Control of the Senate Ebbs Further Away from Republican's Grasp
What's Happening: Election Day is still five months away, but recent polls, fundraising deficits and other problems for Republican incumbents suggest their prospects have diminished and opened up several possible avenues for Democrats to take control of the chamber.
For starters, Republicans are facing a math problem. The 2020 Senate election will have the GOP defending 23 seats, while the Democrats will only need to guard 12. Republicans currently hold a 53-47 advantage, meaning Senate Democrats would need a net gain of four seats to ensure control of the chamber. That equation changes if they manage to take the White House. Should former Vice President Joe Biden become president, his vice president would be able to cast the deciding vote in a 50-50 Senate.
At a minimum, Democratic National Convention (DNC) insiders are extremely confident they can prevail against Republicans in Senate races in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina. All four races are rated as “toss up” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which currently lists no races with a sitting Democrat in the same column.
That said, Democrats also largely expect Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), who won in a special election in 2017 against Roy Moore, to lose his seat.
Further afield, Democrats believe they can be competitive in Montana, Iowa and at least one Georgia seat, all currently held by Republicans. In the Peach State, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) continues to face questions about why she sold millions of dollars in stock in January and February — just before the stock market crashed due to COVID-19. She is also facing an internal battle from fellow Republican Rep. Doug Collins.
Montana Democrats, meanwhile, are hopeful that Gov. Steve Bullock, a popular figure in the state, will knock off incumbent Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT). A Montana University poll from early May had Bullock leading Daines by seven points.
And in Iowa, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) has watched her approval ratings and polling decline in recent months and is now virtually deadlocked with Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield, who has also proven to be a prodigious fundraiser with the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
To Stick or Twist: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), one of the most endangered Senate Republicans this election cycle, has been keeping her distance from President Donald Trump, whose unpopularity in Maine has pulled down her own standing as she attempts to secure a fifth consecutive term.
It was perhaps of little surprise then that when President Trump decided to visit one of Maine's least populous towns and its most conservative county last week to tour a factory producing medical swabs for coronavirus testing, Collins wasn't in attendance.
While the decision to not attend was made before the uproar over the president's handling of the protests, it didn't come without scrutiny. Collins' centrist reputation has long carried her to resounding re-election victories even in years when Republican presidential candidates have lost. But Trump's presidency, along with controversial votes that Collins has made in support of his agenda has really threatened that brand.
Liberal outside groups have repeatedly blasted her for her votes for the 2017 GOP tax law, as well as her vote to confirm US Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh. And her decision to not vocally support the president's re-election has seen the Maine Democratic Party recently roll out a new website documenting what it said is her record of dodging the question for months.
Her silence, therefore, continues to draw speculation as other self-identified moderates, including longtime ally Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have gone further in their criticism of Trump's conduct.
Murkowski who along with Collins is considered one of the most moderate Senate Republicans, has said she's struggling with whether to back Trump’s re-election bid and has gone as far as to say that former Defense Secretary James Mattis’ criticism of the president’s handling of protests were “necessary and overdue.”
Wisdom of the Crowd: With so much ground to defend and the current political environment boding ill toward Republican's controlling the chamber, it is no real surprise to see the odds for which party will control the Senatefavoring a Democratic outcome this fall.
The Democratic contract in this market is up 7¢ to 57¢ since June 1 while the Republican contract is down 8¢ to 44¢.
-- Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) seems to be rising in the Biden veepstakes.
-- Late Wednesday, Jon Ossoff (D) apparently captured the Democratic nomination to face Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), thus avoiding a runoff.
-- Primaries in South Carolina and West Virginia saw protest voting in some key races.
Veepstakes and primaries
-- Thanks to everyone who reacted to last week’s breakdown of Joe Biden’s vice presidential options. After seeing your comments and following subsequent veepstakes developments over the weekend and earlier this week, it seems clear we did not include at least one prime contender: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D). It is pretty obvious that she is emerging as a prime candidate to be selected, even though she lacks the formal, high-level elected experience that vice presidential nominees almost always possess (she’s never served in Congress or as a state governor). That said, she has earned a much higher profile in the midst of the ongoing national protests over police brutality, and some plugged-in people view her as a top contender for the VP slot. She will almost certainly be included in our next list of contenders, along with former national security adviser Susan Rice (D).
