Saturday, November 05, 2016

Election Night Guide, Part 4: Maine-North Carolina

(I am checking through every state and my political predictions for Election Night 2016: If you have missed any of the other pieces, please click here: Pt. 1: Alabama-Arkansas, Pt. 2: California-Georgia, Pt. 3: Hawaii-Louisiana)

State Sen. Emily Cain (D-ME)

President: There was a lot of chatter amongst the political talking heads about Maine finally giving political pundits something to talk about with its strange vote-by-House-seat approach to presidential elections, but the 2nd district has started to return to form, and my gut says will deliver a narrow win for Hillary Clinton as per usual.  So all four of the Pine Tree State’s electoral votes go to the Democrats.
House: Even before Clinton started to rebound, State Sen. Emily Cain had been competitive in the 2nd district, a rematch of her race against Rep. Bruce Poliquin from two years ago (one that shocked a lot of people, myself included, who figured that Cain would emerge victorious).  While history has taught me not to underestimate Poliquin (and incumbency is on his side here, which it wasn’t two years ago), Cain has run the better campaign and managed to turn swing voters to her side.  Clinton surging is the final push to make me say Democrats +1


President: Maryland hates Trump.  One of the bluest states on the map will eviscerate the New York billionaire with great relish.
Senate: With Sen. Barbara Mikulski retiring, the real question here wasn’t the general but the primary, where Rep. Chris van Hollen won soundly.  He’ll now get a Senate seat for as long as he wants it.


President: The land of Elizabeth Warren isn’t going to go anywhere near Donald Trump.  Easy victory for the Democrats.


President: The dynamics here could have favored Donald Trump.  Republicans, if they’re going to watch states like North Carolina, Colorado, and Virginia become more reliably blue, are going to have to start converting a place like Michigan to their side.  But polling has consistently shown Clinton, a longtime proponent of organized labor (still a big deal in this state) in the lead and I think she’ll stay there, likely with a 6-7 point victory.
House: Three races look competitive here, but while the Democrats have put forward solid candidates in Michigan’s 7th and 8th districts (the 8th is a particular coup considering she was a very last-minute candidate), the Republican incumbents will hold those seats.  The bigger question remains in the 1st district, open with the retirement of Rep. Dan Benishek (R).  Neither party put forward a particularly compelling candidate (Jack Bergman on the right, Lon Johnson on the left), and this is a seat that went Obama 08/Romney 12, so it’s a tossup with a slight GOP tilt.  I honestly think this goes with whichever person wins the district for the White House, but can find no polling either way here, so I’m going with Bergman because tie goes to the incumbent party.  But Johnson could win, and by even as much as five-points, and I wouldn’t bat an eye.  For both parties, this feels like a missed opportunity not to get a stronger standard-bearer.

State Sen. Terri Bonoff (D-MN)

President: No Republican has won the Gopher State since 1972, and that ain’t changing this year-Clinton takes the ten electoral votes here.
House: Three competitive House races are across the state, all of which have different dynamics at play.  The most likely to turn is the 2nd, where retiring Rep. John Kline’s (R) seat is surely going to go to the left, after they nominated status quo contender Angie Craig against a Republican radio personality (Jason Lewis) who mirrors Trump’s demeanor in a district Hillary Clinton’s going to win.  The Republicans are luckier in the third district, where incumbent Rep. Erik Paulsen is probably going to best State Sen. Terri Bonoff (polls have shown her down), though if Clinton has coattails, or more importantly, if Republicans don’t show up to the polls, I wouldn’t totally discount this being the surprise of the night; HRC is surely going to win here, and Trump would play particularly poorly in this affluent suburban district, which hosts the most college-educated voters of any district in the state.  Finally, there’s the 8th district, one where I cannot quite figure out where it’s headed.  Donald Trump has done surprisingly well in the Iron Range, the heart-and-soul of this expansive district, and if he’s going to take down an incumbent member of the House (only once in the past thirty years have the Democrats gotten every incumbent reelected in Congress), it’s probably Nolan.  Nolan’s campaign has been poor, his challenger Stewart Mills much better than last time, and I’m guessing this is the shock flip of the night.  As a result, one-for-one and no net change.


President: At some point the large population of African-Americans in the Magnolia State will swing this to the Democrats-Barack Obama did better than you remember here-but it won’t be this year, where Trump will drastically over-perform with white voters. 


