For November, Democrats Are Competing in Deeply Red Territory

Now that Labor Day is over, it is time to get really serious about the midterm elections, which are only two months away. Most of the latest news is really good for Democrats.

The first thing to take note of is that the so-called “generic ballot” is indicating that things are breaking in a positive direction for Democrats. Here’s what the polling average on that one looks like at FiveThirtyEight:

That is close to a 10-point Democratic advantage. Keep in mind that most prognosticators assume that a 7-point advantage is enough to give Democrats a majority in the House.

I mentioned the other day that all of the toss-up races for governor are in states where the chief executive is a Republican. According to David Wasserman, we’re seeing the same thing in House races.

The playing field of competitive races has expanded, and not in a good way for the GOP: of the 66 races in our “Lean” and “Toss Up” columns, Republicans are defending 62 and Democrats just four. The battlefield includes all types of places: northeastern suburbs, Sun Belt exurbs, Trump zones in the Rust Belt and unexpected locales like Little Rock, Spokane and even the coalfields of southern West Virginia.

In terms of specific races, there are now two polls out since Andrew Gillum became the Democratic nominee for governor of Florida. Since he only won the primary with a plurality of the vote, there was some initial concern about how we would do in the general election this November. But Gravis has him beating DeSantis by 2 and Quinnipiac has him ahead by 3. It’s still really early in that race, but what is obvious is that Gillum is going to keep it close.

The Kansas governor’s race has also been in the news. You might remember that Kris Kobach won the Republican primary in a real squeaker against Jeff Colyer, who took over as governor when Sam Brownback accepted an ambassadorship. Not too long after that, this happened:

The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that a grand jury must be convened to investigate whether Secretary of State Kris Kobach intentionally botched voter registration in the state in the 2016 elections. Kobach, the Republican candidate for Kansas governor in the upcoming 2018 midterms, is a key ally of President Donald Trump on voter fraud and headed the president’s since-disbanded election fraud commission.

Today, a former GOP governor of Kansas endorsed Democrat Laura Kelly.

In a statement, former Kansas governor Bill Graves said he planned to support state Sen. Laura Kelly in the November election. Kelly is running against Kobach and independent Greg Orman.

“Laura Kelly is the only Democrat I have ever endorsed for public office,” Graves said in the statement. “And the reason I’m doing that now is because I believe so much is at stake in the state of Kansas. I have known Laura for over thirty years. She has all the qualities and all the capabilities that we are looking for to lead the state during this difficult time and to reestablish the state to what it once was.”

That, along with Brownback’s abysmal record as governor, gives you some idea of why this race in a deeply red state is rated a toss-up.

I wish there was better news about control of the Senate. But the one thing to note is that there are an awful lot of toss-ups there as well. The fact that one of them is the Cruz-O’Rourke race in Texas is more than most of us ever assumed would happen. Similarly, who knew that a senate race in Tennessee would be this close? But right now it’s a toss-up between Bredesen and Blackburn.

With two months left to go, I’d suggest that the word for the day when it comes to these midterm elections is “toss-up.” What that means for control of the House and governorships is that Democrats are holding their own while being competitive in lots of deeply red territory. There are a couple of Senate races that are toss-ups that could mean losses for Democrats, but overall, they’ve put races in play in some deeply red states as well.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .