Sunday, April 8, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2018 U.S. Senate Campaign Update

With 26 Democratic incumbent senate seats up for election in the 2018
mid-term cycle, and less than 10 Republican seats, these contests will
be a major political battle ground in November.

With some retirements and resignations, and several challenger 
nominations unsettled --- as well as the volatile voter mood and the
uncertain prospects for the economy, this battleground landscape is
changing with some frequency. Here’s an update:

MONTANA: Incumbent Democrat Jon Tester is vulnerable, but his
GOP challenger is unknown. Trump carried this state easily in 2016,
but Tester could be formidable. NET CHANGE: Slightly better for

ARIZONA: This is an open GOP seat (Jeff Flake retiring). This looked
like a sure Democratic pick-up, and could still go that way, but two
off-the-wall GOP contenders now face Congresswoman Martha
McSally, a more electable conservative. NET CHANGE: If McSally
wins the primary, much better chance for the GOP

NEVADA: Another likely previous Democratic pick-up, but GOP
incumbent Dean Heller has moved away from earlier anti-Trump
rhetoric, and his major potential primary opponent has withdrawn.
His strong role in the tax reform legislation is in stark contrast to
his likely Democratic opponent’s opposition to it in the U.S. house.
NET CHANGE: This race will be close, but clear improvement for
GOP incumbent.

MISSOURI: State Attorney General Josh Hawley is one of the
brightest new figures in the national Republican Party, and his
opponent, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is one of the
most vulnerable incumbent this cycle. A scandal involving the
GOP governor might cloud this race, and McCaskill always plays
hardball. NET CHANGE: Hawley remains a slight favorite.

NORTH DAKOTA: Republicans finally recruited their strongest
challenger, Congressman Kevin Cramer (the state’s sole U.S. house
member, he also runs statewide). President Trump carried the
state in a landslide, and incumbent Democratic Senator Heidi
Heitkamp is very vulnerable. She is also popular in the state and a
strong campaigner. NET CHANGE: Still a toss-up, but slightly better
prospects for Cramer,

MINNESOTA: Unexpectedly, this state has two senate races in
November. Incumbent Democrat Amy Klobuchar is a shoo-in for
re-election, but recently appointed Democratic Senator Tina Smith
(she was picked to replace Al Franken who resigned) has a contest on
her hands from GOP State Senator Karon Housely. Mrs. Smith has
seemed uncertain in her first few months, and Mrs. Housely is
beginning to impress earlier skeptics. NET CHANGE: Senator Smith
is still favored, but better prospects for her challenger.

WISCONSIN: Incumbent Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin is
vulnerable, but recent developments seem to improve her chances.
First, she still has no clear GOP opponent, and it is not yet clear if
either of her two likely opponents can mount an effective campaign,
Second, Democrats have done well in recent off-year or special
state elections. NET CHANGE: A possible GOP pick-up, but now
looking better for the Democratic incumbent.

INDIANA: Incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly was a surprise winner
six years ago, and is quite vulnerable in this usually GOP state. But
the Republicans don’t yet have a certain challenger to him, and it is
not yet clear that the GOP primary will produce a strong opponent.
NET CHANGE:  Donnelly still very vulnerable, but his prospects have
recently improved.

OHIO: Incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown was rated as very
vulnerable at the outset of the cycle, and  State Treasurer Josh
Mandel (who ran against him last cycle) was a strong challenger,
A family health crisis prompted Mandel to withdraw, NET CHANGE:
Brown will still have a major challenger, but a formidable campaigner,
he is now the clear favorite for re-election.

TENNESSEE: After the GOP incumbent unexpectedly resigned, this
was expected to remain a conservative seat, but the Democrats have
recruited a popular former governor, Phil Bredeson, to run against
GOP Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. In a recent poll, Bredeson
is ahead. NET CHANGE: A possible Democratic pick-up.

WEST VIRGINIA: Perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the U.S.
senate, Joe Manchin is highly vulnerable in this state that went
overwhelmingly for President Trump. The only statewide Dtemocrat
left, Manchin is a former governor and personally popular. The GOP
primary outcome is not clear. NET CHANGE: Manchin is vulnerable,
but don’t count him out.

FLORIDA:  Aging Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson is very vulnerable,
and Republican Rick Scott will be a strong challenger. NET CHANGE:
A close race, but Scott has now some momentum.

Other states were initially thought to be competitive, including
Michigan and Pennsylvania, have not yet materialized. A retirement
in Mississippi was unexpected, but there is no indication yet of any
pick-up in this conservative state.

All of the above is only an update. As we have already seen this year,
dramatic changes can occur. Republicans clearly have the
mathematical advantage, but it is far from clear how many seats
they will be able to gain in November.

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

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