President: This used to be a bellwether, but no longer-Democrats can win down-ballot, and frequently do, but not for the White House.  Expect a narrow Trump victory.
Governor: I keep waiting for the shoe to drop in the Show-Me State.  After all, Republicans now dominate on a presidential level, but for some reason statewide Democrats remain quite competitive.  Iraq War veteran Eric Greitens (R) should be able to pick-up this seat from retiring Gov. Jay Nixon (not the most popular man in the state after the Ferguson Riots), but Attorney General Chris Koster has repeatedly been ahead of him in polls, to the point where I just don’t see a way for Greitens to get in if Trump is winning but underperforming up-ballot.  It’s a hold, but one that doesn’t make a lot of sense-the GOP dropped the ball here.
Senate: Now we’re getting into races I really don’t want to call.  The Senate battle between Sen. Roy Blunt, a first-term Republican, and Secretary of State Jason Kander, a young veteran of the War in Afghanistan, has featured one of the strangest tossups of the year.  In any normal cycle, Blunt would be the favorite, by a pretty decisive margin, but this isn’t a normal year and Kander is arguably the best challenger of 2016 from either party.  In a lot of ways this reminds me of the North Dakota Senate race, where Heidi Heitkamp overcame pretty much every obstacle (outrunning the Dem nominee for the White House, running a flawless campaign, and overcoming even the polls), and took the seat in a huge upset.  The only difference here is that Heitkamp was running in an open seat.  The dynamics of this race favor Blunt, but the momentum favors Kander, and I just can’t quite go there for the Democrats.  I hope I’m wrong, but the slightest of leans to Blunt.  If Kander does pull off the upset, expect him to become a part of the national conversation in the future.


President: I’m surprised there haven’t been more polls here, considering President Obama nearly won the Treasure State in 2008, but that lack of polls makes me think that both sides assume Trump will win, which is probably right.
Governor: Gov. Steve Bullock continues to luck out in terms of presidential races-four years ago he won despite succeeding a Democrat and having to outrun Mitt Romney.  Now he’s relatively popular, and the Republicans don’t appear that interested in challenging him, instead waiting four years to take a shot at the open seat.  As a result, he should win reelection by high single-digits.
House: House Majority PAC raised a lot of eyebrows recently when they bought ads for the final two weeks of the House race, but polling doesn’t indicate as to why.  Rep. Ryan Zinke doesn’t appear vulnerable, and while he has a solid challenger in State Superintendent Denise Juneau, the race doesn’t feel competitive.  I am curious about results here (were they seeing something closer than expected or wash this a psych-out?), but I don’t see how Zinke loses.


President: I’m still wondering if Hillary Clinton could, in fact, pickup Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district.  The rest of the state is Solid Trump, but this seat is a tossup and some are still calling it for her.  I’m going to go there, actually-Hillary Clinton, thanks in large part to her emerging strength with college-educated white voters (and with women in general) takes one electoral vote in a similar fashion to Barack Obama eight years ago (this is another race that I’m going against what I planned on doing, for the record, and would be the first of her states I’d suspect to drop if she does poorer on Election Day than expected).
House: If Hillary Clinton is likely to win NE-2 by a nose, it goes to reason that down-ballot will be helped by that.  I expect Rep. Brad Ashford, despite not being a superb campaigner, to outperform her and as a result hold the seat he picked up two years ago (meaning he’ll have this seat two years longer than I anticipated).

