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.

Inside Elections: History and Reality Suggest 2018 Will Be Good for House Democrats
 

Roll Call’s elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales gives his 18-months-out take on the landscape for the 2018 House races, changing his ratings for 19 races — all in favor of the Democrats....
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. 

Rating Change: Montana Special Creeps Closer to Tossup
Voters to decide Thursday who will replace Interior Secretary Zinke

The special election for Montana’s at-large House seat hasn’t received as much as attention as the race in Georgia, but it’s a similar storyline: Democrats are doing better than expected and an upset is within the realm of possibility.

Less than a week before the Thursday, May 25, election, wealthy former software executive Greg Gianforte has a narrow advantage over his Democratic opponent, musician Rob Quist. But Quist recently crossed the $5 million fundraising threshold, giving him ample resources to deliver his message in the final days in a relatively cheap state for advertising. 

Behavioral Scientist: Candidates Should Court Vocal Advocate Groups — But Be Careful
 

Inside Elections and Roll Call’s Nathan L. Gonzales sits down with loyalty specialist James Kane, who looks at what might sway various groups in the midterms and beyond....
Lessons for Trump Detractors From a Loyalty Expert
Attacking president’s supporters best way to fracture his base

You’ve probably never heard of James Kane, but elected officials, party strategists, and even some reporters could learn from his perspective as a behavioral scientist (instead of a partisan hack) about how to fracture President Donald Trump’s base and the future of the two parties. 

I rarely have time to sit in on other sessions at conferences where I’m speaking, but when I saw Kane’s session on loyalty on the agenda last year at an event in Phoenix during the tumultuous presidential race, I decided to attend. I’m glad I did.

Inside Elections: What You Need to Know About the Gubernatorial Landscape
 

Don’t Trust Politicians Who Say They Aren’t Running for President
Barack Obama is a good reason to not rule out Kirsten Gillibrand

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told a group of local reporters in New York that she is not running for president in 2020. But, of course, that means you shouldn’t take her off any list of potential presidential candidates.

The Empire State’s junior senator is among the dozen or so Democrats most often mentioned as potential challengers to President Donald Trump, but Gillibrand probably needs to win re-election in 2018 first in order to remain in that conversation.

GOP Retirement Creates Highly Vulnerable Open Seat
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen leaves behind a Florida district Hillary Clinton won by 20 points

Long-time GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s decision to not seek re-election next year leaves behind a difficult open seat for her party to defend.

The Florida congresswoman is one of 23 Republicans to represent districts where Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in the most recent presidential election.

The Important Connection Between Governors and Congress
A first look at the gubernatorial race ratings for 2017-18

In Washington, it’s easy to ignore governors as distant rulers over far away lands. But now is a good time to start paying attention to what’s happening in state races.

Voters in 38 states (including nine of the 10 most populated) will elect a governor over the next two years, and the results have a direct connection to Capitol Hill. The large number of races give aspiring (or weary) members an opportunity to leave the House, and consequently, leave behind potentially vulnerable open seats. And governors in 28 of those states will have a role (specifically veto power) in the next round of redistricting, which will impact what party controls the House in the next decade. 

One Month Until Republicans’ Latest Round of Excuses
Special election for Montana seat moves from Solid Republican to Likely Republican

When it comes to special election results, Republicans always have an excuse, and their stumbles are never a national trend.

In Kansas, Republicans turned a 27-point victory for Donald Trump in 2016 into a recent 7-point special election victory for state Treasurer Ron Estes even though Democratic lawyer James Thompson had virtually no support from local or national Democrats.

Why Republicans Don’t Fear a Shutdown, But Should
HealthCare.gov rollout shifted attention back to White House before midterm elections

For many Republicans, it’s a fairly simple calculation: There was a supposedly catastrophic government shutdown in 2013 and the GOP gained 13 House seats a year later. So what’s the big deal if the government shuts down again?

With another funding deadline on the horizon, selective memory loss could have negative consequences for the Republican Party if there is another government shutdown.

8 Things I Think I Think After the Georgia Special Primary
There’s never just one takeaway

My family sat down for dinner at a nice Amish family’s house in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday night, less than two hours before the polls closed in Georgia’s 6th District. And Jon Ossoff’s name didn’t come up once. That’s not surprising, but it is what happens when special elections collide with Spring Break.

The most-watched special election of the cycle (until the next one) ended with the young Georgia Democrat finishing first with 48 percent, in the all-party primary but short of the what he needed to win former Republican Rep. Tom Price’s seat outright. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel finished second with almost 20 percent and both candidates move on to the June 20 runoff.

There’s More Than One Takeaway From the Kansas Special Election
‘11 things I think I think’

After a few months in the electoral desert, we finally have election results to digest from a competitive race, albeit an unexpected one.

State Treasurer Ron Estes pulled out a 53-46 percent win to keep Kansas’ 4th District in Republican hands. The 7-point victory margin is shocking considering Donald Trump carried the Wichita-based seat by 27 points in last year’s presidential race.