The Midterms: Illinois and Texas

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Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
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Two states rich in House seats are featured today as we wind down to Election Day 2018.

Illinois

In the gubernatorial race, Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner is  one of the most unpopular Governors in the country regardless of party affiliation.  Considering he governs a blue state, his chances of victory are very slim.  He is opposed by the very wealthy J.B. Pritzker.  Final numbers are obviously not in yet, but thus far Pritzker has self-funded his campaign a whopping $126 million and it may yet break the record set by Meg Whitman in California ($140 million).

Recently, ten staffers from the Pritzker campaign filed a racial discrimination suit against him and the campaign.  Whether this gains any traction remains to be seen.  Regardless, at this late point and with Rauner so under water in approval, popularity and the polls, it is hard to imagine that anything short of Pritzker being caught on film in an act of bestiality will change the results of this race.  To wit, Pritzker will easily win this race by double digits.

Note to Rauner: forget about Republican support in Cook county!!  Your votes lie in the southern part of the state and dissing that area on a radio show will cost you votes.

The current House delegation favors the Democrats 11-7.  They are especially targeting Pete Roskam, the GOP incumbent, in the suburban Chicago Sixth District.  This district swung from 53% Romney in 2016 to 50% Clinton in 2016 giving the Democrats an opportunity.  Cook rates this district +4 Republican and Roskam has not really had too hard of a fight in the past keeping it in GOP hands.  His opponent, Sean Casten, is supported by the DCCC and other liberal groups and just recently the NRCC decided to invest over $1.5 million to retain the seat.  There is some reliable polling from this race and it indicates a dog fight of a race, possibly within recount territory.

The 12th District is perhaps more of a swing district than any other in Illinois and is represented by Republican Mike Bost.  However, Democratic hopes here were somewhat dashed when both the NEA and the Illinois Teacher’s Association endorsed the Republican incumbent.  And polling indicates a solid GOP victory.

The downstate 13th District is likewise a swing district represented by Republican Rodney Davis who is opposed by Democrat Betsy Londrigan.  She has proven herself to be a good fundraiser and the DCCC has waded in with commercials attacking Davis for that by now old tune involving pre-existing conditions and being in the pocket of corporate interests.  Again, however, polling shows a Davis victory.

Finally, there is the 14th District represented by GOP incumbent Randy Hultgren.  When the Democrats began to run ads in support of their candidate Lauren Underwood, the NRCC fought back with ads tying her to Democratic state house speaker Mike Madigan and California liberals, especially Nancy Pelosi.

Overall, I believe it would be realistic for the GOP to lose one seat here in blue Illinois as well as the Governor’s office.  Rauner’s presence on the ballot may actually be the difference in the Sixth District, the most likely to fall.

Texas

First, let’s get the gubernatorial election out of the way as incumbent Republican Governor Gregg Abbott, who posts some impressive approval numbers, seems headed for another four-year stint at the top of state government.  It was four short years ago when the Democrats sought to turn Texas blue by running Wendy Davis against Abbott and he soundly defeated her.  One expects the same this year against his opponent whose name need not be mentioned.

Instead, the Democrats seem intent on turning Texas blue this year by going after incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz.  They are running Robert Francis “Call Me Beto” O’Rourke.  The “Beto” is an obvious pandering to the Hispanic population of Texas although they are likely showing their ignorance.  I have it on good authority (a good Hispanic friend) that “Beto” is short for Alberto, not Robert, despite what his parents dressed him in a child (he released pictures from his childhood with him wearing a “Beto” sweatshirt).  Sad…

O’Rourke initially created some excitement when polls were released earlier in the campaign showing him close or, in some cases, leading Cruz.  He has tried every line of attack: the well-worn pre-existing condition scare, the end of Social Security scare, and has even trotted out Cruz’ support for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Instead, O’Rourke’s worst enemy may be his own mouth and record, including his police record which involves attempting to leave the scene of an accident because he was inebriated.  He has also referred to the police as “the new Jim Crow.”  Further, O’Rourke’s open border policies and criticisms of ICE are not going to win him any independent votes in Texas.

