Monday, January 29, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Period Of Adjustment

As the political calendar goes into February,  a certain
period of ticket adjustment takes place prior to the
November mid-term elections. This adjustment will
continue to a decreasing degree until April and May
when many filing deadlines for state and federal offices
will have been passed. This cycle, it will be followed
by some key and possibly serious primary contests.

Most incumbents who will be retiring or will run for
other offices have already publicly stated their intentions,
but some in potentially critical races have not. Most
challengers in likely competitive races have already
declared their candidacies, but others have held out until

Races for the U.S. house and senate usually require more
lead-time because these races, when competitive, require
substantial fundraising.

A case in point recently took place in Minnesota where
unexpectedly Democratic Senator Al Franken resigned,
and his appointed successor will be required to run for
election this cycle instead of 2020. This seat could become
a competitive race, but state Republicans lacked few
“name” figures  who could credibly raise in a relatively
short period the tens of millions of dollars required for
such a contest. One such figure, former governor and
presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty, was immediately
sought after by local and national Republicans to run in
this race. But Pawlenty had been known to be considering
a comeback (he had retired in 2010 after two terms) as
governor. His senate decision would have to be made in
weeks instead of the months he could wait before a
gubernatorial announcement, and, despite assurances
probably made to him by the national GOP senate
campaign committee and others, necessary fundraising
in a year with so many other GOP challengers in
vulnerable Democratic senate races would have been
problematic. Pawlenty chose to pass on a  difficult
senate race, but remains considering the gubernatorial
race where so far announced GOP candidates have not
produced a clear frontrunner.

Another case in point is Ohio where GOP State Treasurer
Josh Mandel had, more or less, cleared the field for his
party’s nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic
Senator Sherrod Brown who had been considered
vulnerable in 2018. Unexpectedly, with only abut a month
before the filing deadline, Mr. Mandel announced his
withdrawal from the race because of a serious family
health crisis. Ohio Republicans have not yet been able to
recruit a “name” figure, and a  key “pick-up” opportunity
might be lost.

In Arizona, where incumbent GOP Senator Jeff Flake is
retiring after open conflict with President Trump, it was
thought the race to fill his seat might be a replay of the
recent GOP loss in Alabama (where an off-the-wall GOP
nominee lost a special election). But now, Congresswoman
Martha McSally, a respected conservative, has entered the
race, and if she survives the primary, could salvage the
seat for the GOP.

In contrast, senior GOP Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah
waited until very late to announce his retirement, but
former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was
always available in this heavily Republican state, and is
now running (as a heavy favorite) for the seat.

It has been widely noted that an unusual number of
senior  conservative U.S. house committee chairs
have announced their retirements so far this cycle.
This is partly an intended outcome inasmuch as the
GOP term-limits committee chairs who usually have to
wait many years to achieve top committee positions,
and then have an inducement to retire after their
chair terms are up. Unlike previous eras when most
chairs held their positions for decades and remained
in Congress in their 80s and 90s, this brings in a new
generation of members in a much more timely manner
(although it can, in some cases, result in unexpected
competitive contests in a given cycle.)

As I have suggested in recent weeks, any predictions of
a “blue” or “red” electoral wave in 2018, are premature,
especially with so many tickets in key races not yet
determined, and the state of the economy next
November not yet clear.

But after the period of political fine-tuning now taking
place, the paths to the political outcomes of 2018 will
become clearer.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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