If my prognostications come to pass, seven races will decide which party controls the Senate. Let’s look at them one by one.
Illinois Republican incumbent Mark Kirk is seeking a second term. He is a moderate and has been sharply critical of Donald Trump. His challenger is Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. She represents the western suburbs of Chicago and has easily won both of her races for Congress. She was seriously injured in the Iraq War and both legs were amputated. Despite his denouncement of Trump, having him at the top of the ballot will hurt Kirk. He is facing a serious challenger in a blue state. I expect Duckworth to win.
Usually the field is set after the primaries. Two weeks ago everything changed in Indiana. As everyone knows, Pence dropped out of the governor’s race to be Donald Trump’s running mate. Earlier in the week the Democratic Senate nominee also dropped out paving the way for former governor and Senator Evan Bayh. The Bayh name has been political magic in Indiana. His father Birch Bayh was a long time senator whose political career dates back to 1954. Opposing Bayh is Todd Young, a three term congressman. Young is not that well known in the state since he comes from southern Indiana away from the population centers. Indiana is definitely a red state but I believe the Bayh name will give the Democrats another seat.
If the Democrats want to control the Senate, they need to hang on to Harry Reid’s seat. They are pinning their hopes on Catherine Cortez Masto, a former state attorney general. She is facing Congressman Joe Heck. Nevada is a blue state having voted for Obama last time. Heck is currently leading in the polls. If Cortez Masto can generate a large Hispanic turnout, she could win. The experts consider it a tossup. I’ll give it to the Democrats but very easily could be wrong.
New Hampshire will also be a nail biter. Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte is facing Governor Maggie Hassan. It is unusual for a contest to feature two powerhouse candidates. Once again the experts consider it a tossup. Ayotte is a moderate who won overwhelmingly last time. I think the voters will decide to keep her.
The Ohio race looks a lot like New Hampshire. Republican Senator Rob Portman is running for a second term. He served six terms in the House and also had jobs in the executive branch. He had an overwhelming win last time but faces tougher completion, former Governor Ted Strickland. Strickland also served in the House and had one term as governor. He was defeated in 2010 by John Kasich. Portman has a small lead in the polls but it is too early for that to be meaningful. I still give him a slight edge because Strickland has been out of office for six years.
Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is another Republican who came into office in 2010. He will face off against Katie McGinty. She has been in both the public and private sectors, most recently serving as chief of staff to the governor. Her only election experience was running for governor in 2014. She finished fourth in the Democratic primary. She is leading in the most recent polls. However, I think her lack of political experience will tip the balance in Toomey’s favor.
Wisconsin features a rematch of the 2010 election. Republican Ron Johnson beat three term Senator Russ Feingold. Now they are squaring off again. Feingold has consistently led in the polls and I believe he will retake the seat.
So there you have it. If my predictions come to pass, the Democrats will pick up three seats, leaving them still in the minority. A lot can happen between now and the election so I will periodically update my analysis.
Everyone seems focused on what happened in Cleveland and is happening in Philadelphia. I thought this would be a good time to examine the upcoming Senate races.
Right now the Republicans hold a 54-46 advantage. Democrats will need to pick up five seats for outright control. If Hillary Clinton wins, only four seats are needed with the Vice President breaking the ties. That sounds difficult but they only have to defend ten seats while the GOP has twenty-four in the mix. I have taken a close look at each race, and will offer up my prediction.
Let’s start with the Democrats. They have seven incumbents. They should cruise to easy wins in Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Michael Bennett of Colorado is a likely winner. Open seats in California and Maryland are easy wins. The only possible trouble spot is Nevada where Harry Reid is retiring.
Things get more complicated for the Republicans. Twenty-two incumbents are trying to hang on to their seats. Twelve can win without breaking a sweat. Chuck Grassley of Iowa (one of three octogenarians running) should get a seventh term.
John McCain has angered many Republicans over his refusal to back Donald Trump. He first has to face three challengers in an upcoming primary. He should win but has a tougher time in November. I expect him to barely hang on.
Florida looked like a potential pickup for the Democrats. Now that Marco Rubio is running, the GOP should keep to the seat.
Missouri can be hard on incumbents but I expect Mel Blount to win. Richard Burr of North Carolina should also pull through. I also expect the GOP to keep the open seat in Louisiana.
That leaves Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin up for grabs. More about them next time.
One convention down, one to go. There really weren’t any huge stories coming out of the Republican get-together. Fortunately, the demonstrations didn’t get out of hand. However, there are three stories that are worthy of comment.
Ted Cruz got the lion’s share of the boos. I do feel sorry for him. Politics can be pretty rough but Trump went way over the line in attacking his wife and father. I don’t blame him for refusing to endorse Trump. It seems like he went about it the wrong way. When he agreed to speak, there was certainly an expectation that he would give his endorsement. Many are predicting the end of his political career but a lot can happen in four years.
We heard a lot about the Trump kids. They are an impressive bunch. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more gets into politics. Some seemed to say that having good kids somehow qualified him to be president. Of course that is ridiculous. Trump is running his campaign exactly as he runs his business. Experts are hired but Trump and his children make all the decisions. I wonder if he thinks he can run the government the same. I have this vision of the secretary of state asking him about China and being told to check with Ivanka.
