Midterm Races in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia

Maryland has a gubernatorial election this year for an open Democratic seat.  On the Democratic side is Anthony Brown, the favorite of outgoing Governor O’Malley and heir apparent.  On the Republican side is Larry Hogan, a former state cabinet secretary.  No one is making any bones about this race.  A closer than expected loss by Hogan in Maryland would be a small victory for the GOP.  Polling is scant here, but what is available is that Hogan is trending in the right direction, but not enough to overcome Brown.  Prediction: a 6-10 point victory for Brown.

The Maryland congressional district favors the Democrats 7-1 with [mc_name name=’Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’H001052′ ] the lone Republican.  Like the Governor’s race, there is little intrigue here as every incumbent should easily win reelection.  Going forward, one needs to keep an eye on 3rd District Congressman [mc_name name=’Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001168′ ].  It is highly likely that he will seek some statewide office should the opportunity arise in the near future.  Maryland politics and especially redistricting has been geared towards that eventuality.

In West Virginia, one thing is certain- the next Senator to replace the retiring Jay Rockefeller (and good riddance) will be a woman.  The ink was barely dry on the 2012 ballots when Shelley Moore-Capito announced her intentions to run for the Senate on the Republican side.  Perhaps sensing the fact he would face a serious challenger and the fact that West Virginia has a deep dislike for Barack Obama and Rockefeller votes the Obama line, Rockefeller opted for retirement.  Truth be told, given the recent slant of the electorate, Rockefeller probably would have lost.

The Democrats thought they had their person in Natalie Tennant and she was relatively “close” at one time.  However, it would appear that the voters of West Virginia have had it with candidates who said they would take on Obama and his war on coal only to face reality.  The last 5 polls out of West Virginia have Moore-Capito safely above 50% and the last 10 with at least 47%.  Tennant did not even get the expected surge after the primary and has trailed in every poll.  Thus, there is no reason to doubt that the next Senator from West Virginia will be a Republican female.  Prediction: Moore-Capito by about 17 points.

Of course, her Senatorial candidacy means her congressional district is open.  Here, Republican Alex Mooney should keep this district in the hands of the GOP.  Therefore, in terms of the congressional races, most eyes are on the Third District occupied by Democrat Nick Rahall in a district rated safely Republican.  What one finds in West Virginia (and Arkansas)- considered a red state- is that as the politics becomes more local, the Republican Party loses electoral strength.  That explains why West Virginia has a Democratic governor and legislature.  It also explains why every two years, Nick Rahall is targeted by the GOP and Nick Rahall wins.  This year it will be Evan Jenkins as his opponent.  Admittedly, the political atmosphere this year does not favor Democrats and especially Barack Obama in West Virginia.  The question is whether there is enough dislike to link Nick Rahall to Obama and I do NOT believe there is.  Therefore, I am predicting that although the race may be close (on the order of 6 points), Rahall will keep his seat.

In Virginia, all eyes will be on two races- the Senate race and the 7th District race.  Like Tennant in West Virginia, the GOP thought they had their man to oppose [mc_name name=’Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’W000805′ ] in Virginia- Ed Gillespie.  And why not?  He was high-profile and had a fund-raising network into which he could tap.  The problem, however, is [mc_name name=’Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’W000805′ ] who has high approval ratings in Virginia.

As concerns Gillespie, the theory sounds great, but there is one major problem- [mc_name name=’Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’W000805′ ].  Not to digress too much, but I can see Warner on a bigger stage come 2020 should the GOP win the presidency in 2016…and it may just be one and out for the Republican Party if that is the case.  Since this race shaped up, Warner has led in every poll (a total of 16).  Of those 16 polls, he has exceeded 50% ten times.  Although Gillespie has narrowed the gap since campaigning began in earnest after Labor Day, it is still not enough and to an extent that should raise GOP hopes here.  In fact, I do not think it will even be that close at the end.  Prediction: Warner by 11-13 points.

The Virginia congressional delegation favors the Republicans 8-3.  However, there are three open seats this year- the 7th, the 8th, and the 10th.  In the 7th, where most eyes may be this year, Republican Dave Brat surprised the political world by defeating [mc_name name=’Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’C001046′ ] who ran perhaps the one of the worst campaigns this cycle.  Before we go half-cocked about how the Tea Party catapulted Brat to the primary victory, let’s keep things in perspective.  Other than this race, Tea Party-backed candidates performed dismally this year in primaries.  Brat’s victory is not indicative of the strength of the Tea Party; its indicative of Cantor’s bad campaigning.  And lest we forget, the 7th is a fairly reliable Republican district and Brat should keep it that way.

In the 8th, Democrat Jim Moran is retiring this year.  Comprising the northern Virginia suburbs of DC, other than the 3rd, this is perhaps the strongest Democratic district in the state.  Nothing against Micah Edmond, the Republican candidate, but his chances of victory are decidedly very uphill.  Thus, Democrat Don Beyor should win this race.

Finally, in the 10th District, Republican incumbent [mc_name name=’Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’W000672′ ] is retiring.  This northern Virginia district that stretches to West Virginia is rated +2 Republican by Cook.  On the GOP side is state delegate Barbara Comstock against Fairfax County supervisor John Foust.  If this were a presidential election year, I would be more worried about this race.  But it isn’t and Comstock has waged a very good campaign and should win this race by about 10-12 points.  At the end, the Virginia delegation should remain 8-3 in favor of the GOP.

Although no additional House seats are gained, the GOP does get another Senate seat to bring their total to two.

Next: We move back west to Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

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