Swing State Pres

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Call to Action for Election Day: Time to Turn Your Outrage into Votes - “When We Vote, We Win”

Tom contributes to Wendy's "A Call To Action" series, and he has an extremely important ask of BTRTN readers.

Just 51 weeks ago, about 66 million Americans found out, to their horror that they would have to endure a Donald Trump presidency.

Since then, that horror has evolved to a tsunami of outrage as the Trump presidency has unfolded.  Rallies, marches, demonstrations, debates of all kinds, on the Internet, in local bars, across family dinner tables, set off by countless inane tweets, America First madness, and Dark Age policies.  Trump has dominated casual conversation, and if you are reading this, you have doubtless participated mightily in this rage-a-thon.

But until now, you have had precious little opportunity to translate that outrage into something tangible.  That time has come.  Here we are, days before Election Day, November 7, 2017.  Time to cast some votes that will send a message to Donald Trump, to make sure he understands that his actions have consequences, and that outrage can and will translate into political might.

An off-off year election?  No elections that “matter”?  Wrong.

Your outrage means little if you do not work, at least a little, to fight back.  Right now.  And important elections are happening across the country.

And I don’t mean just voting on Election Day.  I assume you will do that.  I am asking you to do more.  No matter where you live, something on your ballot is a referendum on Trump.  We can bemoan the divide in our country, but it exists, and Election Day is when we determine which side of that divide has won the day.  What good is it to moan endlessly about Trump and the far right if you don’t lift a finger to do something about it? 

It’s not hard.  Maybe you are not into going door-to-door, or putting up signs.  But anyone can make calls.  Take one hour.  One hour to channel all your anti-Trump vitriol to get out the vote and send him a message.  Please don’t say you can’t be bothered.  It all matters.

If there are no local or state elections that float your boat, take up the charge for someone else’s.  Here is an easy one – there is a gubernatorial race in Virginia that is very close.  Democrat Ralph Northam is running neck-and-neck with Republican Ed Gillespie to succeed current Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who is stepping down due to term limits.  The Democrats can’t afford to lose any more state houses.  They control the keys to the redistricting that will occur after the 2020 elections; yes, that means more gerrymandering, the tactic the GOP has mastered to control the U.S. House of Representatives.  Time to make that our turn.

In our backyard, we are consumed by the race for Westchester (New York) County Executive, which pits the incumbent Republican Rob Astorino against Democratic challenger George Latimer.  In this off-off-year election, this is one of the most visible and highly contested races in the nation, and thus a perfect bellwether on the national temperature.  Astorino is not your garden-variety New York State Rockefeller Republican; he is a flame-throwing arch conservative who parlayed a modest radio career into his current position.

Astorino ran for Governor in 2014 and lost to Andrew Cuomo, and it is no secret that he has his eye on Albany again.  He has whiffed on affordable housing; allowed gun shows at the County Center; allowed Nazi paraphernalia to be sold at those same shows; is pro-life; and just accepted $1 million from Robert Mercer, the Breitbart/Bannon-backing billionaire who once claimed that African-Americans were better off before the Civil Rights movement.  He is aligned with Donald Trump on issues up and down the line, and has stood check-to-jowl with Trump at many a podium.

The Mercer money is significant.  Mercer and Bannon clearly see Astorino as a candidate with a future, a win here a springboard to New York State Governor, with another run right around the corner in 2018.  A defeat in this election would spell the end of that effort, so the checkbook is out.  The money is being used to run personal ads against Latimer that twist facts and have nothing to do with Astorino’s candidacy or the issues.

Latimer was born in a poor neighborhood in Mount Vernon and has served for decades, first as a County Legislator and currently as a State Senator.  He has decided to return to the county – arguably a step-down and a sacrifice – because he believes Astorino can be defeated and he can do it.  He is a voice for all of those left behind by Astorino, and the disastrous policies that have left the vulnerable at risk. 

