5 things to watch: Wisconsin

If you do believe the demographic trajectory of the election, you may believe that Wisconsin is  a state that could potentially flip to Donald Trump.  I’m not sure I really buy into it.  I think that Wisconsin, even with the voter suppression tactics that are happening in Wisconsin, as I write this, it stays comfortably in Clinton’s column.  Plus there’s the idea of more opposition research dropping (I’m writing this on October 28th and I’m pretty sure that there’s more coming).

  1. US Senate race: Russ Feingold is one of my favorite politicians in my lifetime.  Feingold helped author a campaign finance reform bill with Arizona maverick John McCain, that ended up being struck down in Citizens United.  He opposed the Iraq War.  He opposed the USA PATRIOT ACT.  All in all, was a great Senator.  He lost in the 2010 wave election for the Republican Party to Ron Johnson, a TEA Party darling.  Johnson has voted as fairly right wing which is out of step for the state of Wisconsin which has a slight liberal lean.  Feingold is probably not the most representative, either.  He is much to the left of his constituents, as well. Most polls show that Feingold is a near lock to return to the Senate.  For many people who were “feeling the bern” Feingold is a person that you can easily latch onto.  I can’t quite be objective about this Senate race because of my love for Feingold. So I’m watching this Senate election with a closer eye than most of the Senate races.
  2. U.S. House of Representatives, Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District: If Democrats are going to take back the House of Representatives, they’re going to have to win districts like this one.  Cook’s political rating has this district as lean Republican.  If it does potentially flip, the reason will be that Clinton and Feingold are able to overperform the current polls. In 2012, this district voted for Republican Reid Ribble with 55.9% of the vote winning by 42,000 votes.  In 2014, he did even better with an 87,000 vote advantage.  But Ribble’s incumbency advantage is not coming into the 2016 election.  The Democratic Party nominated Tom Nelson to run against former Marine Captain Mike Gallagher.  Gallagher is a veteran adviser to the ill-fated Scott Walker Presidential campaign but will test how much influence Walker has in this district.  People are split on how much of an influence Walker has (he more or less has underperformed in 2010, 2013, and 2014) and how much of an influence the conservative talk radio has in Wisconsin.  At any rate, it will be an interesting thing to watch going forward.
  3. Wisconsin State Senate District 18: Democrats in Wisconsin have an outside shot of being able to retake the State Senate in Wisconsin.  If they want to do that, they will have to take Senate District 18, to do so.  The seat is currently held by Republican Rick Gudex.  He was able to win the seat in 2012 against the Democratic incumbent.  Gudex won the election by 600 votes.  This is not an insurmountable edge for the Republican Party.  Combine that without an incumbency advantage and a belief that Feingold and Clinton outperform the current polling and I think this State Senate district is definitely one worth watching.
  4. Wisconsin State Assembly District 51:  Unlike the State Senate, there is almost no chance that the State Assembly is able to be flipped to Democratic control.  In 2012, this district, went to the Republican incumbent, Howard Marklein with 51.9% of the vote.  He received just over 1,000 more votes than his Democratic challenger.  In 2014, with a Libertarian candidate running to help spoil the election for the Republican Party, Todd Novak won the election with 47.5% of the vote  winning by 65 votes over the Democratic opponent.  There’s not a libertarian party candidate on the ballot for this district this year, which should provide additional help for the Republican.  I’m interested in watching if it can flip without the Libertarian Party candidate trying to spoil the election.
  5. Wisconsin State Assembly District 85: Another example of the Libertarian Party more or less giving the election to a Democratic politician.  Mandy Wright won the 2012 election in this district with a 900 vote lead over the Republican, Patrick Snyder.  In 2014, this seat flipped from Wright to Republican Dave Heaton.  Heaton won the election in 2014 by 85 votes.  So for 2016, there’s a rematch of the 2012 election between Wright and Snyder.  There is not a Libertarian Party candidate on the ballot in this district this year but it seems to be shifting to the left so it may be somewhat of a victory for Wright even without a Libertarian helping her out.
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5 things to watch in every state: New Jersey

