2018 election
November 5, 2018

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called President Trump on Sunday to plead with him to highlight the economy, not his hardline immigration views, in the final two days of the 2018 midterms, Politico reports, but Trump instead "boasted to Ryan that his focus on immigration has fired up the base." It isn't that Republican candidates in swing districts objected to Trump warning about the migrant caravan slowing walking toward the U.S. border, they just "fear Trump went overboard — and that it could cost them dearly in key suburban districts, from Illinois to Texas," Politico says.

"Trump has hijacked the election," one senior House Republican aide told Politico. "This is not what we expected the final weeks of the election to focus on." While House Republicans in districts with sizable suburban areas are trying to change the subject from birthright citizenship and up to 15,000 U.S. troops shooting unarmed migrants, GOP Senate candidates are embracing Trump's heated rhetoric, looking for a boost from Trump's hardcore supporters as they work to beat Democrats in red or purple states.

In any case, "Trump has hardly been cowed by the criticism," The Washington Post notes. "As the campaign has barreled toward its final hours, the president expanded his nativist appeals, proudly calling himself a 'nationalist' and trying to drive his base with threats about" the caravan. "Barbed wire used properly can be a beautiful sight," he said Saturday, touting his troop deployment to the U.S. border.

But there's more at play than just strategy, the Post adds. "The 2016 election confirmed that a potential president could run — and win — after stoking racism. Now, in their closing days, the midterms are shaping up as a demonstration of whether the entire Republican Party can succeed by following his lead." You can read more about this election's "blatant and overtly racial attacks rarely seen since the civil rights era of the 1960s" at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

November 4, 2018

Republican and Democratic campaigns across the country made a final push over the weekend to appeal to voters in advance of the midterm elections Tuesday.

President Trump stayed busy on the campaign trail with rallies in Montana and Florida Saturday, where he repeated his frequent claim that a Democratic victory means a wave of criminal immigration. "The Democrats want to invite caravan after caravan to flood your communities, depleting our resources and flooding our nation," he said in Montana. "We don't want that."

Despite Trump's efforts, Democrats are forecast to win control of the House, though the GOP will likely retain the Senate. However, after election predictions overwhelmingly promised a Hillary Clinton win in 2016, few on either side are willing to say that outcome is certain. "Right now if you call most Democratic operatives, they're not sitting comfortably because the polling looks good," Democratic strategist Doug Thornell told The Hill.

The high stakes of the election has made it the most expensive midterm race in history. The priciest House race, in California's 25th District, has seen more than $26 million in spending, and the Rick Scott (R) vs. Bill Nelson (D) Senate race in Florida has cost almost $160 million. Bonnie Kristian

October 29, 2018

The requisite opposition to President Trump aside, does the Democratic Party have a clear message for voters in 2018? Democratic strategists aren't so sure, The Hill reports.

"We haven't had a real message since the last presidential election," said one such strategist, Chris Kofinis. "In terms of a Democratic Party having even a semblance of a message, it's just not there, and that's the reason this election is going to be unpredictable," he argued. "You have to give people a reason to vote for you, not a reason to vote against someone else."

The last midterm cycle with a strong Democratic campaign was 2006, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, has suggested. That year, Democrats ran on the "six in '06" agenda, securing a major midterm win by highlighting specific policy proposals. "It's a little late now to do" something similar for 2018, Emanuel says.

This year's strategy focuses instead on broad themes which candidates can adapt to local circumstances. In theory, that may be helpful to Democrats in districts that went for Trump in 2016, but in practice results are difficult to anticipate. Whether and how much to explicitly attack the president is also a matter of debate.

"I couldn't tell you what exactly we stand for, no," an unnamed Democratic strategist told The Hill. "At least back then [in 2006], we had a target; we knew what we needed to do to get there. I can't say the same thing now." Bonnie Kristian

October 20, 2018

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) announced Friday he and Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson will not continue their re-election campaign.

