Election Preview: Montana

The path to a Republican majority in the US Senate runs straight through Big Sky Country and the GOP is determined flip this seat from blue to red. They look set to nominate Montana’s sole representative in the House, which means a primary scramble for his replacement that will come to a head on June 3rd. Here’s the story:

Senator: Last year Senator Max Baucus (D) announced that he would not run for reelection, but it seemed that 2015 wasn’t soon enough for him to get out and earlier this year he was confirmed as the new US ambassador to China. The Governor of Montana, Democrat Steve Bullock, appointed Lieutenant Governor John Walsh (D), who was already running for the seat at the time Baucus left for China. Normally the added benefit of incumbency would be a great boost any candidate, but this is not the case here. Despite his appointment to the Senate, Walsh has continued to trail his main GOP rival, Rep. Steve Daines. And while both Daines and Walsh do face a contest primary on June 3rd, none of their opponents have amounted to any significant opposition and it is virtually assured these two will face each other in the November election. Factoring Daines’s lead in both fundraising and polling, this race is Likely Republican.

House:

MT-01: With Montana’s only congressman, Rep. Steve Daines (R), running for Senate the open seat election to replace has attracted many Republicans and few Democrats. On the GOP side we have former State Sen. Corey Stapleton, former State Sen. Ryan Zinke, State Sen. Matthew Rosendale, and State Rep. Elsie Arntzen. It’s really a toss-up as to which Republican will win the June 3rd primary, with Stapleton leading in the polls and Zinke ahead in fundraising. For the Democrats, the likely nominee is former Baucus aide John Lewis. Unfortunately for Lewis, this is a pretty secure seat for the GOP and considering the political environment we rate this race as Safe Republican.

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2014 Election Preview: Georgia

The Peach State has quite a few interesting statewide offices up for grabs this year, including both a Senate race and a gubernatorial contest. Though Georgia is primarily a red state, in both races Democrats are fielding competitive candidates and the Republicans will have to keep on their toes if they are to be victorious in November. Meanwhile, the Senate race has attracted a slew of Republican congressman and as a result there are multiple vacancies in the House of Representatives in deeply conservative districts. The GOP primaries that will decide the nominees (and the eventual winners) have their own interesting cast of characters and it should be fun to see what happens on Primary Night in May.

Governor: Incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal has middling approval numbers in a Republican leaning state, so he starts with a somewhat strong advantage. He has a few GOP primary opponents, but they should not present too much of a problem and it is highly likely that he will be renominated. The real challenge will come in November because the Democrats have a strong challenger in State Sen. Jason Carter (D), the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. Polls show that the race is neck and neck, with Deal slightly edging Carter in every poll with the exception of the most recent PPP survey, which showed Carter with a 1 point lead. That being said, Deal has a significant fundraising advantage and while the polls show both candidates in the low forties, it remains to be seen whether a Democrat can get above that in a state as red as Georgia. Given these factors, this race is Likely Republican.

Senator: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) is retiring and there is a whole slew of Republicans looking to replace him. There are THREE House members looking to move up to the upper chamber: Rep. Paul Broun, Rep. Phil Gingrey, and Rep. Jack Kingston. In addition, former GA Secretary of State Karen Handel and businessman (and cousin of former Governor Sunny Perdue (R)) David Perdue have thrown their hats into the ring. Right now it looks likely that the race will go on to a runoff  in July and judging from the polls, Perdue will be one of the candidates to advance. Who is going to join him is anyone’s guess right now and each of the other candidates has decent shot at doing so. The Democrats look to nominate non-profit CEO Michelle Nunn, who happens to be the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn (D). She has a household name and a decent fundraising operation, so she could make it close. Polling shows that the race is tight and all GOP candidates are currently in the low-forties against Nunn. Things could end up where the Republicans nominate someone like Broun, who is quoted as saying “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” and the Democrats could sneak away with this one like they did in Indiana in 2012. But Broun isn’t the front runner and winning as a Democrat in a red year and a red state would be a tall order indeed. This race is currently Likely Republican.

House:

GA-1: With Rep. Jack Kingston (R) trying to move on up to the Senate, this open seat has attracted a multitude of Republicans. The four candidates to keep an eye on are: former Newt Gingrich aide John McCallum, surgeon and ex-Army Ranger Bob Johnson, former State Sen. Jeff Chapman, and current State Sen. Earl “Buddy” Carter. In terms of fundraising McCallum, Johnson, and Carter are in the top tier, but Chapman has the endorsement of Georgia Right to Life (although this group has some baggage to deal with).  Regardless of who wins, this is a heavily GOP district and therefore this race is Safe Republican.  