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

President: If early voting numbers are to be believed, this is where Clinton’s ground game will pay off the biggest dividends.  While the polls show this race neck-and-neck, the early-voting numbers are very favorable to the Clinton camp, and polls have historically underrepresented Democrats here.  As a result, I’m saying this is going to Hillary Clinton, perhaps by more than the 1-2 points she’s expected to take it by already.
Senate: I have said for months that, thanks to that underrepresentation of Democrats in polling, if this race looks tied on Election Day, the tie goes to the left.  That’s about where we’re at-polling aggregates may give a slight lean to Catherine Cortez Masto thanks to her rebounding post the Access Hollywood video (keep in mind it’s easier for die-hard Trump supporters who are angry and want to vote against Joe Heck to do so in Nevada because there is literally a “None of the Above” option on the ballot), but this is very competitive.  However, I think the dynamics of the race and my hunches about it (early voting giving the Democrats a bit of an advantage, Cortez Masto gaining ground at the last minute, polling usually favoring GOP in the Silver State, and the Reid machine going at full-force), means that Nevadans will probably end up electing the first Latina senator in US history.
House: Up until a few weeks ago, again, this looked like the Republicans could be in for a sigh-of-relief.  Rep. Crescent Hardy and open-seat challenger Danny Tarkanian (running for Heck’s seat) were doing decently in the polls for the 4th and 3rd, respectively, but early voting numbers plus enthusiasm on the ground for Democrats has made me have a change of heart and I now think we’re looking at a two-seat pickup for the Democrats, with State Sen. Ruben Kihuen and Jacky Rosen emerging victorious.  This will be, for those keeping track at home, the fifth consecutive loss for Tarkanian, and for the sake of the Nevada GOP, hopefully his final race. Democrats +2

New Hampshire

President: Though it was certainly a race that felt competitive, and it’s the state most likely to turn if a wave builds, Hillary Clinton has built a solid if not spectacular lead in this race, and should be able to paint all of New England blue with the Granite State going her way.
Governor: The strange case of New Hampshire, one of only two states in the country to elect their governors to two year terms, is that it is susceptible to waves up-and-down the ballot.  We saw that in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and (to some degree) 2014.  That should mean good news for Colin van Ostern, running as a Democrat for the open seat here.  The Republicans put up arguably their best possible option in Chris Sununu, son of a former governor and brother of a former senator, but van Ostern has rebounded sharply in the polls and should be able to hang onto the seat left open by Maggie Hassan.
Senate: If I was allowed to keep one seat a tossup, literally of every one on this list, I’d do so in New Hampshire’s Senate race.  The seat could not be closer.  Aggregate polling has had it within two-points since April (according to the Huffington Post), and as a result it genuinely could go either direction. Kudos have to go to both Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) who managed to get to November with people genuinely still liking both of them, almost unheard of in a close race of this level.  Part of me wants to say Ayotte-she can still top a poll even though everything practical in this race insinuates that she should be drowning, but the dynamics of the race, plus Hassan having emerged with a slight lead in aggregate polling, makes me think she’ll probably take it (plus I think Clinton winning up-ballot has to be worth at least a couple of votes).  I reserve the right to change my answer here as the election gets closer, but for now Democrats +1
House: I’m feeling better about the House seats.  Rep. Ann Kuster probably should have a rougher go than she is this cycle, but the Republicans can’t really afford to contest this race with every race on the ballot looking more likely to flip (look at her margin though as an indicator of where this could go in 2018).  That includes the NH-1 seat, where (for the fourth consecutive cycle) we see incumbent Rep. Frank Guinta (R) facing off against former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D).  Unlike the Senate race, neither of these two seem particularly well-loved, but one of them is going to win, and it’s probably going to be Shea-Porter.  After all, Guinta barely made it through the primary (winning by less than a thousand votes), and has been embattled by ethics violations for most of the past two years.  Had Rick Ashooh won the primary, Shea-Porter probably would be in trouble (she’s not a very inspiring candidate), and she’ll surely be a top target in two years, but the focus here is on 2016 solely.  And she’s going to win a fourth non-consecutive term on Tuesday. Democrats +1

New Jersey

President: I don’t know if Chris Christie has any pride left after the debacle of this presidential run, but if he does it could well disappear when Hillary Clinton clobbers his friend Donald Trump in the Garden State.
House: After three presidential cycles where LGBT issues played a large role, this year there’s been nary a word.  In fact, gay voters may be one of the only minority groups that Donald Trump hasn’t made a go-to punching bag in his stump speech.  But that doesn’t mean LGBT rights won’t have an effect on races, as New Jersey’s 5th district could well see the fall of longtime Rep. Scott Garrett because of his staunch disapproval of gay rights.  Garrett got a lot of heat for refusing to donate to the NRCC since they were supporting gay Republican candidates, and former Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer has effectively run against Garrett for most of the cycle targeting him for this assertion.  My gut tells me that Garrett was only safe in this marginal district because he was innocuous.  In a low turnout election (particularly in a year where the entire state of New Jersey seems to hate Chris Christie), which I’m guessing this will be, Gottheimer will probably just best Garrett. Democrats +1

New Mexico

President: I wake up in a cold sweat occasionally thinking about how New Mexico might end up being closer than I expect.  It is, after all, not really the “solid Democratic” state you’d anticipate looking at its congressional delegation (it went for Bush in 2004, after all), but the thriving Latino population in the state should help Clinton, and the polls show this as a mid-range single digit victory.  So that sounds about right.

