Ratings Change: Flake More Vulnerable in Arizona
Ongoing feud with Trump complicates GOP senator’s re-election bid

The acrimony between President Donald Trump and Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, which is already making the senator’s re-election bid more challenging, should only intensify during the president’s rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night. 

Flake is known as a Trump opponent, which could make him vulnerable in the primary. The feud appeared to start in a private meeting a year ago, but has since escalated. Earlier this summer, Flake published a book, titled “Conscience of a Conservative,” publicly criticizing the Republican Party for the rise of Trump. 

Rating Change: Alabama Senate Race No Longer Solid GOP
Polarizing potential nominee could give Democrats a shot at takeover

The Alabama Senate special election certainly isn’t a toss-up, but the possibility that former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore might become the Republican nominee creates the potential for a Democratic upset.

President Donald Trump’s polarizing persona is creating significant risk for congressional Republicans in next year’s midterm elections. But his decision to pluck Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions out of the Senate for his Cabinet created a special election this year that is turning out to be more adventurous than expected, considering Trump won the Yellowhammer State by 28 points less than a year ago.

‘Kid Rock’ May Be Ineligible for Michigan Ballot
Elections bureau would decide whether Robert Ritchie can use stage name

Robert Ritchie may end up challenging Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow in Michigan next year, but his stage name, Kid Rock, may not be allowed to appear on the ballot.

Kid Rock is a household name to Americans under the age of 50, and voters might be attracted to vote for him, as a middle finger to the political establishment. But it’s not immediately clear whether his famous stage name would appear on the ballot or if he’d be required to run under his less-known given name. 

Merkley’s Mild Town Hall in a Red County
Oregon Democrat talks health care to a receptive audience

DALLAS, Ore. — With a divided country and two divided parties, town halls are supposed to be ground zero for angst, anger, and animosity, but not in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Donald Trump carried Polk County in the last presidential election but Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley found a largely sympathetic audience Wednesday at his town hall meeting here in its county seat.

Roughly 150 people gathered at the Oregon National Guard’s Col. James W. Nesmith Readiness Center on the outskirts of Dallas (population: 16,345, according to a sign when you enter town), to hear from one of their senators and enjoy the air conditioning on a sweltering afternoon.

When Congressional Spouses (Allegedly) Misbehave
Jane Sanders not the first to get into legal trouble amid a re-election

With congressional job approval hovering around 17 percent, members of Congress are carrying their own baggage into their re-election races, even without the weight of a spouse in legal trouble.

Jane Sanders isn’t a stranger to the spotlight, as her husband, Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, ascended the political ladder and nearly claimed last year’s Democratic Party presidential nomination. But now she’s in the news because of a federal investigation into a real estate deal and a corresponding bank loan during her tenure as president of the now-defunct Burlington College in Vermont.

Rating Change: Nevada Senate Race Moves to Toss-Up
Feeling pressure from both sides, Dean Heller is more vulnerable

As the only Republican senator up for re-election in a state won by Hillary Clinton last fall, Dean Heller had a tough task ahead of him next year.

And that was even before he started enduring attacks from within his own party.

Rating Change: Open Seat Gives Democrats Takeover Opportunity in New Mexico
Rep. Steve Pearce vacates 2nd District seat to run for governor

With re-election rates often hovering above 90 percent, open seats represent a critical factor in the Democrats’ quest for a House majority. New Mexico’s 2nd District has been an elusive target for years, as long as Rep. Steve Pearce has been on the ballot.

But the Republican congressman’s decision to run for governor opens up a majority-Hispanic district that could be vulnerable if an anti-GOP wave develops.

Mapping Out 2018 in the Senate
Democrats are still on the defensive but can’t be dismissed

Eight months into the 2018 election cycle and with 16 months to go, the fundamentals of the Senate map haven’t changed.

One state has been added to the map: Alabama.

Rating Change: Bellwether Illinois District Returns to the Playing Field
Democrats land top recruit to challenge Rep. Mike Bost

One Reason Why Republicans Don’t Have More Women in the Senate
GOP misses a rare opportunity in Missouri

Women make up less than 10 percent of the Republican senators in Congress, and the GOP’s most qualified (and only top-tier) female hopeful just walked off the Senate playing field with nary a protest from Republican leaders.

Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner’s challenge to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has been one of the worst-kept secrets of the cycle. The third-term congresswoman, a former United States ambassador and onetime co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, had $2.8 million in her campaign account at the end of March. She had been doing everything a future Senate candidate was supposed to do, right up until Monday when she announced she was running for re-election to her 2nd District seat instead.

GOP Campaign Tracker Violates Bipartisan Truce (Again)
But party campaign committees still say Senate hallways are off limits

Trackers have become standard operating procedure in today’s campaigns, as young operatives follow and record candidates’ every move and whisper with the hope of catching a gaffe. But up to this point, there has been rare bipartisan agreement that the Senate hallways were off limits.

“New low for 2018 campaign season- Rs are so threatened by @Heidi4ND they have a tracker waiting in the hall outside her Senate office #NDPol,” tweeted Tessa Gould on June 27. Gould is North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s chief of staff and former campaign. 

