A new home for House Power Rankings
What key midterm races indicate about the balance of power in Congress; analysis from Colin Reed, senior vice president of Definers Public Affairs, and Dave Brown, Democratic strategist.
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On the roster: A new home for House Power Rankings - Arpaio sets sights on Ward, opening way for McSally - Ellison takes domestic abuse claims into general - Senate returns to Washington with work to do - Fine, Jessie, stay up there
A NEW HOME FOR HOUSE POWER RANKINGS
These things only tend to become clear in hindsight, but our guess is that if Republicans do indeed lose the House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections we will look back on last week as a pivotal moment.
Three-term Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican who represents suburban Buffalo, turned himself in to authorities for arrest on corruption charges. In an already unhappy election cycle for Republicans, a prominent House member closely aligned with the Republican president facing charges of self-dealing and insider trading is about as bad as it gets.
We were reminded of the incident the last time Republicans faced a climate like this in 2006 when a top GOP House member got caught making sexual advances on teenaged House pages.
Mark Foley’s timing was even worse than Collins’. The Florida congressman’s lascivious messages came to light at the end of September, too late for Republicans to try to get past. It was a death knell.
The question for Republicans this year is whether the time they have left will make a difference.
A fresh round of polling has confirmed what most race watchers have believed for some time. A survey from Quinnipiac University gives Democrats a 9-point advantage in the generic congressional ballot, a result in keeping with other recent polls from top-tier polling organizations.
As you think about these generic ballot polls always remember that it’s not enough for Democrats to simply be ahead. First, there’s the traditional issue of voter frequency. Republicans have tended to slightly outperform in polls like these while Democrats have tended to miss the mark slightly on the basis of turnout alone. Then there are some structural deficits that Democrats face. Some of this is gerrymandering, but most of it relates to the geographical distribution of the two parties.
Given that most rural voters are Republicans, the Red Team has a built-in advantage that five of the eight states with populations so small that they get only one at-large member of the House are represented by Republicans. If Democrats used to boast a “blue wall” for presidential campaigns, changing political demographics have built a pretty impressive red wall for the GOP in the House.
That means Democrats need a big swing this year to overcome the existing Republican majority. Is that 6 points or 8 points? We’ll tell you after the election, but for now we just bear in mind that the Blue Team is playing with a handicap.
Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to take the majority and our current Fox News Power Rankings says there are 29 seats that are pure toss ups, another 26 that “Lean Republican” and 13 seats that “Lean Democrat.” That puts 68 seats in play as of this writing, meaning that if Democrats perform only modestly better than they did in 2016, the House is well within their reach.
We acknowledge that this is quite a lot to keep track of, which is why we are so happy to tell you that the third pillar of our Power Rankings Parthenon is now in place. You’ve already been able to keep track of race rating changes for the Senate and governorships in our midterm elections page, and as of this afternoon – ta-da! – our House ratings are available online, too.
Will the Collins debacle end up as a turning point? Will the promised “Trump bump” materialize? Will Democrats have a wave or a washout? We have less than 12 weeks to find out and we hope you’ll follow along with us.
