Candidate showdowns go back many decades, but have only recently become part of the nomination fabric.
— There have been nearly 200 presidential primary debates since 1948.
— Almost all of them have been held in the last four decades.
— Although Democrats have a record-breaking primary field, they do not appear likely to break the record for the number of candidates appearing on a stage at once, 11, set by Republicans last cycle.
— No incumbent president has participated in a primary debate, and Donald Trump seems likely to continue that trend.
No incumbents lost in 2014, 2016, or 2018. Who might be vulnerable in 2020?
— The postwar renomination rate for Senate incumbents is 96%. That’s a little bit lower than the rate in the House.
— However, no senators have lost renomination in 13 of the last 19 elections. So recent history does not necessarily suggest that there will be even a single Senate primary loser.
— A few senators appear to face challenges that could threaten them.
— Primary upsets could change the general election odds in some key races.
The last time this current crop of senators, Class II, was up for election, in 2014, no senators lost their primaries. This represented a change from the previous two cycles, which featured significant primary upheaval, particularly on the Republican side.
Revisiting and reassessing the GOP’s poor showing and the role of impeachment in the result.
— The 1998 election has invariably come up a lot as House Democrats consider whether to impeach President Donald Trump.
— That’s because Republicans had high expectations for that election but ended up flopping.
— While impeachment probably did hurt the Republicans in some districts, it may have been that Clinton’s popularity in a time of peace and prosperity would have insulated Democrats from big losses even if the GOP had held off on impeachment.
A week before Rep. Joe Crowley decisively lost his primary last year, I tweeted about Crowley’s potential vulnerability, with the caveat that “I have little idea if Rep. Joe Crowley (D, NY-14) is actually seriously threatened by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in his primary next week.” A member of Crowley’s staff sent me an email that quoted this question I raised and said, “He's not. Not at all.”
GOP remains favored to hold the majority overall.
— Senate retirements are not having a dramatic effect on the partisan odds in any race so far.
— Democrats have missed on some Senate recruits, and that may (or may not) matter in the long run.
— Alabama and Colorado remain the likeliest states to flip, with the Democratic-held Yellowhammer State the likeliest of all.
— Arizona is the purest Toss-up.
— Republicans remain favored overall.
The Democrats' generic ballot edge endures, at least for now, but they shouldn’t get their hopes up on redistricting.
— While it’s very early in the cycle and these polls are not predictive so far in advance, the House generic ballot polling right now looks very similar to what we saw this time two years ago.
— Republicans almost certainly will need to lead on the generic ballot to retake the House, but perhaps they won’t need as big of a lead as we’ve seen in the past because of the nature of partisan voting in a presidential year and their abundance of targets in districts President Trump can or will carry.
— If new House maps are created in Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio because of various court orders, Democrats would benefit on balance. But it may very well be that no maps end up being changed.
Democrats are trying to figure out who is the best to beat Trump. It’s a difficult task.
— Trump’s victory in 2016 presents a great counter-argument to the idea that campaign professionals and pundits can confidently determine in advance who is electable to the presidency and who is not.
— Many presidents beyond Trump have seemed unelectable at various points of their ultimately successful campaigns.
— As Democrats consider who has the best chance against Trump, they will have to sort through different kinds of electability arguments, any one of which may be right (or wrong), and only one of which will actually be tested.
He will run as the president who needs no training. But he may be the candidate who cannot be trained.
— If Joe Biden wins the presidency, he will bring with him nearly a half-century of elected officeholding experience, giving him perhaps the fullest resume of public service possessed by any new president ever.
— It may be that Democrats are more open to a very experienced candidate than Republicans were in 2016, when they selected a presidential nominee, Donald Trump, with no elected or military experience.
— Biden has a very long record to defend, a burden that other, much less experienced candidates do not have. He also will have to show that he has learned from past mistakes and can run a disciplined, strong campaign.
— President Trump remains a huge favorite to win renomination as the Republican presidential nominee, although he will have at least some opposition.
— The New Hampshire primary has historically tested the strength of presidential incumbents.
— In the primary’s modern history, incumbents who won easy victories went on to renomination and reelection, while those who struggled lost in the fall or didn’t run again.
— That said, we’re only talking about a dozen total contests, so don’t make any strong predictions based on the president’s New Hampshire showing. But depending on the circumstances, Trump’s eventual performance may provide some clues for the general election.