There’s really only one election I’m interested in watching.  That is the election for New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District. Republican incumbent Scott Garrett won re-election in 2012 with 55% of the vote defeating his Democratic challenger by 37,000 votes.  In 2014, Garrett ran again for re-election.  He defeated Democratic challenger Roy Cho by about 23,000 votes winning 55% of the vote.  Sabato Crystal Ball has this race has a toss up.  I’m interested in seeing if Trump actually makes inroads into some of these bluer states that could potentially make what seemed like vulnerable Republicans feel safe.

5 things to watch in every state: Nevada

Oh, Nevada. I’m very sad that one of my favorite politicians is going to retire in January.  For about 6 years, I’ve wanted to work on Harry Reid’s staff.  It’s been a dream of mine.  Alas, it will probably not happen.

  1. U.S. Presidential election: Over half of Nevada’s voters have already voted.  12 days into early voting, the Clark County firewall for Democrats is 55,000 which is matching the same point it was at in 2012.  There has been some recent polling in the state that is showing Trump winning the state.  I’m not sure I really buy that polling.  For starters, the reason that I don’t is that the polling is notoriously bad in Nevada, especially trying to reach Latino voters.  Latino Decisions and Jon Ralston (who really knows his Nevada politics) criticized the most recent CNN poll that is showing Trump +6.  Ralston is reporting that the edge by Democrats, statewide is about 34,000 right now.  This means that Trump will likely be behind double digits as the first returns come in on Tuesday.
  2. U.S. Senate Race: Ralston also reported that Republican Joe Heck is getting crushed in the early voting returns.  So Heck has to be upset that over half of the ballots have already been cast in his state.  This was supposed to be one of the pickups for Republican Senate hopefuls.  Heck is running to replace Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.  The Democratic nominee is Catherine Cortez Mastro, former Nevada Attorney General.  She knows what it takes to win statewide and has the Reid political machine going for her.  There is probably only a couple of political machines in the country.  Reid’s Democratic political machine is definitely one of them.
  3. U.S. House of Representatives, Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District: Sabato’s Crystal Ball has this election as “leans Democratic.”  Heck who is the current Congressman for this district is running for Senate in the state.  The Republican candidate in the district is Danny Tarkanian.  He is facing Democrat Jacky Rosen.  In 2012, Heck won re-election to represent the district with 50.4% of the vote.  He won by just over 20,000 votes.  If Trump does not do that well in the state or that Reid’s machine does well to get out the vote, this election is going to be very close.
  4. U.S. House of Representatives, Nevada’s 4th Congressional District: This is another potential pickup for the Democratic Party.  Democrat Steven Horsford won election to the seat in 2012 with 50.1% of the vote defeating Republican Danny Tarkanian by 19,000 votes.  Horsford was then defeated in 2014 by 3,600 votes.  The Democratic nominee in this district is Ruben Kihuen who defeated Bernie Sanders backed Lucy Flores in the Democratic primary.  Kihuen is trying to unseat Republican Cresent Hardy.  If the race is going to be similar to 2012, then Kihuen should have a real shot to be able to win the seat back from the Republican incumbent.
  5. Nevada State Senate District 6: Republican Mark Hutchison won election to this seat in 2012 with 50.8% of the vote defeating Democrat Benny Yerushalmi by 900 votes.  That’s a really close race.  National Democrats are trying to take back the State Senate where Republicans hold a one seat advantage.  Republicans currently hold the State Assembly, State Senate, and Governor’s Mansion, so it is fairly important for Democrats to wrest back a little control.  The Democrat running in this election is Nicole Cannizzaro who is hoping to unseat Hutchison.  Democrats are hoping for increased turnout to be able to take back this Senate seat.