THE RULEBOOK: DEEP
“They who have turned their attention to the affairs of men, must have perceived that there are tides in them; tides very irregular in their duration, strength, and direction, and seldom found to run twice exactly in the same manner or measure.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 64
TIME OUT: SWAMPY
History: “On this day in 1780, American Lieutenant Colonel Francis Marion, the ‘Swamp Fox,’ and his irregular cavalry force of 250 rout a party of Loyalists … at Port’s Ferry, South Carolina. Meanwhile, General Horatio Gates’ men consumed half-baked bread, which sickened them overnight and contributed to their disastrous performance at the Battle of Camden, also in South Carolina, the following day. Marion, a mere five feet tall, won fame and the ‘Swamp Fox’ moniker for his ability to strike and then quickly retreat without a trace into the South Carolina swamps. [Marion’s] military strategy … served as partial inspiration for Mel Gibson’s character in the film The Patriot (2000). … After suffering over the night of August 15 with diarrhea, Gates engaged the British on the morning of August 16. Although the Continentals outnumbered the British two to one, the encounter was a disaster for the Patriots, leaving 900 men dead and 1,000 as British captives.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 41.2 percent
Average disapproval: 52.8 percent
Net Score: -11.6 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.2 points
[Average includes: CNN: 44% approve - 53% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; Gallup: 39% approve - 56% disapprove; IBD: 41% approve - 50% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 41% approve - 51% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 42 percent
Democratic average: 48 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 6 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 0.6 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 51% Dems - 42% GOP; IBD: 45% Dems - 45% GOP; NPR/PBS/Marist: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; NBC/WSJ: 49% Dems - 43% GOP; Fox News: 48% Dems - 40% GOP.]
ARPAIO SETS SIGHTS ON WARD, OPENING WAY FOR MCSALLY
WashEx: “Kelli Ward's Senate campaign has a Joe Arpaio problem. With just over two weeks until the Arizona primary election, Ward has been forced to fend off attacks from the former Maricopa County sheriff's campaign, particularly from two vengeful staffers, as the two-time Senate candidate tries to gain ground on Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., the favorite to win the nomination to replace Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. While Ward has been intently focused on McSally, Arpaio's efforts have turned into a distraction. A video released last week claimed to feature an inebriated Ward singing a Grandmaster Flash song during karaoke in 2017, complete with vulgarities. Two staffers — Dustin Stockton, Arpaio's senior strategist, and Jennifer Lawrence, the campaign's communications director — took responsibility after jumping on the campaign just over a week ago. Ward dismissed the attacks in an interview, arguing that they are ‘sad’ and that it reflects poorly on the legacy of Arpaio, 86.”
Putin admiring congressmen benefitted from hack attack -Rolling Stone: “FBI agents in California and Washington, D.C., have investigated a series of cyberattacks over the past year that targeted a Democratic opponent of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher(R-CA). … The target of these attacks, Dr. Hans Keirstead, a stem-cell scientist and the CEO of a biomedical research company, finished third in California’s nonpartisan ‘top-two’ primary on June 5th, falling 125 votes short of advancing to the general election in one of the narrowest margins of any congressional primary this year. He has since endorsed Harley Rouda, the Democrat who finished in second place and will face Rohrabacher in the November election. Cybersecurity experts say that it’s nearly impossible to identify who was behind the hacks without the help of law enforcement or high-priced private cybersecurity firms that collect their own threat data. These experts speculate that the hackers could have been one of many actors: a nation-state (such as Russia), organized crime, so-called e-crime or a hacktivist with a specific agenda. The FBI did not respond to requests for comment on its involvement or any findings.”
Gary Johnson is back - Santa Fe New Mexican: “Former Gov. Gary Johnson’s formal announcement Tuesday of his Libertarian bid for the U.S. Senate heightened speculation in New Mexico political circles about whether he will most hurt Democratic incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich or Republican newcomer Mick Rich. Rich said he’s convinced that the socially liberal Johnson will take more votes from Heinrich. Heinrich’s camp, however, ripped into more conservative stances by Johnson, who twice ran successfully for governor as a Republican. … Johnson in the past has admitted that some of his views do jibe with those of the independent [Bernie Sanders], who sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 as a standard-bearer for progressives.”
ELLISON TAKES DOMESTIC ABUSE CLAIMS INTO GENERAL
Fox News: “Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison scored a victory Tuesday night in the Minnesota primary race for the state's attorney general days after domestic abuse accusations against him surfaced. Ellison, who serves as the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee and is the first Muslim elected to Congress, was accused over the weekend of emotional and physical abuse by an ex-girlfriend. Addressing the abuse allegations in his victory speech, Ellison said: ‘We had a very unexpected event at the end of this campaign that happened. I want to assure you that it is not true.’ Ellison ran for the position against state Rep. Debra Hilstrom, former Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, former Ramsey County Attorney Tom Foley and attorney Matt Pelikan.”
