May marks a busy month as 11 states hold primary elections starting on Tuesday the 8th with four states scheduled that day- Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. First up…
Most of the interest here is on the Senate race on the GOP side to see who will take on incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly. He, you remember, snuck into office six years ago after Richard Mourdock surprised Dick Lugar in the primary, then managed to lose after some loose talk about rape. This year, three formidable Republicans- Todd Rokita, Luke Messer and Mike Braun- have been battling it out. In fact, the battle is so strong that some Democrats believe the resulting acrimony will help Donnelly come November. He is considered by many to be a vulnerable Democratic incumbent in a red state. Donnelly has a 42% approval rating in the state, which is dangerously low. Most pundits concede that whoever emerges on the GOP side will be a tough opponent come November. The most recent poll has Braun ahead with a lot of undecided voters. With three tough opponents, the winner will likely fall below 50% although Indiana does not have a runoff. Democrats are hoping the acrimonious primary will be to their advantage.
None of Indiana’s nine Congressional districts seem in any danger of changing hands either way, including the open 4th and 6th being vacated by Rokita and Messer, respectively.
Unlike Indiana, North Carolina does employ a runoff and also unlike Indiana, there is no Senate race this year so all the action will be at the Congressional district level.
Like Indiana, no districts should change hands as all incumbents are running. If any race is remotely interesting, it will be the Asheville-based 11th District where two Democrats are vying to take on GOP incumbent Ted Budd in November.
With 16 districts, an open Governor’s race and a Senate race on tap in a state Trump owned (by Ohio standards) in 2016, things could get interesting. In the Senate race, five Republicans will fight it out in the primary with the winner taking on Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. The latest poll has Jim Renacci in the lead with lots of undecided voters. Sherrod sports a 46% approval rating among Ohio voters and has been holding steady there for six months. Scant polling of a hypothetical Renacci-Brown race has Brown up by and average 7.2 points. Brown may have visions of a Presidential run come 2020, so keep an eye on this race. Incidentally, Trump has a 46% approval rating in this state.
In the Governor’s race, it would appear that former Senator Mike DeWine will be the Republican candidate. On the Democratic side, it likely comes down to Richard Cordray or Dennis Kucinich. Another former Congressperson, Betty Sutton, was a viable choice but will instead run as Cordray’s running mate. Scant polling has Cordray up by an average 7 points making a likely DeWine-Cordray match-up in November. There have only been four polls of this hypothetical with DeWine ahead by an average of 9.3 points.
On the House side, there are two open seats currently held by Republicans- the 12th being vacated by Pat Tiberi and Renacci’s 16th. If any district will change hands it will be the 16th. Seven Democrats and three Republicans are running in their respective primaries here.
The big news out of West Virginia is the Senate race to see who will challenge Joe Manchin, the Democratic incumbent, in November. The two GOP front runners are state attorney general Patrick Morrisey and Congressman Evan Jenkins. Polling puts Jenkins up by an average 1.2 points, so it is anyone’s guess here. The wild card is the presence of Massey Energy’s former CEO, Don Blankenship. Since entering the race, he has never polled below 12% (and as high as 27%) making him a spoiler siphoning off votes in a race with six Republicans on the ballot.
Any polls on hypothetical match ups date back to 2017 and they show a Manchin victory on the order of an average 11.7 points over Jenkins and 14.3 points over Morrisey. Most interesting, two polls from 2018 showing Manchin in a match with a “generic Republican” losing by an average 6.5 points. Furthermore, Manchin has a 43% favorable rating in West Virginia and an upside down 44% disapproval rating. And this is a state that gives Trump a 62% approval rating. To summarize, Manchin is more than vulnerable come November with the only question being whether Jenkins or Morrisey are the ones to do it.
With Jenkins seeking the Senate nod, his district is an open race that has attracted seven Republicans and four Democrats and is more than likely to remain in GOP hands.
Next week, this writer will preview the Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennsylvania primaries scheduled for May 15th.