  6. Nevada State Senate District 15: This is another seat that is being targeted.  Republican Greg Brower was able to win re-election in 2012, in this district, with 50.2% of the vote defeating Democratic challenger Sheila Leslie by 266 votes.  But good news for the Democrat, Devon Reese, who is running this time to try and take the seat.  Reese is facing Republican Heidi Gansert, so no incumbency advantage, and has a Libertarian Party candidate on the ballot, as well in David Colborne.  I would assume that this seat is more in play than Senate District 6.  But what do I know?
  7. Nevada State Senate District 18: Of the three potential pickups for the Democrats, this seems to me, like the least likely.  Republican Scott Hammond was elected in 2012 with 51.4% of the vote defeating Democrat Kelli Ross by 1,500 votes.  There is a new Democrat running against Hammond in 2016.  The Democrat Alexander Marks is trying to unseat Hammond.  Democrats need to take 2 of 3 to be able to flip the Senate or just one to tie the Senate.
  8. Nevada State Assembly District 9: Democrat Andrew Martin was able to win election to this district with 53.2% of the vote defeating Republican C. Kelly Hurst by 2,346 votes.  In 2014, a more Republican year, Republican David Gardner was able to defeat Democrat Steve Yeager by 464 votes.  That’s a pretty big swing from 2012 to 2014.  I think it’s possible that the turnout is very similar to 2012 (that’s what we’re seeing in the early voting, at least).  If that’s the case then in this rematch of 2014, Yeager is likely to upset Gardner.
  9. Nevada State Assembly District 21: This is a state assembly district that could flip from Republican control to Democratic control.  Democrat Andy Eisen won election to this district in 2012 with 50.1% of the vote defeating Republican Becky Harris by just under 800 votes.  In 2014, Eisen ran for re-election but lost to a new Republican in Derek Armstrong.  Armstrong was able to defeat Eisen by 451 votes.  So the election was decided by just over 1,200 votes in the last two elections combined.  This is going to be very close.  Armstrong is running for re-election and is facing Democrat Ozzie Fumo.  While the State Assembly is likely out of reach, with Democratic turnout going to be closer to 2012 than 2014 and more Democrats showing, they should be able to flip this seat.  An interesting subplot in this election is that Uber is trying to help Armstrong win re-election.
  10. Nevada State Assembly District 35: Yet another playbook that I’m interested in watching.  The Democrat, James Healey, was able to win election in 2012 by a little less than 1,000 votes over Republican Tom Blanchard.  In 2014, Healey, running as an incumbent lost to Republican Brent Jones by 745 votes.  That’s a fairly decent swing from 2012 to 2014.  There’s a new Democrat running against the incumbent Jones.  The Democrat is Justin Watkins.  Again, what I’m interested in watching is the turnout returning to 2012 compared to 2014.  It’s possible that turnout alone isn’t enough to flip districts and state assembly districts.
  11. Question 1: Nevada is trying to enact more background check measures for gun sales and gun transfers.  Nevada is fairly “conservative” on guns rights issues.  This measure would require firearm transfers to go through a licensed gun dealer who would then run a background check.  There would be some exemptions including transfers of guns between family members and law enforcement agencies. Michael Bloomberg has spent a lot of money on this initiative and would obviously like to see it passed. Most elected Republicans and the Nevada Republican Party oppose this measure.
  12. Question 2: This measure would legalize recreational use of marijuana for individuals who are 21 or older.  This is opposed by most elected Republican officials in Nevada. Sheldon Adelson is also spending quite a bit of money to try and oppose this measure.   He also used the newspaper that he owns to oppose the measure in an editorial.  Support of the measure has consistently led in polling but it seems like it’s going to be fairly close.

5 things to watch in every state: North Carolina

North Carolina is going to soon replace Ohio as the most important state during Presidential elections.

