Where’s the “Blue Wave?” – Sunday Political Brunch May 27, 2018

Sunday, May 27, 2018
Mark Curtis, GoLocalWorcester Contributor

Mark Curtis
For the third straight week, we had four Tuesday state primaries across the nation. Are we seeing any trends yet? Voters went to the polls in Kentucky, Georgia, Texas, and Arkansas. Let’s “brunch” on that that this week.

“Kentucky” – There were a couple of interesting races in Kentucky. First-time Democratic candidate Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, defeated Lexington’s openly gay Mayor, (and the party-backed candidate) Jim Gray. McGrath is the military-moderate to Gray’s progressive wing. This is a marginal district. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) has held the 6th district seat for three terms, but it was held by a Democrat the decade before that. It’s the kind of swing district national Democrats may funnel a lot of money into, trying to it win back.

“A Teachable Moment” – The other fascinating race in Kentucky was when teacher, Travis Brenda, defeated the State House Majority Leader, Jonathon Shell (R-KY). Kentucky is one of several states that followed West Virginia’s lead this year in calling a teacher’s strike. Teachers nationwide feel very emboldened and empowered right now, after their success in the Mountain State. Teachers unions can put “boots on the ground,” and it paid off in Kentucky. Watch for this as a trend in other states in 2018. Yes, it’s only a race for State Representative, but as I often say here, political movements are built from the ground up, not the top down.

“Texas” -- It’s one of the reddest of the red states, but there is one intriguing Congressional race here. Despite being in Congress for nine terms, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) is vulnerable. In fact, the respected Cook Political Report lists his seventh district race as the only Republican toss-up in the Lone Star State.

“Georgia” – The Democratic nomination of Stacey Abrams in Georgia is making headlines, because if elected, she would be the nation’s first African-American female governor. But it’s interesting for a more notable trend. In many of the 2018 primaries, Democrats in a variety of states have picked the liberal/progressive candidate instead of the more mainstream moderate choice. The theory is that it’s a strong appeal to poor and minority voters who may feel disenfranchised by the 2016 elections. That may be a tough sell in November. The two big wins for Democrats in 2017-18 were a House seat in Pennsylvania, and a Senate seat in Alabama, both taken by moderate-to-conservative Democrats.

“Arkansas” – A blue state that turned suddenly red after the election of native son President Bill Clinton offered few surprises Tuesday night. It remains decidedly red. Rep. French Hill (R-AR) expects a competitive challenge from Democratic nominee Clarke Tucker, but the Cook Political Report still lists this race as “Leans Republican.”

“Trump Factor?” – The Associated Press had a fascinating story this week about whether Republican midterm candidates wanted President Trump to campaign with them this fall. Dan David, a Republican candidate in a right-leaning GOP district in Pennsylvania, said bluntly, “I would like the president to do his job and I will do mine.” That’s a polite way of saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

“Trump on Top?” -- On the other hand, here in West Virginia, where Trump is extremely popular, GOP Senate nominee Patrick Morrisey is likely to host President Trump several times in his bid to unseat Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-WV). Trump is also likely to campaign in Indiana, where Republicans have a good shot to knock off Sen. Joe Donnelly, (D-IN). But Trump may stay away from Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) is trying to unseat long-time Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). In short, Trump goes where he can help; stays away from where he might hinder.

“North Korea and the Economy” – The two most important factors in an election are peace and prosperity. If President Trump eventually has a successful summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un (the June 12th meeting was cancelled), and nuclear tensions ease, that will help Republican candidates across the ballot. If the economy remains hot, with unemployment low, and wages and benefits rising, that’s also a plus for Mr. Trump and his party. When former President Bill Clinton was making the case for his wife in 2008 and 2016, his mantra was, “What didn’t you like about the 90s, the peace or the prosperity?” His eight years saw a big economic uptick, and few troubles abroad. It certainly worked for his re-election, but he couldn’t transfer the resume to his wife’s fortune.

“Blue Wave?” – I hear the term tossed out a lot like it is somehow based in fact instead of wishful thinking. In addition to being a reporter, I am also a social scientist. I crunch and interpret poll numbers, and try to spot trends and significant changes in the electoral leanings. People talk about the “blue wave” as if it is a certainty, a fate accompli. There is no doubt the Democrats have a legitimate opportunity to take back the House and/or the Senate in November. But right now, the odds are challenging at best, especially in the Senate where Democrats are defending far more seats. So, to conclude in May, what will happen in November, smacks of over-confidence, the same malady that defeated Hillary Clinton and her “done deal” in 2016.

“Memorial Day” – God bless all those who served us and died in defense of this country. If there’s a Memorial Day parade, or a military cemetery ceremony near you, please go if you can. We stand on the shoulders of these heroes who built and saved our nation many times.

What are your predictions (educated guesses) for what will happen in November? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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


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