Today we saw Senator Chuck Schumer come to Westchester to endorse Latimer, and listened as he forcefully described what he, Latimer and we are all fighting for in the Age of Trump.  Latimer spoke movingly about the Trump budget and what it will do to the Bee Line bus service in Westchester, decimating this vital link that provides the only means of transport for many workers to make it to their jobs.  He spoke about the severe shortage of affordable housing, and expanding child-care subsidies to help working parents.  He talked of his own parents (“that’s not my name on the signs, it is their name”), who worked hard to send George and his sister to college.

Westchester is known as an elite enclave of the wealthy, but it is actually very diverse.  Forty percent of its residents are African-American or Hispanic, and 10% of its million residents live in poverty, in such communities as Yonkers, Mt. Vernon, Mt. Kisco, Peekskill, New Rochelle, Port Chester and White Plains.  It is a “swing” county; both Democrats and Republicans have held the County Executive position, and the race is always contested.  This election is important.  Latimer candidly said he is not running for those in the more affluent communities in Westchester – he is running for those whose voices are not heard. He said the race was about the message, not him – he is only the messenger.

While two-thirds of Westchester registered voters are Democrats, they do not vote in the same numbers as Republicans.  Because of that fact, this election will come down to turnout.  The polls show the race is as close as can be.  Wendy and I have made calls for Latimer, written postcards for Latimer, contributed to Latimer, and implored our friends to vote for Latimer.  We will do more of this right up until the polls close at 9 PM on November 7.

We realize that, in retirement, we are in a better position than most to volunteer.  But we need everyone to chip in.  An hour of calls, multiplied by many, WILL decide this election.

PLEASE help us get out the vote.  If you live here, WORK for George Latimer.  If you live elsewhere, WORK for your candidate or cause.  If there is no local cause or candidate on the ballot, WORK for Ralph Northam in Virginia. Stop yapping about Trump.  Do something about it!  Get out the vote!

Here are some links to help you make that happen.  The “get out the vote” efforts will be in high gear from here on in, particularly from Friday night on.   Find your free hour to help.  As Democrats always say:  “when we vote, we win.”

Calls for Ralph Northam:


Calls for George Latimer:



Wednesday, October 25, 2017

General Kelly? More Like General Kellyanne Conway

Yes, he is an honored General and we can feel great sorrow for his loss as a Gold Star parent. But there is absolutely no justification for General Kelly to commit deceitfully-based character assassination in an attempt to discredit a voice of opposition. Here is Steve’s take on one of the more despicable controversies Trump has triggered yet.

While addressing reporters in the Rose Garden at the White House last Monday, Donald Trump asserted -- with his customary air of casual certainty -- that Barack Obama did not place phone calls to the families of soldiers killed in action.

This was, of course, yet another soaring leap in this President’s epic struggle to free himself from the surly bonds of reality. We may rank it as even more egregiously ugly than Trump’s routine dishonest fare because it grossly disfigures the solemn rituals through which we, as a people united, honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Challenged with a question about the recent deaths of four Green Berets in Niger, Trump did the only thing he knows how to do: pivot on his inquisitor, and brazenly assert that his own actions were superior to those of Barack Obama, without pausing to reflect on whether his counter-attack had any factual support or, indeed, whether a comparison to Barack Obama in any way addressed the original question. It is the default setting in Trump’s rhetorical strategy: When in doubt, demean the African-American.  

Nothing, it appears, is so important, so essential, so fundamental, or so sacred to our common bonds and values – not even honoring our military dead -- that it can’t be skewed, spun, and spat on for political purposes by a man who, himself, evaded military service.

And yet, implausibly, this story managed to get far worse.

A Florida Congresswoman named Frederica Wilson listened on a speakerphone as Trump placed a call to the Gold Star mother of Sergeant La David Johnson, killed in Niger two weeks ago.  The Congresswoman delivered a scathing assessment of the President’s performance as consoler-in-chief. Wilson castigated Trump for not bothering to learn the Sergeant’s name, saying that Trump repeatedly referred to the deceased as “your guy.” Further, Wilson reported that Trump told the mother than her son “knew what she was signing up for,” which she interpreted in its tone and delivery as an indication of callous indifference.