Pawlenty is derailed in comeback attempt in Minnesota - Fox News: “Tim Pawlenty -- who briefly ran for president in 2012 and had derided President Trump as ‘unhinged’ -- was denied in his effort to stage a political comeback and become Minnesota’s governor again in the race to replace Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. County Commissioner Jeff Johnson won in Tuesday's Minnesota GOP gubernatorial primary despite Pawlenty's enormous fundraising and name recognition advantages. He also won despite his own history as the party's losing candidate for governor four years ago. Pawlenty joins several other prominent Republicans -- including Reps. Martha Roby and Mark Sanford, as well as Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker -- who have recently suffered major political consequences, at least in part, for opposing Trump.”
Conn. gubernatorial race will be businessman v. businessman - The [Norwich] Bulletin: “Bob Stefanowski, a former GE executive who pitched himself to voters as ‘Bob the Rebuilder,’ won Tuesday’s Republican primary for Connecticut governor in an upset and will face a fellow wealthy businessman, Democrat Ned Lamont, in November. A political newcomer who bypassed the traditional Republican Party convention process, Stefanowski defeated the party’s endorsed candidate, veteran Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, and three other Republican candidates. … Stefanowski’s win sets up a likely battle this fall over the policies of Dannel P. Malloy, Connecticut’s outgoing Democratic governor — who is not running for a third term — and Republican President Donald Trump, who Democratic primary winner and Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont had vowed fight. Lamont easily defeated Bridgeport mayor and ex-convict Joe Ganim in Tuesday’s primary.”
Immigration hardliner Kobach unseats sitting GOP governor -CBS News:“Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded Tuesday evening in the state's Republican gubernatorial primary, saying he would endorse Secretary of State Kris Kobach a week after their neck-and-neck finish threatened to send the race to a recount. Colyer accepted defeat after a review of some provisional ballots from most Kansas counties failed to find enough votes for him to overcome a deficit of 110 votes at the time of poll closing in the Aug. 7 primary, out of more than 311,000 votes initially counted. Kobach will face Democrat Laura Kelly, and is likely to face independent candidate Greg Orman, in the November general election in the decidedly conservative state. The disputed race was intense and prompted a lengthy county-by-county review of provisional ballots.”
SENATE RETURNS TO WASHINGTON WITH WORK TO DO
Fox News: “The Senate returns to Washington on Wednesday following a nearly two-week respite -- an abridged ‘August recess.’ … (The House of Representatives isn't expected back until Sept. 4.) On tap in the Senate are a host of nominations that McConnell hopes to get confirmed. Senators also are expected to debate and vote on at least two spending measures. One appropriations bill would fund the Pentagon for fiscal year 2019. The other would fund the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, known in congressional circles as ‘Labor-H.’ Senators will blend those two measures together into a single bill. This is a big deal. Before its hiatus, the Senate approved seven of the 12 annual spending bills to fund the government next year. Knocking out the military appropriations and Labor-H bill would bring the figure to nine of the 12. … When the House returns in September, its members will have to work with senators to merge the approved spending bills into final versions to send to the president. The last draft of legislation is called a ‘conference report.’ House conservatives may balk at some of the positions the Senate takes on the spending bills. But the clock is ticking toward Sept. 30, the end of the government’s fiscal year. Passing some of the spending bills in August would help the Senate pressure the House to step up in September and avert a standoff with the president over spending -- and perhaps avoid a government shutdown.”
