Gonzales

Election analysis from Nathan L. Gonzales

Fallout in Michigan and beyond from Justin Amash’s breakup with GOP
Complications force 3rd District race to move from Solid to Leans Republican

Rep. Justin Amash’s departure from the GOP complicates the party’s effort to regain control of the House, if he runs as an independent in Michigan’s 3rd District. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republicans didn’t shed a tear after Rep. Justin Amash jumped the GOP ship last week. But their exuberance over being rid of the Michigan congressman might be masking the impact his departure will have on their efforts to recapture the House majority and regain control of his 3rd District.

As more of a libertarian than a Republican, Amash has never fit comfortably within the GOP conference, and he made his departure official with a July 4 op-ed in The Washington Post declaring his independence from the Republican Party.

Rating changes: Texas and Minnesota Senate races shift the Democrats’ way
Cornyn remains the favorite, but defending his seat could cost the GOP resources

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas,  is still favored for reelection next year, but may have to work harder than past Republicans as the state trends more Democratic. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The fight for Senate control is still taking shape and, less than 16 months before Election Day, two states appear to moving in the Democrats’ direction on the battlefield.

Donald Trump came within about a point and a half of winning Minnesota in the 2016 presidential election. But that might be the new high-water mark for Republicans, and the GOP will have a hard time unseating Democratic Sen. Tina Smith in 2020.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and run somewhere else
Comeback trail for 2020 candidates sometimes means running in a different district — or state

Rep. Susie Lee won Nevada’s 3rd District last fall after losing the Democratic primary in the 4th District two years earlier. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A handful of House candidates this cycle aren’t letting previous losses — or geography — get in the way of another congressional run. Dozens of members of Congress lost races before eventually winning, but some politicians are aiming their aspirations at different districts, and in some cases different states, to get to Capitol Hill.

In Arizona, Democrat Hiral Tipirneni lost two races to Republican Debbie Lesko in the 8th District last year, including a special election. This cycle, she is seeking the Democratic nomination in the neighboring 6th District to take on Republican incumbent David Schweikert.

Ratings change: Brooks retirement makes Indiana 5th less safe for GOP
Inside Elections downgrades seat from Solid to Likely Republican

The announced retirement of Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., makes her seat harder for Republicans to defend in 2020 according to Inside Elections’ Nathan L. Gonzales. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana announced she will not seek re-election, creating a potential open-seat headache for Republicans in Indiana’s 5th District. The congresswoman won re-election to a fourth term in 2018 in the central Indiana district with 57 percent, but the district shifted between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.

Now-Utah Sen. Mitt Romney won the 5th District 58-41 percent over President Barack Obama in 2012, but Donald Trump carried it more narrowly 53-41 percent over Hillary Clinton in 2016, fueling Democratic optimism even before Brooks’ announcement. Democratic strategists have also been excited about former state Rep. Christina Hale getting into the race. She ran for lieutenant governor on a ticket with John Gregg in 2016, losing by 7 points in the 5th District.

Upcoming debates an important next stage in presidential campaign
2016 GOP race showed launching attacks in crowded field doesn’t always end as planned

Then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, shown at a 2016 campaign event in Ames, Iowa, went on the attack in a televised debate before the New Hampshire primary, but it may not have had the desired effect. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In a little more than two weeks, 20 candidates will take the debate stage in their quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. And with increasing pressure to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack, some contenders could choose to take the gloves off and attack an opponent, which would have a ripple effect on the race.

Up to this point, the Democratic race has largely been cordial, except for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders going after former Vice President Joe Biden. But one or more of the 2020 hopefuls could decide that a nationally televised debate would be an excellent place and time to knock an opponent down a few slots.

Does open seat in Montana help or hurt Democrats’ pickup opportunity?
Gianforte, who underperformed a generic Republican in the past, is leaving the House to run for governor

The decision by Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., to run for governor creates an open seat that could be easier for Republicans to defend.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Parties crave open seats, considering the vast majority of incumbents win re-election. But in the case of Montana’s at-large district, Democrats may have lost their preferred opponent when Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte filed to run for governor.

While it might have been daunting for Democrats to face Gianforte’s personal wealth in a presidential year in a state President Donald Trump carried by 20 points, the congressman has actually underperformed the partisan lean of the state in past elections. It might have something to do with him assaulting a reporter in 2017.

Why a GOP super PAC is bothering to attack Steve Bullock’s bid for president
Montana ads are more about denting his potential Senate prospects

A Republican attack ad aimed at Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination is more likely designed to hurt him if he runs for the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock isn’t one of the leading Democratic contenders for the 2020 presidential nomination, but he’s learning how to turn a Republican attack into an asset for his campaign.

On May 29, the GOP-affiliated Senate Leadership Fund started a television ad campaign in the Missoula media market, according to Kantar/CMAG, and the message went straight to the point.