Trump responded in the only way he knows, counter-punching savagely. He tried to strengthen his hand by dragging in White House Chief-of-Staff John Kelly, a career military man and himself a Gold Star parent. Trump was eager to point out that General Kelly had confirmed that Obama had not placed a phone call after the death of Kelly’s son. Kelly, heretofore unwilling to speak publicly about his son’s death, then surprised one and all by making a personal appearance at the White House press room podium to address the grievances aired by Congresswoman Wilson.

Kelly has been widely viewed as a vitally important leavening force in Trump’s White House, a man of character and integrity who is believed to be working tirelessly to contain and discourage the President’s darkest and most ugly impulses. But in shilling for Trump on this issue, Kelly managed to bring himself down to the lowest common denominator of Trump spokespersons. Call him General Kellyanne Conway.

Kelly’s performance on the podium was cutthroat. He repeatedly spat out that he was “stunned” by the Congresswoman’s actions. He accused Wilson of politicizing the death of a serviceman, apparently failing to grasp what had already been widely conceded: Trump himself was the one who had first “politicized” the issue of presidential conduct with Gold Star families by claiming that his performance in this role was superior to Obama.

Kelly then proceeded to execute a rare and raw public character assassination. He emphatically recounted a speech that the Congresswoman had given years before in which she allegedly used the occasion of a dedication of a new facility honoring two murdered FBI agents to make self-aggrandizing claims about her role in the funding of the building. With his taut military bearing, searing anger, and reputation for rock solid integrity, Kelly threw himself fully into the task of discrediting the Congresswoman, concluding by disparaging her as an “empty barrel.”

The only problem was the Kelly’s allegations were wholly inaccurate. A videotape of the Congresswoman’s remarks rapidly surfaced, in which there was not a single word of damning allegations made by Kelly. She had not used the occasion to claim that she was responsible for the funding. Indeed, she had singled out others for credit, including a number of Republicans. 

At very best, Kelly had relied wholly on imperfect memory and had proceeded with his vicious assault without taking the time to investigate his facts.

At worst, John Kelly revealed himself to be no different, no better, no more accurate, and no more honest than Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, or Anthony Scaramucci. Sure, with his square jaw, straight-backed tough-guy intensity, we all wanted to believe that he was the voice of measured thought, pragmatic reason, cool judgment, and honest reckoning in Trump’s White House.

We were wrong.

Kelly used the power of his office to walk out in front of a national television audience and maul a female African-American Democratic Congresswoman’s reputation in broad daylight without pausing to check his facts. The only thing he proved is that he, too, is just one more sycophant for Trump, one more officer of our government who thinks that the criteria for determining if something is true is whether or not he thinks it is.

Acknowledge an error? Offer an apology? Not in Donald Trump's reality. And the good General is now marching to Donald Trump's tune.

If there was a week to be cautious about waging a full-on unjustified assault on a woman whose government position is junior to one’s own, the week that Harvey Weinstein exploded in the public consciousness might be it.

If there was an issue for this White House to be cautious about, it might be an unjustified and unsubstantiated attack on an African American serving in the U.S. Congress.  Ah, but we must recall the default setting in Trump’s rhetorical strategy: When in doubt, demean the African-American.  

Most of the reporters who covered this story bent over backwards to talk in hushed reverie about Kelly’s military glory, and about the very sad fact that his own son died in battle. Most wanted to cut him an enormous amount of slack, choosing to admire the passion of his speech, and the pain he must have endured to speak publicly about his personal tragedy. Indeed, it appeared that many analysts were walking on tippy-toes in terror of appearing to in any way show disrespect for the most honorable General Kelly. 

Then again, when Kelly made up bogus charges to defame a political opponent, it would be equally fair to say that Kelly cynically leveraged his untouchable status as a Gold Star parent, using it as a shield to protect him as he lied about the Congresswoman. Thank heaven for videotape. There is no question that he would have gotten away with it. Yes, one more guy who might have gotten away with it, smugly relying on his senior position and his casual acquaintance with the truth.

And yet, once again, in this incident, we must see the part as simply a part of an ever-uglier whole.

We desperately need to believe Kelly is a good guy, because it is terrifying to think that the last line of defense between Trump and the launch codes is himself merely another Trump hack flack who simply dresses the part of a serious leader. But lying is the core competency of the Trump White House, and General Kelly took his moment in the limelight to establish that he is a team player.

Donald Trump may have an anemic approval rating, may not have a single piece of legislation to his name, and may indeed be losing a battle for his office to a special prosecutor. But it is time to acknowledge that Donald Trump is winning one thing. He is waging a war on reality, and he is gaining ground.

Long ago, back in college, many of us took one of those Philosophy 101 survey courses that caused us to reflect on the nature of being, existence, and reality. Then we graduated and reality smacked us in the face, and growing up meant learning to deal with it. Reality was the thing that prevented us from pretending that our fantasies, self-delusions, and fanciful imaginings would buy dinner, take out the garbage, or pay for college. Reality was not optional, and it did not offer a menu of choices.  Some people hid from it, some navigated it, and some brave souls tried to change it, but the only truly lost souls were the ones who acted like it wasn’t there.

Reality.  I am not an illusion in your dream, and you are not a figment of my imagination. One plus one equals two. The planet is warming up. Harvey Weinstein is one of the biggest assholes in the universe. Reality exists, and comes furnished with objectively observable facts that are not subject to dispute. Reality really exists, right?

Not anymore. Not in Donald Trump’s America.

Now, we must navigate a world in which we must deal with both reality, and the separate reality of what a substantial percentage of the population chooses to believe is real.

Don’t misunderstand: just because Trump and his adherents believe something is true does not make it true.

But just because it isn’t true doesn’t mean we can act like their mangled, unsubstantiated, imagined, and conjured beliefs don’t matter.  They sure do.

They empower the weak-minded and the easily subjugated to reinforce their erroneous beliefs, their bigotry, and their bias.

This week, far from Hollywood, an African-American woman who is a member of Congress was bludgeoned by a senior White House official who used lies to violate his victim.

It is all part of Donald Trump’s fundamental belief that excellent lies, plausible in their content, and delivered with conviction, are not only more convenient but also more effective than the hard work of supporting an argument with the truth. 

Whether it be Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or Anthony Scaramucci, your tax dollars are paying these people to lie to your face. 

Welcome to Donald Trump's team, General Kelly.

We now have to face the fact that it is not just the flimsy and transparent communications hacks who advocate so unflinchingly for a worldview that exists only in Donald Trump's imagination. 

There's a word for it when reality is perverted to serve a political agenda. It is called propaganda.

And the good General Kelly is proving himself a bit too adept at the practice.

Call him General Kellyanne Conway.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Senate 2018: Dems Look for Openings in a Very Tough Map

Tom with our first in-depth look at 2018, this time focsued on the Senate.  And one of those elections is actually this December.

Our first hard look at the 2018 Senate mid-term elections yields but one inescapable conclusion:  it will be extremely difficult for the Democrats to retake the Senate.  The odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the GOP maintaining control.

In fact, the Democrats would do well to “hold serve” and emerge with the same 48 seats they hold today (actually 46 Democrats and two Independents who caucus with the Dems, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine; for the purposes of efficiency in this article, all future references to “Democrats” will include them).

First, let’s review the basic math, with the help of the chart below, which lays out rather starkly the challenge facing the Dems.

SENATE 2018*: TOUGH MAP FOR THE DEMS

Current
Up for reelection in 2018*
Trump Won in 2016
Won 2012 by < 7 points
TOTAL
100
34
18
9
Democrats (Incl. Ind)
48
25
10
7
Republicans
52
9
8
2

* Includes the December, 2017 special election in Alabama
The math shows just how difficult a “map” the Democrats are facing in this election cycle.  Democrats are up for reelection in a whopping 25 of the 34 races, while the GOP will defend only nine seats.  Of those 25 Democratic seats, 10 are in states won by Donald Trump in 2016.  And nine of those Democrats won by less than seven points in 2012, when they last ran for the Senate, while just two of the nine GOP wins were that close.

So, to flip the Senate from red to blue, the Dems need to hold all of their seats plus flip three seats.  Both sides of that equation are daunting, to say the least.

