Gonzales

Election analysis from Nathan L. Gonzales

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.

(Mostly) Political one-liners: Pennsylvania special, Kentucky governor, and the Trail Blazers

Republican Fred Keller’s no-drama victory in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District this week came after President Donald Trump spoke at a rally the night before the special election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

California’s 48th District: The Orange County Republican Party endorsed County Supervisor Michelle Steel on Monday in the race against freshman Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda, which could give pause to potential candidates such as former state Sen. Janet Nguyen.

Colorado Senate: Former District Attorney John Walsh, a Democrat, came by the office for an interview on Tuesday to talk about the Colorado Senate race, and we’ll publish our Candidate Conversation in the May 31 issue of Inside Elections.

What can we learn from the North Carolina redo election?
September vote could signal whether rough GOP seas have calmed since November

Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop’s campaign in North Carolina’s 9th District redo race could be a barometer for the GOP’s fate in 2020 campaigns, Gonzales writes. (Courtesy Bishop for Congress)

By now, most journalists, handicappers, and party operatives are trained to restrain themselves when applying special election results to future general election forecasts.

But the redo election in North Carolina’s 9th District provides a unique opportunity to learn about the present political environment and how it’s changed since November.

Enzi retirement likely to spur competitive Wyoming primary, but for which seat?
If Cheney runs, battle may be for her House seat in country’s most Republican state

Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, talks with Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., during a ceremony to unveil a bust of her father in the Capitol Visitor Center's Emancipation Hall in 2015. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Michael B. Enzi’s decision not to seek a fifth term is causing more than a handful of his fellow Wyoming Republicans to evaluate their political ambitions. 

Only seven men (and zero women) have represented the Equality State in the Senate in the last 50 years, and this is Wyoming’s first open Senate seat in more than 20 years. Statewide office as a Republican in Wyoming is as close to a lifetime appointment as it gets in electoral politics these days.

Stop grading 2020 candidate recruitment, particularly this far from Election Day
Victories by past recruitment ‘failures’ should make parties and press more cautious

The decision by former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams not to run for Senate was branded a Democratic recruitment failure by Republicans, but the state remains competitive, Gonzales writes. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images file photo)

Gloating about and reporting on candidate recruitment has become commonplace in the election process. But too often, the grading and grandstanding is premature — and even completely wrong.

This cycle, Republicans are crowing after former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams declined to run for the Senate and freshman Rep. Cindy Axne decided to forgo a Senate run in Iowa. But their decisions don’t change the national dynamic (the GOP majority is still at risk) or the local dynamic (both of those races are still competitive). History tells us we have a long way to go before November 2020.

Republicans have a post-Trump identity crisis on the horizon
What will it mean to be a Republican once the president leaves office?

Being a Republican has increasingly come to mean being with President Donald Trump, Gonzales writes, but it’s far from clear what the party will look like after he leaves office and if it will turn to Vice President Mike Pence for leadership. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republicans are enjoying their ride in the White House and basking in the glow of a divided Democratic presidential field, but a monumental identity crisis is looming for the GOP.

Whether you think President Donald Trump won’t be president in two months, two years or six years, Republicans are going to have a difficult time moving on to the next chapter.

Rating change: Loebsack’s retirement in Iowa expands House playing field
Race for open seat in 2nd District is now a Toss-up

Rep. David Loebsack, D-Iowa, will not be seeking an eighth term next year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

No one really gave Cornell College professor Dave Loebsack a chance of knocking off Republican Rep. Jim Leach in 2006. But the Democrat won that race, and more than a dozen years later, he’s announced that his current seventh term in Congress will be his last.

Democrats now have to defend a competitive open seat that wasn’t previously on the list of vulnerable districts.

How to survive and thrive in Iowa — words of wisdom from former staffers
Gephardt 2004 alums recall lessons from the road long traveled

Richard A. Gephardt rallies union workers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in January 2004 as he campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination. He dropped out after a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. (Scott Olson/Getty Images file photo)

With less than 10 months to go before the Iowa caucuses, hundreds of Democrats have descended on the Hawkeye State to organize and energize voters. Only one candidate will finish first on Feb. 3 — and ultimately, there will be only one presidential nominee — but the experience can be invaluable to younger staff and could help the party in future years.

In 2004, Missouri Democrat Richard A. Gephardt was the early favorite as a neighboring congressman who narrowly won the 1988 presidential caucuses. Gephardt finished fourth, but his Iowa team was an impressive compilation of young talent who went on to help Democrats take back the White House, Senate, House and state legislatures around the country.

How Gephardt’s 2004 Iowa team boosted the Democratic Party
‘Stay classy,’ campaign veterans advise 2020 pack

Staffers of Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., hand out signs and stickers for his presidential campaign at the 2003 Democratic National Committee winter meeting. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Nearly 15 years ago, Bill Burton was driving Dick Gephardt around Iowa in an electric blue Saturn Vue named “Sue” with David Plouffe and John Lapp along for the ride.

The Missouri congressman’s 2004 presidential hopes eventually ended with a fourth-place finish in the state’s Democratic caucuses, but Gephardt’s Iowa campaign team would go on to boost Democrats at the state and federal level, and even elect a president four years later.

Ben Ray Luján to announce New Mexico Senate run Monday
Santa Fe congressman is the No. 4 Democrat in the House

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., will announce Monday that he is running for Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 11:44 a.m. | Rep. Ben Ray Luján plans to run for the Senate in New Mexico and is set to officially announce his candidacy Monday, according to two sources familiar with the Democrat’s decision.

The seat opened after Democratic incumbent Tom Udall announced Monday he would not seek re-election.

The case for primaries: Arizona edition
Mark Kelly may have avoided an intraparty fight, but that may hurt more than help

Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly, here with his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in 2018, appears to have avoided a primary in his bid for Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats breathed a sigh of relief this week when Rep. Ruben Gallego decided not to run for the Senate, likely avoiding a primary in the run-up to a competitive general election in Arizona. That’s because “bitter,” “bloody,” and “bruising” seem to be the most commonly used adjectives to describe primaries these days, even though they can serve an important purpose.

Gallego’s decision all but paved the way for retired astronaut Mark Kelly to win the Democratic nomination and focus on challenging appointed Republican Sen. Martha McSally. But while Kelly has had a public profile as a gun control advocate alongside his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, he’s never been a candidate for office, and it’s still unclear how he’ll perform.