Moneyball, meet politics: Could VAR settle arguments about candidate strength?
Vote Above Replacement puts Klobuchar atop presidential field, Collins way above other senators

In the era of data and metrics and models in political analysis, at least one question still remains: How do we quantify the strength of individual candidates?

Arguing over whether a candidate or incumbent is good or bad is an age-old tradition in the political media and among party operatives. Typically, candidate strength is measured by fundraising or the margin of a win or loss. But that can fail to account for the particular election cycle or the possibility that any candidate running on a particular party’s line in a particular year or state would do just as well.

Rating change: King retirement weakens GOP hold on New York seat
Long Island district is suburban, but differs from places that swung to Democrats in 2018

Years of predictions finally came true Monday as New York Republican Peter T. King announced he will not seek reelection in the 2nd District. His decision leaves behind another competitive open seat in the suburbs for the GOP to defend.

In 2016, President Donald Trump carried the southern Long Island district by a significant margin, 53 percent to 44 percent, but the longtime congressman’s narrow 6-point margin of victory last fall is fueling Democratic optimism, particularly now that he is not running.

Lessons from Kentucky, Mississippi and Virginia elections may not be what you think
Results from 2019 offer some clues about what may work and not work in 2020

ANALYSIS — Voters in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Virginia were gracious enough to go to the polls on Tuesday and give us some tangible results to chew over with 12 months to go before the 2020 elections. Here are some thoughts.

Kentucky was not an upset. Inside Elections changed its rating on the governor’s race from Lean Republican to Toss-up in mid July after finding Gov. Matt Bevin very vulnerable. So those who were surprised by Democrat Andy Beshear’s declared victory weren’t paying close enough attention.

The four most likely scenarios for 2020 elections, explained
Political Theater, Episode 100

The 2020 elections are shaping up as the most significant in memory, but predicting them is a handicapper's nightmare. Nevertheless, CQ Roll Call elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales gave it a whirl, offering these four scenarios: 1) Eviction at 1600 2) Blue Washington  3) Status Quo 4) Red Revival.

A year out, here's four scenarios for 2020 elections
How voters feel about economy, impeachment will decide which party rules in 2021

After Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016, there’s a saturating fear of projecting elections. Nearly three years into his presidency, and with one year left in his first term, there are multiple potential outcomes for the 2020 elections. But the scenarios aren’t created equal and don’t have the same chance of taking place, and they will have a profound impact on policy in the future.

Even though predicting anything to do with Trump might seem like a risk because of how typically damaging stories don’t seem to impact his standing, the president is a historically unpopular figure whose job approval rating has been static for months. More voters have disapproved than approved of his job performance since about a week after he was inaugurated, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, and his approval rating has been between 41 and 44 percent for most of the past year and a half.

Ratings update: No change for California seat Katie Hill is giving up
Little indication the GOP can win a district that backed Hillary Clinton by 7 points

A Democratic House member resigns, but is it really at risk of a Republican takeover?

Less than a year after getting elected to Congress, Rep. Katie Hill announced her resignation from California’s 25th District amid allegations of inappropriate relationships with staffers. On one hand, it’s easy to see why Republicans might be excited about the special election, considering they held the seat for a quarter of a century not that long ago. But there’s little indication that it’s currently a serious GOP opportunity.

Ratings change: GOP Senate chances improve in Georgia, decline in NC, Iowa
Despite signs of Georgia getting bluer, Democrats have not recruited strong Senate candidates

Nearly a year before the 2020 elections, the Senate battlefield continues to take shape. Even though the executive and legislative branches are different but coequal branches of government, their fates are electorally tied together this cycle.

Democrats’ chances of controlling the Senate next Congress dramatically increase with a White House victory because the vice president would act as a tiebreaker, lowering the number of GOP seats the party has to take over. And the party that controls the Senate will determine the success and effectiveness of a new Democratic president or President Donald Trump in his second term.

Mostly smoke, and little fire, from Republicans to Democrats on impeachment
GOP hasn’t yet launched a credible campaign against 8 of the 13 vulnerable Democrats it is targeting

ANALYSIS — Republicans are publicly celebrating impeachment as a political boon and trying to hold House Democrats’ feet to the fire with television ads and protests. But without credible challengers, it’s little more than expensive hot air.

Last week, President Donald Trump’s campaign manager bragged about turning up the heat on a freshman Democrat who supports the impeachment inquiry, and the Republican National Committee is on television targeting a dozen Democratic members for supporting it. But in most instances, there’s a lot of smoke and little fire, considering Republicans are still searching for credible candidates in many of the districts.

Rating change: Upstate New York race less vulnerable for GOP with Collins resignation
Without indicted incumbent in 27th District, Democratic takeover looks unlikely, but ballot questions remain

Not all House departures are created equal. New York Rep. Chris Collins’ resignation should make it easier for Republicans to hold his Buffalo-area sea because the GOP should have a nominee without legal problems. But New York’s multiple ballot lines could complicate the special election to replace the congressman, as they have in past contests.