-- In our vice presidential breakdown last week, we noted that all but two of the nation’s major party vice presidential candidates have been women and that all of them have been white. However, there’s a possible exception to that latter statement that merits mentioning: Charles Curtis (R), who served as Herbert Hoover’s vice president from 1929-1933, was one-eighth Native American. Prior to becoming vice president, Curtis served as Senate majority leader, and he used to tell audiences that he was “one-eighth Kaw Indian and a one hundred percent Republican.”
-- Five states -- Georgia, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, and West Virginia -- held primaries on Tuesday night. We have a few observations about the Georgia, South Carolina, and West Virginia results.
-- Votes are still being tallied in Georgia, where huge lines provided what we hope is not a grim preview of November. Jon Ossoff (D), best known for narrowly losing a special House election in GA-6 in 2017, inched over the 50% line Wednesday afternoon in later-counted ballots and has apparently secured the right to face Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), based on race projections by Decision Desk HQ and the Associated Press.
-- In South Carolina, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was renominated with just over two-thirds of the vote against a field of lesser-known challengers. When Graham was last up, in 2014, he won his primary with an underwhelming 56% against a similarly fractured field. As the Crystal Ball noted in a previous edition, Graham has embraced Trump tightly over the past few years, and that seems to have played dividends with GOP primary voters. As Map 1 shows, Graham lost votes in an interesting place: despite his rightward track, he struggled most with voters in the socially conservative Greenville-Spartanburg area, in Upstate South Carolina.
Map 1: 2020 South Carolina Republican Senate primary
Graham ran somewhat behind his statewide total in the suburbs of Charleston, Columbia, and Charlotte, but not to the extent of Upstate. One reason for this may be that white suburbanites in the larger metros are voting less frequently in Republican primaries. Looking to the fall, Democrats have a well-funded candidate, former state party chairman Jaime Harrison, but it's a race the Crystal Ball rates as Likely Republican. In the state's only competitive House seat, the Charleston-centric SC-1, Republicans caught a break when state Rep. Nancy Mace, a candidate backed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R, CA-23), won her primary outright, with nearly 60%. Mace may have unique local appeal, as the first woman to graduate from The Citadel -- something that she's emphasized on the campaign trail. Mace did not make much of an impact, though, as part of a crowded group of primary challengers to Graham back in 2014. Freshman Rep. Joe Cunningham (D, SC-1) was one of 2018's surprise winners in this blue-trending seat. Still, SC-1 supported Trump by 13% in 2016, so Cunningham will likely need to retain healthy crossover support in this Toss-up race.
-- West Virginia is a curious state in that Democrats still hold a registration edge in the state -- although that edge is fast-dwindling -- even as the state has become one of the most Republican states in the country at the presidential level. Because there are many conservative Democrats who still vote in Democratic primaries, the protest vote can be interesting to watch. Joe Biden received about 65% of the vote in the West Virginia primary. That’s not a bad showing considering that eight years ago, Barack Obama only got 59% as the sitting president against a challenger who was a federal inmate. On the other hand, the results provided some reminders of how far the Democratic brand in West Virginia has fallen.
In WV-3, the congressional district covering the state’s southern coal country, David Rice (D) -- the only one of the 12 Democratic candidates on the presidential ballot who was not a national candidate, meaning that we can interpret votes for him as a pure protest vote -- almost finished second behind Bernie Sanders, according to Decision Desk HQ’s vote count. In Mingo County, Biden only got 41% of the vote, while Rice got about 20%; additionally, there was a significant presidential undervote, with about 2,960 votes cast in the Democratic gubernatorial primary to just about 2,220 in the presidential primary. In 1996, Mingo County voted for Bill Clinton by 49 points; by 2016, it was voting for Donald Trump by 69 points. Needless to say, this is probably the last thing we’ll need to say about West Virginia’s presidential voting this year; in the governor’s race, Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) easily won the GOP nomination (he was first elected as a Democrat in 2016 before switching parties). He’ll face Kanawha County (Charleston) County Commissioner Ben Salango (D) in a gubernatorial race we rate as Likely Republican.