Zephyr Teachout (D-NY)
New York

President: It’s not often commented upon, but we are in the middle of a subway election, a rarity in politics where both candidates are from the same state.  Perhaps that’s because Clinton will likely be clobbering Trump, potentially by 30-points.
Senate: Chuck Schumer may not know whether he’ll be majority or minority leader in the next Congress, but he’ll know that it will be one of them since he’s certain to win a fourth term in the Senate.
House: I mentioned that Florida and California were the states that the Democrats needed to run-the-board on in order to win the House, but the third leg of that stool is New York.  New York poses a lot of potential victories for the Democrats, but it’s worth noting that, despite Clinton doing well statewide, Trump’s presumably solid numbers upstate has kept New York from getting too many headlines for the House.  For example, Rep. Elise Stefanik in the 21st seems assured reelection despite some worries, and while Tom Suozzi should hold the 3rd for the Democrats (that was a question mark for a while there), there’s not a lot of other good news.  Reps. Lee Zeldin (1st) and John Katko (24th) both had to upend incumbents two years ago to win their seats, but appear relatively safe if polling is to be believed, and that really only leaves the 19th and 22nd, both open seats, as possible pickups for the Democrats. The 22nd probably gives the Democrat their best shot, here holding the seat of retiring Rep. Richard Hanna (R, though he is arguably the most moderate Republican in the House and has endorsed Hillary Clinton…still a pickup if they get it though), as the Republicans are in a pickle with conservative third-party candidate Martin Babinec stealing votes from Republican Claudia Tenney, likely leading to Democrat Kim Myers benefiting.  The 19th is a harder to call race-Zephyr Teachout is probably too liberal to hold this seat in a midterm, but controversy about a recent attack ad against her may help, and polling in the district has shown a tie for months, as well as a tie for the White House.  My gut says that Clinton or Trump will drag along their candidate, and as I think Trump barely takes this, so does John Faso the Republican.  But it could be close.  So just the 22nd for now as a seat that changes hands. Democrats +1

North Carolina

President: Democrats as a whole are a superstitious bunch, and so saying that Hillary Clinton is going to win a state I know will essentially clinch her the White House is something that makes me very uncomfortable.  And yet, both early voting (though not by a huge amount) and polling has indicated that Clinton has a slim but consistent lead in the Tar Heel State.  If it weren’t for fear that Donald Trump could be the next president, I’d say this is a win based entirely on the polls, but I am a bit apprehensive about choosing Clinton as a pretty heavy favorite in a state Barack Obama lost (and especially after I gave Trump a W in Florida).  Those caveats aside, Clinton seems likely to take this state, which would be a gargantuan win for her campaign.
Governor: It has been the story of the cycle that the three North Carolina races have randomly shifted leaders week-after-week-after-week, but perhaps the most consistent of the six candidates has been Attorney General Roy Cooper, challenging unpopular incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory, who, along with Scott Garret in New Jersey, may be the only Republican who could go down as a result of opposition to LGBT rights.  His transgender bathroom bill got widely panned nationally, and though he’s gained some in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, polls show it’s probably not enough-if Clinton wins, it’s hard to imagine Cooper not also winning, so Democrats +1

Senate: A lot of Republicans I’ve profiled here will look at their races and blame Donald Trump.  Sen. Richard Burr may want to, but really he only has himself to blame.  Despite being a decades-long fixture in GOP politics in the state, he’s not well-known statewide and waited far too late to start going after State Rep. Deborah Ross, who took advantage of the vacuum left by Burr’s absence and ended up turning this race into a true tossup.  I could buy this race going either direction, quite frankly, but I’m going to make this one of the few times I let hope perhaps get in the way of good judgment; it’s hard to see a lot of people splitting their tickets from Pres/Gov to senator, and Ross has closed well here.  I think she takes it in an upset no one saw coming six months ago. Democrats +1

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