Three Weeks Out: Midterm Projections, National and New Jersey

As always, I qualify these projections with the caveat that events could change outcomes.  Case in point: The confirmation of Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. 

A month ago, the Democrats were in striking range to win enough US Senate seats to gain Senate control.  Now, due to the Kavanaugh controversy, all Democrat hopes of gaining Senate control are gone. 

Simply put, the Kavanaugh controversy has by and large strengthened House and Senate campaigns of Republicans in Red states and Democrats in Blue states.   

There are only six Senate races remaining where the outcome is in doubt.   

Four involve Democrat incumbent seats in Red states (Tester in Montana, McCaskill in Missouri, Donnelly in Indiana, Heitkamp in North Dakota), one is a seat being vacated by a Republican in a Red state (Flake in Arizona) and the last is a Democrat incumbent in a Purple state (Nelson in Florida).  The outcome of the race in Purple State Nevada for the seat presently held by Republican Dean Heller is no longer in doubt: Heller wins. 

Projection:  The Republicans will win the Senate seats currently held by the Democrats in North Dakota, Missouri, and Indiana.  The Democrats will not pick up any Senate seats currently held by Republicans.  Net GOP gain:  Three seats, making the line-up in the next Senate 54 Republicans, 46 Democrats. 

By contrast, in the races for the House of Representatives, Election Day looks like a day of massive celebration for the Democrats. 

According to the Cook Report, there are 69 highly competitive races for House of Representatives seats, 64 of which are currently held by the Republicans.  The Democrats only need to flip 23 of these seats to gain control of the House. 

The Democrats will do this easily.  The Kavanaugh controversy has increased both the enthusiasm and commitment of mainstream and progressive Democrats, as confirmed by polls of both Trump approval and the generic Congressional ballot.  And it has widened the gender gap in Blue and Purple states.

Even Republican consultants and pollsters outside of New Jersey are telling me there is a real possibility of a huge Democratic pickup of more than sixty House seats.  I will be more cautious than that.   

Projection: The Democrats will pick up 40-45 House seats, giving them control.  Open warfare between the Democratic House and the Republican Senate will break out in January, 2019. 

Now for New Jersey: 

Projection:  Incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Menendez will defeat Republican challenger Bob Hugin by a comfortable margin.  The following Democrats will win House seats currently held by Republicans, giving the Democrats a net pickup in New Jersey of three House seats: Jeff Van Drew in the 2nd Congressional District, Tom Malinowski in the 7th, Mikie Sherrill in the 11th.  Explanation now follows: 

The Kavanaugh factor has been a major plus for Democrat House and Senate campaigns in New Jersey.  Bob Hugin’s support of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and his opposition as a young Princeton alumnus to the admission of women to the Princeton Tiger Eating Club have combined to give him a bad case of political halitosis among New Jersey women voters. 

To deal with this, the Hugin campaign issued a remarkably tasteless commercial yesterday repeating old allegations against Menendez regarding involvement with prostitutes.  This commercial was a remarkable waste of money.  Not one Menendez supporter will change his or her vote because of this commercial. 

As for the House races: It has been a foregone conclusion since Day One of this general election that Jeff Van Drew would defeat Pleistocene epoch Republican Seth Grossman.  That assumption remains in full force and effect. 

My column last Friday reviewed the race in the 11th District between Mikie Sherrill and Republican State Assemblyman Jay Webber.  Charisma, superior fundraising and enthusiasm, and the Trump negative factor in New Jersey continue to carry the day for Mikie.

The races in the Third and Seventh District are of special interest to me.  Nationally, I have endorsed the election of a Democratic House and Senate in order to act as a check on Trump and Trumpism.  Nevertheless, I have endorsed the reelection of two Jersey GOP House members, Tom MacArthur in the 3rd and Leonard Lance in the 7th.  They are Congressmen of high ethics and demonstrated independence from Trump, and they are strong and effective supporters in the House of the American-Israel alliance, which is a matter of central importance to me.  By contrast, their opponents, Andy Kim in the 3rd and Tom Malinowski in the 7th are ultra-left Progressive Democrat allies of anti-Israel George Soros.  They both share the Soros agenda and would endanger the American-Israel alliance. 

Sadly, I think Leonard Lance will lose.  He has a serious campaign financial disadvantage as compared with Malinowski, and the Trump factor is a real problem for him, in spite of his demonstrated independence from the Donald. 

In the 3rd District, however, I think Tom MacArthur will defeat Andy Kim by a narrow margin.  MacArthur has the best GOP campaign team of any New Jersey Congressional campaign, featuring general consultant Chris Russell, a master of message, and ground game leader Frank Luna, the best GOP grass roots operative in New Jersey over the past decade.  MacArthur’s campaign commercials, crafted by media strategist Chris Mottola are of the highest quality and worthy of campaign commercial awards. 

By contrast, it has been a dubious claim made by Andy Kim in one of his early campaign commercials that has severely hindered his campaign.  Specifically, Kim made the claim that he has served as “a national security officer for Republican and Democratic presidents.” The fact checker for the Washington Post, hardly a pro-Democrat newspaper, gave this ill-founded Kim campaign claim “two Pinocchios” for having “significant omissions and/or exaggerations.”  This Kim distortion has forced him to be on the defensive throughout the campaign.

The famous quote of World War 2 General Douglas MacArthur was “I shall return.”  Tom MacArthur shall return, too – to Washington in January after being reelected as a member of the House of Representatives.  Unfortunately for the New Jersey GOP, there will only be two Republican members after this election in the twelve-member New Jersey delegation to the US House of Representatives, Tom MacArthur and Chris Smith. 

In addition to the Congressional campaigns, I have focused this campaign season on the gubernatorial campaigns in two states, Florida and Georgia.  In both these states, the Democratic candidates, Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia are African-Americans with a real chance at becoming the first African-American governors of their respective states.  This is of special interest to the New Jersey African-American community: in fact, these two states are the birthplaces of a substantial number of New Jersey African-Americans. 

Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee has been ahead of his Republican opponent, Trump sycophant Ron DeSantis in the polls throughout the campaign.  The African-American community in Florida is more energized for this campaign than any statewide contest in the history of the Sunshine State.  There will be a record turnout in the African-American vote, and this will also be a substantial asset to the US Senate reelection campaign of Democrat Bill Nelson.  Gillum will make history by becoming Florida’s first elected African-American governor. 

I cannot make a projection in the Georgia campaign.  The Republican opponent of Stacey Abrams, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, has been using the powers of his state office to exclude African-Americans from voting.  Although Abrams and Kemp have been running virtually even in the polls throughout the campaign, the outcome may well be determined by how many African-American votes Kemp is able to suppress.  

For Republican supporters of minority rights like myself, the Kemp voter suppression effort, which has not been condemned by any prominent national Republican, is grossly offensive.  In addition, Republican administration officials in North Dakota are making a major effort to suppress the Native American vote. This is a national disgrace for the party that once proudly advertised itself as the Party of Lincoln. 

I was always proud that the Republican Party was the party of Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, who along with Dwight David Eisenhower was one of my two greatest 20th Century American heroes.  Jackie Robinson, however, could never have remained in a Republican Trumpist Party of racial and ethnic voter suppression.  Neither can I.  I will be leaving the Republican Party and registering as an Independent after this campaign. 

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.

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  • Evan Greenstein

    I think you’re mistaken on Nevada. Ever since Reid outperformed the public polls in 2010, and the HRC/Cortez Musto 2016 upsets (both of whom were down going into election day 2016), it’s become increasingly evident that public polling grossly underestimates Dem voter share in Nevada. I think Heller loses in a squeaker

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