Kavanaugh getting confirmation help from Senate ‘sherpa’ Jon Kyl - Fox News: “Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is getting help from an old Senate hand as he seeks to navigate the chamber ahead of his confirmation hearing -- tapping into a long tradition of nominees using ‘sherpas’ to find their way. The Senate is moving swiftly to consider Kavanaugh's nomination to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired last month. Hearings are set to kick off right after Labor Day. In that tight timetable, Kavanaugh is being guided by his ‘sherpa’ -- a special escort to help him meet with senators as he seeks to drum up support for his confirmation. For that role, Kavanaugh has tapped former Arizona senator and GOP whip Jon Kyl.”
Trump, McConnell look to reshape federal judiciary - WaPo: “As the Senate moves toward confirming Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are leading a lower-key yet deeply consequential charge to remake the entire federal judiciary. The Senate will return Wednesday from an abbreviated summer recess to confirm two more federal appeals court judges by the end of the week. That would come on top of a record-breaking string of confirmations: The Senate already has installed 24 appellate judges since Trump was sworn in, the highest number for a president’s first two years in office. While much of the focus has been on Kavanaugh and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, the Senate’s rapid approval of appellate judges is likely to have its own broad impact on the nation, as the 13 circuit courts will shape decisions on immigration, voting rights, abortion and the environment for generations.”
Clyburn makes his case to replace Pelosi -McClatchy: “As speaker of the House, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn says he would be a ‘transitional’ leader but not ‘custodial.’ The South Carolina Democrat says he would work to ‘transform’ the Democratic Caucus to make the party more appealing ‘to young African Americans who still feel ... take(n) for granted.’ …[In] Tunica, Miss., last weekend, Clyburn spoke more frankly and openly than he had before about how he would approach the top job in the House’s leadership. … The third-ranking House Democrat, most senior African-American in Congress and 25-year veteran lawmaker, Clyburn repeated he has no intention of challenging Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi of California for the top job if she wants it, assuming Democrats retake control of the House in the November elections. However, Clyburn signaled he was prepared to offer himself up as a successor should Pelosi not have the support to win back the post she held between 2007 and 2011 — a distinct possibility as many Democrats clamor for new leadership.”
AUDIBLE: THAT’S GOING TO LEAVE A MARK
“America was never that great.” – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a speech Wednesday on women’s issues. He said America couldn’t be made “great again” because it would only be great when “everyone is engaged.”
Masterpiece Cakeshop owner sues Gov. Hickenlooper, state officials after SupCo ruling - Denver Post
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FINE, JESSIE, STAY UP THERE
The [UK] Telegraph: “A stranded parrot turned the air blue when it verbally abused a crew of firefighters who had come to rescue it from a roof. Officers from London Fire Brigade were called to rescue Jessie, a turquoise and yellow Macaw parrot, after she had spent three days stuck on the roof of a house in Edmonton, north London. The animal had escaped from its home nearby and the RSPCA called in the emergency services on Monday morning, after they and Jessie’s owners were unable to coax her down. … The fire crew quickly sent a volunteer up a ladder with a bowl of food and a fluffy white towel to rescue the bird, complete with instructions from the bird’s owners to tell Jess ‘I love you’ to encourage her to come down. The efforts by Green Watch from Edmonton station to charm the misbehaving bird went smoothly at first, and she responded positively, telling her would-be rescuer that she loved him back. But, Jessie soon launched a foul-mouthed tirade against the fire crew, telling the fighter fighters to ‘f*** off.’ … Thankfully, it soon became apparent that Jessie was uninjured as she flew off to another roof and then to a tree before being reunited with her owner.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Two generations of Americans have grown up feeling that international stability is as natural as the air we breathe. It’s not. It depends on continual, calibrated tending. It depends on the delicate balancing of alliances and the careful signaling of enemies. It depends on avoiding self-inflicted trade wars and on recognizing the value of allies like Germany, Japan and South Korea as cornerstones of our own security rather than satrapies who are here to dispatch tribute to their imperial master in Washington.” – Charles Krauthammer writing in the Washington Post, Nov. 3, 2016.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.