A Democratic wave pickup of 10 Senate seats is a real possibility

Early in the cycle, the big question was wether Democrats could pick up the net-four seats they needed to get control of the U.S. Senate (assuming they won the presidency, and the tie-breaking vote). It was a tall order, given that only one top pickup opportunity (Colorado) was in a 2016 blue state. But Donald Trump’s disastrous and deadly presidency hasn’t just crushed his own reelection chances, but is now threatening Republican Senate seats no one would’ve ever thought would be at risk, even in some solidly red states. 

Welcome to my inaugural ranking of Senate races, by most likely to flip. 

TIER ONE (expected to switch)

1. AlabamaDoug Jones (D)

Our two-year Democratic rental, thanks to a narrowly won special election against a child predator, should come to an end this November as Alabama’s strong Republican lean and a run-of-the-mill Republican challenger ends Jones’ term. No regrets. It was great while it lasted. 

2. Colorado, Cory Gardner (R)

Joe Biden will win Colorado by double-digits. There’s no way Gardner overcomes that margin, and especially not against former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who remained popular throughout his two terms in office. In fact, Gardner has acted as someone vying for a spot on a second Trump term, reliably defending his president during the impeachment proceedings, rather than a blue-state senator trying to differentiate himself from the top of the ticket. 

3. Arizona, Marth McSally (R)

McSally narrowly lost in the Democratic wave in 2018, and since appointed to fill Sen. John McCain’s seat after his death, she is headed toward another defeat at the hands of Democrat Mark Kelly, an astronaut and husband to former congresswoman and gun violence victim Gabby Giffords. Polling is showing both Biden and Kelly pulling away, in a state in which resurgent Latino voters and suburban white women are heavily engaging. 

4. North Carolina, Thom Tillis (R) 

Democratic Iraq and Afghanistan war vet Cal Cunningham has proven a surprisingly strong challenger to first-term Republican Thom Tillis, handily leading him in all recent polling. It’s not even looking close, in a state in which Biden has also led (albeit more narrowly). Tillis runs weakly against Republicans, who see him as a traitor to Trump’s cause. And the double-whammy of Trump losing the state, and Tillis losing Trump voters, looks too much to overcome. 

5. Maine, Susan Collins (R)

Collins survived decades as a Republican in blue Maine by pretending to be a “moderate” independent-minded legislator. The Trump years have torn that facade away, as she’s sided with the wannabe despot in both his Supreme Court nominations, and in voting to acquit him during the impeachment proceedings. Democrat Sara Gideon, Speaker of the Maine House, is leading in all recent polling, and would be the first woman of color (Indian American) elected in Maine. 

These five races would net Democrats the +3 seats they need for a 50-50 Senate, with Biden’s vice-president casting the tie-breaking vote. But what a nightmare that would be, right? We’d have the nominal majority, but well-short of the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, and without the Democratic votes needs to eliminate that stupid filibuster. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has already declared he’d vote against any such efforts. So it is imperative that Democrats pad their majority in order to have the votes to get rid of the filibuster and push through critical legislation like statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico (if its residents vote for it), voting right protections, economic stimulus, police reforms, measures to address climate change, and other Democratic priorities. 

TIER TWO (toss-ups)  

6. Montana, Steve Daines (R)

How can Democrats be competitive in a state which Trump won by over 20 points? First, convince popular Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to run, then watch Trump’s numbers collapse to the point that Biden is actually competitive. Recent polling in this hard-to-poll state show Republicans with the narrow edge, but it’s narrow. 

7. Iowa, Joni Ernst (R) 

This wasn’t a state that was supposed to be competitive, with Trump winning by nine points in 2016. Yet Trump disastrous trade wars decimated Iowa farmers, and the coronavirus pandemic has only added to anti-GOP sentiment. So this state of rural non-college whites—the core base of the modern Republican Party—is suddenly flirting with voting Democratic. Most recent polling shows Trump leading by a hair, the same as Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. 