Chris Van Hollen Had His Own Fake Time Magazine Cover
Trump isn’t the only politician to embellish a cover story

Some Democrats have enjoyed mocking President Donald Trump after the revelation that a framed copy of a Time magazine cover that hangs in some of his golf clubs was a fabrication. But not everyone on the Democratic side of the aisle is innocent of faking Time magazine covers.

In 2002, Maryland state Sen. Chris Van Hollen was locked in a competitive Democratic primary in the 8th District in suburban Washington, D.C. The Democratic nomination was critical because Maryland Democrats redrew the district to endanger moderate Republican incumbent Constance A. Morella.

11 Things I Think I Think After the Special Elections
Lessons from the Georgia and South Carolina races

One of the best parts about covering elections is that there is a final result. What seems like an endless stream of campaigning and ads and analysis finally comes to an end every time with vote tallies to digest until the next round.

President Donald Trump and the Republicans continue to play with electoral fire, but the GOP pulled off two more special election victories; this time in Georgia’s 6th District and South Carolina’s 5th District. As with the previous results in Kansas and Montana, there are enough tidbits in each result to formulate whatever conclusion helps you sleep better at night.

Race Rating: 2018 Montana At-Large Race Starts as Leans Republican
Gianforte not in immediate danger of losing re-election

It’s not good to start your tenure in Congress with a misdemeanor assault charge, but that’s where Republican Greg Gianforte finds himself. It also doesn’t mean he is immediately and automatically vulnerable in 2018.

On May 25, Gianforte won a special election to replace Republican Ryan Zinke (who vacated his seat to become secretary of the Interior) in a race that received some national attention but went viral after an altercation between the candidate and a reporter resulted in assault body-slamming allegations and formal charges. Gianforte pleaded guilty on June 12 and narrowly avoided a few days in jail with 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management counseling.

Race Rating: Virginia Governor Contest Still Leans Democratic
Primary results don’t change GOP nominee’s uphill battle

While the margins, if not the outcomes, of Virginia’s gubernatorial primaries may have been a surprise, the long view of the race remains the same — Democrats are in position to hold the commonwealth’s governorship in November.

In the Republican primary, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie defeated Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County board of supervisors, 44 percent to 43 percent. It was a closer-than-expected margin of victory for Gillespie, the 2014 Senate nominee, over Stewart, former state chairman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Republicans Prove Press Releases Are Useless
RNC’s statement after Virginia primaries includes some ‘alternative facts’

I hate press releases, and election night press releases are a special breed of terrible. They are often a string of cliches and manicured facts in search of a sucker to print them. And the Republican National Committee release on Tuesday night after Virginia’s gubernatorial primaries only reinforced my opinion.

“I would like to congratulate Ed Gillespie on securing the Republican nomination and moving one step closer towards becoming Virginia’s next governor,” said RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel in a statement emailed to reporters at 10:46 p.m. Tuesday.

Race Rating: New Jersey Governor Likely Democratic Takeover
Trump and Christie’s low job ratings hurt GOP chances of winning

While it’s still unclear whether Democrats will get their first signature victory of the year in Georgia’s 6th House District, a takeover in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race looks likely later this fall. 

On Tuesday, Lt. Gov Kim Guadagno won the GOP primary with 47 percent against four other candidates. Former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy won the Democratic primary with 48 percent against five other contenders.  

Four (Almost) Famous Congressional Candidates
C-list actor, son of a former NBA all-star, brother of a comedian hit the campaign trail

The political media went into a frenzy last cycle when “Little House on the Prairie” actress and “Dancing With the Stars” contestant Melissa Gilbert decided to run for Congress in Michigan. Even though the Democrat eventually dropped out before she matched up against Republican Rep. Mike Bishop in the general election, it was clear that the media is hungry for any intersection of celebrity and politics.

This cycle, the early going has been meager on the celebrity front, but a handful of contenders have famous connections.

A Harbaugh Elected in Ohio? You’ll Know It’s a Wave
Winning Ohio’s 7th District would signal a good 2018 for Democrats

Next year, everyone will publish election guides explaining which races to watch to figure out the winds of the midterms and predict if a wave is on the horizon. But if you only have time to watch one race, watch Ohio’s 7th District.

On Thursday, former Navy pilot Ken Harbaugh, a Democrat, announced his challenge to Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs. The first-time candidate burst onto the campaign trail with a shovel and plastic bag ready to “clean up a mess” in Washington. As a veteran and president of a disaster relief organization, Team Rubicon Global, Harbaugh is credentialed as an outsider at a time when congressional job approval is still hovering around 20 percent.

19 House Races Shift Toward Democrats
List of competitive seats grows amid shifts against president’s party

The midterm elections are still nearly a year and a half away, and the political dynamics could yet change, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that history and the current environment are merging together for a potentially great set of elections for Democrats in November 2018. 

The president’s party has lost House seats in 18 of the last 20 midterm elections, and it’s lost an average of 33 seats in those 18 elections. Democrats need to gain 24 seats in order to take back the majority.