By Gerald Pomper Guest Columnist, Sabato's Crystal Ball
KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE
-- Election landslides can sometimes look like policy mandates for the winners.
-- But landslides have become rare in presidential elections since 1960.
-- The legitimacy of U.S. elections might benefit from a new landslide in 2020.
Could 2020 be a landslide?
As we approach the culmination of the critical election of 2020, we might get useful perspective by looking at past presidential elections. Begin with a simple question: Why do we care about elections? Alexis de Tocqueville, the great early analyst of American life, was astonished at the tumult of our political contests: “Factional ardor is redoubled, and all the artificial passions which the imagination can create in a happy and peaceful land are agitated and brought to light…[W]ho can refrain from astonishment that such a storm could have arisen?”
An easy answer would be that elections create the future of the country, as the electorate determines the policy choices of the nation. But decades of studies of voting have demonstrated that policy decisions are only one, and often only a minor, consideration in voters’ minds. Indeed, much research presents considerable evidence that the electorate is uninterested, perhaps incapable, of making specific policy choices.
But elections are different from a summation of the actions and motivations of individual voters. Elections are collective acts that have consequences. Whatever the character of the electorate, we can begin with the most obvious effect of elections. Even if voters don’t care about policy, their votes are the means by which the nation chooses its leaders for the next two to four years. At the least, these choices vaguely endorse the present directions of government (“Stay the Course”) or envisage ambiguous new policies (“Time for a Change”). More ambitiously, depending on the alternatives presented by candidates, elections may imply or command specific programs.
Ballots are the language of democratic government. The vocabulary of this language may comprise only two words, “Yes” and “No,” and even these monosyllables may be mumbled in the dialogue between voters and leaders. But the dictionary of this language can expand as leaders speak and voters respond to additional words, still vague but more evocative, such as “A New Deal for the American People” or “Morning Again in America.” And sometimes leaders can enlarge the political thesaurus -- as did Lyndon Johnson in 1964 -- and "ask the American people for a mandate--not to preside over a finished program -- not just to keep things going, I ask the American people for a mandate to begin."
There are some interesting lessons to be gained from our recent national contests. The focus here will be on landslide, one-sided elections, and the possibility of electoral mandates. Let’s look at the historical record, going back a century, to the 25 elections beginning in 1920. (See Table 1)
Table 1: Electoral vote allocation in presidential elections, 1920-2016
Note: Votes by individual "faithless electors" are attributed to popular winner of state.
In the first 10 elections in this set (1920-1956), there were five Democratic and five Republican victories. The parties rotated wins by large margins overall, the average number of electoral votes won was 431 out of a constant base of 531, the average margin of victory was 336 electoral votes, and the cumulative electoral votes for Republicans and Democrats were similar. This period includes only one close election, that of Truman in 1948. Landslides of over 400 electoral votes were achieved by unspectacular candidates such as Warren Harding and Herbert Hoover, as well as the imposing figures of Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower -- and even Calvin Coolidge came close in 1924.
In the last 10 elections (1980 to 2016), in contrast, winning candidates have achieved an average of only 375 tallies on an enlarged base of 538 (now including Alaska, Hawaii, and District of Columbia), and the average margin has shrunk more than a third, to 212. Republicans have won six of 10 elections, and achieved a clear predominance of electoral votes. Yet the GOP has lacked popular vote pluralities in two of these elections.
The last five winners have done even worse, barely squeezing into office, winning an average of only 312 electoral votes. These small victories still had large consequences, as Donald Trump exemplifies, but any claims to a popular mandate are illusory.
The same declines in electoral support are evident in the popular vote. In the earlier period, the median vote for the presidential winner was 56.2% of the overall national vote, a solid endorsement and only one of the 10 winners failed to get a national majority. Even that exception, Truman in 1948 at 49.6%, came within a rounding count of half the country’s support.
