Wednesday, September 19, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: More Voter Mixed Signals

Throughout the 2018 midterm primary season, I have tried to present a
balanced and fair analysis of the upsets in races in each party, as well
as commentary on the various special elections that might signal voter
trends in November.

I have cautioned that the signals from voters so far have been mixed,
and not conclusive of any clear trend, notwithstanding claims by
partisans and many in the media that a “wave” is coming.

Just at the end of the primary season, on September 18, a special state
senate election in Texas has demonstrated again that voters are still
sending mixed signals.

Texas state Senate District 19 has been a Democratic seat. Its state
senator was convicted in 2018 of several felonies and resigned. A
special election was set, with Republican Pete Flores and Democrat
Pete Gallego seeking to fill the vacant seat. Gallego, a former
congressman, was favored to win, but Flores won by 6 points in a
major upset. Mr. Flores will be he first Hispanic Republican to serve in
the Texas senate. Recent mainstream media polls have indicated that
the Texas race for U.S. senate is getting closer with incumbent GOP
Senator Ted Cruz’s lead over his Democratic challenger narrowing.
This has enabled some to contend that there might be a “blue” wave
this year in Texas which went decisively for Donald Trump in 2016,
and where most of the statewide office holders are Republican.
Pete Flores’ upset win, and a new poll showing Cruz lead in now
widening, go contrary to the blue wave narrative.

In New Jersey, the U.S. senate race, considered “safe” for Democratic
incumbent Senator Bob Menendez until now, has become a “toss-up”
as recent polls indicate the contest is almost a tie with Republican
businessman Bob Hugin now receiving a number of endorsements
from Democratic New Jersey elected officials who have turned away
from their own party nominee after his criminal trial that resulted in
a hung jury. The Hugin campaign cites a new poll in New Jersey’s 2nd
congressional district, expected to be won this year by the Democrat,
shows Hugin leading Menendez by10 points. New Jersey is a heavily
Democratic state, carried easily by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Hugin has
been self-funding his campaign so far, and has turned out to be an
unexpectedly strong challenger.

In Minnesota, controversial retiring Democratic (DFL) Congressman
Keith Ellison is running for attorney general, but is polling
dramatically behind his fellow DFL statewide candidates.  A new poll
has Ellison, by far the most well-known candidate in the race, at 41%,
and virtually tied with his GOP opponent, attorney Doug Wardlow.
Running well to the left of his own candidate for governor, and beset
by personal controversies, Ellison could lose the post held by the DFL
since 1971.

In spite of the races cited above, they are only so far providing mixed
signals. Menendez and Ellison could still win, Cruz could still lose.
Democrats could do well on November 6, especially if they win control
of the U.S. house. On the other hand, new polls (if correct) are
suggesting Republicans are making gains (in an economy which has
reduced minority group unemployment) among black and Hispanic
voters --- two of the most reliable Democratic-voting groups in the
past --- an ominous sign if proven true on election day. Good news
for the Democrats includes evidence that their liberal base is highly
energized, especially in blue states, in their opposition to President
Trump and his policies --- and are likely to turn out to vote.

A lot of polls in competitive 2018 races are still showing an unusually
large number of undecided voters. But we are almost in October, and
decisions can’t be put off indefinitely.

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

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