But the Dems have a glimmer of optimism of late, driven by four factors.

·       The obvious one is the state of the Trump Administration.  With Trump’s approval rating teetering on the wrong side of 40%, and a “generic ballot” favoring the Dems by +6, the political winds are blowing at near-gale force at the Dems’ backs.  Truly terrible numbers like these can translate into real votes at the margin and swing many a close race.  Quite simply, rabid Democrats are energized and demoralized Republicans could stay home.  And this will be particularly true if the GOP fails in its quest for tax reform, and thus have not one single significant legislative win to run on.

·       One of the 34 races will be held in December, 2017 – Alabama, a special election to fill the seat previously held by Jeff Sessions.  His interim replacement, Luther Strange, lost to Judge Roy Moore in the GOP primary last month, and now Moore will face Democrat Doug Jones in December.  Moore is just the kind of far right bomb-thrower that could – could -- possibly be defeated, and even in deep red Alabama, the latest poll (by FOX) has them even.  In sharp contrast, Sessions ran unopposed in 2012.  Democrats, gun shy after losing all four House special elections by close-but-no-cigar margins, are torn over whether to provide Jones with full-out support – but the fact that they are taking this race seriously is a clear sign of GOP weakness.

·       The suddenly famous Bob Corker of Tennessee announced he would not seek reelection in 2018 (giving rise to his remarkably candid bashing of Trump), and arch-right Representative Martha Blackburn threw her hat in the ring to replace him, giving the Dems an unexpected opening there, too.

·       And, in a related manner, there is the “Bannon Factor,” as Steve Bannon has declared war on virtually all the GOP “establishment” incumbents, hoping to primary them with more conservative nominees.  The question here is, what lesson is to be learned from our recent electoral history?  Will Bannon’s strategy backfire as it did in 2010 and 2012, when far-right GOP crazies such as Todd Akin of Missouri (“legitimate rape”) and Christine O’Connell of Delaware (“I am not a witch”) lost races to Democrats that more mainstream GOP candidates – the ones they beat in the primaries – would likely have won?  Or did Donald Trump’s election to the presidency upend all that – if he could win, anyone could, crazy or not?  The Dems are hoping that Bannon, of all people, is successful and thus giving them an opening in “unwinnable” states, including Tennessee and, say, Mississippi.

Here is the early rack-up at this point, just over a year away from Election Day.  It is way too early for this – we don’t even know the challengers, and some incumbents could still choose to retire – but it is a starting point.  We’ve kept it at 52/48 because it is too early to call “flips”; but what is more interesting are the categories, not the totals.  Almost 20 races are “in play”, with, by our count, six Toss-Ups, 12 Leans and a few Solids to watch.

DEM TOTAL
48
Dem Holdover
23
Dem Solid
11
Dem Lean
10
Dem Toss-up
4
GOP Toss-up
2
GOP Lean
2
GOP Solid
5
GOP Holdover
43
GOP TOTAL
52

Let’s break down the 34 races and talk about the most critical ones.  The chart below ranks the races from the most solid for the Dems on down to the most solid for the GOP, using this data: the victory margin the last time the seat was up, in 2012; the margin in 2016 in the presidential election; the PVI Index, put out by the Cook Report, which measures the propensity of a state to be blue or red.  The last column identifies where we at BTRTN think the race is right now. 