"With more time, I am confident that Val and I could deliver a message and a campaign that could earn a victory in this election," he said. "But there are only 18 days remaining before election day. Absentee ballots have already been mailed, and Alaskans are already voting. In the time remaining, I believe we cannot win a three-way race."

Davidson took office Tuesday after former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott (D) resigned over "inappropriate comments." Walker, a former Republican, endorsed Democrat Mark Begich against Republican Mike Dunleavy. Bonnie Kristian

October 19, 2018

President Trump has landed on a familiar theme to try to rev up Republican enthusiasm heading into the final stretch of the 2018 campaign: immigration. And specifically, Latin Americans crossing illegally into the U.S. via the U.S.-Mexico border. Immigration was in many ways the animating force of Trump's 2016 campaign, and while Republicans point to the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation battle as a boost to GOP energy, "the president realizes he needs to keep that momentum going," GOP strategist Matt Moore tells The Wall Street Journal. "Illegal immigration animates the Republican Party base like few other issues."

But, the Journal notes, "Democrats say the focus on immigration is backfiring by motivating progressives and independent voters," and the poll numbers, so far, are on their side. Trump's hardline immigration policies, including the separation of migrant families, are broadly unpopular, but they poll well among Republicans. "Despite Mr. Trump's focus on the issue, it is barely registering in political advertising by GOP candidates," the Journal reports. "Less than 11 percent of all ads in Senate, House, and governor races through Tuesday had an anti-immigration message, according to Kantar Media/CMAG."

Notably, the focus on Trump's immigration policies may hurt Republicans in the suburban House districts they need to win to keep control of Congress. Trump "clearly views it as one of the reasons for his political success," says GOP pollster David Winston. "But it's still all about the economy and jobs." You can read more immigration politics and the midterms at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

October 2, 2018

A scandal-plagued politician may not exactly thrill voters — but very possibly will win their votes anyway, a new FiveThirtyEight analysis shows.

While scandal — defined here as "a credible accusation of objective criminal or ethical wrongdoing, such as embezzlement or adultery" — does lower a candidate's support by about 6 to 9 percent, the incumbent's advantage and simple partisanship are often enough to ensure election anyway.

Thus of 10 scandalous incumbents seeking re-election to the House or Senate this year, FiveThirtyEight forecasts eight will win:


In all but one case, the forecast results match the partisan lean of the district. "Even if our tolerance for scandal has stayed the same," FiveThirtyEight notes, "it is possible that a more partisan electorate might be more welcoming to a politician under the magnifying glass." Bonnie Kristian

August 12, 2018

Hawaiians voted in Democratic and Republican primaries Saturday, the former garnering more attention given the state's deep blue voting base.

Though his popularity suffered thanks to his handling of January's false alarm missile alert, incumbent Gov. David Ige (D) won a relatively easy victory, besting his strongest challenger by a seven-point margin. "It's been a grueling campaign," Ige said when his victory was announced. "It's truly a heart-warming finish to a very, very challenging and exciting time." He'll face Hawaii state Rep. Andria Tupola (R) in the general.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) also won her primary race, while the other House primary — an open seat because Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) challenged Ige — is projected to go to former Rep. Ed Case, a Blue Dog Democrat, over state Rep. Kaniela Ing, a democratic socialist. Bonnie Kristian

August 8, 2018

On Tuesday, Michigan Democrats selected former Democratic state Senate leader Gretchen Whitmer as their nominee for governor, but they also renominated Sen. Debbie Stabenow, picked Joyce Benson for secretary of state, and chose Dana Nessel for attorney general. Which means that every Democratic nominee for statewide office is a woman. Benson is a lawyer and former dean of Wayne State University Law School, and Nessel is a criminal defense attorney perhaps most famous this year for this campaign ad:

"This is a rare year in which it's a plus to be a woman in politics," tweeted Amy Sullivan, journalist and Michigan native, and Whitmer, Benson, and Nessel "are tailor-made for it." Michigan's governorship is a top target for Democrats in November. But the voters, of course, will decide. Peter Weber

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