8. Georgia, Kelly Loeffler (R)

Georgia has a racist Jim Crow-era election system, in which candidates require 50% in the first round, otherwise the race moves to a January runoff. This is a special election, thus features a “jungle primary” in which all candidates, of all parties, run on the same ballot. If none reaches 50% (and none will), this gets decided January next year. Democrats are running several candidates, and would be best served if they rallied around Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta (where Dr. Rev, Martin Luther King preached). 

While Democrats have traditionally suffered turnout woes during the runoff elections, I doubt that’ll be an issue this cycle. January will be HOT in Georgia. 

9. Georgia, David Perdue (R)

Same as above, except that there’s no jungle primary. Democrats nominated Jon Ossoff to take on the incumbent. Polling has been mixed in this race, with some showing a tied race, and others showing Perdue close to 50%. But at the same time, almost all polling is showing a competitive presidential contest. If Biden can extend his lead in this coronavirus-stricken state, he could very well pull Democrats across the line with him, at least into January runoffs where defeated and demoralized Republicans might just sit things out. 

TIER THREE (lean Republican)

These solidly Republican states shouldn’t be competitive at the Senate level, yet amazingly, they are! 

10. Kansas, Open (R)

The conventional wisdom is that if Republican nominate crazed right-winger Kris Kobach, that this seat in this +20 2016 Trump state becomes far more competitive in November. That would make sense, since Kobach cost Republicans the governorship in 2018. Our own Civiqs polling, actually, found Democrat Barbara Bollier competitive no matter who Republicans nominate. A tough state, for sure but Kansas is one of the few remaining Republican states with high educational attainment (the other being Utah). Given the nation’s partisan stratification based on college education, we can expect Biden to narrow the gap from 2016, improving Bollier’s chances down the ballot. And if Republicans nominate Kobach? That can’t hurt, either. 

11. Alaska, Dan Sullivan (R)

Alaska is competitive at the presidential level (more here), despite the fact that Trump won it by 15 in 2016. No polling has shown the Senate race competitive, but that’s because 1) there is no Democratic nominee—an independent is filling that slot, and 2) that nominee, Al Gross, has a name ID of about zero percent. Gross is now up in the air, and that should boost that name ID in this cheap state. Also, Democrats will now learn that he is their guy, and will answer accordingly the next time they’re polled. 

Without strength at the presidential level, this seat isn’t in play, but Alaska has been trending Democratic for several cycles now, and this year may be the year when that vast swath of land is painted in glorious blue. 

12. South Carolina, Lindsey Graham (R)

Pinch me I must be dreaming. Infamous Trump bootlicker Lindsey is vulnerable? Yes. Yes he is. The polling has shown the state tightening at the presidential level, and the pandemic is hitting South Carolina hard, further weakening the state’s dominant Republican Party. Democrats have an awesome candidate in Jaime Harrison. His problem has been that while he’s running even with Graham, most undecideds in the race are conservative voters. It’s a tough hill to overcome. But this is happening: 

Every point Trump falls is a point that could cost him in the presidential election, and every point that presidential race narrows is one point less Harrison needs to overcome to win the Senate seat. The play here isn’t for Biden to win, he doesn’t need South Carolina (as nice as it would be!). We need it close enough to give ourselves a chance down ballot. 

This is a long-shot, by all means, but it’s a real shot. And Harrison has raised record amounts of cash and has the resources to wage a real campaign in this final three-month sprint to Election Day.  

13. Texas, John Cornyn (R)

The big question in Texas is whether it is competitive at the presidential level or not. It’s clear where the state is trending, and no doubt in a cycle or two it will be legitimately purple. But polling is mixed on whether this is the year. And that will inform whether the Senate race is flippable. On its merits, Cornyn should be cruising to reelection. He has none of the baggage Sen. Ted Cruz had in 2018, where he held on to his seat by just 2% of the vote. But if Texas Democrats can get the state’s chronically underperforming Latino vote to activate, then all bets are off—at both the presidential and senate levels. 

