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2014 Election Preview: Nevada


It’s a going to be a bit of a sleeper in the Silver State this November: the incumbent governor looks pretty safe and the two competitive House races are long shots. Things could heat up as we approach the election, but right now here’s the situation:

Governor: Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is one of the most popular incumbents in the country and he is expected to cruise to victory in November. Has no significant opposition in the Republican ranks and the Democratic primary has attracted nothing but no-names and has-beens. Polling shows him crushing it in the general election and overall he’s posting numbers more akin to a Republican in a red state than a Republican in a blue state. This race is Safe Republican.


NV-03: Rep. Joe Heck (R) represents one of the swingiest districts in the country and this year he’s facing a strong challenger in Democratic Committeewoman Erin Bilbray, a charismatic progressive activist who has shown the ability to raise money in a difficult environment for Democrats. That being said, this is a difficult environment for Democrats and Heck is a moderate Republican who fits well with the ideology of the district. So Heck will remain the favorite in this Likely Republican race, but he may have to break a sweat to cross the finish line in November.

NV-04: The GOP’s only chance for a pick-up in Nevada is the seat currently held by Rep. Steven Horsford (D), who took office in 2012 as the first representative from Nevada’s newly created 4th congressional district. The two Republicans angling to replace him are State Rep. Crescent Hardy and Congress on Racial Equality spokesman Niger Innis. Both Hardy and Innis has a equal shot at winning the nomination, but they would face an uphill climb to represent this Democratic leaning district. Regardless of who wins the GOP primary, this race is Likely Democratic and it would take a strong Republican effort for the GOP to have a chance at winning in November.  

2014 Election Preview: Idaho

The Gem State is a bastion of conservatism and the GOP is widely expected win all the major races this year. Of course, that rightward tilt can come back to haunt some incumbents who aren’t seen as conservative enough for Idaho. This is what’s going on:

Governor: Gov. Butch Otter (R) (who, despite his name, has only appeared in one pornographic film) is running for a third term and in one of the most conservative states in the country he looks pretty safe for reelection. The only possible hitch is a primary upset by State Sen. Russ Fulcher (R), who is going after Otter from the right. As for the Democrats, they look likely to nominate businessman and Boise School District Board of Trustees President A. J. Balukoff, pretty much a no-name candidate. All in all, Otter is a fairly popular incumbent and it’s hard to see how he doesn’t get reelected. And even if by some fluke he loses the GOP primary, this seat will remain Safe Republican.

Senate: First term Sen. Jim Risch (R), who replaced Sen. Larry “Wide Stance” Craig (R) in 2009, is running for reelection and there is no one who is going to stop him from winning another term. He is running virtually unopposed in the GOP primary and his only Democratic opponent is attorney Nels Mitchell, who has a zero political experience and meager finances in a very red state. The November election is nothing but a formality since this race is extremely Safe Republican.


ID-02: Rep. Mike Simpson has has represented Idaho’s 2nd District since 1999 and in 2014 he has attracted a Tea Party challenger in Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith. Smith has attracted heavy hitter support from the likes of FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth, and the Senate Conservatives Fund. Simpson for his part has also brought out the heavy guns, touting endorsements from Gov. Otter, Sen. Risch, and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who could be a big asset in this heavily Mormon district. Overall, Simpson seems to be doing everything right and right now he’s the favorite in the GOP primary. The main Democratic challenger is former Rep. Richard Stallings (D), who represented the district for 8 years in the late 80s and early 90s. Both Smith and Simpson would be favorites against Stallings, but overall Simpson would probably fare better. Until we know which GOP candidate will face Stallings, this race is Likely Republican.

2014 Election Preview: Iowa

The Hawkeye State is going to be abuzz with political activity this year as it hosts a gubernatorial race, a competitive Senate race, and a few interesting House races. The Republicans have chance to make some gains, but in order to do so they need to be on their A-game from now through November. Here’s the situation from Iowa:

Governor: Incumbent Gov. Terry Branstad (R) is running for his 6th (non-consecutive) term in office and if he wins, he will likely become the longest serving governor in US history. However, there are two men who seek to block Branstad from that prestigious honor: Republican Tom Hoefling and Democrat State Sen. Jack Hatch. Fortunately for the Governor, neither of them seem to pose too much of a threat to his chances. Polling shows Branstad crushing Heofling in the GOP primary while leading Hatch in the general election. It is true that few recent polls have this race much closer, but it is important to remember that Branstad is 12-0 in competitive elections and of all the years to break that streak, this particularly anti-Democratic one doesn’t seem likely to be it. I predict that over the next few months Branstad will widen his lead, but if that doesn’t happen this race could get a bit more interesting. Likely Republican.