Trump’s acceptance speech was looong. It was the same length as Obama’s and Romney’s speeches combined in 2012. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised since it took him twenty-eight minutes to introduce Mike Pence. Basically it was just a rehash of his campaign speeches. It is nothing new for politicians to make promises they can’t keep but much of what Trump said was utter nonsense. He talks of not allowing people to send money to their families in Mexico so they will pay for the wall. We heard a lot about bringing jobs home. Even if he started a trade war with China, the jobs would go to Vietnam or some other country, not here. Much of what he promises requires congressional approval and can be stopped with a filibuster. Ending birthright citizenship requires a constitutional amendment. What really scares me is the thought that he actually believes what he says.
Now the Democrats take center stage. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.
See if this story sounds familiar: A man from outside the Republican establishment takes over the party. Many, including a former president, do not support him. His followers are very loyal. When his chief rival speaks at the Republican National Convention, he is booed off the stage. Rather than trying to expand his base, he focuses just on his core constituency.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Certainly all the facts fit Donald Trump and 2016. Actually, I was writing about Barry Goldwater and 1964. The difference is that we know how that story turned out. Goldwater lost to Johnson in an absolute landslide getting only 39% of the vote and 52 electoral votes.
I’m certainly not predicting that kind of result. The election was less than a year after the Kennedy assassination and Johnson was far more popular than Hillary Clinton is now. Right now the Trump campaign is far from ready. They still have a tiny organization controlled by Trump and his children. They are badly outspent and outorganized by the Clinton campaign.
Trump certainly deserves a lot of credit for what he has accomplished so far. Like most people, I never dreamed he could pull it off. He has dominated the media and brought millions to his side. However, he needs to find a way to attract millions more. The shoestring, seat of the pants approach won’t put him in the White House.
As everyone knows, the Republican National Convention is being held in Cleveland this week. Traditionally a convention was held to nominate a presidential candidate, set the rules and write the platform. We all know who they will nominate. Except for a lame attempt to stop Trump, there’s nothing all that interesting about the rules. Few people pay any attention to the platform. The whole thing could easily be done online. There is one, and only one, reason for the convention. It is a gigantic infomercial for the Republican Party.
The big news is the long list of prominent Republicans who aren’t attending but that’s already out there. So far the most exciting story is whether or not someone plagiarized a Michelle Obama speech. Unless Trump says anything really outrageous or there is violence in the streets, this convention will soon be forgotten.
Unless something changes, it looks like Donald Trump has picked a running mate. The thing I find most interesting about him selecting Mike Pence is the change of style. He has been out of control and now he makes a conservative choice (no pun intended). Pence has strong ties to the Tea Party and Religious Right. He brings a wealth of experience that Trump sorely lacks. Given Trump’s gargantuan ego, I suspect he likes the idea that the low-key Pence won’t steal the limelight.
What really puzzles me is why Pence took the offer. Trump runs a one man show so he will have little power or influence. He will be called on to defend Trump’s indefensible statements. It also seems like a horrible career move. If he is reelected as governor in November he would be a credible presidential candidate in 2020 or 2024. He is in a tight race but stands a much better chance of being elected governor than vice president. If Trump loses, which I expect to happen, he will quickly go from hero to zero. Pence would also be tarnished.
Winston Churchill once said Russia is a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. I think the same could be said about politicians planning their careers.
I have a pet theory that there are four levels of political discourse. The first, agree to disagree, seems to have disappeared. It used to be that politicians could be strongly opposed to the other’s ideas and yet remain cordial. Ted Kennedy was a very strong advocate for his point of view and yet Republicans were some of his closest friends.
These days we mainly operate at level two, you’re a bad person. Each side views the other as not just wrong but full of personal flaws. I think this is the result of a deepening political divide and the creation of hostile media outlets like talk radio and blogs. Everyone is guilty but I would like to single out Obama and the Tea Party right. Obama promised to be a post partisan president but has turned out to be hyperpartisan. The Tea Party folks believe that compromise is repugnant and anyone who doesn’t agree with them 100% of the time is their enemy.
We are also seeing level three, you’re evil. Donald Trump and many of his opponents are often at this level. It can lead to violence as we have seen with the anti-Trump demonstrations.
Level four, you should die, was once limited to a few demented individuals. Now we are seeing it in the dispute between black people and the police. We have seen a spike in police shootings and just witnessed the horror of the ambush in Dallas. Elements in groups like Black Lives Matter fan the flames of hate and encourage violence.
It is almost certain that we will continue to have divided government. Nothing can be accomplished unless people work together. We should all tone down the rhetoric and condemn levels three and four behavior no matter the source.
At long last Bernie Sanders has endorsed Hillary Clinton. He has extracted a pretty high price. She must adjust her positions more toward his. Just as she is trying to appeal to a broader base, she is being pulled to the left.
She recently announced her $350 billion plan to reduce tuition and student loans. As expected, a few rich people will pick up the tab.
I believe that her plan is fundamentally flawed. We are facing two huge problems in higher education. College costs have risen much faster than inflation for decades. At the same time the economic value of many degrees has dropped. I once read about a graduate with a history degree who was working as a waiter and had over $100,000 in student loans. Throwing more money in the system certainly won’t encourage colleges to economize. In fact, it will have the opposite effect. Free tuition will encourage many to enroll in programs for which there are no jobs.
There is also a concern about the funding. Liberals assume that the rich will behave the same no matter how high their taxes go. Once the tax rate is over 50%, there is less incentive to invest and create jobs and more incentive to lower taxes. I suspect if this program is enacted, it will cost far more and bring in much less taxes than expected.
I am deeply concerned about the young. They are paying far more for college and facing much worse job prospects than when I graduated. The social insurance programs are designed to help my generation and hurt theirs. I am very much in favor of finding ways to help them but this isn’t the answer.