GA-10: There are lots of Republicans fighting over the seat vacated Rep. Paul Broun (R) as he makes his bid for Senate. We have State Rep. Donna Sheldon, businessman Mike Collins, radio host Jody Hice, and former Army officer Stephen Simpson. No one has really raised a lot of money this cycle and its hard to see who has the advantage for the nomination. But whoever the GOP nominates, this seat is Safe Republican.

GA-11: The last of the seats left vacant by the trio of GOP representatives running for Senate is the one currently held by Rep. Phil Gingrey. The most likely man to replace him is 2008 Libertarian Party presidential nominee and former Rep. Bob Barr. This is one of the few House races with polling and while surveys show most voters a still undecided, Bob Barr is at the top the pack and that combined with his fundraising lead makes him the man to beat in the May 20th primary. He is joined in the race by State Sen. Barry Loudermilk, businesswoman Tricia Pridemore, Georgia House Republican Whip Ed Lindsey, and Allan Levene (who is also running in Hawaii’s 1st, Minnesota’s 6th and Michigan’s 14th Congressional Districts). As with the other open seats, this race is Safe Republican.

GA-12: Rep. John Barrow (D) occupies one of the most conservative districts currently held a Democrat, meaning that he’s a prime target for the GOP this election cycle.  The two main Republicans looking to challenge him are businessmen Eugene Yu and Rick Allen, with both raising hundreds of thousands of dollars so far. That being said, neither of them have much political experience and it will take some skill to unseat a 10-year veteran like Barrow. Until there’s more of an indication of the caliber of the GOP nominee, this race Leans Democrat.

 

2014 Election Preview: California

At the statewide level, the Democrats have a pretty solid advantage in the Golden State. However, there are a bunch of interesting House races to watch and California could have a major impact on the net gain that Republicans see in their majority. A good night for the GOP in California is a good night across the country.

Governor: Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has had a career in politics that has spanned five decades and he doesn’t want it to end any time soon. The good news for Brown is that it doesn’t look like he has any challengers capable of stopping his quest for a record 4th term in office. His nearest opponent, State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, trails him by 37 percentage points in polls for California’s June 3rd “jungle” primary. California has a system in which all candidates are on the same primary ballot (regardless of party), with the top two candidates advance to the November election. This shouldn’t factor too much in this race, but it is possible for another Democrat candidate to place second and cause two Democrats to appear on the November ballot. Either way, it looks like California will have Jerry Brown to kick around for a little while longer and this race is Safe Democrat.

House:

CA-3: Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue is running against incumbent Rep. John Garamendi (D) in this mildly Democratic district. Logue is facing long odds, but he picked a good environment and he has kept up with Garamendi in the fundraising department. Logue can win this, but he has to run a near flawless campaign because this race is Likely Democrat.

CA-7: Rep. Ami Bera (D) is in one of the most swingiest districts in the country, a district that mirrored the nation in its vote percentages in the 2012 presidential election. Bera himself only won his race by 3 percentage points and he now faces a much worse environment than he did two years ago. There are three Republicans running against him: former Rep. Doug Ose, 2012 Senate nominee Elizabeth Emken, and former congressional aide Igor Birman. Ose is the clear establishment favorite and he’s dominated in fundraising, but Birman has support from outside conservative groups like FreedomWorks and he’s seen as the darling of the grassroots. Ose has the best chance of winning, but this race Leans Democrat until we know the outcome of the June 3rd primary.

CA-10: By all measures, Democrat beekeeper Michael Eggman is a decent candidate. He’s charming, an entrepreneur, has a decent website, and he’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars thus far. The downside is that he picked one of the worst years to run as a Democrat and he faces an incumbent with a 1.3 million dollar war chest in Rep. Jeff Denham (R). There is no reason to believe that Denham is in danger of losing his seat, but if he implodes or the national environment changes dramatically, the Democrats will be prepared to strike. Right now, this race is Likely Republican.

CA-21: Rep. David Valadao (R) did phenomenally in 2012 in a Democratic year in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. This year, he faces a strong challenge from Amanda Renteria, a former Chief of Staff for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D). She’s a compelling candidate with a decent fundraising haul and if this were any other year Valadao would have good reason to worry. But this year isn’t just any other year and Valadao has some strong tailwinds that should keep him afloat come November. If he could pull off a strong victory in 2012, he should have no problem in 2014. So unless things take a dramatic turn for the worse, this race is Likely Republican.