  1. U.S. Presidential election: This is going to be one of the most important Presidential elections in the country at the state level.  So far, there have been 2.4 million votes cast for early voting in the state.  This is about in line with 2012 early voting but it’s likely to go over 3-3.2 million votes cast in early voting.  North Carolina is important to watch because the North Carolina legislature tried to pass onerous voter restrictions to try to keep African American voters from voting.  The legislature requested specific information to look into data about African American voters to keep them from voting.  Most of the restrictions were ruled unconstitutional as passed with discriminatory intent.  But there is still voter purges happening in the state.  According to Will Cubbison, on Twitter, the voter file records show that most early voters in North Carolina are consistent voters.  Nate Cohn at the Upshot for The New York Times, found that their polls partnered with Siena are closely matching the early vote predictions. If that’s the case, Cohn suggests that North Carolina will go to Hillary Clinton.  The vast majority of polling in the state seems to agree with that. It seems like this state will go to Clinton, if this is accurate, it will be very difficult for Trump to be able to win the presidency.
  2. U.S. Senate election: Because Clinton is likely going to win the state, the Senate race in this state is going to be watched closely.  Noted not sock wearer Senator Richard Burr is running for re-election against Democrat Deborah Ross.  Butt was re-elected in 2010 with 54.8% of the vote in a Republican wave year.  In 2014, for the other Senate seat, Thom Tillis was able to defeat Democratic Senator Kay Hagan by 46,000 votes.  This is one of the closest races that I’ve been looking at.  Burr is leading by 1.8 points according to HuffPost Pollster.  Public Policy Polling (PPP) which is based in North Carolina, in their most recent poll has the race at 1 point for the Republican Burr.  This is likely going to be one of the closest Senate elections in the country on November 8th.
  3. North Carolina gubernatorial election: Conservative favorite Pat McCrory is in for a re-election battle of his life facing Democrat Roy Cooper.  HuffPost Pollster has Cooper leading by 3 points over McCrory.  PPP, in their most recent poll, has Cooper leading McCrory by 2 points.  McCrory is unpopular in part because of his HB2 support but also because of his support for the voter restrictions and Conservative agenda that does not seem to be working in the state.  Because of the importance of this race, the Senate race, and the Presidential election, the Democratic Party is heavily focusing on this state to help flip it blue.
  4. North Carolina Attorney General election: Cooper is the current Attorney General in North Carolina.  He is running for Governor rather than running for re-election.  The Democrat who was nominated to run for Attorney General is Josh Stein to face Republican Buck Newton.  The race seems fairly close.  In the most recent polling from PPP, they have Stein leading the Republican Newton by 5 points although there is 17% of the voters who are undecided.  But I do believe that the Democratic Party is doing more to turn out the votes in this state and will certainly help Stein on November 8th.
  5. North Carolina State Senate District 1: Republicans in the State Legislature have an underwater net favorability because of an unpopular agenda being pushed through.  Republicans still hold the power in the State Senate and State House of Representatives.  This is one district that could flip.  In 2012,Republican Bill Cook defeated Democratic incumbent Stan White by 21 votes.  Romney barely won the state in 2012.  In 2014, Cook won a rematch by about 4,200 votes.  Instead of having a third straight election with the same candidates, White chose not to run.  Brownie Futrell is the Democratic candidate to try to unseat Cook.  If Clinton does well in the state, like I think, it’s possible that Futrell is able to unseat Cook.

5 things to watch in every state: Mississippi

There are not 5 elections worth watching in this state.  The only thing that I’m looking forward to watching in this state is to see how Hillary Clinton is able to do in the state. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the state with 55% of the vote defeating Obama by 11.5 points.  In 2008, a year where Obama did better nationally, he was only able to get 43% of the vote.  I think it’s possible that Clinton is able to improve on Obama’s measure of 43.79% of the vote in 2012.  Clinton might be able to break 44% of the vote on November 8th.  That is probably the most important thing to watch in the state.