Popular endorsement declined considerably in a transitional period, (1960-1976), when three of five winners -- Kennedy, Nixon in 1968, and Carter -- lacked a convincing national majority. Then, in the 10 recent contests, the median winning percentage fell to only 50.7%, a thin margin. Moreover, four of 10 winners fell short of a national majority, and three others -- Reagan in his first term, Bush and Obama in their second terms -- barely scraped above half the national total. The absence of clear popular support has now become accepted as a structural condition of presidential elections. Trump not only won in 2016 while gaining only 46% of the national vote; he also now makes that standard a basic part of his re-election strategy (as reported in the New York Times).
These patterns are not important because of statistical differences. Their significance may be an unnoticed, but important change in the legitimacy of presidential elections in the absence of policy mandates. The pattern of the earlier period advantaged the winning party and candidate in subsequent policy disputes. They had the rhetorical wind to their backs by virtue of the solid endorsement of the electorate in their landslide margins. Moreover, being large, these victories were essentially immunized against charges of election fraud or maladministration. Their electoral success also gave them the power to set the governmental agenda. Even if the winners had only a thin program -- such as Harding’s “normalcy” or FDR’s hopeful but vague promise of “a New Deal,” they could at least say that they had won some sort of clear and clean “mandate” because of their avalanche of votes. They could act, undergirded by the premise that they had democratic sanction for their actions.
But these mandates also were limited because the voters were ready to switch to the opposition, giving it, in turn, a different landslide victory. Again, the opposition might not have a specific program at hand, but at least the parties would worry that voter sentiment might decide it was “time for a change,” and therefore would pay attention to the electorate’s passing fancies, i.e. heed the popular will.
Harding, for example, relied on this democratic premise in his inaugural address. Renouncing any American involvement in the League of Nations, he invoked the presumed mandate in the election of 1920: “We turned to a referendum, to the American people. There was ample discussion, and there is a public mandate in manifest understanding, intelligent, dependable popular will of America.” A dozen years later, Franklin Roosevelt would also invoke a popular call for a very different program: “The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action…. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.”
Politicians often regard their victories as a “mandate” for their pet programs. Landslide victories particularly are treasured for such enablement. But the reams of data on voters’ views do not consistently support these claims. Academic studies of public opinion see the mass electorate as often confused about policies, wavering in its sentiments, and superficial in its judgments.
Yet voting is still important and potentially beneficial, if we recognize the important difference between “public opinion,” which is often no more than individuals’ transient views about distant matters, and “electoral opinion,” which is the judgment that politicians must consider, because their jobs depend on paying attention. As political scientist Stanley Kelley acutely wrote, “Among the institutions of democratic states it is elections that give political leaders the most direct and obvious incentive to take note of the wishes and views of ordinary people.” A landslide is an electoral reality, but the meaning of the landslide is not obvious or certain. Nevertheless, the landslide’s redefinition as a mandate does promote the core democratic principle -- that government rests on the consent of the governed; that political reality tells candidates that they should pay attention to these voters.
Contrast this relationship of voters and parties in the more current period. With narrower margins between Republicans and Democrats, even winning politicians cannot claim much of a mandate, while losers become more tempted to dispute the meaning, legitimacy, and even the accuracy of ballot tallies. What plausible mandate could Clinton claim with 43% of the popular vote in 1992, George W. Bush with a margin of two electoral votes in 2000, or Donald Trump with a deficit close to three million popular votes in 2016? As politicians are less empowered to attempt solutions, the overall political system becomes more prone to deadlock, and less equipped to solve problems. The voters may still be ready to switch the party in power, but may be more likely to become enraged at ever-futile responses from government. It is probably, therefore, no surprise, that trust in government has declined substantially since the 1970s, the same period in which landslide elections have been less frequent.
In earlier periods, landslide elections fostered legitimacy and the claim to popular mandates. In our current politics, elections evidence division, opposing directions in the vote, and partisan polarization and conflict. In this system of conflictual politics, the dialogue of democracy has become an indecipherable babble of loud and contradictory voices. Perhaps the election of 2020 will bring the United States the old boon of a landslide election.
Gerald Pomper is retired as Board of Governors Professor of Political Science (Emeritus) at Rutgers University and its Eagleton Institute of Politics. He is the author or editor of 21 books on American politics; the most recent is The New York Times on Critical U.S. Elections.