CA-25: This is a Republican held open seat and the GOP looks likely to retain it come November. The GOP front runner is former State Sen. Tony Strickland, who narrowly lost in the neighboring 26th district two years ago. Meanwhile, it looks likely the Democrats are going to try their luck again with their 2012 nominee Lee Rogers, a podiatrist who got 45% of the vote back in 2012. This time Rogers isn’t facing an incumbent, but he won’t have the favorable conditions of 2012 either. Overall, Rogers will have to run a perfect campaign to have a chance at winning in November and we rate this seat Likely Republican.

CA-26: This is a long shot for the GOP, but they have a decent candidate in State Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, a charismatic moderate who fits the bill for the liberal leaning district. He’ll have to face Rep. Julia Brownley (D), who only won in 2012 by 5% in a district that gave President Obama 54% of the vote. We’ll have to wait and see how this race develops, but for now it is Likely Democratic.

CA-31: Here we have another GOP retirement, but this time the picture is a bit rosier for the Democrats. Rep. Gary Miller’s (R) decision to end his 15-year career in the House of Representatives has set off a fight on both sides to replace him. For the Republicans the battle is between former Miller aide Lesli Gooch and and businessman Paul Chabot, a fight that has devolved into personal attacks and calls for the other candidate to drop out of the race. Meanwhile on the Democratic side we have Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, former Rep. Joe Baca, and Colton attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes as contenders. Reyes and Aguilar are near the top when it comes to fundraising, with Baca lagging behind even with the advantage of being a former congressman. Given that this district gave 57% of its vote to President Obama in 2012, race starts off with a rating of Likely Democratic.

CA-36: In 2012, Democrat Raul Ruiz defeated incumbent Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) by 5 percentage points as Obama carried the district by 3 percentage points. In 2014 Republicans look to return the favor and they are fielding two candidates who can do just that: State Assemblyman Brian Nestande and former state legislator Roy Hanes. Nestande is currently the favorite, but Hanes is a seasoned politician and there’s no doubt he can make this an interesting race. This district is a bit more Republican than the country as a whole and if Republicans have a good night in November this will be a seat to watch, but right now this race Leans Democratic.

CA-52: As with the situation in the 36th district, here we have a Democratic incumbent who narrowly beat a GOP incumbent in 2012 running in a centrist district. This time, it’s Rep. Scott Peters who is trying for another term while the Republicans are left to decide between former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio, former Marine Corps Office Kirk Jorgensen, and Dr. Fred Simon. DeMaio is the favorite to advance to the November election and he’s raised more than $1 million so far in the cycle, almost as much as the incumbent. As a side note, DeMaio is openly gay and it will be interesting to see how he squares that with the rest of the Republican Party. This race Leans Democrat, but you definitely want to keep an eye on California’s 52nd district.

2014 Election Preview: Nebraska

As it is for red states across the country, the theme in the Cornhusker State is the battle between the outsiders and the insiders in the Republican party. In both the Senate and Governor’s races, Nebraskan Republicans hold the decided advantage and therefore conservative issues and rivalries will play an outsized role in choosing who will occupy these offices come 2015. Here’s the situation:

Governor: Incumbent Republican Gov. Dave Heineman is term limited and there’s quite a few people running on the GOP side to replace him. The obvious front-runner is Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning. Of course, he was also the favorite in the 2012 Senate race and he ended up losing the primary to State Senator and now US Senator Deb Fischer (R). An opponent who could pull off a similar upset is former TD Ameritrade COO Pete Ricketts, who has support from outside GOP heavyweights like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. While there are a few other candidates running (most notably Auditor Mike Foley), it seems like Ricketts has established himself as the anti-establishment candidate. And though polls currently show Bruning in the lead, it is likely that Ricketts will gain ground as he racks up conservative endorsements. As for the Democrats, they’re stuck with Chuck Hassebrook, the executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs and a former University of Nebraska Regent. Given the state and the political climate, it would really take an idiot for the Republicans to loose this governorship, so this race is Safe Republican.

