GOP will need more than promoting their preferred opponent to affect Democratic primaries
Republicans appear to be taking a page from Democrat Claire McCaskill’s winning 2012 Senate campaign

A Democratic state senator bragged this week about drawing the attention of national Republicans in the competitive race for U.S. Senate in North Carolina. But Erica Smith shouldn’t wear the attacks as a badge of honor. And if Republicans really want to make an impact, they’re going to have to spend a lot more money.

“The @NRSC has purchased a billboard attacking me in Raleigh — calling me ‘too liberal,’” Smith tweeted Monday, referring to the National Republican Senatorial Committee effort. “I am the only candidate that they are spending money against — it shows you who @ThomTillis is worried about. Can’t attack @CalforNC bc no one knows what he stands for.”

After Marchant retirement, race for Texas’ 24th District remains competitive
With Trump atop the 2020 ticket, GOP can’t feel comfortable about attracting suburban voters

Another day, another Republican retirement.

It might seem like there’s a flood of members announcing they will not seek reelection, but we’re still not close to historical levels. And the location of the open seats matters more than the timing.

How recent House retirements change the battleground in Texas and Michigan
More members will follow Olson and Mitchell and forego 2020 if historical trends hold

Republican Reps. Pete Olson of Texas and Paul Mitchell of Michigan recently announced they will not seek reelection, but how much do their decisions affect the fight for the House majority? Open seats are usually more vulnerable than districts where an incumbent is seeking another term, but these two retirements aren’t political earthquakes.

First, we are still well below the historical average for retirements, so there will be plenty more of these stories to come.

‘Extremists’ in Virginia candidate’s video include Democrats and fellow Republicans
Afghanistan veteran vying to challenge Rep. Jennifer Wexton swipes at McConnell, King, Meadows

It’s no surprise that a Republican congressional candidate used Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a campaign video. But including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and two other GOP House members as targets for criticism is a novel approach for a Republican candidate.

GOP strategists knew they needed an atypical candidate to have any chance of recapturing Virginia’s 10th District. As a double amputee Marines Corps veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Rob Jones fits that bill.

Drawing new congressional lines won’t be easy for Democrats
Maps must withstand shifts in attitudes, and parties should not assume Trump era patterns continue

The next round of redistricting shouldn’t sneak up on anyone. After coverage of the recent Supreme Court decisions and renewed interest in state-level races because of their role in selecting who draws district lines, parties and political observers are tuned in to the mapmaking process. But there’s one aspect that hasn’t been discussed enough.

In short, too much success can be a bad thing when it comes to drawing the next set of political maps.

Trump admits he was a liability in 2018
New book states president deliberately hindered Minnesota Republican Erik Paulsen’s reelection

President Donald Trump still won’t publicly admit he was a significant factor in Republicans’ loss of the House in 2018. But a behind-the-scenes moment captured in a new book suggests he is more politically self-aware than he leads on.

We know that Trump doesn’t admit mistakes or commit sins. It’s not in his personality or good for his brand to acknowledge any weakness. But, according to Politico’s Tim Alberta, the president endorsed a vulnerable member of Congress in an intentional effort to weaken his candidacy.

Fallout in Michigan and beyond from Justin Amash’s breakup with GOP
Complications force 3rd District race to move from Solid to Leans Republican

Republicans didn’t shed a tear after Rep. Justin Amash jumped the GOP ship last week. But their exuberance over being rid of the Michigan congressman might be masking the impact his departure will have on their efforts to recapture the House majority and regain control of his 3rd District.

As more of a libertarian than a Republican, Amash has never fit comfortably within the GOP conference, and he made his departure official with a July 4 op-ed in The Washington Post declaring his independence from the Republican Party.

Rating changes: Texas and Minnesota Senate races shift the Democrats’ way
Cornyn remains the favorite, but defending his seat could cost the GOP resources

The fight for Senate control is still taking shape and, less than 16 months before Election Day, two states appear to moving in the Democrats’ direction on the battlefield.

Donald Trump came within about a point and a half of winning Minnesota in the 2016 presidential election. But that might be the new high-water mark for Republicans, and the GOP will have a hard time unseating Democratic Sen. Tina Smith in 2020.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and run somewhere else
Comeback trail for 2020 candidates sometimes means running in a different district — or state

A handful of House candidates this cycle aren’t letting previous losses — or geography — get in the way of another congressional run. Dozens of members of Congress lost races before eventually winning, but some politicians are aiming their aspirations at different districts, and in some cases different states, to get to Capitol Hill.

In Arizona, Democrat Hiral Tipirneni lost two races to Republican Debbie Lesko in the 8th District last year, including a special election. This cycle, she is seeking the Democratic nomination in the neighboring 6th District to take on Republican incumbent David Schweikert.