Senator: Sen. Tom Harkin (D) is ending his 30-year tenure in the United States Senate, leaving an open seat election and a pick-up opportunity for Republicans. The sole Democrat running is Rep. Bruce Braley and he’s by far the strongest fundraiser in the race, gathering more than $5 million over the course of this cycle. However, that money-making acumen has gotten him trouble as he was recently caught on tape bad-mouthing an “Iowa farmer” (Senator Chuck Grassley (R)) to an audience of out-of-state lawyers. While this hasn’t killed his candidacy, it has given new life to GOP hopes of taking this seat. For their part, the Republicans are looking to choose between State Sen. Joni Ernst and businessman Mark Jacobs. Ernst got national attention with her pig castration themed ad, which may give her the edge she needs to win the nomination.  Polls show Braley with a slightly ahead in the general election, although there are a lot of undecideds and a lot of time until election day. So while this race Leans Democrat, Ernst remains a strong competitor.


IA-1: With incumbent Rep. Bruce Braley (D) running for the Senate, this is an open seat that maybe, just maybe, could turn into a pick-up opportunity for Republicans. The Democrats have a pretty wide open field, with the top candidates being: Cedar Rapids Councilwoman Monica Vernon, former State Sen. Swati Dandekar, State Rep. Pat Murphy, and attorney David O’Brien. No one really has a money advantage and polling shows a plurality of voters are still undecided in the Democratic primary. Meanwhile, the Republicans look likely to nominate businessman Rod Blum, who is pretty much the only viable candidate they have. At first glance Blum doesn’t seem to be anything special and his fundraising has been anemic compared to that of his Democratic rivals. Unless Blum gets his act together, this race is Likely Democratic.

IA-3: Rep. Tom Latham (R) is retiring and that means that this swingiest of swing districts is up for grabs in November. There is a whole slew of Republicans looking to replace Latham, including: State Sen. Brad Zaun, Sen. Chuck Grassley’s former chief of staff David Young, social conservative activist Robert Cramer, IA Secretary of State Matt Schultz, and businessman Monte Shaw. All of them are in the same ballpark when it comes to fundraising and polls show that there isn’t a clear favorite in the GOP field. Meanwhile, the Democrats look set to nominate former State Sen. Staci Appel. She’s a charismatic candidate, she leads all her Republican rivals in fundraising, and her husband happens to be a Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court. There is no doubt that she would be the favorite if this was a good year for Democrats, but of course it is not. Thus big question in this district is whether a spoiled bunch can ruin one good Appel. This race will be tight through election day and it’s a Toss-Up.


2014 Election Preview: Pennsylvania

The key to 2014 in the Keystone State is how well the GOP can play defense in not-so-friendly territory. Clearly they have better odds in some races than others, but if the Republicans want to build a lasting majority in the House they must be able retain these swingish districts like those in Pennsylvania. Here’s the scoop:

Governor: The election won’t be for another six months, but with nearly 90% accuracy we can say that Democrat Tom Wolf will take office as the 47th Governor of Pennsylvania in January 2015. How do we know this? First, look at the Democratic primary: the most recent poll from Franklin and Marshall shows Wolf with a commanding lead over his nearest Democratic rival, Rep. Alison Schwartz. As a caveat, there hasn’t been any polling coming out since the beginning of the month, but there’s nothing to suggest that Wolf’s momentum has stalled over the past three weeks. Baring a historic polling failure, he will win the May 20th primary. How does he fare in the general election? After Wolf wins the primary he will face deeply unpopular incumbent Governor Tom Corbett (R), who has a dismal 31% approval rating. The most recent Quinnipiac poll has Wolf crushing Corbett by 19(!) percentage points in a head-to-head match up. In short: game over man, game over. This race is Likely Democrat, and the only reason it is not rated Safe Democrat is that it is never prudent to completely rule out an incumbent. Even with odds like these.


PA-6: Six-term Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) has announced he is not running for reelection, which puts this marginally Republican district into a competitive status. Only one candidate for each party is running to replace him: former Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello (R) and Iraq veteran and physician Manan Trivedi (D). Trivedi has been the Democratic nominee twice for this seat and both times he’s lost by a wide margin. Meanwhile, Costello has a more than 2-to-1 fundraising advantage and with the DCCC focusing on protecting incumbents, there is doubt as to whether Trivedi will get the outside help he needs to win this race. Until Trivedi can show that he can improve on his past performance, this race is Likely Republican.

