Gonzales

Election analysis from Nathan L. Gonzales

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 not been clear about what changes he would seek to gun background checks, but he has the political capital in the GOP to stand up to the NRA if he wants a new gun law to be part of his legacy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill ran ads during her 2012 reelection campaign that called Republican Todd Akin’s stances too conservative. But the spots were designed to help him win the GOP nomination because she considered him a weaker challenger. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant is retiring after eight terms in the House. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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.

Rating change: Hurd retirement moves Texas district toward Democrats
Three-term Republican won his Clinton seat along U.S.-Mexico border by less than 1,000 votes in 2018

Texas Rep. Will Hurd will not seek another term in 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Will Hurd of Texas has been considered one of the Republicans’ strongest incumbents. He proved that last fall, when he was one of just three in the House GOP Conference to win reelection in a district that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.

But Hurd, who founded a cybersecurity firm before running for Congress, announced Thursday night that he will be returning to his roots.

How recent House retirements change the battleground in Texas and Michigan
More members will follow Olson and Mitchell and forego 2020 if historical trends hold

Texas Rep. Pete Olson of Texas will not run for another term in 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Reps. Pete Olson of Texas and Paul Mitchell of Michigan recently announced they will not seek reelection, but how much do their decisions affect the fight for the House majority? Open seats are usually more vulnerable than districts where an incumbent is seeking another term, but these two retirements aren’t political earthquakes.

First, we are still well below the historical average for retirements, so there will be plenty more of these stories to come.

‘Extremists’ in Virginia candidate’s video include Democrats and fellow Republicans
Afghanistan veteran vying to challenge Rep. Jennifer Wexton swipes at McConnell, King, Meadows

Rob Jones’ video announcing his campaign for Virginia’s 10th District brands both Democrats and a few fellow Republicans, including Iowa Rep. Steve King, as ‘extremists.’ (Screenshot/YouTube/Rob Jones for Congress)

It’s no surprise that a Republican congressional candidate used Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a campaign video. But including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and two other GOP House members as targets for criticism is a novel approach for a Republican candidate.

GOP strategists knew they needed an atypical candidate to have any chance of recapturing Virginia’s 10th District. As a double amputee Marines Corps veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Rob Jones fits that bill.

Drawing new congressional lines won’t be easy for Democrats
Maps must withstand shifts in attitudes, and parties should not assume Trump era patterns continue

In redrawing district maps after the 2020 Census, Democrats need to be careful not to expect results during the Trump era to continue all decade. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The next round of redistricting shouldn’t sneak up on anyone. After coverage of the recent Supreme Court decisions and renewed interest in state-level races because of their role in selecting who draws district lines, parties and political observers are tuned in to the mapmaking process. But there’s one aspect that hasn’t been discussed enough.

In short, too much success can be a bad thing when it comes to drawing the next set of political maps.

Fallout in Michigan and beyond from Justin Amash’s breakup with GOP
Complications force 3rd District race to move from Solid to Leans Republican

Rep. Justin Amash’s departure from the GOP complicates the party’s effort to regain control of the House, if he runs as an independent in Michigan’s 3rd District. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republicans didn’t shed a tear after Rep. Justin Amash jumped the GOP ship last week. But their exuberance over being rid of the Michigan congressman might be masking the impact his departure will have on their efforts to recapture the House majority and regain control of his 3rd District.

As more of a libertarian than a Republican, Amash has never fit comfortably within the GOP conference, and he made his departure official with a July 4 op-ed in The Washington Post declaring his independence from the Republican Party.

Rating changes: Texas and Minnesota Senate races shift the Democrats’ way
Cornyn remains the favorite, but defending his seat could cost the GOP resources

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas,  is still favored for reelection next year, but may have to work harder than past Republicans as the state trends more Democratic. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The fight for Senate control is still taking shape and, less than 16 months before Election Day, two states appear to moving in the Democrats’ direction on the battlefield.

