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Commentary By J. Miles Coleman

Most Recent Releases

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March 3, 2022

Breaking Down North Carolina and Pennsylvania’s New Maps By J. Miles Coleman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— North Carolina and Pennsylvania are 2 closely-divided states where the redistricting process this cycle ultimately fell to Democratic-controlled state courts.

— Democrats seem likely to gain at least 1 seat out of North Carolina, although the relatively favorable map that they got will only be in place for the 2022 election cycle.

— As we expected, a GOP-held seat was eliminated as Pennsylvania’s delegation was forced to downsize, but some of its Democratic members, particularly in the eastern part of the state, will have their work cut out for them.

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November 11, 2021

Less Than A Year Out: A Redistricting Update By J. Miles Coleman

Going over new maps in NC, TX, and other states.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— With some more populous states passing new district maps, the 2022 congressional landscape is getting a bit clearer.

— In Texas and North Carolina, Republicans took contrasting approaches — they were relatively tame in the former and more aggressive in the latter — but should likely net seats out of both states.

— In smaller states, like Alabama and West Virginia, redistricting has basically panned out as we expected.

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September 30, 2021

OR Finishes Redistricting, with CO, ME, and NE Close Behind; Many Other States Release Drafts by J. Miles Coleman

Last week, in the middle of what turned out to be a tumultuous special legislative session in Oregon, the Crystal Ball looked at the congressional map that Democrats were pushing for. After a COVID scare that prompted leadership to halt negotiations for several days, the Oregon legislature convened over the weekend. Facing the prospect of a walkout by Republican legislators, Democrats proposed a new map that was designed to be more palatable to the GOP. It worked. On Monday, enough Republicans showed up to allow Democrats to pass their plan.

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July 15, 2021

Republican Governors Draw Primary Challengers, But History Suggests They Face Long Odds By J. Miles Coleman

Checking in on gubernatorial races in Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, and elsewhere.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— With months to go until the 2022 gubernatorial primaries, several Republican governors have drawn notable primary challengers.

— Still, it is relatively rare for sitting governors to lose renomination, and all GOP incumbents appear to be favored in their primaries.

— Most, though not all, Republican primary challengers who have emerged are running to the right of their incumbents.

— While we’re holding off on making any ratings changes for now, any primary upsets may prompt us to reevaluate some races.

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April 8, 2021

Did Scandal Cost North Carolina Democrats a Senate Seat? By J. Miles Coleman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— In North Carolina’s hotly contested Senate race last year, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) narrowly won reelection against a scandal-plagued opponent, former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D-NC).

— Had Cunningham’s candidacy not been weighed down by a personal affair, he may have still lost. Indeed, a Tillis win was consistent with other results around the country and in the state.

— Still, Cunningham certainly didn’t benefit from his scandal, and it very likely cost him votes.

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March 18, 2021

How Mid-Decade Redistrictings Saved the Democratic House Majority By J. Miles Coleman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— Though new congressional lines are typically put into effect for election years ending in “-2”, four states adopted new maps at later points during this last decade.

— In North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, Republican-friendly maps were thrown out mid-decade in favor of plans that were more amenable to Democrats.

— If those pro-Republican maps were still in place, there’s a good chance that House Republicans would be in the majority now.

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March 11, 2021

2022 Gubernatorial Races: A Baseline By J. Miles Coleman

Aside from Maryland, no statehouses are initially favored to flip -- but surprises are surely coming.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— 38 states will see gubernatorial races over the next two years; Democrats currently hold 18 of the seats that will be contested while the GOP holds 20.

— Maryland, where popular Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) is term-limited, will be hard for Republicans to hold. With a Leans Democratic rating, the Crystal Ball expects a Democrat to flip the seat.

— We’re starting the cycle off with five Toss-ups: Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Not coincidentally, four of those gave President Biden very narrow margins last year.

— Democrats are clear favorites to retain governorships in three of the nation’s most populous states — California, Illinois, and New York — but they could be better-positioned in each.

— In the Senate, Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) retirement nudges that contest from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.