PA-8: In 2012 Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R) won reelection by 13.2 percentage points in a district that Mitt Romney only won by .1. This disparity means that, in the right conditions and with the right candidate, the Democrats have a chance to pick up this seat. This year they have a choice between Army Ranger Kevin Strouse and businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton, neither with any experience in politics. Despite being a bit wet behind the ears, both are strong candidates and in a Democrat-friendly cycle they would be a serious threat to Fitzpatrick. However, this is the exact opposite of a Democrat-friendly cycle and its hard to see how either one could overcome the current political conditions. On top all this, the DCCC will likely be too busy protecting incumbents to give this race meaningful attention while at the same time Fitzpatrick has outraised both Democrats combined. Better luck in 2016 Democrats, because this race is Likely Republican.

PA-13: With Rep. Allison Schwartz (D) running for Governor, there is a slew of Democrats looking to replace her in this very blue district. The top contenders are: former Rep. Marjorie Marolies, State Sen. Daylin Leach, State Rep. Brendan Boyle, and anesthesiologist Valerie Arkoosh. A poll from August of last year showed Marolies with a large lead over her opponents, however she has lagged in fundraising and it is Arkoosh who’s leading in the money race. That being said, Marolies has the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton and House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D).  Can Arkoosh’s cash advantage help her overcome the Clinton machine? Only time will tell, but regardless of who wins the primary this seat is Safe Democratic.

2014 Election Preview: Oregon

Republicans have been singing the Beaver State blues as they haven’t won a major statewide race in over a decade while being shut out of the Governor’s mansion and the state’s electoral college votes since the 1980s. But despite this extended Democratic sweep Oregon, isn’t as blue as its electoral history implies. This year the Republicans have an opportunity to end their longtime losing streak and perhaps turn Oregon a bit more purple. Here’s what’s going on:

Governor: Like Gov. Jerry Brown in California, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is running for a record 4th term this November. However, unlike his neighbor to the south he faces a much more perilous path to reelection. Bruised from the disastrous launch of  the state’s Obamacare marketplace, a recent survey from Harper polling shows his favorability underwater and he only leads his likely Republican challenger, State Rep. Dennis Richardson, by 3 percentage points.  And while Kitzhaber has a decent fundraising lead, it is not too much of gap for Richardson to overcome. So while right now this race Leans Democrat, the GOP has a decent shot at making this a close race over these next few months.

Senate: Freshman Democrat Sen. Jeff Merkley is running for reelection and in a blue state like Oregon he has the advantage in November. However, the GOP has shown signs of life and its two candidates, State Rep. Jason Conger and pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby, have kept Merkley under 50% in a recent Harper poll. In particular, the NRSC is touting Wehby as a credible challenger and she recently released this powerful ad that touts her trustworthiness as a doctor and a potential senator.  That being said, whether either Republican candidate can go the full distance still remains to be seen and Merkley currently has a 10 to 1 fundraising advantage over both of them. Until the Republicans can close this gap, it’s hard to see them having a chance at this seat and so this race is Likely Democratic.   


2014 Election Preview: New Mexico

The Land of Enchantment used to be a swing state, but in the Obama era it has taken strong turn towards the Democrats, who currently hold 2 out of 3 House seats and both Senate seats. However, Gov. Susanna Martinez (R) has shown the ability to govern in this hostile environment and she is a possible contender for the 2016 presidential election. But before that, she needs to win her reelection race in November. Here’s the situation:

Governor: Despite leading a state that voted heavily for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, Governor Susanna Martinez (R) is in pretty good shape for reelection. Her Democratic rivals include NM Attorney General Gary King, State Sen. Linda Lopez, State Sen. Howie Morales, former Farm Service Agency head Lawrence Rael, and businessman Alan Webber. King is the favorite to win the nomination, but polls show him losing to Martinez in the November election. While according to pollster PPP the race has tightened, Martinez still has a solid fundraising advantage and I’d like to see more surveys before declaring this race competitive. Until then, this race remains Likely Republican.

Senate: Freshman Senator Tom Udall (D) is up for reelection and so far it looks like he’s good for another term. His two Republican rivals, former ADA David Clements and businessman Allen Weh, trail him by over 20 percentage points in last month’s PPP poll. Despite Gov. Martinez’s success New Mexico remains solidly Democratic and despite this year’s anti-Democrat environment, it doesn’t look like that’ll be enough to put Udall in serious danger. This race is Safe Democrat.