By Jacob P. Hornstein Guest Columnist, Sabato's Crystal Ball
KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE
-- Demographic changes in Kansas have caused the state to trend leftwards, as Republicans’ hold on the state’s metro areas has waned.
-- It remains to be seen whether these trends have moved the state into a position where Democratic candidates can be competitive at the federal level.
-- Democrats may have an opening with this year’s Senate race, but the crucial voters they need to win may not be where many think they are.
-- In a close election, regional turnout patterns could be the deciding factor.
Suburban trends illustrate new alliances in Kansas
Between the 2004 and 2016 presidential elections, white voters who don’t have a four-year college degree swung to the right across the country, while white voters with a college degree swung to the left. For a state like Kansas, ranked by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey as the 16th most college-educated state in the country, trends like these would seem to suggest it has the potential to become a swing state. Although popular stereotypes paint a picture of a sparsely-populated rural state, increased urbanization in recent decades has led to the growth of major suburbs and dense cities such as Wichita and the Kansas City metro.
Despite its red lean in presidential races, Kansans have been open to voting for Democratic governors. Both the 2002 and 2018 cycles saw open-seat contests where Democratic candidates won hotly-contested races. In 2002, then-state Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius (D) won the gubernatorial race 53%-45%. Sixteen years later, voters elevated state Sen. Laura Kelly (D) to the governorship, 48%-43%. Despite the similar margins in both the 2002 and 2018 gubernatorial elections, all but four counties swung right during that time period, as Democratic support urbanized: Johnson County, in the Kansas City suburbs; Riley County, home to Kansas State University; Douglas County, home to the city of Lawrence and the University of Kansas; and Sedgwick County, home to Wichita. (Map 1)
Map 1: Change in Kansas gubernatorial races, 2002-2018
Johnson County, which falls on the Kansas-Missouri border, perhaps best exemplifies this trend. In 2002, Sebelius won without it -- by 2018, it gave Kelly a whopping 55%-38% margin.
Going back further, some demographic changes may inform that swing.
In 1950, Johnson County was home to just 60,000 residents; today it has grown to more than 600,000 and is the most populous county in the state. It hasn’t reported less than 10% decennial growth in the census since 1920, and has a median income of more than $80,000. Unfortunately for Republicans, it is only getting bluer, as it switched from voting for Mitt Romney by 17 percentage points in 2012 to voting for Donald Trump by just three points in 2016. Given these trends, it wouldn’t be surprising if the county supports presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the fall.
Still, just as the Republican Party is losing college-educated voters overall, it is gaining non-college educated ones -- and for a state where 20% of residents live in Johnson County, and an additional 24% live in the other three counties noted above as shifting toward the Democrats recently, that’s an important distinction. Although the state did trend leftwards between 2012 and 2016 -- moving from 26 points to the right of the national vote to slightly less than 22 points more rightward -- the state remains solidly red, and the Crystal Ball rates it as Safe Republican in the Electoral College.
A 2018 glimmer -- with a 2020 chance as well?
In the early 2000s, Kansas was a red state, but one where Democrats held some key offices. In 1998, Democrats captured the red-leaning 3rd District with Blue Dog Dennis Moore (D, KS-3). As it does today, KS-3 included all of Johnson County -- a reliable GOP bastion, at the time. With the election of Kathleen Sebelius in the 2002 gubernatorial race, the Kansas Democratic Party could claim to be a credible political organization, capable of both regular wins and off-year pickups such as the election of Nancy Boyda (D) in the even further red-leaning KS-2. In 2010, though, the Republican wave that swept across the country also rolled across the Kansas plains. The GOP picked up the governorship with then-Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), after Sebelius -- who would have been term-limited anyway -- joined the Obama administration. Despite a string of close races early in his career, Moore had begun to lock down his district by 2004. When he retired in 2010, though, the district reverted into GOP hands. By 2011, Republicans controlled every facet of Kansas state government. In 2014, Republicans, despite Brownback’s sagging approvals and legislative infighting, retained their hold on all statewide and federal offices.
