The Political Dog Daze of Summer—Sunday Political Brunch June 3, 2018

Sunday, June 03, 2018
Mark Curtis, GoLocalWorcester Contributor

Mark Curtis
We’ve had blistering heat and humidity in much of the nation over the past week. Politics took a very brief break over the Memorial Day weekend, but with primaries and other political events this coming week, we’re heading into the “dog days” or perhaps more fitting, the “dog daze” of summer.

“Eight is Enough” – Eights states will hold primaries Tuesday, one of the biggest voting dates of the year so far. Voters will go to the polls in Alabama, California, Tennessee, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, and South Dakota.

"Missouri: The Don't Show Me State" -- Don't believe for a minute that the resignation of Governor Eric Greitens (R-Missouri) this week was strictly a legal maneuver to avoid prosecution. There had to be a great pressure from the national and state Republican parties, to get him to go. The reason? Missouri is one of the top five Senate races in the nation this year with incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) on the bubble. Greitens sex scandal threatened to hurt candidates on the GOP ballot. Attorney General Josh Hawley (R-MO) is the frontrunner, but the primary isn't until August. But if it looked like the state party was trying to protect and preserve Greitens it could have been a November disaster. Right now, most polls show the McCaskill-Hawley match-up to be dead heat.

"The Tennessee Waltz" -- Retiring Senator Bob Coker, (R-TN) was a likely shoo-in for reelection, but chose not to run. Like so many GOP seats in the House and Senate this year, abandoning a safe-seat has created toss-up races with Democrats being very competitive. Like Missouri, the primary isn't until August but right now the frontrunners are Rep. Marsha Blackburn, (R-TN) and former Gov. Phil Bredesen, (D-TN). Many national polls now put this as a toss-up. That might explain why President Trump held a raucous rally there Tuesday night supporting Blackburn (with even Trump’s bitter enemy Corker sharing the stage).

"Iowa First" – Among the thing to watch this coming Tuesday are not just individual races, but state trends. Iowa - the first state to caucus in 2020 - will once again be a bellwether, swing state in the next Presidential race. Iowa has bounced back and forth between Democrats and Republicans for decades. In the last 11 Presidential races Iowa went blue six times, and red five times. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA) took office when former Gov. Terry Branstad quit to become Ambassador to China. Gov. Reynolds has no primary opponent, but Democratic businessman Fred Hubbell, leads a crowded field of five candidates. The bottom line - If Republicans can't hold this seat in November - it could signal trouble for Trump in 2020.

"California Dreamin'" -- There's an old saying, "be careful what you wish for!" A few years ago, California went for a Democratic-led effort to change the primary system. Instead of letting the two major parties pick nominees for November, its switched to a top-two general election, in which both candidates might be from the same party. This, in fact happened in the U.S. Senate race in 2016. But now Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) is the frontrunner, but there are so many Democrats in the field that former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has slipped to third place behind Republican businessman John Cox. Yes, a GOP win in California is still a long shot, but it's no longer a Democratic slam dunk.

"California Nightmare" -- Democrats - who dominate the Golden State -were also hoping to make huge gains in Congress, targeting three vulnerable seats. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Darryl Issa, (R-CA), are both retiring. And Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, (R-CA) is facing a tough reelection challenge. But here's the problem for Democrats. They are fielding so many candidates in the primary, that it could ensure a GOP path to victory in November. Democrats are having conflicts between the liberal-progressive wing of the party, and the moderates (who may have a better chance at beating Republicans). We've seen this in other states, too. I would say Democrats need to win at least two - if not all three - of these California seats, to take control of the House in November.

“Swing States” – Okay, of the eight states holding primaries Tuesday only Iowa is a true swing state. New Mexico, Montana and Tennessee are potentially swing states. California is a solid blue state. Alabama, Mississippi, and South Dakota are reliably red. If they all lean in their current directions in 2018, it’s going to be tough for a Democratic takeover this year and in 2020. But if Democrats can swing some races in the two potentially swing states of Montana and Tennessee, they have a shot.

“WV Wildcard” – Things here in the Mountain State have gotten dicey again in what may still be the number one U.S. Senate race in the nation this year. Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-WV) is vulnerable in a state that turned from solidly blue, to solidly red in just two election cycles. State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey won a contentious Republican primary by a comfortable margin. But, now GOP third-place finisher, former coal executive, and federal convict Don Blankenship says he hopes to run as the Constitution Party nominee. There could be a big, expensive court fight over this, so stay tuned. Conventional wisdom is Blankenship pulls significant votes from Morrisey.

“North Korea Summit Rebirth?” – Let’s face it, a lot of the Republicans’ fates this fall depend on how well President Trump is doing. Trump was riding high in the polls over his looming nuclear summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Then the summit was cancelled, and now they are trying to piece it back together. Trump’s ratings rise and fall like a roller coaster, so a successful summit could give Republicans solid coattails in November. But if the deal goes south again, all bets are off.

What are your thoughts on Campaign 2018? To share your opinion just click the comment button at http://www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political reporter, analyst and author. He’s now Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving all of West Virginia and surrounding states.

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