‘More practices for this one game than any NFL preseason’: Reps. Gonzalez and Allred on congressional baseball
The former NFL players are bringing their athletic prowess to Congress' big game

Reps. Anthony Gonzalez and Colin Allred both had careers in the NFL before heading to Congress. Now ...
For Colin Allred, Major League dreams are close to coming true
NFL veteran returns to his first sporting love at the Congressional Baseball Game

As a kid, Rep. Colin Allred dreamed of playing baseball on a Major League field. The Texas Democrat will get that chance Wednesday night at the Congressional Baseball Game, and he could add significant heft to an already loaded Democratic squad.

It hasn’t been a typical path for Allred — college football, the National Football League, law school, a job in the Obama’s administration, and getting elected to Congress to represent the Dallas-area 32nd District.

Ratings change: Brooks retirement makes Indiana 5th less safe for GOP
Inside Elections downgrades seat from Solid to Likely Republican

Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana announced she will not seek re-election, creating a potential open-seat headache for Republicans in Indiana’s 5th District. The congresswoman won re-election to a fourth term in 2018 in the central Indiana district with 57 percent, but the district shifted between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.

Now-Utah Sen. Mitt Romney won the 5th District 58-41 percent over President Barack Obama in 2012, but Donald Trump carried it more narrowly 53-41 percent over Hillary Clinton in 2016, fueling Democratic optimism even before Brooks’ announcement. Democratic strategists have also been excited about former state Rep. Christina Hale getting into the race. She ran for lieutenant governor on a ticket with John Gregg in 2016, losing by 7 points in the 5th District.

Upcoming debates an important next stage in presidential campaign
2016 GOP race showed launching attacks in crowded field doesn’t always end as planned

In a little more than two weeks, 20 candidates will take the debate stage in their quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. And with increasing pressure to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack, some contenders could choose to take the gloves off and attack an opponent, which would have a ripple effect on the race.

Up to this point, the Democratic race has largely been cordial, except for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders going after former Vice President Joe Biden. But one or more of the 2020 hopefuls could decide that a nationally televised debate would be an excellent place and time to knock an opponent down a few slots.

Does open seat in Montana help or hurt Democrats’ pickup opportunity?
Gianforte, who underperformed a generic Republican in the past, is leaving the House to run for governor

Parties crave open seats, considering the vast majority of incumbents win re-election. But in the case of Montana’s at-large district, Democrats may have lost their preferred opponent when Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte filed to run for governor.

While it might have been daunting for Democrats to face Gianforte’s personal wealth in a presidential year in a state President Donald Trump carried by 20 points, the congressman has actually underperformed the partisan lean of the state in past elections. It might have something to do with him assaulting a reporter in 2017.

What is McConnelling? How campaigns skirt coordination laws to help PACs make ads
Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell electrified the nation in 2014 when he released 2 minutes and 22 seconds of high-definition footage of himself smiling and going about his day.

Why a GOP super PAC is bothering to attack Steve Bullock’s bid for president
Montana ads are more about denting his potential Senate prospects

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock isn’t one of the leading Democratic contenders for the 2020 presidential nomination, but he’s learning how to turn a Republican attack into an asset for his campaign.

On May 29, the GOP-affiliated Senate Leadership Fund started a television ad campaign in the Missoula media market, according to Kantar/CMAG, and the message went straight to the point.

Some House members are contemplating retirement, according to history
GOP departures last cycle helped fuel Democrats’ takeover

As the unofficial kickoff of summer, Memorial Day is a time to remember the fallen, spend time with family and grill meats. But history tells us it’s also a time for more than a handful of members to reconsider their future in the House.

Going back to 1976, an average of 23 House members have not sought re-election or another office each election cycle. So far this cycle, just four have made that decision, which means more retirements will come and competitive open seats could change the fight for the majority.

(Mostly) Political one-liners: Pennsylvania special, Kentucky governor, and the Trail Blazers

California’s 48th District: The Orange County Republican Party endorsed County Supervisor Michelle Steel on Monday in the race against freshman Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda, which could give pause to potential candidates such as former state Sen. Janet Nguyen.

Colorado Senate: Former District Attorney John Walsh, a Democrat, came by the office for an interview on Tuesday to talk about the Colorado Senate race, and we’ll publish our Candidate Conversation in the May 31 issue of Inside Elections.

What can we learn from the North Carolina redo election?
September vote could signal whether rough GOP seas have calmed since November

By now, most journalists, handicappers, and party operatives are trained to restrain themselves when applying special election results to future general election forecasts.

But the redo election in North Carolina’s 9th District provides a unique opportunity to learn about the present political environment and how it’s changed since November.

Enzi retirement likely to spur competitive Wyoming primary, but for which seat?
If Cheney runs, battle may be for her House seat in country’s most Republican state

Sen. Michael B. Enzi’s decision not to seek a fifth term is causing more than a handful of his fellow Wyoming Republicans to evaluate their political ambitions. 

Only seven men (and zero women) have represented the Equality State in the Senate in the last 50 years, and this is Wyoming’s first open Senate seat in more than 20 years. Statewide office as a Republican in Wyoming is as close to a lifetime appointment as it gets in electoral politics these days.