In 2018, however, the Kansas Democratic Party at last saw some revitalization. In the state House, Democrats picked up a dozen seats, especially in more urban parts of eastern Kansas, and came within one seat of breaking the Republican supermajority. Furthermore, Democrats also flipped KS-3 in a landslide: first-time candidate Sharice Davids (D) defeated incumbent GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder by nearly 10 percentage points. Of course, Democrats’ sweetest victory that year came in the gubernatorial race, as now-Gov. Laura Kelly defeated Kris Kobach -- at the time, the sitting Secretary of State with a knack for generating controversy -- by five percentage points, a decisive margin for this red state.
Looking ahead to Aug. 4, Kobach is running in this year’s Senate primary. The Crystal Ball rates the race as Likely Republican, though if Kobach wins the primary, a more competitive rating may be considered. Until then, Kansas Democrats look with anticipation on one of their first real chances to pick up a Senate seat in the state, which hasn’t sent a Democratic senator to Congress since the 1932 election. Let’s look at the three leading contenders:
Known for his hardline stances on some wedge issues, Kobach, an Ivy League-educated lawyer, has allied with organizations such as FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) to curtail immigration, going into the courts on multiple occasions to block illegal immigrants from receiving tuition and to support tough immigration laws, like Arizona’s SB 1070. As an unsuccessful congressional candidate in 2004, he called for the U.S. military to be sent to the Mexican border, and for the replacement of the federal income tax with a national sales tax. Initially elected as Secretary of State in 2010, his two terms were marked with controversy: he labeled the League of Women Voters a “communist” group and proposed tough new voter ID laws that critics called discriminatory. In the 2018 gubernatorial race, Kobach’s baggage, combined with Brownback’s poor image in the state, proved too much for voters.
Rep. Roger Marshall (R, KS-1) represents Kansas’s “Big First” district, which spans much of the state’s geographic area. KS-1 has served as a springboard for some of the state’s most prominent figures: both Kansas’ current senators represented it in the House before making the move up, and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS) is from the district. Marshall hails from the party’s establishment wing and was elected by defeating the more bombastic Rep. Tim Huelskamp in the 2016 primary -- Huelskamp was a vocal member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, and was known for agitating the GOP leadership. For Marshall, deserting his secure House seat was quite a gamble, and he remains the underdog to Kobach in the primary.
One of the biggest factors sustaining Marshall’s campaign is the *lack* of another candidate: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made repeated appeals to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to enter the race. Pompeo, who has a strong rapport with the president and local roots (before serving in the administration, he represented the Wichita-based KS-4), would have been a strong candidate. However, Pompeo seems uninterested in returning to the legislative branch, and the filing deadline, June 1, has passed. Days before the filing deadline, Marshall got a break when state Senate President Susan Wagle, another serious candidate, ended her campaign. As such, Marshall seems the most palatable option to Republicans who are wary of Kobach, although former Kansas City Chiefs player and businessman Dave Lindstrom could be a wild card and wealthy businessman Bob Hamilton, who has spent heavily on television advertisements,, could also draw away from Marshall’s base. Even while Pompeo's potential candidacy was looming, Marshall garnered some endorsements from establishment elements in his party -- Bob Dole, for instance, endorsed him in January.
State Sen. Barbara Bollier (D), who switched parties in 2018, is the almost certain Democratic nominee for the Senate race; she has support from national groups such as EMILY's List and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Originally a Republican, she accumulated a fairly liberal voting record -- she opposed Gov. Brownback’s signature tax cuts, supports Medicaid expansion, and is pro-choice on abortion -- so she fits in well across the aisle. All things considered, she’s a formidable candidate who has fundraised well. Still, some wonder whether a more conservative candidate -- such as former state House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D), who lost close races for governor in 2014 and for Kansas’s 2nd Congressional District in 2018 -- could have been a stronger opponent.
Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas (City) anymore
Much of the Kansas Democratic Party’s strategy in backing Bollier has been to focus on selecting a candidate who can appeal to voters in places like Johnson County and other affluent suburbs -- in an attempt to replicate the Kelly 2018 map against, potentially, the same opponent. But if that is their goal, that may very well be a mistake; it was rural voters, not suburban ones, that actually did the most to tank Kobach’s campaign for governor.