CONCLUSION

Of the 13 Senate seats currently in play, 12 of them are held by Republicans. The odds of Democrats picking up 10 or 11 seats are currently low, but the trends just keep getting worse and worse for the GOP. The toll of the pandemic isn’t just worsening nationwide, it’s currently disproportionately affecting some of the very states discussed above, like Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, South Carolina, and Texas. 

Meanwhile, Trump is doing nothing to reverse his precipitous collapse in his national standing, while also refusing to allow Republicans to distance themselves from him. 

So can we get to a double-digit pickup in the Senate? Not today, we wouldn’t, but Republicans still have three months to fall. 

Trump is doing everything possible to make safe red-state Senate seats competitive

Senate Democrats are looking like winners in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina. Their leads are so large at this point that it’s hard to see, absent scandal, how they won’t win. Democrats are also looking good in the next tier of races, tied or leading in Iowa, both Georgia seats, and Montana. Kansas and Texas are in the third tier, which is lean or likely Republican, but within the realm of possibility. 

And then there are the fourth-tier races—those that are “likely or safe Republican.” While some early polling looks encouraging, it would be really tough for Democrats to pick up absent a massive Democratic wave. And here, I’m mostly talking about challenges in Kentucky and South Carolina, and our incumbent senator in Alabama. And yet, Trump’s national polling collapse threatens Republican holds on these seats even if they remain safely red in the presidential race. 

Alabama has been considered a lost cause almost from the moment that Democratic incumbent Doug Jones won the seat in a 2017 special election 50-48.3—a margin of just 22,000 votes—against a child predator, someone who even admitted approaching teenage girls while he was in his 30s. It has seemed inconceivable that Democrats would ever hold that seat during a presidential year in a state that gave Trump a 61-34 victory in 2016. 

And certainly Civiqs’ daily tracker of Trump’s job approvals in Alabama shows his job approval rating hovering in the 60-40 range for the last three years. But look what suddenly happened: 

That’s a fall from +20 net approvals during impeachment to single digits +9 today, or a net 11-point drop. That outpaces the drops we’ve seen nationally (around a net 5-point drop). 

The drop is even bigger in Kentucky, the third most pro-Trump state after Wyoming and West Virginia. 

That’s a drop from his high-water mark of around +25 net approvals (60-35) to +13 today (54-41), or a net 12-point drop.

The last of these three tough fourth-tier Senate states is South Carolina:

The drop here is actually in line with national results: a 5-point drop from +8 net approvals to +3 (50-47). 

Now, Trump will win all three of these states. And he’ll win them all easily. That’s not the point here. 

The point is that for Democrats to have any chance, they’ll need ticket splitters or voters who don’t fill the ballot past the presidential contest. The stronger the pro-Trump vote is, the tougher that task becomes.

In 2008, incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is the current Republican leader in the Senate, won his election race 53-47. That same year, on the same ballot, John McCain defeated Barack Obama 57-41. McConnell ran 10 points behind the top of the ticket. 

So yeah, if Trump wins Kentucky along the same lines as his 63-33 victory in 2016, then the Democrats won’t defeat McConnell, period. But as we’ve seen in recent polling, Trump’s share of the Biden versus Trump vote is closely correlated to his personal ratings. If Trump’s popularity continues to falter in the state (and the pandemic and job losses aren’t going anywhere any time soon), that presidential race could tighten, and that hill Democrats must climb gets easier and easier. Same goes for Alabama, South Carolina, and pretty much every single other state. 

Can Democrats win these three states? If the election were today, they wouldn’t. But given Trump’s inability to show anything akin to leadership in these critical times, the more he falls, the better our chances. 

You want to chip in and help? It wouldn’t be a bad idea, so here you go!

Democrats will win the Senate (only question is by how much)

No one should count their chickens before they hatch. This is not what I’m doing. What I’m saying is that if we keep doing what we’re doing, and that guy cowering in the bunker in the White House keeps doing what he’s doing, and Senate Republicans keep carrying water for the guy in the bunker … then yeah, Democrats will pick up the Senate. And I’m not going out on a limb in saying so. 