Senate: Senator Mike Johanns (R) is retiring and there are four GOPers vying for the opportunity to succeed him. The main candidates are former Nebraska Treasurer Shane Osborn, Midland University President Ben Sasse, Pinnacle Bank President Sid Dinsdale, and attorney Bart McLeay. Right now, it looks like a two man race between Osborn, the establishment candidate, and Sasse, the grassroots favorite. Polls currently show Osborn with a decent lead but Sasse has been gaining ground over the past few months and he has won key endorsements from Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, radio host Mark Levin, the Club for Growth, and FreedomWorks. Meanwhile, Osborn has been shoring up his in-state support and he has received endorsements from many state senators and as well as conservative activists like Steve Forbes and Phyllis Schlafy. Meanwhile, the Democrats are stuck with a few no-names and it doesn’t appear that they are making a serious effort to take this seat. So regardless of who wins the GOP primary, this race is Safe Republican.

2014 Election Preview: Arkansas

Arkansas is the land of the Clintons and for years Democrats have dominated both in the United States Congress and the state capital of Little Rock. However, the long-term trend in the Natural State, as with the rest of the South, has been decisively towards the GOP. Before the 2010 election Democrats held both houses of the Arkansas state legislature, both Senate seats, and 75% of the House seats. Since then they are down to one Senator, zero houses of state legislature, and zero seats in the House of Representatives. This year the GOP has the chance to complete its sweep as it contests both the final Arkansas Democrat in the US Senate and the governorship.

Governor: Popular Democratic Governor Mike Bebee is term limited and there’s a barn-burner of a race to replace him. The Democrats look set to nominate former Rep. Mike Ross to be their nominee while the former head of the DEA and the 2006 gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson is the front runner on the Republican side. Hutchinson lost badly to Bebee back in 2006, but this is a very different environment and this time he won’t have to run against an incumbent. Polls have Ross and Hutchinson in a dead-heat and right now this race is a Toss-Up.

Senate: Despite being the son of a popular Senator and Governor, current Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor is a Democrat in a deep red state during a bad time to be a Democrat and bottom line: he’s in trouble. The Republicans have recruited a top-notch candidate in Rep. Tom Cotton, an Iraq War veteran and a competent politician to boot. Polls have shown Pryor struggling to break out of the low forties and he’s currently treading water in a swim-or-die campaign while Cotton has the wind at his sails. And while Pryor has the fundraising advantage, Cotton can rely on groups like Americans for Prosperity bring in the heavy artillery in the form of TV ads and voter mobilization. Given all these factors, this race can be rated as Leans Republican.

House:

AR-02: Two-term Rep. Tim Griffin (R) is retiring and there is a trio of Republicans looking to succeed him. State Rep. Anne Clemmer is the only elected official in the race and she’s joined by former Bush aide French Hill and Colonel Conrad Reynolds. The only Democrat in the race is former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, who’s running as a conservative Democrat (as he has to in order to have a chance at winning this red district). If Clemmer or Hill wins the GOP primary, then this race looks pretty safe for the Republicans. But Colonel Reynolds is a bit of a wildcard (I don’t ever recall seeing a candidate emphasize his military rank as much as he does) and it is possible he could blow this one. But for now, this race is Likely Republican.

AR-04: This seat is being vacated by Rep. Tom Cotton as he makes a run for the US Senate. The GOP primary field is split between the establishment candidate, Arkansas House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, and outsider businessman Tommy Moll. Meanwhile, the Democrats have former FEMA Director James Lee Witt who, like his counterpart in the 2nd District, is running as a conservative Democrat in hostile territory. If Westerman gets the nod this race is all but over, but even an unproven candidate like Moll would be the favorite to win in November. This race is Likely Republican.

2014 Election Preview: Mississippi

The big theme for 2014 in the Magnolia State is the battle between the conservative grassroots and the the establishment of the Republican Party. And in a bastion of conservatism like Mississippi, that’s where the Tea Party has its best chance to get its people into office.

Senate: Incumbent Senator Thad Cochran (R) has been in the office for more than 35 year, but hasn’t stopped State Senator Chris McDaniel from launching a primary challenge from the right. And as we learned from 2010 (remember Bob Bennett?) and 2012 (remember Dick Lugar?). the advantage of incumbency does not ensure immunity from the ire of the conservative base of the Republican Party. That being said, Cochran is a in a decent position for 2014 and he has the strong backing of the Mississippi political establishment, including former Governor Haley Barbour. The most recent polling has him well ahead of McDaniel and right now, Cochran is still the favorite for reelection.  But as a word of caution, primary day is still almost three months away and if organizations like the Senate Conservatives Fund flood the state with outside cash, then it could pose problems for Cochran. But no matter who wins the Republican primary, the GOP is expected to retain this seat in the reddest of red states. This race is Safe Republican.