Kobach underperformed President Trump in each of Kansas’s four congressional districts, but his greatest underperformance was actually in the Big First, where he trailed the president by 31 points -- in a district that favored Trump by a three-to-one margin over Hillary Clinton, Kobach earned a bare-majority 51% share of the vote. By contrast, Bollier has relatively limited room for improvement in the suburban 3rd District, given that Kobach “only” did 18 points worse than Trump, as Map 2 shows.
Map 2: Kobach’s underperformance vs Trump
While much of Bollier’s appeal would seem to be with the kind of suburban voters she represented in the state Senate, she will need to do more to win statewide, especially (it would seem) in the western part of the state.
Perhaps the national Democrats are on the right track. After all, it would be logical to assume that a stronger suburban performance could override a weaker rural one -- this has been the tradeoff that Democrats have made in recent years, and it has generally seemed to work, especially in 2018. But with television advertising that already seems to be focusing on the (admittedly more densely populated) eastern part of the state, this could be an unrecognized error, especially considering turnout differentials.
Voter turnout shifts, 2016-2018
It’s a well-known phenomenon that voter turnout usually falls in midterms. In the 2010 and 2014 midterms, when Barack Obama was president and higher electoral enthusiasm tended to reside in the Republican corner, this resulted in increased relative turnout for Republican voters. In 2018, however, this trend was seemingly reversed, on both a national scale and in Kansas. Of the state’s four congressional districts, the three represented by Republicans (the 1st, 2nd, and 4th) all saw larger turnout decreases compared to the Democratic-won KS-3. In the 3rd District, turnout remained at 91.1% of 2016 levels vis-a-vis an average of 87.2% in Republican districts (Map 3).
Map 3: Kansas turnout change, 2016-2018
While the differences between the districts may seem marginal, it’s an important factor for Democratic and Republican strategists alike to consider heading into 2020. If the greatest number of Trump-Kelly voters are located in the western part of the state, and the greatest turnout increases (vs 2018) seem likely to emerge from there as well, does it not make sense for both parties to concentrate their advertising resources there? How will all these trends serve to affect existing state-federal polarization? Do these revelations add to the electability case for Marshall -- or should they serve to restore the confidence of Kobach-supporting conservatives?
There are no simple answers here, but regardless, it seems readily apparent that Kansas will be a race to watch for prognosticators and laymen alike in 2020, and beyond. The Washington Times provides a discourse on the challenges faced by President Trump with the following interesting headlines that the Trump Campaign and its' Surrogates would probably take issue with:
While the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress say further coronavirus relief spending is inevitable, a group of prominent conservatives is fighting to stop the money from flowing.
The group, led by Trump outside economic adviser Steve Moore, says that more federal spending would slow down the recovery by keeping people unemployed, would cause even more unsustainable levels of debt, and could result in a shift of employment from the private sector to the government.
White House allies believe Joe Biden could be laying the groundwork for a Stacey Abrams-style challenge to a Trump victory in November with his repeated claims that the president is preparing to steal the election.
In an interview with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, the presumptive Democratic nominee said he was worried Trump would refuse to leave the White House if he lost.
We have previously written of the need to be skeptical about polls at this stage of the presidential race. This need is underscored by an unprecedented combination of events creating more uncertainty than standard run-ups to November elections.
But the preponderance of recent grim poll findings for President Trump is a warning sign for him. If he cannot convince the public in the next five months that he can lead during a crisis, he is likely to lose.
The Trump campaign is frantically spending money to stave off plummeting poll numbers in a number of states the president carried in 2016, signaling trouble and a defensive posture in the months leading up to the general election.
In the past few weeks, the president's reelection team has spent more than $1 million on television ads in both Iowa and Ohio, two states he flipped from the Democrats in 2016 and where his margin of victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was more than 9 points. Voters in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Sioux City saw more than $400,000 in television ads, while those in Ohio are beginning to see a nearly $1 million ad campaign there.
A top health official in Oklahoma wants President Trump to push back his rally indefinitely over concerns that it could increase the number of coronavirus cases.
Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Bruce Dart told Tulsa World on Saturday that the city is experiencing a “significant increase in our case trends” that could be hazardous to rally attendees and the president.