July 31, 2018 — Last week, University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato released his latest “Crystal Ball” ratings of the current US House races and declared that the Democrats are a “soft favorite” to assume the majority in the coming November elections. There’s more to the story, however.
Dr. Sabato supports his claim for several basic reasons. First, he sites the historic trends that a new president’s party loses seats in the first midterm election, and traces this electoral pattern all the way back to the Civil War era. Second, he turns to the typical polling regularly released that places President Trump’s approval ratings in what he terms “the low 40s”, and includes the generic House ratings, along with the “enthusiasm” analysis. Third, is the Democrats’ record in the current cycle’s federal and state special elections, and fourth is their second quarter fundraising “advantage.”
There are counter arguments that need mentioning for each of these points.
It is questionable to compare electoral trends developed during the 1800s to the elections of today because the world has changed so much. Bringing the analysis to at least the 20th Century and looking just at the post-World War II patterns (from President Harry Truman, inclusive, to today), we find that the average seat loss in the House during a new president’s first midterm is 26 seats. But, this average combines the six Democratic presidents losing 32 seats, and the five Republicans’ dropping 15 districts. Just three elections, 1966 (Johnson; -47 seats), 1994 (Clinton; -54), and 2010 (Obama; -63) have substantially upped the overall average.
April 26, 2018 — Arizona Republican former state Senate President Debbie Lesko defeated physician Hiral Tipirneni (D) last night, 53-47 percent, to win the vacant 8th District seat that former Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria) resigned in January.
Lesko held the seat for Republicans with a high turnout of 173,708 voters, but her six-point win is being cast in the media as an under-performance. Dr. Tipirneni, however, ran a significant campaign and will spend a projected financial number in the $1 million range. Therefore, it’s not particularly surprising that a credible candidate spending significant resources would place in the mid-high 40s despite her opponent’s party being dominant in the region. Lesko will likely spend a bit less than Dr. Tipirneni but received stronger outside support, particularly from the national Republican Party apparatus.
Though Rep. Franks averaged 69.2 percent during his three terms with the district in its present configuration, he did so against candidates who spent virtually no money. In 2014, when he drew 75 percent of the vote, he didn’t have a Democratic opponent. When Franks first won in open configuration back in 2002, his initial win percentage was 59 percent against a candidate who spent only $40,000.
The most recent polls correctly forecast the outcome. Emerson College, the pollster conducting the only two publicly released polls during the period immediately preceding the election (April 19-23; 400 likely AZ-8 special election voters: Lesko 49 percent, Tipirneni 43 percent), correctly predicted a Lesko six-point victory. A week earlier the same pollster (Emerson College; April 12-15; 400 likely special election voters) actually found Dr. Tipirneni forging a small one-point lead.
US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump shake hands at the 2018 State of the Union speech.
By Jim Ellis
April 12, 2018 — As we know, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced his retirement yesterday, and even more change can be presumed coming to Capitol Hill as a result.
In the short term, expect increased analyses predicting an ensuing Democratic majority forming in House races and further predictions over what party strategists refer to as an impending “blue wave.” They will suggest that the Ryan retirement shows the speaker understands the “wave” is becoming a political tsunami, and one not destined to fail in the manner that the predicted presidential “blue wall” crumbled.
Long term in this election cycle, however, things have a chance to play out differently. With a sure change in leadership coming no matter what the general election produces, Republican members and candidates will be freer to re-set the GOP agenda and join the chorus charging that the current Congress has failed to deliver on enough campaign promises.
Ryan has been a huge fundraiser for party candidates, and is credited in some reports with being responsible for some $54 million already being distributed to GOP contenders and party institutions. And, that’s before the latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) quarterly disclosure reports are released after April 15.
March 27, 2018 — Today we finish our look at the new Pennsylvania filings from Districts 10 thru 18, but first must mention a new story floating in the Washington Post and throughout the local Philadelphia media.
New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court
Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester), after filing for re-election, is already dropping out of the race. In withdrawing, the two-term incumbent virtually hands the seat to Democrat Chrissy Houlahan, a first-time candidate for any office, because the local Republican Party will have no way of replacing him. Attorney Greg McCauley filed in the Republican primary and becomes the party nominee now that Costello has backed away. It is unclear why Costello filed for re-election if he was not serious about running.
District 10: Rep. Scott Perry (R-Dillsburg/York)
Though new District 10, that now includes all of the York and Harrisburg metro areas, is more Democratic than Perry’s previous 4th District, President Trump still posted a nine percentage point win during the 2016 presidential election contest. Rep. Perry is unopposed in the Republican primary and draws five Democratic opponents, including 2016 congressional nominee Christina Hartman who suffered a decided loss to freshman Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) in an adjoining district. Hartman raised over $1.1 million for her first congressional effort, and was originally seeking a re-match with Rep. Smucker. When the new redistricting plan left him with a solidly Republican district, she moved here even though none of her previous territory transferred to new CD-10.