5 things to watch in every state: Missouri

This state used to be the bellweather until it was no longer the bellweather.  The state is fairly conservative and seems to be trending to be more and more conservative.  According to recent polling, Trump is likely to win the state by double digits.  Even so, there are a few races worth watching.

  1. U.S. Senate election: Missouri’s Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander decided not to seek re-election for Secretary of State and chose, instead, to challenge Republican Senator Roy Blunt.  Kander and his campaign have produced some of the most entertaining ads this election cycle.  He is a veteran and is trying to capitalize on that and his pro-2nd amendment stances to distinguish himself from other Democrats who have run in the past (and are currently running).  Blunt had underwater net favorability for a little over a year.  The Democratic Party has been investing heavily in this Senate election.  He will have to run well ahead of Clinton in the state to be able to win. Blunt, so far, has been able to avoid more of the Todd Akin moments that allowed Claire McCaskill to be able to win when she ran.  There is a big investment for both parties in this Senate election and I’m excited to watch the returns come in. If Clinton comes in around 10 points behind Trump, I imagine Kander is able to win.
  2. Missouri gubernatorial election: Democratic Governor Jay Nixon can’t run for re-election due to term limits.  The Missouri Democratic Party nominated current Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to be their gubernatorial nominee.  The Republican Party nominated Eric Greitens to be their nominee.  According to a very recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, Koster holds a 3 point lead over Greitens.  That’s even with a fairly large Donald Trump lead in the state.  If the lead tightens and Clinton does better than expected, then we’re looking at a potential win for the Democrats.  Republicans hold both the State Senate and the State House of Representatives. so a Democrat in control of the Governor’s mansion is very important for Democrats.
  3. Missouri Attorney General: Democrat Teresa Hensley is running as the Democratic nominee for the Attorney General facing Republican Josh Hawley.  The current Attorney General, Koster is running to be Missouri’s Governor.  Attorney General has generally been seen as a stepping stone to a much bigger politicla field.  ANYWAY. This looks to be a very close race.  Hensley is leading the only polling I’ve seen (taken in July) and was only up by 2 points.  I have to think this is another case of Democrats trying to run ahead of Clinton to be able to win.  The better clinton does in the state, I’d imagine, the better the chances are for the Democratic Party in these offices.
  4. Missouri State Senate District 1: Republicans currently hold botht the State Senate and the State House of Representatives by a wide margin.  Republicans are trying hard to take back one of the few seats Democrats have. Democrat Scott Sifton was able to defeat Republican incumbent Jim Lembke by 1,634 votes (89,744 votes cast).  This was a very close election.
  5. Amendment 3/Proposition A: There are quite a bit of ballot measures on the statewide ballot in Missouri.  There is a constitutional amendment facing a statute against each other on the ballot.  Amendment 3 would raise the cigarette tax by 60 cents a pack.  Both gubernatorial candidates oppose the measure.  Critics of the amendment allege that “big tobacco” is the reason why it is showing up on the ballot and will actually help their companies.  Most of the major newspapers in the area are critical of the measure arguing that the Amendment is a trap for voters.  Proposition A would increase the cigarette taxes by 23 cents by 2021.  Both gubernatorial candidates oppose this measure, as well. Both measures are trending to be opposed on Tuesday but I’m not so sure there are that many people who are going to ignore an increased tax on tobacco.
  6. Amendment 2: This Amendment is trying to limit campaign financing funds for state office and judicial office.  It would also prohibit trying to hide who your donors are for these campaign funds.  This measure is basically supported by the elected Democratic officials in Missouri and opposed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens.  I am always interested in trying to find campaign finance laws that will stick and this one looks like it is going to pass.
  7. Amendment 6: Over the last 8 years or so, there ha sbeen an increased call by Republican legislatures to pass voter id laws.  These laws are ostensibly pased to combat inperson voter fraud.  I’ve written about the subject, here. This is the first time that I’ve seen such a law for a ballot measure.  This measure is being supported Greitens and numerous elected Republican officials in Missouri.  Nixon and candidate Ksoter oppose the measure as does the NAACP.   I don’t believe that such a measure should be passed but looking at the polling, it’s likely it will.

