Special Election Central

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In Georgia and Montana, the 2 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs with both the GOP and Democrats duking it out to maintain the current battle lines in the House.

After a bloody jungle primary where candidates on all sides pummeled each other with attack after attack on any number of topics, the field has narrowed to 2 candidates: Former Secretary of State Karen Handel (GOP), and businessman Jon Ossoff (Democratic). Now that we know the two final candidates, the race changes significantly.

Before, it was quite possible Ossoff could take over 50%, and walk away as winner. Now that the GOP has stopped that possibility, and has consolidated support behind Handel, the head to head matchup must favor Handel, however slightly.

Let’s look at the raw numbers. Ossoff and the other Democratic candidates totaled 93,911 votes, which totals to approximately 48.9 percent of total votes in the jungle race. The GOP received 98,173 votes, or 51.1 percent of the votes. The numbers show that this can be a very, very close race.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, demographics don’t play out in their favor. The 2017 Cook PVI for the district is R+8… and that’s after Trump took the district by 1 point… This puts significant pressure on the Democrats to ratchet up and invest in their get out the vote efforts. They will need to ensure every single Democratic voter goes to the polls if they want to remain competitive in the race.

Early voting will once again not be a great indicator of turnout and results, as it usually isn’t. Early voting almost always favors the Democrats, and will likely do so once more in this case. If you see the Democrats building a commanding lead in the early voting tallies, do not get too far ahead of yourself. The race will tighten back up.

Another thing to consider is money, and how consolidated the base of each candidate will be. For both candidates, fundraising is no issue. Both have raised millions of dollars since the jungle primary, and have millions of out of state dollars coming in through independent expenditures. However, a key to this race is whether Handel can consolidate Trump supporters. Luckily, the President has tweeted his support and is traveling to the district to help campaign for Handel. Conservatives will vote for Handel because they won’t want to see a Democrat candidate win this race one way or another. Continue watching for news on Handel’s efforts to ensure the GOP base is fully behind her.

On the other hand, a major key for Ossoff is ensuring Democratic energy remains as high, perhaps even higher than in the jungle primary. If they can turn out as many voters, or more than the jungle primary, they will have a decent shot of winning, but not a great shot. GOP voters do outnumber Democrat voters in the district.

Both candidates have their deep flaws though, which will likely cancel each other out along partisan lines. Handel is the definition of a career politician. Her only previous office held is Secretary of State, but she’s failed in previous runs for higher office a number of times. On the other hand, Ossoff doesn’t live in the district, which has welcomed the GOP to call Ossoff a carpet bagger.

With millions of dollars being poured into TV, radio, mail, digital, and other forms of advertising, GA06 voters are surely tired of this never-ending campaign season. The numbers are too tight for it to be tilt either way, but I think the GOP will win the race by no more than 10,000 votes. All things considered, demographics and partisan leanings will ultimately be what puts Handel over the top.

Regardless of the outcome of the race, the Democrats will pull inspiration from the fact they’ve put a relatively safe GOP district into play. Many people on the Democrat side view this race as a referendum on Trump, but they fail to realize that Trump only won the district by a point. Trump wasn’t popular there to begin with. Considering his lack of popularity in the district, I believe that this label has been placed by the national Democratic establishment. Consider that 95% of Ossoff’s campaign committee’s money has come from out of the district, this further reinforces the point.

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Another interesting race is the Montana At-Large Congressional District. Montana is a R+11 state, where Trump won by 20 points. Enter businessman and failed 2016 Gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte. The Democrats have tried to label him a carpetbagger among other things, even though he’s lived in Montana since 1995. His opponent is musician and political novice Rob Quist. Both the GOP and Democrats have pumped lots of money into the race, considering TV ads are cheaper in Montana, this represents a significant investment.

The latest public poll says that Gianforte is up by 15 points, at 52-37. Quist is outperforming Clinton’s performance by a point and a half. No significant gain and the outcome will be a decisive GOP hold.

The natural follow-up question on the Montana race becomes what does this tell us about the contentious Montana Senate race, and the general national climate in 2018? Senator Tester seems vulnerable due to Gianforte’s victory.

However, Montanans aren’t against voting for Democrats in statewide races. Governor Bullock and Senator Tester’s victories are perfect examples. Right now, there isn’t a high-profile GOP recruit to face Tester, who was involved in the 2012 Thornton Law Firm Campaign Finance Scandal.

Looking ahead to 2018, I am a firm believer that we should wait and see, especially in Montana. These races do indicate that the Democrats could have a big 2018 in the House, but then again, President Trump’s Twitter Account will help turn out GOP voters to protect his agenda. I am certainly curious to see the effects of the Trump presidency on the House of Representatives specifically. It will be very interesting with the Senate map favoring the Republicans in 2018, and with the Democrats on the attack in the House of Representatives.

Follow me on Twitter at @TweetsByAranyi for more of my thoughts.

