April 28, 2017 — Democrats face a major problem in the 2018 Senate races that they have no ability to solve. Forced to defend 25 of the 33 in-cycle seats, not counting the new 2017 Alabama special election, there simply aren’t enough viable Republican conversion targets to yield a legitimate run for the majority.
Even in what should be their top conversion target, the Nevada race where GOP Sen. Dean Heller is seeking his second term, the Democrats do not yet have a viable candidate. This week, businessman Steve Cloobeck, who has the ability to self-fund a Silver State campaign, announced that he would not run.
And then, in a move that perplexed the Democratic leadership, Cloobeck went a step further and publicly endorsed Sen. Heller for re-election. While professing not to agree with Heller on core issues, Cloobeck says he appreciates “his (Heller’s) businesslike approach to politics and legislation.”
April 14, 2017 — In office now just a few days, new Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is reportedly contemplating a major electoral decision that will add to Alabama’s considerable political intrigue. According to a spokesperson for Ivey, the governor is considering changing the special election schedule as it relates to appointed US Sen. Luther Strange’s (R) situation.
In a controversial decision, former Gov. Robert Bentley (R) appointed then-Attorney General Strange to replace Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) immediately after the latter was confirmed as US attorney general. The move was controversial since Strange was reportedly investigating the governor regarding the situation for which he resigned earlier this week, but during the appointment process said that no such inquiry was underway. After the Senate appointment was made and a new state attorney general installed, it was confirmed that a Bentley investigation was in fact quickly progressing.
In addition to choosing Strange to replace Sen. Sessions, Gov. Bentley scheduled the special election to fill the balance of the current Senate term to run concurrently with the regular 2018 election schedule. Some argued that Bentley exceeded his authority because the state’s special election law indicates the vote should be called “forthwith.” Bentley and his legal team argued that the “forthwith” reference in the Alabama statute referred to officially calling the election, but not necessarily to conducting the vote. Bentley also argued it is more cost effective to hold the special concurrently with the regular general election rather than incur the expense of running a stand-alone statewide vote.
April 12, 2017 — Gov. Robert Bentley’s (R) resignation from office Monday, and his reported plea bargain agreement relating to charges that he squandered public and campaign funds in connection with maintaining and then covering up an extra-marital affair with a state employee changes the current Alabama political picture.
Bentley was ineligible to seek a third term, and his resignation comes ahead of what looked to be a sure impeachment. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) ascended to the governor’s office immediately upon Bentley’s resignation becoming official. Though she had not announced a campaign for governor next year, it was widely believed that Ivey would become a candidate.
Now that she is governor, it remains to be seen if the long line of potential gubernatorial candidates will move forward with their own campaigns, remain on the sidelines if it looks like she will become a strong incumbent, or look toward appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) who must stand for election in 2018 to serve the balance of the current term.
March 17, 2017 — As we approach the end of first quarter 2017, we see political maneuvering beginning to occur in many in-cycle US Senate states. Despite what columnists and news reporters are already saying about the Republicans potentially sustaining big mid-term losses in 2018, the Democrats have only one legitimate Senate target: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).
Unfortunately for them, Democrats must defend 25 of the 34 in-cycle seats (the latter number includes the Alabama special election), and this political fundamental is likely the key reason Republicans will hold the majority irrespective of what the political climate may be like at election time. Arguably, seven of the nine in-cycle GOP seats are located in some of the strongest Republican states in the nation. Today we take a look at the states alphabetically from Alabama through Maryland.
• Alabama: Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) has over a year to solidify himself politically before standing for election. He may well receive a Republican primary challenge because of the circumstances under which he was appointed to succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sen. Strange, while the Alabama attorney general, was conducting an investigation into Gov. Robert Bentley (R), which was obviously stalled when the appointment was made. So far, no one has announced against Sen. Strange, but state Senate President Del Marsh (R) is a possible candidate.
March 1, 2017 — Much is being made about President Trump’s early job approval ratings. Almost across the board, they are low, and particularly so for a new national chief executive, which has naturally attracted media attention.
In their late February report about political polarization, the Gallup polling organization, which began testing presidential job approval back in the Truman Administration and has regularly continued the practice ever since, argues that polarization among the self-identified Republicans and Democrats is a major obstacle for President Trump to overcome. They further make the point that this is not a new phenomenon, as partisan approval polling detected similar numbers for presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
The Gallup analysis, on and around the Feb. 20 time frame, found President Trump’s job approval rating to be 42 percent. When they looked at the two previous presidents, also hitting 42 percent approval rating at certain points in their own presidencies, Gallup found the level of partisan support and opposition among Democrats and Republicans for the president of their own party was virtually identical.
Feb. 24, 2017 — The 2018 Senate Democrats have the same problem as last year’s Senate Republicans. That is, the Dems must protect too many seats in the coming election, which obviously diminishes opportunities for gains.
The Dems current situation is worse than the Republicans’ in the previous cycle. In 2018, the party candidates must win 25 of the 34 in-cycle seats (now including the Alabama special election for purposes of completing the current term that Attorney General Jeff Sessions began) just to break even. The 2016 Republicans were forced to defend 24 states to the Democrats’ 10, and ended the campaign cycle dropping a net two seats.
Adding further vulnerability to the Democrats’ potential quagmire is seeing 10 of their 25 incumbents hailing from states that President Trump carried last November. In nine of those 10 – Michigan is the lone exception – the state’s other senator is a Republican.
One of the top Republican conversion targets is the Badger State of Wisconsin. Here, first-term Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) seeks re-election in what should be a highly competitive general election campaign.
Feb. 10, 2017 — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) named state Attorney General Luther Strange (R) to replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R). Sessions resigned from the Senate after being confirmed as US Attorney General.
Strange will serve through the 2018 regular election. He has already announced that he will run in the concurrent special election. If successful, he will then serve the balance of the current term, meaning through 2020. He would be eligible to seek a full six-year term in the 2020 election.