5 things to watch in every state: New Mexico

Gary Johnson, the former Governor of the state, was initially running high on the idea that he could somehow win his state and somehow could force the Presidential election to the House of Representatives.  This is the dream of a number of people who like to get stoned and talk about politics without a real idea of what they are talking about.

  1. New Mexico State Senate District 9: Democrats hold a six seat advantage in the State Senate in New Mexico which is not a big enough advantage that they shouldn’t worry about keeping it.  It seems unlikely that Republicans will be able to take it back but one of the races to watch there is this district. Democrat John Sapien won re-election to this district in 2012 with 50.3% of the vote.  He won by 161 votes over Republican challenger David Doyle.  Sapien survived a primary challenge this year and is running, again, against a Republican challenger Diego Espinoza. Espinoza is trying to break into this small firewall of votes that Sapien seems to have.  I’ll be interested in watching whether or not Sapien is able to win by a larger margin.
  2. New Mexico State Senate District 15: Daniel Ivey-Soto has a little bit more breathing room than Sapien.  Ivey-Soto was able to win election in 2012 over his Republican opponent by a little less than 1,200 votes.  Ivey-Soto is facing a new challenger in 2016.  New Mexico is going to to be fairly competitive but Democrats should be motivated enough to give Ivey-Soto about the same margin that he had in 2012.
  3. New Mexico State House of Representatives, District 15: Republicans were able to take back the State house of Representatives after 60 year control of the chamber by Democrats.  Democrats are looking to take back the chamber, if they can.  One of the districts that they’re probably looking at is District 15.  Democrat Emily Kane won election in this district over Christopher Saucedo in 2012 by 314 votes.  In 2014, while Kane was running for re-election she faced Republican Sarah Maestras Barnes.  Maesstras Barnes was able to defeat Kaane’s re-election bid by 356 votes.  The new Democrat running in this district is Ane Romero hoping to make the type of gain that we see very often in Presidential years for the Democratic candidates.
  4. New Mexico State House of Representatives, District 24: Democrat Elizabeth Thomson was able to defeat Republican incumbent Conrad James by 78 votes.  All elections that were decided by less than 100 votes should be considered one of the closest elections in the country.  It did not take a great political prognosticator to predict that Thomson would lose to her Republican opponent.  Thomson faced James again in 2014 and she lost by 384 votes.  In 2016, it seems likely that Thomson could defeat the Republican candidate Christina Marie Hall in 2016.  But it will be a very close race, if 2012 is any indicator.
  5. New Mexico State House of Representatives, District 37: This was very close to being my favorite election to watch in 2016.  unfortunately, there was a mistake in describing the political party of the candidates. As it happens, though, this is still one of my favorite elections to watch.  In 2012, Republican Terry McMillan was able to hold onto his seat by 8 votes out of 12,526 votes cast.  8 total votes.  No matter how many times I see it, seeing elections decided by less than 10 votes makes me happy.  Democratic challenger Joanne Ferrary decided to challenge McMillan again in 2014.  She lost by 409 votes.  This is still a small amount to decide an election.  Ferrary has once again decided to challenge McMillan for 2016.  If 2012 is any indication, this wil be one of the closest elections in the country.
  6. New Mexico State House of Representatives, District 39: This is another district where Democrats are looking to take back what was once theirs.  Democratic incumbent Rodolfo Martinez was able to win re-election in 2012 by 430 votes. Trying to get re-election in 2014, Martinez faced Republican John Zimmerman in a rematch of 2012.  This time Zimmerman was able to win.  He beat Martinez by 344 votes.  In 2016, we will have our third straight election between Martinez and Zimmerman.  If Martinez does better in Presidential election years, like we think, then it seems like he will be able to take back the seat over Zimmerman.