Early data looks promising for a Democratic pick up of one to three Senate seats. This will allow Senate Majority Leader Schumer to eliminate or reform the filibuster and reduce Senator Manchin’s role as “America’s Prime Minister.” Unfortunately, early data on House redistricting, retirements, fundraising, and candidate recruitment indicate a likely loss of from 5-25 seats, making the elimination of the filibuster meaningless. The stark contrast between Senate and House prospects is on vivid display in the special election in Texas’ 6th Congressional District, which will have an all party primary this Saturday with the top two finishers proceeding to a runoff election.
Texas 6th CD Special Election-Early Warning for House Democrats
Texas 6 is a majority minority district with large Black, Latino, and Asian populations. Texas 6 is home to the 41,700 students at the University of Texas-Arlington. This district is one of the more highly educated districts in the US. In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost Texas 6 by 12.3 points, in ‘20 President Biden only lost the district by 3 points. Texas 6 will be the first competitive Congressional election of the 2022 cycle. Republican Susan Wright, the widow of the late Rep. Ron Wright, received a strong endorsement from Trump earlier this week and is the clear front runner. There is a high likelihood that the #2 slot on Saturday will go to another Republican freezing the Democrats out of the runoff. Republicans have dominated in fundraising collectively taking in $1.7 million to just $915,000 for the Democrats. Republican Super PACs have been playing heavily in the district while the main Democratic Super PACs have largely been absent. Based on early voting data, the turnout is low and heavily Republican (44,830 votes cast, estimated, 35% D 64% R). The one bright spot for the Democrats is the fact that Saturday’s election coincides with the Mayoral election in Arlington where there is a Black candidate running for Mayor in a city that is over 30% Black. Compare this race to the 2017 special election in the Atlanta Suburbs where the Democratic Candidate Jon Ossoff raised more than $23 million and galvanized Democratic donors and volunteers from around the country.
Senate Battleground: Some Good News
There are 34 Senate seats up for reelection in 2022, 14 Democratic seats and 20 Republican ones. Of these 34 contests, there is a general consensus that eight seats will be competitive, four currently held by Democrats and four held by Republicans. The four Democratic seats are all in states that Biden carried: Sen Cortez Masto-NV, Sen Hassan-NH, Sen Kelly-AZ, and Sen Warnock-GA. Of the four Republican seats, two are in states that Biden carried and there are two perhaps three seats that will be open: NC-Open, PA-Open, and Sen Johnson-WI-open? The fourth Republican seat, Sen Rubio-FL, will be the hardest seat for the Democrats to flip.
The Democratic incumbents all had record breaking first quarter fundraising and are all polling well. NH Senator Maggie Hassan who won in 2016 by just 1017 votes (0.1%) is the most vulnerable Democrat. Of the four vulnerable Republican seats, Democrats have a strong and diverse group of candidates all of whom have broad statewide appeal. While the Democratic field in Florida is still forming, Rep. Stephanie Murphy(D-FL) is likely to enter the race in the next few weeks. She will be an exceptionally strong candidate with a powerful life story.
In addition to the eight seats that represent the current Senate battleground, there are two wild card races, in OH and MO, where Trump’s involvement in primaries could create openings for Democratic candidates. In Ohio, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Youngstown) is running a strong race mirroring many of the themes that powered Senator Sherrod Brown’s 2018 reelection. In Missouri there is an increasing probability that disgraced former Governor Eric Greitens will win the primary.
The First 10 Democrats Who Will Face Redistricting Headwinds
This week’s Census results revealed the success of Trump’s effort to discourage Hispanic participation in the Census and the disdain of Republican Governors in Texas, Florida, and Arizona for state level efforts to ensure a full count. History will mark the 2020 Census as the most politicized and inaccurate U.S. Census in a hundred years. In 1920, on the heels of the Palmer Raids and a vicious anti-immigrant reaction to the previous decades’ arrival of Irish, Italian, Russian, Chinese, and Eastern European immigrants, the U.S. Census deliberately under counted what was then called, the “non-native” population. The result of the 2020 Hispanic under count has limited the seat loss in the Northeast and in the Rust Belt and denied new seats to Texas, Florida, and Arizona. In a supreme irony, Trump’s distortion of the Census count will protect some Democratic incumbents and deny the Republican Legislatures in Texas and Florida the ability to gerrymander two new seats.
