By Jim Ellis
Oct. 16, 2018 — According to the liberal Daily Kos Elections website, six congressional races that appeared to be headed in one direction look to be reversing themselves.
Four campaigns that Democrats earlier projected as red to blue conversions are now either tilting toward the Republican candidate or coming back into play. An additional campaign that we believed was always miscategorized is now performing as we predicted, while a further Republican incumbent, already projected to be in a close race, has actually dropped behind for the first time in a published poll. Descriptions for each of these contests follow.
Two GOP incumbents who were trailing in several polls — the Siena College/New York Times polls had one lagging 15 points behind and the other by 10, for example — have come back to take the lead or are hovering in virtual tie range.
Iowa Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque) has represented the most Democratic seat in Iowa for two terms. He fell significantly behind state Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) to the point where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) even canceled a flight of media advertising because they presumably believed the race was sealed.
But a new Polling Company survey for the Blum campaign (Oct. 2-4; 400 likely IA-1 voters) finds the congressman pulling back to within one point of Finkenauer, 44-43 percent, even with a turnout projection that forecasts a 53-47 percent female gender split. The previously published polls were both from September. Siena/NYT (Sept. 18-20; 502 likely IA-1 voters) found a 52-37 percent spread preferring the Democrat. Earlier, Emerson College (Sept. 6-8; 1,000 registered IA-1 voters) saw a 43-38 percent split in Finkenauer’s favor.
New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-Toms River) is another GOP incumbent who found himself running significantly behind. The Siena/NYT survey (Sept. 22-26; 499 likely NJ-3 voters) saw him trailing former National Security Council official Andy Kim (D) by a 49-39 percent margin. Much earlier in the cycle, Monmouth University (August) found Kim leading by three points, and the Democratic Global Strategy Group (June) saw the two candidates tied.
Now, however, the National Research polling organization (Oct. 2-4; 400 likely NJ-3 voters) projects Rep. MacArthur re-claiming an advantage, at 44-40 percent. Recently, the NRCC has been running major negative attacks against Kim, which apparently have been effective in changing the race trajectory.
Two open Republican seats that Democrats believed were a conversion lock also appear to be turning around.
In Florida, a lackluster campaign effort from former Health & Human Services secretary Donna Shalala (D) has led to her falling behind Emmy Award winning bilingual journalist Maria Elvira Salazar.
In a district that voted 58-39 percent for Hillary Clinton and is the most Democratic seat (referencing the 2016 presidential campaign) to elect a Republican House member (retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen), Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategies testing for the Telemundo television network (Oct. 1-6; 625 likely FL-27 voters) finds Salazar now leading the race, 44-42 percent. An earlier McLaughlin & Associates survey for the Salazar campaign (Sept. 10-13; 400 likely FL-27 voters) staked their candidate to a larger 51-42 percent.
In the central Nevada open congressional seat, Moore Information (Oct. 3-8; 400 likely NV-4 voters) now projects former Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) to be holding a 41-37 percent edge over former Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas).
Most media prognosticators have rated this seat as Likely Democrat, ignoring the 2014 campaign when the two opposed each other. In that year, when Horsford was the sitting incumbent, Hardy defeated him, 48-46 percent.
Two years later, Rep. Hardy would lose to the current incumbent, Democrat Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) who is not seeking re-election because of sexual harassment accusations. Therefore, since its creation in the 2011 redistricting plan, the 4th District has not re-elected an incumbent. Looking now at recent increased major party spending it is clear that both parties realize this race is very much in play.
Democrats appeared concerned earlier that Arizona freshman Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Sedona) was in a battle for re-election in the politically marginal and geographically expansive 1st District. He pairs against retired Air Force officer and frequent candidate Wendy Rogers (R). While the Democratic national apparatus spent right after the Aug. 28 primary, their Republican counterparts showed little early interest. Therefore, the DCCC strategists decided to cut back on their own spending.
Now, the Go Right Strategies polling organization released a survey for the Rogers campaign that finds their candidate surging into a lead. According to the poll (Oct. 9-10; 943 “data points”) that targeted 14,856 Democrats, 11,411 Republicans, and 7,353 Independents, Rogers claims a 44-38 percent advantage over O’Halleran. So, it is likely we will see increased outside spending returning to eastern Arizona.
Finally, it is well known that Utah Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs) has consistently under-performed the typical Republican vote margin in her two terms representing the south Salt Lake City suburban/rural district after losing a race by less than 800 votes to then-Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Salt Lake City) in 2012. With Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D) as her opponent, it was clear that she would face another competitive campaign this year.
A new Mellman Group survey for the McAdams campaign (Oct. 7-10; 400 voters “representing the likely 2018 electorate in Utah’s 4th Congressional District”) finds their candidate ticking ahead of Rep. Love 47-46 percent. Most disconcerting for Love is the Independent voter segment, which Mellman forecasts as breaking 57-32 percent for McAdams.
Though early suppositions were made in each of the aforementioned six districts, largely looking more toward early polling and discounting voter history, the electorates in each scenario now appear to be snapping back into a more typical voting pattern. It is clear, however, that none of these pre-determined races is decided, and as we move into the election cycle’s final three weeks and they obviously remain volatile.