Tuesday, December 26, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Year-End 2023 Update For 2024 U.S. Senate Races

This is an update on the 2024 U.S. senate elections

cycle. Twenty-three seats of incumbent Democrats

and eleven Republican seats will be on the ballot,

and partisan control is very much at stake.

From the outset of this cycle, political analysts

noted that about eight seats held by Democrats

and one seat held by Republicans were likely to be

competitive. This suggested that the GOP, at least

on paper, had a distinct advantage to regain control

of the body which currently has a 51-49 lead for the


In recent weeks, this advantage has seemed to

increase because of three main factors.

First, Democrat Joe Manchin, the incumbent in

West Virginia announced his retirement, making

that seat almost certain to go to likely GOP nominee

Jim Justice and a pick-up.

Second, another retiring senator, Democrat  Debbie

Stabenow (Michigan), and the party-switch of

Democrat Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) to independent

has made those two races very competitive. In

Michigan, likely Democrat nominee Elissa Slotkin

currently leads likely GOP nominee Mike Rogers by

only two points. In Arizona, a likely three-way race

(including now-independent Sinema) is too close to


Third, in contrast to 2022 when an expected “red

wave” failed to occur, and GOP hopes to win control

failed, the quality of the  Republican candidates 

appears to be significantly improved. This has been

the deliberate effort of GOP senate campaign chair

Steve Daines who took an active role in recruiting

strong conservative candidates in the competitive

races. These include Tim Sheehey in Montana,

David McCormick in Pennsylvania, Sam Brown in

Nevada, and Mike Rogers in Michigan. The eventual

GOP nominee, following a spring, 2024 primary in

Ohio, also is likely to be very competitive against

incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown.

In Wisconsin, the incumbent Democrat Tammy 

Baldwin is potentially vulnerable, but a likely GOP 

nominee has not yet emerged.

Incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey

has recently been indicted, and although he says he 

is running in 2024, another Democrat is likely to be

nominated. Normally, this is a safe seat, and is likely

to remain with a Democratic senator, but the contest

could attract a major Republican to make this a more

competitive race.

Another “safe” incumbent Democrat Tim Kaine is

favored to win re-election, but his state Virginia has

become more purple. If Republican Hung Cao wins

his primary, the race could be close.

Democrats have high hopes to pick up a seat in Texas

where GOP incumbent Ted Cruz is considered 

vulnerable. Collin Allred is the likely liberal nominee

against Cruz, and the race could be tight.

Although Florida GOP incumbent Rick Scott is 

generally considered likely to win re-election, the 

races in this state are often close, and a strong

Democrat might make the contest competitive.

Several GOP senate primaries are still months away,

and thus some uncertainty remains in the Arizona,

Michigan and Ohio races. The presidential election

could also play a role in the down-ballot U.S. senate

races. It is interesting to note that GOP frontrunner

Donald Trump, whose 2020 senate endorsed 

candidates did poorly, is making few endorsements

for 2024. Likewise, Democrat senate candidates seem

in no hurry for endorsement from President Joe 

Biden who despite his likely renomination remains

low in the polls.

The first primaries for U.S. senate, house, governor and

president are only weeks away. The national election

of 2024, as elections past, will be determined by

turnout. Republicans, as noted above have a clear

advantage in their quest to regain control of the U.S.

senate, but as 2020 illustrated so painfully for them,

they have a fundamental challenge of getting their

voters to the polls if they hope to win.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


Wednesday, December 20, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Future President?

Over several decades of reporting on and analyzing

U.S. presidential elections, I have with some 

frequency attempted to call attention to little known

political figures who would later emerge as serious

contenders to occupy the White House. Some of

them actually became president, including the

present occupant — although my prediction about

him was thirty-five years premature!

In 1975, writing in my own newspaper, I noted the

emerging Jimmy Carter. In 1982, I wrote about the

then-unknown Gary Hart. In 1985, it was the already

mentioned Joe Biden. In 1990, I predicted the rise

of Bill Clinton. Finally, in 2016 I said Donald Trump

would win, but only after initially dismissing his

chances. In between, I missed the success of

Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and his son

George W. Bush were already well-known. I also

did not foresee the emergence of Barack Obama.

In 2012, I as wrong when I predicted Mitt Romney

would win in 2012. The prediction business, it must

be said, is a mixed bag.

