Will House Democrats snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
Several high ranking Democratic officials told me this week they are “cautiously optimistic” but “nervous” about their chances to win control of the U.S. House in the upcoming mid-terms.
Speaking on background and not for attribution, one senior Democratic elected official, with direct knowledge of internal polling, said the House is up for grabs. “If you take all of the seats that are lean or safe GOP, they’ll win 203. Now take all the seats that lean or are safe Democrat, and we have 202. That leaves 30 toss-ups. We [Democrats] need 16 of those to win control. It’s really that simple.”
A Democratic elected House member, who asked for anonymity to speak freely, told me that if the Democrats win the House on November 6, “Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker. End of story. Do you really think the candidates who say they’ll vote against her now in their campaign rhetoric will do that in an open ballot outside of the caucus? Nancy gave them the money to win in the first place. She is the only Democrat in America who can bring all the factions together: Black caucus, progressives, moderates, blue dogs, Hispanic caucus, etc. No other Democrat can do that right now. She’s the one–and she will have earned it.”
Virginia’s Big Three
Virginia has three very competitive House races. If the Democrats take two of these, or run the table, they will likely win control.
Legal players at Predict-It have bet Wexton down to a 1:6 prohibitive favorite.
Every pundit in America has written off incumbent Barbara Comstock (R) predicting a relatively easy win for state senator Jennifer Wexton (D), giving the Democrats a flip.
With the district’s shifting demographics and the anti-Trump sentiment in Northern Virginia, suburban voters continue to rage so on the surface, this looks like a sure bet for Wexton, a former prosecutor and now state legislator.
Frankly, I thought Comstock would lose in 2016 against Luanne Bennett, who I believe was a better candidate than Wexton.
Wexton is playing four-corners keep away, Dean Smith style. Her plan is to simply run out the clock to November 6.
Meanwhile, Comstock is everywhere. She has her own brand. She outworks any candidate alive. I’ve talked to scores of Democrats, who have told me they are voting for her. Comstock has endured intense negative advertising for the past two cycles and survived. I predict she wins again. Take the 6:1 odds. And laugh all the way to the bank.
Current JF Morning Line: Wexton – 5.5 Predict It: Wexton 1:6
What a mess for Republican Scott Taylor. This race should not be close. Taylor, a former Navy Seal, is a prolific fundraiser and an intense campaigner. He’s earned solid veteran and active duty support in his sprawling Virginia Beach-Eastern Shore-Williamsburg district. All Taylor had to do to win handily was to run on his record and the Trump economy – which is booming in Hampton Roads due to increased military spending and Trump’s policies.
Elaine Luria (D), a Navy veteran and business owner in Norfolk, is a formidable candidate, but Taylor’s unforced errors on ballot manipulation are what is making this race close.
Hubris and arrogance by Taylor’s campaign brass led them to get cute and divert their own campaign resources to help 2016 Democratic D-02 nominee Shaun Brown gather enough signatures to get on the ballot as an Independent.
Brown claimed the Virginia Democratic Party machine rigged the nomination process in favor of Luria and denied her a fair shot. She decided to run as an Independent. No doubt her presence on the ballot would siphon votes away from Luria.
When her signature gathering campaign stalled in the final days (1,000 valid CD-2 signatures are needed for ballot access), the Taylor campaign decided to step in and help her get the required signatures to make the ballot.
This was a really stupid idea for a campaign that had a solid lead with a roaring economy at their back and a popular, fearless candidate at the helm.
Then it got worse. Some Brown signatures gathered by team Taylor were found to be fraudulent.
Taylor, acknowledging he knew about the diversion of his campaign workers’ time to help Brown, has denied any knowledge of the phony signatures, which is a felony offense.
He fired his long-time political consultant and his campaign manager.
Since then, a Virginia judge has ordered Brown’s name off the ballot, a special prosecutor has been named to investigate the case, and Taylor’s campaign gathering operatives have all pleaded the 5thwhen called to testify.
Don Caldwell, a grizzled veteran Commonwealth’s Attorney in Roanoke with a no-nonsense reputation was appointed to investigate, and if necessary, prosecute any potential charges. The order was signed by Circuit Court Judge Glenn Croshaw, after Virginia Beach Commonwealth attorney Colin Stolle recused himself.
This whole fiasco has put Luria in play, and we now rate the race close.
The lesson here should be taught in Harvard and Sorenson campaign schools: when in front, play your game. Audacity has no place in local politics. It will bite you.
As a former basketball coach at the high school level, I’ve blown many a lead or game in the fourth quarter by arrogantly changing my successful game-plan at the last minute. I learned this the hard way.
Political campaigns are like basketball games. The scoreboard is the ultimate judge.
Luria has whittled Taylor’s lead down to a trey.
Current JF Morning Line: Taylor -3 Predict It: No line
This is the race policy wonks could only dream of: two-term incumbent Dave Brat (R) a former college professor with a doctorate in economics vs. Abigail Spanberger, the Democratic nominee, who held counter intelligence positions as a CIA case worker.
Spanberger is the best House challenger the Democrats have fielded in the country this cycle.
Instead of being one of the most inspiring contests in America, debating issues like Trumponomics, trade, tax cuts, Yemen, Iblib, Palestine, immigration reform, Chinese espionage, EU trade policies, the national debt, health care, etc., rabid supporters on both sides have dumbed it down to town hall meetings and substitute teaching. This is sad.
Brat, who upset then GOP majority leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 primary, holds a slight edge, but the race is considered a toss-up.
The former college professor has three advantages that Spanberger has to overcome: the seventh district went for Gillespie by three points in the Democrats blue wave of 2017; Americans for Prosperity, a powerhouse grassroots organization in Virginia, has focused 100 percent of its resources on Brat and abandoned the U.S senate race; and Brat has a very loyal cadre of Trump supporters who will come out in force on election day.
The John Fredericks Radio Show, along with Cathy Lewis of NPR will be hosting an old-fashioned debate in South Chesterfield in October, with a date to be determined soon. We will focus on the issues.
Current JF Morning Line: Brat -2 Predict It: Brat 6:5