Ratings change: Brooks retirement makes Indiana 5th less safe for GOP
Inside Elections downgrades seat from Solid to Likely Republican

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

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

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.

What is McConnelling? How campaigns skirt coordination laws to help PACs make ads
Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell electrified the nation in 2014 when he released 2 minutes and 22 seconds of high-definition footage of himself smiling and going about his day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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.

When it comes to younger voters, watch the margin of victory
Republicans haven’t carried 18-to-29-year-olds in an election cycle since 1994

There’s really no question Democrats are going to win younger voters in 2020. But what matters for them is the size of their margin of victory. 

Republicans haven’t carried 18-to-29-year-olds in an election cycle since 1994, when exit polling showed them besting Democrats in this age group, 51 percent to 49 percent. They broke even with Democrats among younger voters in the 1998 midterms, but it’s been at least 30 years since Republicans carried 18-to-29-year-olds in a presidential cycle.

Latest fundraising numbers from Beto O’Rourke and others are ridiculous
Texas Democrat raised more in 24 hours than earlier top candidates did in an entire cycle

When covering campaigns on a day-to-day basis, it can be easy to lose perspective, particularly when it comes to money. Million-dollar figures are thrown around without much thought. But the amounts of money being raised by candidates right now, particularly Democrats, are absurd.

I glanced back at competitive races nearly 20 years ago for some context, and the comparisons between a day of presidential fundraising and entire, top-tier congressional contests are staggering.

Race ratings: Wisconsin among 3 initial presidential toss-ups
First look at 2020 presidential map gives Democrats a slight edge

I don’t believe in accidents when it comes to politicians and parties, particularly when it comes to choosing a city for a national convention. The Democrats’ selection of Milwaukee for their 2020 convention makes sense considering Hillary Clinton was their first presidential nominee to lose Wisconsin since 1984.

And, according to a new Inside Elections metric we’re calling “Baseline,” the Badger State is the most competitive state in the country.

Reactions to Senate GOP 2020 hype video: ‘I’m ready for the cycle’
 

They may not be trapped by mad scientists and forced to watch b-movies with their robot friends, but Roll Call's political wonks have spent their fair share of hours watching campaign Read more...