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“The Sunday Political Brunch”—February 12, 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Domination by one party is a rare event in American politics and no fun for the party out of power. And despite all of the anti-GOP protests after the 2016 elections, things may actually get worse for Democrats. It’s a tough road ahead, so let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Against All Odds” – The numbers are not kind to Democrats right now. In the 2018 U.S. Senate elections, Democrats (plus two Independents who caucus with them) are defending 25 seats. Republican incumbents are defending just nine seats. Yes, midterm elections usually mean gains for the party out of power, but this will be a struggle. Right now, Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the Senate, and actually their numbers could grow.

“The Trump Factor” – Of the 25 states where Democrats and their allies are defending incumbent seats next year, Donald Trump carried ten in the Electoral College. Those states may tilt more towards Republicans in 2018. If the GOP wins eight of the states, that would bring its majority to 60 in the Senate, enough to block any filibuster.

“Almost Heaven; West Virginia” – Let’s begin in the state where I currently reside. Popular U.S. Senator (and former Governor) Joe Manchin is up for re-election in 2018 (photo above). Despite his family’s long legacy in Mountain State politics, his gregarious personal charm, and a gift for retail politics, his re-election prospects are now listed as a “toss-up” by national analysts. This is an old blue state turned solid red in recent years, and Manchin has even been rumored to be thinking of switching parties. (He’s the most conservative Democrat in the U.S. Senate.) Two-term Republican State Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, and U.S. Representatives Evan Jenkins (R-WV-3) and David McKinley (R-WV-1) are possible foils.

“North, by North Dakota” – Incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is a political moderate who has sided with conservatives on issues concerning the fossil fuels - oil, gas, and coal. She was even considered by President Trump to be Secretary of Agriculture. She is the state’s former Attorney General. In many ways – like Senator Joe Manchin – she is a Democratic olive branch to the Trump administration; but, right now, her re-election race is listed as a “toss-up.”

“I Dream of Jeannie” – Actor Larry Hagman was astronaut “Major Nelson” in the 60s TV sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie,” so I laughed when Congressman-turned-astronaut Bill Nelson was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000. It seemed this was a “Nelson family” legacy. All this fun trivia aside, Florida is another state that went for Trump in 2016. Right now, Florida is listed as “tilts Democrat” for the Nelson 2018 race, but a lot depends on who runs against him. Might former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) jump in to raise his national profile? Current Governor Rick Scott? Stay tuned!

“The Safe States – Or Are They?” – Traditionally Democratic states Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan went for candidate Trump in 2106, and swing state Ohio went for him, too. Each of these four critical Presidential states has a Democratic Senator defending a seat in the next election. But the seats of Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Patrick Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) are listed as “leaning" or "safe” for the Democrats next year. Why is that, if those states went for Trump? Well, all four states are fiercely and traditionally independent, so just because they picked a GOP candidate for the White House doesn’t mean they won’t go DEM for Senate!

“Wild Cards” – Three states may hold the balance: Montana, Missouri, and Indiana. Why? First, all three states with Democratic Senators went for Donald Trump for President. One-term Senator Ted Donnelly (D-IN) must already be feeling the heat, with his former Governor, Mike Pence (R-IN), having been elected Vice President. In Montana, two-term Senator Jon Tester has won both times in very close races, with less than 50 percent of the vote. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) won a very close race, defeating an incumbent in 2006, and coasted to a solid re-election in 2012. But Missouri is a swing state, so in 2018 it’s listed as a “toss-up.”

“My Prediction” – Based on the usual gains by the party out of power and the very uncertain Trump coattail effect, I am predicting the Republicans will have a net gain of three seats in the U.S Senate in 2018, giving them a 55-45 majority, but short of the filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes they seek.

Are you already looking forward to Campaign 2018? And why? Just click the comment button at http://www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.


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