What may have some Republicans worried is the fact that O’Rourke has heavily outraised  Cruz this cycle.  But, when looking at money, one has to also look to the source.  What one finds is a lot of money pouring into the O’Rourke campaign coffers from out of state.  Given its sheer size, Texas is an expensive state.  Given the shortfall in funding, outside groups have rushed in to fill some of the gap.  For example, the Club for Growth was running ads critical of O’Rourke’s use of eminent domain in El Paso to “bulldoze a neighborhood” and transfer the land to his father-in-law.

John Cornyn and Cruz have had a sometimes frosty relationship, but Cornyn has also stepped in to assist Cruz.  The simple fact is that despite O’Rourke’s rock star status and the fawning accolades he receives from Hollywood types, his star is fading.  Democrats have not won a statewide race in Texas in 24 years and that streak should continue.  Cruz has done nothing to hurt his chances and he has defined O’Rourke as a hard-core liberal and outside the Texas mainstream.  O’Rourke will win the urban areas and may keep this race under 10%, but Cruz will be reelected.  Methinks O’Rourke is positioning himself for 2020 and he will have two years to think about it.

The current House delegation from Texas favors the GOP 26-10.  However, six of those 26 Republican seats are open races and two of the ten Democratic seats are open races.  For those Democratic seats, they will likely remain that way.  Likewise, all six of the open Republican states are rated +10 GOP or better by Cook, thus relatively safe.

One open seat where there has been some noise is the Sixth formerly represented by Joe Barton.  The Democrats believe that because this seat dropped from 58% to 52% Trump, they have a chance with their candidate, Jana Sanchez, in this Arlington area district.  Let them keep thinking that.

The next seat of interest is the 7th represented by GOP incumbent John Culbertson who is opposed by Lizzie Fletcher.  The main worry here among the Republicans is that Culbertson is not taking the race seriously enough.  Both parties are invested in this Houston area seat that went from Romney in 2012 to Clinton (barely) in 2016.  And, polling bears this out indicating a close race with Culbertson prevailing.

William Hurd, the GOP incumbent in the 23rd, seems to have a target on his back and this year was, initially, no different.  However, the NRCC has recently canceled remaining advertising after polls consistently show him up by 15+ points.  This was another race where his Democratic opponent, Gina Ortiz Jones, suddenly developed a Spanish middle name.  Outside conservative groups consistently refer to her as Gina Jones.  The pandering is even more egregious in this district with a heavy Mexican-American population since Jones is of Filipino descent, not Mexican.  Even Democrats are giving up on this race after Republican Pete Flores defeated former Rep. Pete Gallego in a state senate special election whose district largely overlaps the federal 23rd District.

A viral video sent MJ Hegar into the sights of the Democrats in the 31st District where Republican John Carter is trying to defend this seat that both Romney and Trump easily won. Located in the Austin suburbs, Carter got a boost when Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from the 28th District, endorsed and campaigned with Carter.  Viral video or not, Carter is headed for reelection.

The final race of interest involves Republican Pete Sessions in the 32nd who is opposed by former NFL linebacker Colin Allred.  This seat was consistently red until it barely flipped into the Clinton column (by one point) in 2016.  For my money, his 1-point average lead in the polls thus far is little too precarious for an incumbent.  Of the four polls thus far, two show him losing and another has him up by only two points.  The district is demographically changing and Sessions may actually be in some danger, despite his leadership of the NRCC in previous cycles.

In the end, other than names, this writer cannot see the partisan GOP advantage changing too much.  If there is a seat to be lost, it will likely be the 32nd and figuring in a worst case scenario for the GOP come election night, the GOP will still have the advantage out of Texas no worse than 25-11.

Hence, at the end of this entry the numbers stand as follows:

US Senate 47-39 Republican, US House 172-167 Democratic, and Governors 26-17 Republican.

Next: Wisconsin