a recent field office opening northeast of Cincinnati. (During Pureval’s clerk’s race in 2016, he used an Aflac-style duck to poke fun at his name in Continue reading “Once-safe GOP seats threatened by blue wave”

Sex, lies and DUIs: GOP dumps oppo on Dem House hopefuls

Dramatized police dispatch calls of a DUI arrest. Allegations of sexual harassment. Court filings reviewing “failed” business investments.

Those are attacks leveled against Democratic congressional candidates in a new Republican ad campaign in recent days — part of a growing effort to personalize the midterm elections and disqualify individual Democratic hopefuls early in a bid to save the Republican House majority.

National trends are driving the general direction of the 2018 midterms, fueled by strong feelings about health care, taxes, President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But with so many first-time candidates running on the Democratic side — without the baggage of legislative voting records or controversial positions adopted over a long public career — and the political environment tilting toward them, GOP efforts to keep them out of the House may hinge on specific personal critiques, vetting them publicly for the first time.

That’s how Congressional Continue reading “Sex, lies and DUIs: GOP dumps oppo on Dem House hopefuls”

Primary night: Democrats plot a Midwest comeback

Democrats are hoping to kickstart a comeback in the Midwest in Tuesday’s primaries, picking candidates to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and succeed Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in Minnesota.

President Donald Trump’s victory in Wisconsin and narrow loss in Minnesota spurred renewed Democratic activism in both states. Party leaders hope to channel that enthusiasm into both governor’s races and reelecting Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), one of 10 Democratic senators up for reelection in states Trump carried. A wide field of Democrats led by state education official Tony Evers jumped in to face Walker, their longtime nemesis, while several prominent Minnesota Democrats leaped at the open governor’s race there, including Attorney General Lori Swanson and Rep. Tim Walz, as well as party-endorsed state legislator Erin Murphy.

Fielding strong candidates who can win those gubernatorial races would help Democrats rebuild their diminished party in the Midwest and, crucially, Continue reading “Primary night: Democrats plot a Midwest comeback”

Early votes counted in Ohio special election

Early vote totals are now trickling in from Ohio’s special House election, showing Democrat Danny O’Connor building an early lead — but one that is expected to recede over the next several hours, as Election Day returns tilt back toward Republican Troy Balderson in the final special election ahead of the November midterms.

The GOP cavalry dashed in to pull Balderson across the finish line in a district that last went Democratic nearly four decades ago. Republican groups have spent more than $5 million on TV ads and dispatched top surrogates to the 12th District outside Columbus to rally the base. President Donald Trump, who carried the district by 11 points in the 2016 presidential race, campaigned for Balderson last weekend, a move that Republicans hoped would energize GOP partisans ahead of the vote.

But Republicans also worried that Trump’s polarizing appearance would alienate moderate, suburban voters long cultivated by Continue reading “Early votes counted in Ohio special election”

What Ohio’s special election will tell us about midterms

Tuesday’s special election in a central Ohio congressional district will provide tangible evidence of where the battle for the House stands three months out from the midterms.

Both parties have deployed their 2018 playbooks for the final special election before November, and its importance far exceeds the typical House race: If Democrat Danny O’Connor prevails, it will be a sign that Democrats are poised to take back the House next year, despite an avalanche of Republican outside money.

But if Troy Balderson, the GOP nominee, wins, it will give Republicans hope that the House isn’t lost, and that President Donald Trump can still help the party get out the vote this fall.

The Ohio special election isn’t the only key race on the ballot on Tuesday. There are also primaries in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington — with hyper-competitive gubernatorial contests in Kansas and Michigan, and nominees set to be Continue reading “What Ohio’s special election will tell us about midterms”

Trump, Pelosi dominate Ohio special election

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The home stretch of Tuesday’s special House election here has turned into not just a barometer of the national political environment heading into the midterms, but a referendum on the parties’ two top leaders: Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi.

The president’s decision this week to inject himself into a district — split between rural voters who support him and well-educated suburbanites who are trending away from him — effectively puts him on the ballot alongside GOP hopeful Troy Balderson. And Republicans are going all out to bind Democrat Danny O’Connor to Pelosi, their favorite liberal bogeywoman.

The increasingly national complexion of the race has heightened interest in a contest that has tightened in the last month. As the final special House election ahead of the November midterms, the contest is also seen as one of the few indicators of a potential Democratic wave.

Trump will travel to Continue reading “Trump, Pelosi dominate Ohio special election”

Poll: Balderson, O’Connor in dead heat in Ohio special election

A new Monmouth University poll found the special congressional election is Ohio in a dead-heat, just days out from Tuesday’s vote.

Republican Troy Balderson has 44 percent support to Democrat Danny O’Connor’s 43 percent support among all potential voters, which includes voters who have participated in an election since 2010 or have newly registered to vote in the district. Another 11 percent are still undecided.

Under several different turnout models, the race is still close. A standard midterm model found that Balderson still led with 46 percent, followed by O’Connor with 45 percent. Under a model accounting for a surge in Democratic participation, O’Connor jumps into the lead with 46 percent to Balderson’s 45 percent. But in a low turnout environment, Balderson leads with 49 percent to O’Connor’s 44 percent.

Independents breaking for O’Connor has helped the Democratic candidate close the gap, the polling memo reported. Currently, independents favor O’Connor Continue reading “Poll: Balderson, O’Connor in dead heat in Ohio special election”

‘Seismic’: Where the Ocasio-Cortez earthquake might hit next

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s dramatic June primary upset in New York City injected hope and energy into underdog Democratic primary campaigns across the country. But it’s unclear whether the conditions are in place for other liberal insurgents to pull off similar stunners.

Voters in 19 states will choose nominees in House primaries over the next six weeks, and Ocasio-Cortez has given her advice — and endorsement — to a handful of similar candidates, including Brent Welder, who is running in a Kansas battleground district, and Ayanna Pressley, who is challenging a Democratic incumbent in Massachusetts.

Not every contest neatly fits the Ocasio-Cortez model. This year’s remaining primaries include a handful of progressive-versus-moderate contests as well as some insurgent campaigns that divide more along local political than partywide ideological lines.

But even if left-wing candidates don’t win their primaries, Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking defeat of House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley has already pushed the Continue reading “‘Seismic’: Where the Ocasio-Cortez earthquake might hit next”

Trump jumps into Ohio special election as GOP alarm grows

President Donald Trump will travel to Ohio on Saturday to campaign for Republican special election candidate Troy Balderson, according to a senior party official — a move that comes amid rising GOP fears about the race.

A Republican loss, coming after special election defeats in Pennsylvania and Alabama, would be deeply deflating for the conservative base and party donors, and provide more evidence that a wave is building against them heading into the midterms.

National Republicans have bombarded the suburban Columbus district with more than $3.3 million in TV ads in an effort to boost Balderson, a state legislator, and attack his Democratic opponent, Danny O’Connor, ahead of the Aug. 7 special election. They are battling to replace longtime GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi, who resigned last fall.

While Trump has so far focused his campaigning in conservative states, he has largely stayed away from suburban areas, where he’s less Continue reading “Trump jumps into Ohio special election as GOP alarm grows”

‘These guys need to wake up’: House Republicans badly outraised in midterms

An unusually large number of House Republican incumbents were outraised by their Democratic opponents in the past three months, more stark evidence of GOP candidates’ money woes that continue to expand the number of seats susceptible to Democratic takeover.

Democrats in 56 House districts surpassed Republican incumbents in second-quarter fundraising, according to a POLITICO analysis of the latest Federal Election Commission filings. Sixteen of those House Republicans finished the quarter with less cash in their campaign accounts than Democratic opponents, while no Democratic members lag their Republican challengers in cash.

It’s a financial trend line that has gotten worse for Republicans candidates over the last year, even as megadonors pour millions into the House GOP super PAC — a reflection of Democratic intensity that has coursed through the party’s donors and voters since President Donald Trump’s election.

The picture is even grimmer for Republicans in open, battleground districts, where a Continue reading “‘These guys need to wake up’: House Republicans badly outraised in midterms”

Trump looms as primaries close in South Carolina, Virginia

Primary voters in five states have President Donald Trump on their minds as they choose general election candidates Tuesday — especially in South Carolina, where Trump could sink a congressional adversary and buoy a supportive governor as the polls closed.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, an early Trump backer, is running on the president’s endorsement as his top qualification as he seeks a full term of his own, while Rep. Mark Sanford, a vocal Trump critic, is fending off a primary challenge from his right flank, with state Rep. Katie Arrington bringing in a late Twitter endorsement from Trump during the final hours of voting.