SENATE SNAPSHOT
State
Inc. Party
Incumbent
2012 Margin
2016  Pres Margin
PVI (Cook)
BTRTN
Vermont
I
Sanders
D + 46
D + 26
D + 15
 D/I Solid
New York
D
Gillebrand
D + 45
D + 23
D + 12
D Solid
Hawaii
D
Hirono
D + 26
D + 32
D + 18
D Solid
California
D
Feinstein
D + 24
D + 30
D + 12
D Solid
Maryland
D
Cardin
D + 28
D + 26
D + 12
D Solid
Rhode Island
D
Whitehouse
D + 30
D + 16
D + 10
D Solid
Delaware
D
Carper
D + 37
D + 11
D + 6
D Solid
Massachusetts
D
Warren
D + 8
D + 27
D + 12
D Solid
Washington
D
Cantwell
D + 20
D + 16
D + 7
D Solid
Minnesota
D
Klobuchar
D + 34
D + 2
D + 1
D Solid
Connecticut
D
Murphy
D + 12
D + 14
D + 6
D Solid
New Jersey
D
Menendez
D + 18
D + 14
D + 7
D Lean
Maine
I
King
D + 22
D + 2
D + 3
 D/I Lean
Michigan
D
Stabenow
D + 21
R + 0.2
D + 1
D Lean
New Mexico
D
Heinrich
D + 6
D + 8
D + 3
D Lean
Virginia
D
Kaine
D + 6
D + 5
D + 1
D Lean
Florida
D
Nelson
D + 13
R + 1
R + 2
D Lean
Pennsylvania
D
Casey
D + 9
R + 1
Even
D Lean
Wisconsin
D
Baldwin
D + 5
R + 1
Even
D Lean
Ohio
D
Brown
D + 5
R + 8
R + 3
D Lean
Montana
D
Tester
D + 4
R + 20
R + 11
D Lean
West Virginia
D
Manchin
D + 25
R + 42
R + 19
D Toss Up
North Dakota
D
Heitkamp
D + 1
R + 36
R + 17
D Toss Up
Missouri
D
McCaskill
D + 16
R + 19
R + 9
D Toss Up
Indiana
D
Donnelley
D + 6
R + 19
R + 9
D Toss Up
Nevada
R
Heller
R + 1
D + 2
D + 1
R Toss Up
Arizona
R
Flake
R + 4
R + 4
R + 5
R Toss Up
Tennessee
R
Corker (retiring)
R + 35
R + 26
R + 14
R Lean
Alabama
R
Strange (Dec. 17 election)
R + 94
R + 28
R + 14
R Lean
Texas
R
Cruz
R + 17
R + 9
R + 8
R Solid
Mississippi
R
Wicker
R + 17
R + 18
R + 9
R Solid
Nebraska
R
Fischer
R + 16
R + 25
R + 14
R Solid
Utah
R
Hatch
R + 35
R + 18
R + 20
R Solid
Wyoming
R
Barrasso
R + 54
R + 46
R + 25
R Solid

GOP Toss-Ups (2) and Leans (3) and a few Solids to keep an eye on:

There are two truly contested GOP races; the two “leans” are, at this stage, stretches; they are in red states that went solidly for the incumbent in 2012, but may have openings in 2016. 
  • Nevada:  Incumbent Dean Heller was wildly unpopular in Nevada, and THEN he voted against one of the “repeal and replace” bills; his approval dropped from a merely abysmal 29% to a truly horrific 22%.  He will be challenged in the primary by Danny Tarkanian, son of the legendary UNLV basketball coach, and is trailing him in the polls.  Heller won only by a point in 2012, and Hillary Clinton took Nevada in 2016.  The Dems smell blood here.  At this stage, Nevada is truly a toss-up, which for now we will edge to the incumbent party.  Toss-up R. 

  • Arizona:  Donald Trump dislikes many Senators – let’s start with Mitch McConnell, move on to John McCain, and there’s Lisa Murkowski.  But top of the list is surely Jeff Flake. The feeling is mutual; Flake wrote an anti-Trump book – and he wrote it after Trump was elected.  Flake will face tough sledding, starting with the primary.  His approval rating is even worse than Heller’s, at 18%.  Trump appears to have endorsed his rival, Kelli Ward.  The winner will be in a tough race with the Dem who emerges.  Toss-up R. 

  • Alabama: It sounds like a long shot, but, as stated, Democrat Doug Jones is even with the notorious Roy Moore in the polls.  If Moore loses, he is this year’s Todd Akin/Christine O’Connell, and Bannon’s theory is shot.  Lean R. 

  • Tennessee: Corker’s departure and Blackburn’s emergence may give the Dems a shot.  But Corker won by +35 points in 2012 and Trump by +26 in 2016, so this is tough terrain to crack; we’re a long way from the Gore’s in Tennessee.  Lean R. 