The big picture: Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate. Trump is going to lose. Therefore, Democrats need to pick up a net three seats to get to 50 seats, with the vice presidential tiebreaker putting the chamber in Democratic hands. 

We are probably going to lose the Senate seat in Alabama. That was a temporary gift won in a special election against a child molester. And we still barely won. In a normal year, against a normal Republican, with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket? If Democratic Sen. Doug Jones wins reelection, we’ve got a 60-seat majority landslide. So we assume he loses. 

The Daily Kos Elections crew just moved Arizona into “lean Democratic,” but that is probably still too kind.  

McSally (R) Kelly (D) Fox News (5/30-6/2) Highground (5/18-5/22) OH Predictive Insights (5/9-11)
37 50
41 51
38 51

Appointed Republican Sen. Martha McSally already lost in 2018, and the whole state of Arizona seems to be moving strongly against Republicans. In that Fox News poll, Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden is leading 46-42. 

In Colorado, no one is pretending that Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has any chance. Even he realizes it—he spent his impeachment time aggressively defending Trump in a state in which Trump will lose by double digits. And so will Gardner. Two polls in early March had former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper leading by 17 and 18 points. No one has wasted time polling there ever since. 

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins saw her “moderate” veneer shorn off after voting both to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial, and voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. A poll last month had Democratic candidate Sarah Gideon with a 51-42 lead. The race has been underpolled, but Collins ranks amongst the most unpopular senators in the country in a state that will solidly go blue this fall. She can’t count on ticket splitters anymore. 

And in North Carolina, incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis is looking weak, weak, weak:

Tillis (R) Cunningham (D) PPP (6/2-3) Meeting Street Insights (5/9-13) Civiqs (5/2-4) Meredith College (4/27-28)
41 43
44 46
41 50
34 44

Any incumbent below 45% is generally considered to be toast. People are looking for an alternative. 

Losing Alabama but winning Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina gets us to a 50-50 Senate. At this stage of the cycle, given current trends, this is the most likely outcome. 

TIER TWO RACES

These are races in which Republicans currently have the edge, but are in play. 

Georgia has two Senate seats in play: a regular election and a special one. The only recent polling is courtesy of Civiqs, which found both Senate seats effectively tied. The reason the GOP has the edge is that Georgia has a Jim Crow-era law that requires candidates to win with 50% of the vote. If none get it in November, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff election in January. 

Historically, the GOP has done much better in those runoff elections. I suspect this time will be different, but gut feelings don’t trump history. This is a true tossup for both seats. 

Montana pits an incumbent Republicans against the current popular Democratic governor. Montana is notoriously difficult to poll, but the only one to try recently—a sketchy-looking Montana State University effort—had Democrat Steve Bullock ahead 46-39. Trump will win the state, so we’re relying on ticket splitters to carry the day. Luckily, 1) Montana has a long history of split tickets—it currently has a Democratic governor and Democratic U.S. Senator despite being solidly red at the presidential level, and 2) Trump’s approvals in Montana have been in a steady decline over the last 12 months, from a net +12, to +4 today. And the worse Trump does in the state, even if he wins it, the fewer crossover votes Bullock needs to win. 

Depending on how these two states shake out, the Democrats can end up anywhere from the barest 50-50 majority to a better-looking 53-47 one. 

TIER THREE RACES

Incumbent Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst had appeared relatively safe earlier this year. Lily-white Iowa looked like another 10-point Trump win, and Ernst seemed to be doing whatever it was that was necessary to cruise to reelection. But the coronavirus has hit Iowa hard, and the trade wars with China have hammered its farmers. And now, any hope of a positive resolution has evaporated as Trump has decided to blame China for his own failures. In fact, Trump’s approvals are underwater in Iowa 47-50, according to Civiqs’ daily tracker. 

Polling has been scant, but just yesterday Public Policy Polling released a poll showing the Democratic challenger up 45-43. Civiqs has a poll in the field right now and we’ll have results next Tuesday or Wednesday. This one may be soon graduating to the second tier. 