The Cook Political Report has projected 32 Democratic seats that are likely to become more competitive as a result of redistricting. We can now project with some certainty 10 seats in California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania (states that lost a Congressional district) where incumbent Democrats will be in jeopardy.
Of the 12 seats Democrats lost in 2018 (13 if you count the special election loss in CA-25) 4 were in California. Population loss in greater Los Angeles and in the Central Valley is likely to put four Democrats in more difficult districts. In Northern California, Reps Josh Harder (D-CA-10) and John Garamendi (D-CA-03) who have been in relatively safe seats will now be in highly competitive districts. In Orange County, Reps Katie Porter (D-CA-45) and Mike Levin (D-CA-49) who won in the Orange County wave in ‘18 and survived the Orange County reaction of ‘20, will be running in districts with lots of new Republican constituents.
In Michigan the seat loss will occur in the Detroit Metro region. Democratic Reps Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Andy Levin (MI-09), and Haley Stevens (MI-11) will all be forced to pick up new Republican territory. Rep. Slotkin is already in a district that Trump won by 1.2%. Rep. Stevens, after winning with a comfortable margin of 6.6% in 2018, faced a much closer race in 2020 which she only won by 2.4%. Rep. Andy Levin, who was elected in 2018 in a relatively safe Democratic district, will now pick up a large swath of Republican territory which will give his seat a Republican lean.
The Pennsylvania population loss has taken place primarily in the Northeast and Western parts of the state. Demographics and the ability of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf to veto any Republican Legislative gerrymander will likely cause two Republicans in Central PA to be merged into the same district. This merger will inevitably result in Republican leaning districts for Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08)-Scranton who won in ‘20 by 3.6%, Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA-07)-Allentown who won in ‘20 by 3.8% and Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA-17)-suburbs and exurbs outside Pittsburgh who won in ‘20 by 2.2%, will all see their currently competitive districts lean more Republican.
The Democratic Fundraising Advantage Has Largely Evaporated
With the launch of WinRed (the Republican answer to ActBlue) and Trump’s ability to leverage the big lie of a stolen election, the Democrats now find themselves at a disadvantage in 2022 House fundraising. This is particularly noteworthy as the Q1 fundraising reports reflect the decision of most larger corporate PACs to at least temporarily stop contributions to Republican members who refused to certify the election. Of the 25 top House fundraisers in Q1, 14 are Republicans. Among the top 25 fundraisers in Q1 were Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA-02), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL-1), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-04), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA-22). and Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC-11). Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green raised over $3.2 million just $800,000 behind the $4 million that Speaker Pelosi raised. Rep. Matt Gaetz raised $1.8 million.
What Gives Me Hope
In the last 100 days, President Joe Biden has mailed checks to 159 million Americans and more than 123 million Americans have received a vaccine dose while the economy is growing at an annualized rate of 6.4%. The measure of the electorate’s extreme polarization is the fact that despite the extraordinary success of Biden’s first 100 days, his approval rating is only 2 points higher than the 51.8% of the vote he received in November. A further measure of our polarization is the fact that Biden’s American Rescue Plan and his COVID relief program have favorable ratings that are more than 20% higher than President Biden’s personal approval rating.
We live in an era of extreme negative partisanship. Hatred for the other party is the driving factor in elections and political action. While President Biden’s disapproval is 42% (exactly the same number as Trump’s approval rating) only 35% of the electorate strongly disapprove of him. Perhaps the greatest political achievement of the Biden Presidency is his ability to lower the temperature and decrease the animosity. This bodes well for the Biden midterm election where neither Trump nor Biden will be on the ballot.
Chet Atkins was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing MA-05 for 8 years. He is a founding partner at Tremont Strategy Group.