Some House members are contemplating retirement, according to history
GOP departures last cycle helped fuel Democrats’ takeover

The decision by Rep. José E. Serrano, D-N.Y., to retire isn’t likely to affect the 2020 election map, since Hillary Clinton carried his district by 89 points in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the unofficial kickoff of summer, Memorial Day is a time to remember the fallen, spend time with family and grill meats. But history tells us it’s also a time for more than a handful of members to reconsider their future in the House.

Going back to 1976, an average of 23 House members have not sought re-election or another office each election cycle. So far this cycle, just four have made that decision, which means more retirements will come and competitive open seats could change the fight for the majority.

(Mostly) Political one-liners: Pennsylvania special, Kentucky governor, and the Trail Blazers

Republican Fred Keller’s no-drama victory in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District this week came after President Donald Trump spoke at a rally the night before the special election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

California’s 48th District: The Orange County Republican Party endorsed County Supervisor Michelle Steel on Monday in the race against freshman Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda, which could give pause to potential candidates such as former state Sen. Janet Nguyen.

Colorado Senate: Former District Attorney John Walsh, a Democrat, came by the office for an interview on Tuesday to talk about the Colorado Senate race, and we’ll publish our Candidate Conversation in the May 31 issue of Inside Elections.

What can we learn from the North Carolina redo election?
September vote could signal whether rough GOP seas have calmed since November

Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop’s campaign in North Carolina’s 9th District redo race could be a barometer for the GOP’s fate in 2020 campaigns, Gonzales writes. (Courtesy Bishop for Congress)

By now, most journalists, handicappers, and party operatives are trained to restrain themselves when applying special election results to future general election forecasts.

But the redo election in North Carolina’s 9th District provides a unique opportunity to learn about the present political environment and how it’s changed since November.

Enzi retirement likely to spur competitive Wyoming primary, but for which seat?
If Cheney runs, battle may be for her House seat in country’s most Republican state

Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, talks with Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., during a ceremony to unveil a bust of her father in the Capitol Visitor Center's Emancipation Hall in 2015. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Michael B. Enzi’s decision not to seek a fifth term is causing more than a handful of his fellow Wyoming Republicans to evaluate their political ambitions. 

Only seven men (and zero women) have represented the Equality State in the Senate in the last 50 years, and this is Wyoming’s first open Senate seat in more than 20 years. Statewide office as a Republican in Wyoming is as close to a lifetime appointment as it gets in electoral politics these days.

Stop grading 2020 candidate recruitment, particularly this far from Election Day
Victories by past recruitment ‘failures’ should make parties and press more cautious

The decision by former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams not to run for Senate was branded a Democratic recruitment failure by Republicans, but the state remains competitive, Gonzales writes. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images file photo)

Gloating about and reporting on candidate recruitment has become commonplace in the election process. But too often, the grading and grandstanding is premature — and even completely wrong.

This cycle, Republicans are crowing after former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams declined to run for the Senate and freshman Rep. Cindy Axne decided to forgo a Senate run in Iowa. But their decisions don’t change the national dynamic (the GOP majority is still at risk) or the local dynamic (both of those races are still competitive). History tells us we have a long way to go before November 2020.

Republicans have a post-Trump identity crisis on the horizon
What will it mean to be a Republican once the president leaves office?

Being a Republican has increasingly come to mean being with President Donald Trump, Gonzales writes, but it’s far from clear what the party will look like after he leaves office and if it will turn to Vice President Mike Pence for leadership. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republicans are enjoying their ride in the White House and basking in the glow of a divided Democratic presidential field, but a monumental identity crisis is looming for the GOP.

Whether you think President Donald Trump won’t be president in two months, two years or six years, Republicans are going to have a difficult time moving on to the next chapter.

Rating change: Loebsack’s retirement in Iowa expands House playing field
Race for open seat in 2nd District is now a Toss-up

Rep. David Loebsack, D-Iowa, will not be seeking an eighth term next year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

No one really gave Cornell College professor Dave Loebsack a chance of knocking off Republican Rep. Jim Leach in 2006. But the Democrat won that race, and more than a dozen years later, he’s announced that his current seventh term in Congress will be his last.

Democrats now have to defend a competitive open seat that wasn’t previously on the list of vulnerable districts.

How to survive and thrive in Iowa — words of wisdom from former staffers
Gephardt 2004 alums recall lessons from the road long traveled

Richard A. Gephardt rallies union workers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in January 2004 as he campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination. He dropped out after a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. (Scott Olson/Getty Images file photo)

With less than 10 months to go before the Iowa caucuses, hundreds of Democrats have descended on the Hawkeye State to organize and energize voters. Only one candidate will finish first on Feb. 3 — and ultimately, there will be only one presidential nominee — but the experience can be invaluable to younger staff and could help the party in future years.

In 2004, Missouri Democrat Richard A. Gephardt was the early favorite as a neighboring congressman who narrowly won the 1988 presidential caucuses. Gephardt finished fourth, but his Iowa team was an impressive compilation of young talent who went on to help Democrats take back the White House, Senate, House and state legislatures around the country.