House:

MS-04: Rep. Steven Palazzo (R) is on the conservative Club for Growth’s hit list that targets what it calls RINOs (Republicans in Name Only). But his main challenger, the bow-tied Tavish Kelly, has been outraised by Palazzo by almost 50 to 1 so far this cycle and it doesn’t look like he’s going to be much of a threat. Another candidate running in the GOP primary is former Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor, someone who is not likely to get the endorsements of conservative groups any time soon. All in all, it is hard to see anyone beating Palazzo this year and even if someone does, the GOP has a lock on this seat. This race is Safe Republican.

 

Illinois Primary Wrap-Up

Tuesday was the Illinois primary election and the results were as follows:

Governor: The Illinois GOP selected businessman Bruce Rauner to be their nominee in this year’s governor’s race. Polls had him with a lead in the double digits going into the primary, but he was only able to narrowly avoid an upset by winning 40% of the vote compared to 37% for his nearest rival, Kirk Dillard. This may partly be due to heavy spending against Rauner,to the tune of $3 million, by unions who fear that he might become the next Scott Walker. This race currently Leans Republican, but we’ll have to wait and see what damage the unions can do to Rauner between now and election day.

Senate: Republican State Sen. Jim Oberweis defeated businessman Doug Truax to win the right to challenge Sen. Dick Durbin for his seat in the US Senate. Oberweis has globs of money to spend and while he remains the big underdog, I wouldn’t underestimate his ability to get under Durbin’s skin and put a scare into the Democrats. With the Senate picture as bleak as it is, the last thing the Democrats want is to have to spend money for what is supposed to be a safe seat. That being said, it is hard to see how Durbin actually loses reelection and this race is currently Safe Democrat.

House:

IL-08: Veteran Larry Kaifesh easily won the March 18th primary fight against and will face freshman Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D), a fellow veteran. The race was previously rated Likely Democrat, but with with a GOP nominee selected, we can make a better guess as to the outcome of this race. Kaifesh had cash trouble during the primary, with his opponent raising almost twice as he did. In addition, his website looks like something out the 1990s and uses phrases like “conservative values” in a D+8 district. Thus, we change this race to Safe Democrat

IL-10: There was no competitive primary in this district, leaving former Rep. Bob Dold (R) as the challenger against current Rep. Brad Schneider (D). Nothing has changed since our last analysis and this race remains a Toss-Up.

IL-11: State Rep. Darlene Senger is the Republican nominee against Rep. Bill Foster (D) in this D+8 district. It is a long shot by any means and Senger will have to step up her game if she wants to be competitive, particularly when it comes to fundraising. Until that happens, this race is Likely Democrat.

IL-12: Illinois’s 12th District, which split its vote in the 2012 presidential election, is one of the most competitive in the nation and it is currently represented by Democrat Bill Enyart. The question is whether the Republicans have a candidate that can win it. The candidate they do have, State Rep. Mike Bost (R), has electoral experience and has proven to be an adequate cash collector. Meanwhile, Enyart has shown some really weak fundraising numbers this election cycle and if Bost runs a well-organized campaign, he will be in pretty good shape by November. We’re moving this race from Likely Democrat to Leans Democrat.

IL-13: To the dismay of Democrats, Rep. Rodney Davis (R) beat a primary challenge from former Miss America Erika Harold to win renomination for his seat. However, they also got some good news in that their  preferred candidate, former Madison County Judge Anne Callis, emerged from the Democratic primary. We originally rated this race as Leans Republican in light of the possibility of Davis losing the primary, but now that he has emerged victorious his hold on the seat looks a bit sturdier. That being said, we’re going to give this race a bit more time before officially moving it to safer ground and so it remains Leans Republican.

IL-17: Another non-competitive primary and another Republican former congressman trying to regain his seat. Former Rep. Bob Shilling (R) is looking to avenge his 2012 loss to Rep. Cheri Bustos (D) and he couldn’t have picked a better year to do it. That being said, this is a D+7 district and Bustos is out-fundraising more than 4 to 1. This race may get closer as we approach November, but we’re moving this race to Likely Democrat until Shilling shows that he can bring in the money he will need in order to win.