  • Texas and Mississippi:  These are two reliable red states, of course, but each shows a little crack that could split open.  In Texas’s case, it is demographics, which are a-changing, ever relentlessly, to blue.  Trump won by +9, but Texas was one of only five states where he did worse than Romney in 2012, who won it by +16.  But Cruz took it by +17 in 2012, and those demographics may not start to put Texas in play until 2020 or even 2024.  As for Mississippi, Bannon may go after establishment Senator Roger Wicker, providing an opening for the Dems, albeit a tiny one, like Alabama.  Both Solid R. 

Democratic Toss-Ups (4) and Leans (9):

Before thinking about “offense” and trying to flip GOP seats, the Dems have a challenging task defending their own seats. 
  • West Virginia:  Incumbent Joe Manchin is a classic “Blue Dog,” as right as they come within the party.  However, he has been a reliable Dem vote on health care and many other issues.  He won by +25 in 2012 in a deep red state that Trump took by +42 (Hillary Clinton was a particularly evil villain in coal-driven West Virginia).  Toss Up D.
  • Missouri and Indiana:  The GOP tossed these two seats away in 2012 and will certainly try to avoid the same fate in 2018.  Vulnerable Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill confounded the odds in 2012 by keeping her seat by +16 points, aided greatly by her inept opponent, the aforementioned Todd Akin.  First-termer Joe Donnelly had similar luck when facing Tea Party crazy Richard Mourdock, who had defeated six-term moderate GOP Senator Richard Lugar in the GOP primary.  Mourdock proceeded to “pull an Akin” when saying that “…when life begins in that horrible situation of rape…that is something God intended to happen.”  Both McCaskill and Donnelly will almost certainly face more able competition in 2018; as John Lennon once said in song, “It can’t get no worse.”  (This was John’s sardonic rejoinder to Paul’s hopeful “it’s getting better all the time” chorus.)  Both Toss Up D. 

  • North Dakota and Montana:  First-term Democrat Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and second-termer Montana Democrat John Tester won close races in 2012, by +1 and +4, respectively.  The GOP will set their sights on flipping these, in deep red states that Trump won by +36 and +20.  Of note:  Mitch McConnell advised Trump to name a Dem-Senator-in-a-Red-State to be Interior Secretary; if Trump had done so with, say, Heitkamp, the GOP might have repealed and replaced Obamacare with the vote of her GOP-governor-appointed replacement.  Both Toss Up D. 

  • New Jersey:  This should be a solid win for the Dems, but Democratic Senator Bob Menendez is on trial on corruption charges and that will complicate his run in 2018. If Menendez is found guilty and is forced to resign, either Republican Governor Chris Christie would name a replacement, or his successor would, depending on the time.  New Jersey happens to have a gubernatorial race this November, and Democrat Phil Murphy is favored.  Menendez, if convicted, could refuse to resign until Murphy assumes office in January.  There are many scenarios here; suffice to say, this one is complicated.  Lean D. 

  • Maine:  This is close to solid with popular Independent Angus King up for reelection, but Trump lost Maine by only -3 points whereas Obama won by +15 in 2012.  Lean D. 

  • Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio:  Students of the 2016 presidential election will know why we group these states together.  Democrats rode Obama’s coattails and won (or held onto) Senate seats in each state in 2012, but each state flipped from blue to red for Trump (barely) in 2016, putting the incumbents on high alert for their re-election bids in 2018.  Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow is popular and won by +21 in 2012; the rumor mill has her potentially opposed by redneck rocker Kid Rock (she leads him in the polls now).  Second-termer Bob Casey won Pennsylvania by +9 in 2012, and Wisconsin first-termer Tammy Baldwin – who is on some of the long lists of presidential hopefuls for 2020 – won by +5.  Florida’s Bill Nelson won by +13 and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown won by +5.  Each Lean D. 

  • New Mexico and Virginia:  Both seem to be reasonably solid blue states at this point, as Clinton beat Trump by +8 and +5, respectively in 2016.  Her running mate, Tim Kaine of Virginia, and New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich, each won by +6 in 2012.  Each Lean D. 

Take heart, Dems:  the odds of taking the House are much higher.  More on that soon.