Kansas. Kansas! Yes, Kansas. I explain Kansas here. Botton line: It’s tough, but given Kansas’ high education levels and an ongoing civil war between the state Republican Party’s moderate and crazy wings, we have a shot. 

Texas also gets included in this tier. Incumbent Republican John Cornyn isn't as hated as Ted Cruz, who was almost defeated in 2018. And there is no public polling to give us a sense of the state of this race. But the state is trending blue, and a Public Policy Polling poll released today showed the state a 48-48 tie in the presidential election. Honestly, not sure I buy it, not without additional confirmation. But the demographic trends are certainly in our favor. Have they moved enough to put this Senate seat in contention? I’m hopeful but skeptical.  

TIER FOUR RACES

These are races in which we have great candidates who are raising buttloads of cash, but they are in tough Republican states. 

In Kentucky, odious Republican Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unpopular, but 1) he delivers more bacon than anyone else in the Senate—Kentucky is the ultimate mooch state, and 2) Kentucky gives Trump some of his highest approval ratings in the country (a rough count says seventh highest). 

Those are some pretty strong headwinds to fight no matter how good your candidate is and how much money she has. 

And in the same vein, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham is protected by the partisanship of his state—the only one on both coasts that gives Trump a positive approval rating. Civiqs has the race tied 42-42, but undecideds are heavily Republican and the state suffers from extreme racial polarization. Southern whites, in general, just don’t vote Democratic. 

The Senate will be at least 50-50. Our job is to drag as many of these races across the finish line as we can. Can we make it 55-45? Or even more than that? 

Donate to our slate of Senate races. And if you live in any of these states, fight hard! 

Morning Digest: GOP House candidate welcomes Trump endorsement. His district’s voters probably won’t

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

TX-07: On Wednesday, Donald Trump endorsed Army veteran Westley Hunt, who is one of the national GOP’s favorite candidates, in the March 3 GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher. Hunt had already been running ads tying himself to Trump as well as Sen. Ted Cruz, who had already endorsed him, so he’ll certainly welcome this development.

However, Hunt is taking a big risk in the general election by embracing both the White House and Cruz in a West Houston seat that has been moving hard to the left in the Trump era. This seat swung from 60-39 Romney to 48.5-47.1 Clinton, and Beto O'Rourke beat Cruz here 53-46 last cycle. Fletcher also unseated longtime GOP incumbent John Culberson 52.5-47.5 in their very expensive 2018 race.

Hunt has been one of the GOP’s stronger House fundraisers this cycle, but he still faces a big cash disadvantage against Fletcher. The incumbent outraised him $545,000 to $343,000 during the final quarter of 2019, and she ended 2019 with a $1.8 million to $808,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Senate

AL-Sen: Mason-Dixon is out with a survey for the Alabama Daily News that finds Democratic Sen. Doug Jones trailing each of the three main GOP candidates in hypothetical general election matchups:

41-54 vs. Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

42-51 vs. Rep. Bradley Byrne

42-50 vs. former college football coach Tommy Tuberville

The only other general election poll we've seen was a late December survey from the GOP firm JMC Analytics. That poll, which JMC said they conducted independent of any client, found Jones in better shape in this very red state but still trailing each of these Republicans by 4-7 points.

Campaign Action

Mason-Dixon is also the first independent pollster to take a look at the March 3 GOP primary since Sessions entered the race in November to reclaim his old Senate seat. They find Sessions at 31%, which is well below the majority of the vote he'd need to avoid a March 31 runoff, while Tuberville leads Byrne 29-17 for the second place spot.

Roy Moore, who lost this seat to Jones in 2017, is a distant fourth with just 5%. The release didn't name state Rep. Arnold Mooney, though his support may have been included in the 2% that backed Other.

The firm also tested Sessions in potential primary runoff marches and finds him beating Tuberville and Byrne 49-42 and 48-35, respectively. Those are hardly secure leads, though, especially since Sessions' intra-party rivals haven't spent many resources yet attacking him over his terrible time as Trump's attorney general. If Sessions does get forced into a runoff, though, his opponent will only have four weeks to win over the defeated candidates' supporters.