The prospect of Joe Biden running against Donald

Trump again has made me reluctant to make any

predictions this cycle, especially since so many in the 

two political parties prefer another nominee. I have said

that Mr. Biden will eventually retire and not run in 2024,

but time is running out for the Democrats to replace

him. As for Mr. Trump, his lead in the polls is very

large, and only Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis have

any chance to be the Republican nominee instead of

him — but at least for now they are far behind.

So I am at present not going to make any predictions

about 2024, other than to say that the insistence of

both party establishments on two aging and 

controversial nominees is venturing into uncharted

political territory that risks all kinds of electoral

surprises from the voters.

I have also written that, unlike the GOP, the

Democrats have a weak candidate “bench” this cycle.

But nothing prevents me from looking forward to the

next presidential election cycle, and to see if, particularly

in the case of the Democrats, there is anyone who

shows clear potential to be a future president.

I have heard and read about various recently-elected or

appointed liberal party figures who might emerge in the

next cycle, such as current Secretary of Commerce,

and former Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and

current Maryland Governor Wes Moore, and I think they

might have some potential.

But a recent political controversy demonstrated the

exceptional promise of a third figure, the current 

governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, a Democrat.

Shapiro has a law degree from Georgetown University,

practiced law, and served as a chief of staff for a member

of Congress. He was then elected to the Pennsylvania

legislature. After subsequently serving as a county

commissioner, he was elected for two terms as the

attorney general of the Keystone State. In 2022, he won

the governorship by a landslide.

Recent polls show he is a popular incumbent.

As the governor of a large state that is considered

competitive between the two major parties, Shapiro was

more or less automatically considered a political figure

with a national future, but it was the recent controversy

with three prominent university presidents that suddenly

demonstrated his significant skills.

One of those presidents was Liz Magill of the University

of Pennsylvania (full disclosure: my alma mater). She, 

like the presidents of Harvard and M.I.T. had testified

before Congress, and all three ignited a political

firestorm when they failed to state clearly that expressions

of anti-semitism were unacceptable on their campuses.

Instead, they took the position that their campuses

allowed for free speech, even if it was sometimes extremist.

However, at Penn, Harvard and M.I.T. — and many other

college campuses across the nation — there had been

recent demonstrations and protests that went far beyond

expression of free speech. These had routinely prevented

students to hear conservative speakers, and they frequently

harassed professors and fellow students with whom they

disagreed. These incidents were not isolated, but had

become routine, and when they occurred, university

officials had done little or nothing in response.

The three university presidents answered questions at

the congressional hearing as if they were only about free

speech, and not about their responsibility to protect their

students and maintain the well-being of their campuses.

This fundamental misreading of public concern about

activities on college campuses ignited a firestorm of

public criticism. Elected officials of both parties denounced

the three presidents, as did the White House. Alumnae of

the three institutions did as well, and some of those who

contributed most to their endowments withdrew previously

announced gifts of millions of dollars. In the case of Penn,

the trustees of the University withheld their support of 

Magill, and the board of its prestigious Wharton Business

School demanded her resignation.

At this point, Governor Shapiro made a visit to a Philadelphia

restaurant which had been a target of demonstrations to

show his support, and leaving the restaurant, he held an

impromptu press conference. His initial statement and

his answers to press questions were so eloquent and

clarifying that the video of the press conference went viral.

Shapiro said that the statements of President Magill were

unacceptable, that the actions of the recent protests on the

campus and at the restaurant were more reminiscent of

Nazi Germany in the 1930s than they were simply

expressions of free speech. He said her role, and the

role of her fellow presidents, was not just presiding over

technical rules, but to protect their students. Stating his

own strong opposition to antisemitism, islamophobia,

homophobia and all other prejudices, Shapiro said that

the issue was not the right for anyone to hold controversial

views, and to express them, but the attempt to prevent

others from expressing and practicing their own views.

In short, Governor Shapiro was saying that too many of

the campus demonstrations were, in effect, “free speech

for me, but not for you.” 

Combined with a strong criticism of Magill by Pennsylvania

U.S. Senator Bob Casey, also a Democrat, as well as by

several state members of Congress and the state

legislatures, the reaction was locally bipartisan as it was

across the nation.

President Magill soon resigned.

Many persons expressed themselves during this 

controversy. Some spoke of their concerns for academic

freedom, a legitimate issue, but it was Governor Shapiro

who so effectively made it clear that academic freedom

and free speech were not at stake in this controversy;

rather that the specter of intimidation and harassment was 

the real issue.

Showing similar depth on other issues in his state, Josh

Shapiro is already someone to listen to and watch in the

years ahead.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.