Midterm Races in Minnesota and Ohio

First up in this entry- Ohio where there is a gubernatorial race and congressional races.  In the gubernatorial race, Democrats had very high hopes here with Ed FitzGerald.  The Republican incumbent John Kasich looked endangered back in July and held precariously low advantages in polls.  Revelations since then- being parked in a car with a woman that was not his wife late at night, driving without a license for a year- are not the things of major scandal, but to the Ohio electorate, they were.

For his part, Kasich’s vulnerabilities were his over-reach when it came to public worker union reforms  (a move that was later overturned by voters) and tax cuts that decreased aid to cities.  The latter move angered lawmakers on both sides of the aisle while his ultimate decision to expand Medicaid drew criticism from the Right.  As FitzGerald’s campaign imploded, donors fled.  To hurt even more, Kasich refused to debate him thus FitzGerald lost a chance at some free advertisement.  What once shaped up a potentially close race has since descended into a likely romp.  Prediction: Kasich by 15-20 points.

The current congressional delegation favors the GOP in Ohio, 12-4.  Under ordinary circumstances you would think Ohio is a solidly red state.  But many of these districts are close ones with the possible exceptions of the 2nd and 8th.  The four Democratic districts are solidly so and no one expects any surprises here.  Thus, the GOP has to play defense.  With all GOP incumbents running for reelection, it is a safe bet nothing much will change.  If there are to be any changes, look to the 12th, 14th and 15th Districts.  Looking at [mc_name name=’Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’T000462′ ]’s recent past electoral results, he usually does not dip below 55% of the vote and I am predicting a 10-15 point victory this year over Democrat David Tibbs.

The 14th District sits in the upper northeast corner of the state bordering on Lake Erie and Pennsylvania.  This takes in some fairly reliable Democratic counties with Lake County being the swing one.  David Joyce, the GOP incumbent, will face Michael Wager in the election this November.  Joyce easily won in 2012 with Obama at the top of the ticket.  Although he may not be a conservative’s conservative, he does keep this district in Republican control and I expect a David Joyce victory this year.  The 15th District covers the southern portions of Columbus and the college town of Athens.  I rate it +2 Republican while Cook rates it +6 GOP.  Stivers is moderate enough for a nominally Republican district that he won in 2012 with 61% of the vote and in 2010 when he unseated a Democrat in a closer race.  His opponent this year is political outsider Scott Wharton who is trying to tie Stivers to an unproductive Congress.  All in all, this is a GOP year and [mc_name name=’Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001187′ ] will win reelection.

Moving north to Minnesota, we have the congressional races, a gubernatorial election and a Senate seat up for grabs.  Minnesota politics is somewhat like that of Wisconsin- sometimes hard to predict with wide swings and an electorate open to third party candidates at times.  Other than [mc_name name=’Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’E000288′ ] in the 5th and [mc_name name=’Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’M001143′ ] in the 4th, there always exists the potential for changes.  None of the remaining six districts are either strongly Democratic or strongly Republican.  The current delegation favors the Democrats 5-3.

If any district is to flip to the GOP, it would be the 1st located along the length of the Iowa border in the southern part of Minnesota.  Towards the eastern half of that district, you have the Democratic strongholds while the Republican ones are to the west.  Incumbent [mc_name name=’Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’W000799′ ] has survived some scares in the past, especially his last two outings.  Walz is waging a relaxed campaign realizing he has wide support in this district.  His opponent, Jim Hagedorn, beat the choice of the Minnesota Republican establishment in the primary and hopes to carry that momentum into the general election.  However, I predict a Walz victory.

In the 2nd, Republican incumbent [mc_name name=’Rep. John Kline (R-MN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’K000363′ ] appeared vulnerable to Democratic challenger Mike Obermuller, but a recent poll shows Kline up 22 points.  This is Obermuller’s second shot at Kline having lost by 9 points in 2012 which probably gave him a false hope of victory this year.  If you can’t do it with Obama at the top of the ticket, he isn’t doing it this year either.  Prediction:  Kline wins by about 10 points.  Sorry, Bill Maher.

Moving to the 3rd District which encompasses some of the suburbs of Minneapolis, Republican [mc_name name=’Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’P000594′ ], despite being a target of the Democrats, has enjoyed rather comfortable victories of late with about 58% of the vote.  Considering the fact there is a lot lacking in Sharon Sund’s efforts this year for the Democrats, one has to conclude that Paulsen is headed for another electoral victory this year.  

The Sixth is being vacated by Republican lightning-rod, Michelle Bachmann.  Of all the Republican districts in the state, this is perhaps the strongest.  However, Bachmann barely won reelection in 2012 and redistricting has had an impact.  Tom Emmer will be the Republican candidate; Joe Perske for the Democrats.  Because Bachmann decided not to run, this race has dropped off the electoral radar.  And although Sarah Palin has endorsed Emmer, he is toning down his Tea Party messaging on the campaign trail.  Because it maintains a strong (for Minnesota) Republican slant, I am predicting a Tom Emmer victory here.  For the same reasons but because of its Democratic slant, I am predicting that Democrat Colin Peterson will defeat Torrey Westrom in the 7th District race.  That then leaves the 8th district where Democratic incumbent [mc_name name=’Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’N000127′ ] will face Republican Stewart Mills.  Nolan won a 9-point victory in 2012 and the GOP hopes to win back this seat this year.  According to recent DCCC polls, Nolan is widening a lead on Mills.  This is an expensive race thus far.  Mills is considered the “Brad Pitt of the Republican Party” for his long blond hair.  He characterizes Nolan as an out-of-touch, out-of-date liberal and Nolan is not a favorite of the Democratic powers that be by often straying from talking points and resorting to hyperbole.  This district takes in some large, rural farming areas with a swing streak in them which should favor Mills in a year favorable to Republicans.  The question is whether all the outside money pouring in- mostly to Mills- will turn off the electorate.  The man himself has a good message.  This is such a toss up, but one has to believe that there is going to be at least one change in Minnesota this year and this one will be it.  Prediction: Stewart Mills by less than 5 points.

In the Senatorial race, I am not sure if the people of Minnesota have tired of his act or whether [mc_name name=’Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’F000457′ ] actually stole an election he had no right winning, but one has to think it is a combination of both.  This race has entered the picture because Franken has failed to definitively close the deal.  His opponent, Republican Mike McFadden has tried to define Franken as an out-of-the-mainstream-for-Minnesota liberal.  As one can tell, locally there can be wide swings, but take those swings too far in statewide races and you find yourself on the outside looking in.  This race will draw close as Election Day nears, but incumbency does have its advantages and Franken’s relatively low-key campaign is avoiding gaffes and miscues thus, but there is still time.  They may dictate the eventual outcome.  Prediction:  [mc_name name=’Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’F000457′ ] by 7-10 points.

Finally, there is the gubernatorial race pitting Democratic incumbent Mark Dayton against Republican Jeff Johnson.  Johnson is a likable enough candidate, but this may be the wrong year for him.  Dayton’s approval ratings, although not astronomical, are in the relatively safe range.  I am not going to spend too much time on this race.  Prediction: Mark Dayton by 11-13 points.

Thus, from this entry the GOP defends the Governor’s office in Ohio, but fails for that office in Minnesota and fails to unseat [mc_name name=’Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’F000457′ ].  They pick up a seat in the House races in Minnesota with no changes in Ohio.  We are back to a net total gain of 5 seats in the House for the GOP.

Next: Michigan

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