Collins, who was reelected last year proclaiming his innocence on charges of insider trading, submitted his resignation Monday, a day before he is expected to change his not guilty plea.

Jedi impeachment politics: Wrong your conventional wisdom could be
Not enough data to know how public will react

ANALYSIS — As House Democrats move closer to impeaching President Donald Trump, I’m amazed by the collective certainty about how the storyline will play out. It’s assumed that history will repeat itself. But I can’t help but think of Luke Skywalker’s words of caution.

Up to this point, everyone is assuming that if Democrats pursue Trump’s impeachment, they risk a repeat of 1998, when House Republicans began impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton and Democrats subsequently gained five seats in the midterm elections.

Far from being ignored, Andrew Yang receives too much attention
So do Gabbard, Williamson and Sanders, given their likelihood of winning nomination

More than 250 people running for the Democratic presidential nomination are polling within a couple of points of Andrew Yang, but that won’t stop his Yang Gang and some members of the media from calling for the press to pay more attention to their candidate.

Blaming a losing candidate’s lack of traction on the media is a time-honored tradition. But Yang, Marianne Williamson, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and even Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders get more attention than they deserve given their likelihood of winning the Democratic nomination.

9 things I think I think after the North Carolina redo election
GOP efforts to hold 9th District unlikely to be replicated in other suburban races

Nearly a year after the two parties fought to a draw in North Carolina’s 9th District, Republican Dan Bishop and Democrat Dan McCready ended with another close race. Bishop prevailed 51 percent to 49 percent, with absentee ballots remaining to be counted.

A win is better than a loss (and the result affects the fight for the majority), but the overall lessons from the race should not be dramatically different whether a candidate finishes narrowly ahead or behind. And even if the results aren’t predictive, there are implications for the 2020 elections.

Rating changes in four House races, but Flores’ seat isn’t one of them
Outlook shifts toward Democrats in Texas and Iowa races, and toward GOP in one California contest

It’s not a question of if more House Members will retire; it’s a question of when and where.

On Wednesday, Rep. Bill Flores became the fifth Texas Republican to announce he will not seek reelection or another office in 2020. Of the 13 members retiring in 2020, 11 are Republicans and two are Democrats. And more exits are likely to come, considering that, on average, 23 members have retired each election cycle, going back to the 1970s.

In our podcast, we’re gone to Carolina
Political Theater, Episode 91

It’s September 2019, but we’re only just now wrapping up the 2018 election. Voters in North Carolina’s 9th District will finish it all off on when they decide on Sept. 10 whether Democrat Dan McCready or Republican Dan Bishop will represent them in Congress. 

The lagging special election was necessary because the North Carolina State Board of Elections threw out last fall’s initial results because of election fraud tied to the Republican effort and its nominee, Mark Harris. 

Inside Elections poll: Democrat McCready leads GOP’s Bishop in NC redo election
8 percent ‘unsure’ as vote nears for seat left vacant since 2018 election was thrown out

Democrat Dan McCready has a narrow advantage over Republican Dan Bishop heading into the final days of the Sept. 10 redo election in North Carolina’s 9th District, according to a new bipartisan poll for Inside Elections

The survey, conducted from Monday through Wednesday by Harper Polling and Clarity Campaign Labs, showed McCready ahead of Bishop, 46 percent to 42 percent, with two third-party candidates receiving a combined 3 percent. Some 8 percent of voters were “unsure” and the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.19 percentage points.

Isakson’s decision adds competitive seat to 2020 Senate battleground
Republicans still favored to hold both Senate seats in Georgia

Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson’s resignation adds another seat to the 2020 Senate battleground and gives Democrats another takeover opportunity in their road to the majority.

According to state law, GOP Gov. Brian Kemp will appoint a senator, who will then stand for election in November 2020 to fill the remainder of Isakson’s term. Isakson was most recently reelected in 2016, 55 percent to 41 percent, and would have been up again in 2022.

Trump vulnerability in a primary is more fiction than fact
President has solid GOP support, a huge cash advantage, and it’s already late in the process

Former South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford is seriously considering challenging President Donald Trump in the primary, even though he called the idea “preposterous” on many levels. It’s a rare moment when you should take a politician at his word.

Even if you look past the huge hurdles of the president’s popularity among the Republican base and the humongous fundraising advantage, the anti-Trump movement is simply running out of time, and it’s arguably too late to mount a serious presidential campaign at all.

Trump missing an opportunity to burnish his legacy with gun law
If anyone in GOP can stand up to the NRA, it's the outsider president

President Donald Trump has forgotten who holds the power within the Republican Party.

There’s a perception that the National Rifle Association has an impenetrable lock on base Republican voters and thus is holding GOP members of Congress captive. But Trump is the one person who has the capital with the GOP base to oppose the NRA and get something done on guns. And the president is missing an opportunity to add a legacy item to his time in office and even help his chances of winning a second term.

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.