Donald Trump came within about a point and a half of winning Minnesota in the 2016 presidential election. But that might be the new high-water mark for Republicans, and the GOP will have a hard time unseating Democratic Sen. Tina Smith in 2020.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and run somewhere else
Comeback trail for 2020 candidates sometimes means running in a different district — or state

Rep. Susie Lee won Nevada’s 3rd District last fall after losing the Democratic primary in the 4th District two years earlier. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A handful of House candidates this cycle aren’t letting previous losses — or geography — get in the way of another congressional run. Dozens of members of Congress lost races before eventually winning, but some politicians are aiming their aspirations at different districts, and in some cases different states, to get to Capitol Hill.

In Arizona, Democrat Hiral Tipirneni lost two races to Republican Debbie Lesko in the 8th District last year, including a special election. This cycle, she is seeking the Democratic nomination in the neighboring 6th District to take on Republican incumbent David Schweikert.

Ratings change: Brooks retirement makes Indiana 5th less safe for GOP
Inside Elections downgrades seat from Solid to Likely Republican

The announced retirement of Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., makes her seat harder for Republicans to defend in 2020 according to Inside Elections’ Nathan L. Gonzales. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana announced she will not seek re-election, creating a potential open-seat headache for Republicans in Indiana’s 5th District. The congresswoman won re-election to a fourth term in 2018 in the central Indiana district with 57 percent, but the district shifted between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.

Now-Utah Sen. Mitt Romney won the 5th District 58-41 percent over President Barack Obama in 2012, but Donald Trump carried it more narrowly 53-41 percent over Hillary Clinton in 2016, fueling Democratic optimism even before Brooks’ announcement. Democratic strategists have also been excited about former state Rep. Christina Hale getting into the race. She ran for lieutenant governor on a ticket with John Gregg in 2016, losing by 7 points in the 5th District.

Upcoming debates an important next stage in presidential campaign
2016 GOP race showed launching attacks in crowded field doesn’t always end as planned

Then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, shown at a 2016 campaign event in Ames, Iowa, went on the attack in a televised debate before the New Hampshire primary, but it may not have had the desired effect. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In a little more than two weeks, 20 candidates will take the debate stage in their quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. And with increasing pressure to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack, some contenders could choose to take the gloves off and attack an opponent, which would have a ripple effect on the race.

Up to this point, the Democratic race has largely been cordial, except for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders going after former Vice President Joe Biden. But one or more of the 2020 hopefuls could decide that a nationally televised debate would be an excellent place and time to knock an opponent down a few slots.

Does open seat in Montana help or hurt Democrats’ pickup opportunity?
Gianforte, who underperformed a generic Republican in the past, is leaving the House to run for governor

The decision by Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., to run for governor creates an open seat that could be easier for Republicans to defend.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Parties crave open seats, considering the vast majority of incumbents win re-election. But in the case of Montana’s at-large district, Democrats may have lost their preferred opponent when Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte filed to run for governor.

While it might have been daunting for Democrats to face Gianforte’s personal wealth in a presidential year in a state President Donald Trump carried by 20 points, the congressman has actually underperformed the partisan lean of the state in past elections. It might have something to do with him assaulting a reporter in 2017.

Why a GOP super PAC is bothering to attack Steve Bullock’s bid for president
Montana ads are more about denting his potential Senate prospects

A Republican attack ad aimed at Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination is more likely designed to hurt him if he runs for the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock isn’t one of the leading Democratic contenders for the 2020 presidential nomination, but he’s learning how to turn a Republican attack into an asset for his campaign.

On May 29, the GOP-affiliated Senate Leadership Fund started a television ad campaign in the Missoula media market, according to Kantar/CMAG, and the message went straight to the point.

Some House members are contemplating retirement, according to history
GOP departures last cycle helped fuel Democrats’ takeover

The decision by Rep. José E. Serrano, D-N.Y., to retire isn’t likely to affect the 2020 election map, since Hillary Clinton carried his district by 89 points in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the unofficial kickoff of summer, Memorial Day is a time to remember the fallen, spend time with family and grill meats. But history tells us it’s also a time for more than a handful of members to reconsider their future in the House.

Going back to 1976, an average of 23 House members have not sought re-election or another office each election cycle. So far this cycle, just four have made that decision, which means more retirements will come and competitive open seats could change the fight for the majority.