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March 4, 2021

Virginia and New Jersey Governors 2021: A First Look By J. Miles Coleman

In blue states, Democrats could match milestones and break curses.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— Virginia Democrats are trying to win three consecutive gubernatorial races, a feat the party has not accomplished since the 1980s.

— Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) is the favorite for his state’s Democratic nomination, though he faces a diverse field.

— In a move that’s ruffled some feathers on their side, Virginia Republicans will select their nominee at a May convention.

— In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) is poised to become the state’s first Democratic governor to secure reelection since 1977.

— Virginia’s open-seat race starts as Leans Democratic in the Crystal Ball ratings. New Jersey starts as Likely Democratic.

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February 18, 2021

Moving Past Impeachment: Trump Acquitted (Again) By J. Miles Coleman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— In the second impeachment trial of his presidency, former President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate. Seven Republicans joined 50 Democrats in voting to convict Trump.

— The sole Republican running for reelection in 2022 who voted to convict Trump was Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — she has a reputation as a political maverick.

— Democrats will be targeting a few open-seat contests next year in the Senate, specifically North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where retiring Republicans have been censured by their local parties.

— For now, Senate Democrats probably won’t see much electoral backlash from their votes, though Democrats representing Trump states may feel heat in 2024.

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February 11, 2021

The House: As 2020’s Final Contests Settle, Vacancies Arise By J. Miles Coleman

Look for House seat openings in Ohio, New Mexico to come up soon.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— With the race for NY-22 settled, 2020’s House elections may finally be fully in the rearview mirror, though IA-2’s results will be reviewed by Congress.

— Before this week, we rated two special elections in Louisiana as safe for either party; with a new vacancy in TX-6, we see an imminent special election there as Likely Republican.

— Two more districts, NM-1 and OH-11, seem likely to host special elections soon, as their incumbents have been designated for positions in the Biden administration.

— Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) retirement doesn’t impact our Safe Republican rating for the Alabama Senate race.

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February 4, 2021

2020’s Crossover Districts By J. Miles Coleman

Only a handful of House Democrats and Republicans represent turf won by the other party’s presidential nominee.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— 16 members of the House hold districts that voted for the other party’s presidential nominee in 2020.

— Many Biden-district Republicans are from racially diverse areas, and they often came out on the winning end of rematches.

— Democrats held several Trump seats in both blue collar and suburban areas.

— Overall, the trend of ticket-splitting is on the decline — just a decade ago, it was common to see dozens of crossover districts.

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January 28, 2021

2022 Senate Races: Initial Ratings By J. Miles Coleman

On a potentially limited playing field, both parties look to expand past their current 50 seats.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— Republicans will be defending more Senate seats than Democrats in 2022, but both sides have some potential pickup opportunities — though a large gain for either party seems unlikely.

— Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) would have been an overwhelming favorite to win a third term, but even with his retirement, Ohio’s rightward lean makes it an uphill climb for Democrats.

— Democrats’ clearest path to gaining seats runs primarily though the Rust Belt, as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin seem to be their top offensive races, though they may finally get lucky in North Carolina.

— We rate four states — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire — as Leans Democratic, and these seem to be the most obvious GOP targets.

— There will likely be more retirements this cycle, but they probably won’t change the fundamental picture.

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December 17, 2020

Georgia Senate Runoffs: Breaking Down November, Looking to January By J. Miles Coleman and Niles Francis

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— In a highly unusual situation, both of Georgia’s Senate seats will be on the ballot next month — one seat was already scheduled to be elected, while the other is a special election.

— As January’s result will decide control of the Senate, both sides are invested in Georgia’s outcome.

— In the regular election, Democrat Jon Ossoff made some gains in the suburbs since he was last on the ballot, but to beat Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), he’ll likely have to do even better.

— The battle for the state’s other seat is a bitter contest between appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat and a preacher.

— Though it would add an extra layer of chaos to the outcome, history — and data from November — seems to point away from a split outcome.

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August 27, 2020

States of Play: North Carolina By J. Miles Coleman and Bennett Stillerman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— After President Obama’s narrow win there in 2008, light red North Carolina has proved elusive for Democrats — but it remains a target for both sides.

— North Carolina’s politics are increasingly shaped by its growing bloc of unaffiliated voters.

— Over the past decade, North Carolina’s traditional east-west divide has evolved into more of an urban-rural split — a pattern seen in many other states.

— In a state known for volatile Senate races, 2020’s contest should be true to form,  and further down the ballot, voters will weigh in on several statewide races.

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August 20, 2020

States of Play: Wisconsin By J. Miles Coleman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— Even without the optics that come from hosting the Democratic National Convention, Wisconsin will be a crucial state this fall.

— Joe Biden’s apparent strength with older voters may buoy him in rural parts of the state, though Donald Trump also may have some room to improve even after his tremendous rural showings four years ago.

— Aside from the presidential contest, the state will see few competitive major races.

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July 9, 2020

States of Play: Georgia By J. Miles Coleman and Niles Francis

Once-dominant Democrats need formerly Republican suburbs to come through for them in 2020.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— Over the last few decades, Georgia has gone from a swing state to reliably GOP. But it’s now looking like a genuinely competitive state again.

— Democrats have made major inroads in both urban Atlanta and its suburbs, but their gains have been somewhat blunted by the sharp Republican trend in other parts of the state.

— In the state’s regular Senate election this year, we’re downgrading Sen. David Perdue’s chances. We now have both Georgia’s seats rated as Leans Republican.

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May 28, 2020

Republican Presidential Primary Turnout: Trump vs Bush By J. Miles Coleman

Early in the primary season, Republican pollster John Couvillon noted that President Trump’s "unshakable" rapport with the Republican Party’s base may be leading GOP partisans to do something unusual historically: turn out in uncontested primaries.

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March 26, 2020

Turnout in the 2020 Democratic Primary: Some Clues for the Fall By J. Miles Coleman

In the primary, blue-trending areas see higher turnout, power Joe Biden's strength; erosion for Democrats continues in some rural areas in the South.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— With very few exceptions, statewide turnout in the 2020 Democratic primary has been higher than 2016.

— Suburban areas have seen some of the sharpest turnout increases — though these areas tend to have higher population growth, they’ve also trended blue in general elections, perhaps a positive indicator for Democrats looking to the fall.

— Meanwhile, some rural areas that have been trending away from Democrats in places like North Carolina and Oklahoma saw turnout lag behind 2016.

— While Bernie Sanders seems to have a stronger opponent in Joe Biden than he did with Hillary Clinton, Sanders’ prospects may have been hurt by partisan realignment since 2016.

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January 9, 2020

The Electoral College: Maine and Nebraska’s Crucial Battleground Votes By J. Miles Coleman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— Nationalization has pushed urban and rural areas apart; Maine and Nebraska are no exceptions to this trend, and their unique electoral vote allocation systems are highlighting that division.

— The Omaha-based NE-2 supported Republicans in the past two presidential elections, but by decreasing margins, and could feasibly vote blue in 2020.

— Maine’s two districts, once political mirror images of each other, have drifted steadily apart. The Crystal Ball sees Donald Trump as a favorite to carry ME-2 again, though Democrats should retain the state’s other three electoral votes.

— In a close national election, Maine and Nebraska’s respective second districts could provide potentially decisive electoral votes.

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October 10, 2019

Louisiana 2019: Welcome to the Jungle (Primary) By J. Miles Coleman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) defied the partisan lean of his state in 2015, but he will have to navigate an increasingly partisan electorate to win again. He’ll need Republican support, but he also must energize black voters.

— Louisiana’s unique jungle primary has shaped the contours of state elections for nearly 50 years and will be a key feature of the 2019 election.

— Regionalism has always been salient in Louisiana politics, and it should be a decisive factor in which Republican candidate makes a potential runoff with Edwards: Rep. Ralph Abraham (R, LA-5) or businessman Eddie Rispone (R).