Confirming Judge Gorsuch: Effects on the 2018 Senate Map

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The Supreme Court was a major issue during the 2016 Presidential and Senate elections. Now that the Republican Party was able to hold the Senate, and gain the presidency, President Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the Honorable Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court.

We all know the story on Judge Gorsuch. He’s immensely qualified, originalist judge who will fill the void left by Justice Scalia.

In 2006 not a single Democrat senator voted against Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation to the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, based in Colorado. However, more than 10 years later, his nomination to the Supreme Court has caused a much greater stir to the senators left of center. With the context of Judge Merrick Garland’s spiked nomination by President Obama in an election year, many Senate Democrats feel that this is a stolen seat on the Supreme Court.

This poses the question of how center-left Democrats, many of whom are up for re-election in states that Trump won in 2016, vote? Furthermore, how will their votes affect their re-election odds?

Moderate Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have already confirmed they’ll be voting for Judge Gorsuch. Trump won both states by 35.8 and 41.6 points respectively. Trump won every single county in West Virginia, and all but two in North Dakota. Both states aren’t against voting Democrat, considering they both have Democrat senators, and West Virginia just elected a Democrat governor.

Regardless, this was a safe play for both senators. The conservative bases in both states will appreciate the vote, and it will keep more outside money out of the state once the election rolls around. Without question, its an immediate aid to their re-election bids.

I think it’d be wise for other Democrat senators to follow suit. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri come to mind. Trump won Missouri by 18.5 points, and Indiana by 19 points. Although Trump’s margin of victory in Indiana and Missouri aren’t as large as the margin in West Virginia or North Dakota, that is still a massive gap to bridge. Conservative organizations including the NRSC and Judicial Crisis Network have taken out ad buys urging Donnelly and McCaskill to vote for Gorsuch’s confirmation.

Voting against Gorsuch would almost certainly invite huge sums of outside money into their races, and anger the conservative bases in their states. Both Donnelly and McCaskill were elected due to similar comments about rape from their challengers in 2012. Now, their GOP challengers will not repeat the same mistakes. In Indiana, GOP Congressmen Luke Messer and Todd Rokita are primed to enter the race to unseat Donnelly. Regardless of who wins that primary, the GOP will have a great candidate to face Donnelly, and will surely pounce on him if he votes against Gorsuch.

In a bold move, Democrat Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin has stated she will vote against Gorsuch. Trump was not projected to win Wisconsin, but won by less than a point, while incumbent GOP Senator beat former Democrat Senator Russ Feingold by 3.4 points. This could come back to bite her during her re-election campaign, as Wisconsin GOP has proven to be a well oiled machine in terms of their grassroots operation. This race could be much closer than expected, and Baldwin isn’t making the situation any easier on herself.

Another incumbent who presumably should vote for Judge Gorsuch is Senator Jon Tester of Montana. Trump won Montana by 20.2 points in November. Senator Tester was critical of Judge Gorsuch’s response about campaign finance law during his hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has cast doubts over the way he’ll vote. I personally find this awfully funny, considering his implication in the Thornton Law Firm Campaign Finance Scandal, which resulted in him donating over $51,000 of the funds he illegally received back to the U.S. Treasury.

The special election to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s House seat will be an interesting insight into Senator Tester’s re-election campaign. Montana’s congressional district is at-large, so it is a statewide race, featuring GOP candidate Greg Gianforte, and Democrat Rob Quist. Both have never held political office, and it should be a good indicator of the political climate in Montana, a year and a half before the 2018 elections.

This vote will come too soon for Senator Tester to know the results of the special election. Thus, I believe it would be wise for him to vote to confirm Judge Gorsuch to have his bases covered.

Another thing to consider for these incumbents to consider is the cost of voting for Gorsuch. If they vote for him, they may face costly primaries from the left, which will drain their campaign coffers before they even face their GOP opponents.

Other than the Senators listed, I believe that the rest of the votes will fall along party lines. Eventually, Senate Majority Leader McConnell may decide to go “Nuclear,” which would create new precedent, and dichotomy in the upper chamber of the Federal legislature.

Its impossible to predict how this scenario would play out for the GOP if this occurs. Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed, but what else will transpire during the rest of the Congress? There are a million possibilities, and every single one has different implications on the 2018 elections.

One thing is certain, and that’s that this vote to confirm Gorsuch is one that will be heavily scrutinized leading up to the next election.

If Senators Donnelly, McCaskill, and Tester vote against Gorsuch, then they’re welcoming a much tougher re-election campaign, in what could prove to be a very difficult climate. Although voter turnout is depressed in midterm election years, normally in favor of the party without power, the GOP and its campaign arms are winning the fundraising battle. Additionally, all it takes is one tweet from President Trump to mobilize millions of voters across the country.

One thing is certain: after the 2016 elections, anything can happen. I am looking forward to seeing how this situation will play out, and I look forward to seeing Judge Gorsuch confirmed as the next Supreme Court Justice of the United States.