In Nevada, Trump publicly prodded Danny Tarkanian to drop his Senate primary bid against GOP Sen. Dean Heller, and Tarkanian instead walked away with an endorsement tweet for another battleground House campaign, which looks set to help him through Tuesday’s nominating contest.

“The nod from Continue reading “Trump looms as primaries close in South Carolina, Virginia”

Trump’s clout in GOP is driving Tuesday’s primaries. Here’s what to watch.

The full scope of President Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican Party will be on display in Tuesday’s primaries, as one of his original 2016 supporters and one of his biggest Republican detractors in Congress fight for their political lives.

Rep. Mark Sanford’s (R-S.C.) frequent criticism of Trump’s policies and rhetoric has landed him in an unexpectedly competitive House primary against a state representative touting herself as a staunch Trump partisan. But at the top of the ticket in South Carolina, Trump’s support is one of the biggest things going for South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who was the first statewide elected official to back Trump in 2016 but faces questions over his ties to corruption in state government.

Both primaries, and others in South Carolina, could go to overtime if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, forcing runoffs between the top two contenders in two Continue reading “Trump’s clout in GOP is driving Tuesday’s primaries. Here’s what to watch.”

Pence heading to Ohio for latest special election scare

Vice President Mike Pence is heading to Ohio on Friday to throw his support behind a Republican candidate in a critical upcoming special election contest.

Pence is slated to host a fundraiser for state Sen. Troy Balderson, who’s competing in an Aug. 7 special election in a district President Donald Trump won by 11 points in 2016, according to a person familiar with the vice president’s plans. The seat was recently vacated by former GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with GOP House leadership, also started airing TV ads boosting Balderson in the district last week. The group spent $250,000 on the spots, which focused on tax cuts and the opioid crisis. CLF is also opening a field office in the district, aiming to knock on 500,000 doors before Election Day.

Pence has been traveling around the country on behalf of the party ahead Continue reading “Pence heading to Ohio for latest special election scare”

‘This is basically a home run for Democrats’

LOS ANGELES — Democrats claimed new life in their bid to retake the House Tuesday, with a path back to the majority that once again runs squarely through the Golden State.

Bolstered by an increasing number of young and Latino voters and by President Donald Trump’s deep unpopularity in California, Democrats this year poured millions of dollars into flipping several suburban, Southern California House districts. For months, though, the party feared a nightmare scenario in which no Democrat would appear on the November ballot in several critical House races — victimized by the state’s top-two primary system in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

But as results from the primary election on Tuesday rolled in, Democrats breathed a loud sigh of relief.

In all seven Republican-held House districts that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 — and that Democrats are targeting this Continue reading “‘This is basically a home run for Democrats’”

Over 118,000 voters accidentally left off rolls in Los Angeles County

A printing error affecting more than one-third of the precincts in Los Angeles County left 118,522 registered voters off the rolls during the California primary on Tuesday, the county election authority said in a statement.

County Clerk Dean C. Logan said that voters left off the rolls can still cast provisional ballots. But the process of verifying and counting a large number of provisional ballots could delay the vote tally in local races, depending on exactly where the affected precincts are. Two battleground House seats, California’s 25th and 39th Districts, take in parts of Los Angeles County.

“We apologize for the inconvenience and concern this has caused," Logan said in a statement Tuesday evening. "Voters should be assured their vote will be counted.”

Logan added that poll workers at those locations have been instructed to make sure that voters whose names did not appear on the roster are issued Continue reading “Over 118,000 voters accidentally left off rolls in Los Angeles County”

California goes to the polls for mega-primary

Voters in eight states are heading to the polls on the biggest primary day of 2018, with the spotlight trained on Democrats’ efforts to avoid getting locked out of the general election in key battleground House districts in California.

California’s top-two primary system has Democrats sweating in three Orange County-based districts carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, where there is a chance two Republicans could finish at the front of the pack. The top two vote-getters regardless of party move on to the November general election under California’s primary system.

It’s a nightmarish possibility for Democrats, who are hoping to make significant inroads in California as part of their effort to undo Republicans’ 23-seat edge Republicans have in the House. The state has seven Republican members of Congress in Clinton-won districts, including two in California’s Central Valley and one north of Los Angeles. But it’s the ones in historically Republican-leaning Continue reading “California goes to the polls for mega-primary”