In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Virginia by five points while winning the national popular vote by two (and losing the Electoral College). This was the most Democratic the state had voted for president, relative to the nation, since FDR was in the White House. The following year, Democrats held all three statewide offices by surprisingly large margins, and made an eye-popping gain of 15 net seats in the state House of Delegates, coming within a drawing in a tied race from forging a 50-50 tie in the body. Last year, Democrats netted three U.S. House seats and Sen. Tim Kaine (D) was reelected easily. And then on Tuesday night, Democrats netted what appears to be a half-dozen seats in the state House and two in the state Senate to win total control of state government in Richmond.
Looking ahead to next week’s elections in Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia; House ratings changes.
— Nationalized politics points to a Democratic edge in next week’s Virginia state legislative elections, and a Republican advantage in the Kentucky and Mississippi gubernatorial races.
— Yet, there remains uncertainty in all of those key contests as local factors test the durability of larger partisan trends.
— Unrelated to next week’s action, we have two House rating changes to announce, both benefiting Republicans. The pending CA-25 special election moves from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic following Rep. Katie Hill’s (D) decision to resign, and Rep. Conor Lamb (D, PA-17) moves from Safe Democratic to Likely Democratic.
— However, what appears to be a pending court-ordered congressional remap in North Carolina should benefit Democrats.
But will they next year?
— As the Democrats debate in Ohio, questions loom about how important the state will be in next year’s presidential election.
— Two key demographic indicators help explain why the state swung toward the Republicans in 2016 and why it seems likely to again vote to the right of the nation in 2020.
— The state remains competitive, but it’s far more important now to Republicans than Democrats.
If there’s a trial in the upper chamber, who might feel the heat?
— Nationalization is an increasingly important trend in American election outcomes. It’s hard to think of a more nationalizing issue than a presidential impeachment.
— Vulnerable members on both sides in the Senate will have a lot to consider if and when they have to cast a vote on convicting President Trump in a potential Senate impeachment trial.
— There are two Senate ratings changes this week, one benefiting each side. The most vulnerable senator, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), moves from Toss-up to Leans Republican, while Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) moves from Leans Republican to Toss-up.
Trump is at least a small underdog in all the Clinton states, but trying to play offense is wise.
— We don’t really think President Trump can win New Mexico, where he campaigned earlier this week. But he’s wise to try to expand the map.
— While presidents who lose reelection historically don’t win states they didn’t carry in their earlier victories, presidents who win reelection typically do end up winning one or more states they lost previously, although there is one significant recent exception.
— However, the president seems to be at least a small underdog in every Hillary Clinton-won state. We’re moving New Hampshire from Toss-up to Leans Democratic in our Electoral College ratings.
The schedule advantages Biden’s rivals, although it’s unclear if they can capitalize; NC-9 fallout.
— Perhaps the biggest threat to Joe Biden is the nominating calendar.
— Biden is reliant on support from African Americans, but the electorates of the first two states, Iowa and New Hampshire, are almost entirely white.
— However, even if one or more of Biden’s rivals best him in the leadoff states, they may not necessarily have much appeal to the crucial African-American voting bloc themselves.
MN-7 moves to top tier of GOP targets.
— We’re moving the NC-9 special from Leans Republican to Toss-up with less than a week to go until the election. A confluence of factors makes the race too close and unpredictable for us to call.
— We’re also moving the NC-3 special election from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.
— MN-7, a truly unique Democratic district, moves from Leans Democratic to Toss-up.
The one big exception to the stability in the Democratic race; Trump’s high GOP approval defines the Republican primary; special developments in Georgia, Wisconsin.
— The Democratic primary race has been very stable, with the biggest exception being Elizabeth Warren’s rise to become one of the clear frontrunners.
— Donald Trump is attracting primary challengers, but his standing within the GOP remains strong.
— Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R-GA) pending resignation expands the Senate playing field next year.
— Rep. Sean Duffy’s (R, WI-7) pending resignation sets up another House special election on Republican-leaning turf. The GOP remains favored to hold the district.
Debate effects can fade; Trump may be running behind his approval; the NC-9 special; a Magnolia runoff?
— The polling effects from the first debate largely wore off by the time the second round started.
— In 2016, President Trump won some voters who otherwise did not like him, but there are some signs he isn’t benefiting from such a dynamic at the moment.
— The NC-9 special House election moves from Toss-up to Leans Republican.
— Mississippi’s GOP gubernatorial primary may be headed to a runoff.
GOP retains edge, but perhaps not as sharp of one as it had following 2010.
— The Supreme Court’s recent decision to stay out of adjudicating gerrymandering doesn’t necessarily change anything because the court had never put limits on partisan redistricting in the first place.
— Republicans are still slated to control the drawing of many more districts than Democrats following the 2020 census, although there are reasons to believe their power will not be as great as it was following the last census.
— How aggressively majority parties in a number of small-to-medium-sized states target incumbents of the minority party following 2020 may help tell us whether the Supreme Court’s decision will lead to more aggressive gerrymanders.