Byrne also dropped his own primary survey from Harper Polling a day before the Mason-Dixon numbers were released that shows him in better shape to advance to a runoff with Sessions. Harper finds Sessions ahead with the same 31% of the vote, but they show Byrne narrowly leading Tuberville 26-24 for second place. Moore is again far behind with 5%, while Mooney also went unmentioned.

The memo also includes the numbers for a previously unreleased mid-December poll to argue that Byrne has picked up support over the last two months. Sessions led that survey with 36%, while Tuberville outpaced the congressman 29-16. The memo did not include runoff numbers.

The only other GOP primary we've seen this year was a late January poll for Sessions from On Message, and it also showed Byrne and Tuberville locked in a close race for second place. It gave Sessions the lead with 43% as Byrne edged the former coach 22-21.

AZ-Sen: GOP Sen. Martha McSally made plenty of headlines last month when she dismissed longtime CNN reporter Manu Raju as "a liberal hack," and she continues her trip through MAGA Land in her first TV spot of the race. The narrator declares, "The Washington liberals are obsessed with President Trump. They wasted three years and millions of dollars trying to overturn the last election and steal the next one." The commercial then says that Democrat Mark Kelly "supported their impeachment sham."

ME-Sen: The outside group Maine Momentum has launched another ad that features several people taking GOP Sen. Susan Collins to task for voting for a massive tax break that's "hurting everyday Mainers."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: High Point University is out with a survey of North Carolina's March 3 primaries which includes questions about the Democratic Senate primary and the GOP gubernatorial contest.

High Point finds former state Sen. Cal Cunningham leading state Sen. Erica Smith 29-10 among registered voters in the race to take on GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, while none of the other contenders break 5%. A recent survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling also found Cunningham ahead by that exact 29-10 spread, while no one else has released numbers here this year.

In the GOP primary to face Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, High Point finds Lt. Gov. Dan Forest leading state Rep. Holly Grange by a massive 54-10 margin. This is the first poll we've seen of this contest in 2020, but the results are quite plausible. Grange, who has never run statewide before, almost certainly started the campaign with low name recognition over the summer, and she hasn't raised much money to get her message out since then.

P.S. High Point also included versions of these matchups using likely voters instead of registered voters. However, both likely voter questions sampled fewer than 300 people, which is the minimum that Daily Kos Elections requires in order to write up a poll.

Gubernatorial

WA-Gov: On behalf of KING-TV, SurveyUSA is out with a poll of the August top-two primary. It gives Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee the lead with 39%, while conservative independent Tim Eyman leads Republic police chief Loren Culp 11-5 for the second place spot. Two other Republicans, state Sen. Phil Fortunato and developer Joshua Freed, are each at 4%.

SurveyUSA also takes a look at Inslee's approval rating and gives him a narrow 41-39 score, while another 20% say they aren't sure how they feel about the incumbent after seven years in office. This isn't the only poll that's given Inslee only a slightly positive rating, though. A January survey from the local firm Elway Research found that 40% of registered voters gave Inslee an excellent or good score while 34% rated him as poor and another 22% ranked him as "only fair." Morning Consult also found him with a 44-38 job approval for the final quarter of 2019.

Democrats have controlled the governor's office since 1985, and it's possible that a strong opponent could make the argument that it's time for a change and give Inslee a serious challenge. However, it remains to be seen if any of Inslee's opponents will have the resources to get their name out and put a serious fight this fall, especially with Donald Trump likely to drag down the ticket in this blue state.

The GOP candidate with the most money at the end of January was Freed, who had just $62,000 on-hand; Freed had previously loaned his campaign $500,000 only to repay it in January. The candidate texted the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner this week that he "decided recently that I didn't need that liability on my campaign books" and would "put that amount… or more.. in as a direct contribution." Washington candidates regularly file campaign finance reports, so we'll see soon if Freed self-funds again. For his part, Inslee ended last month with $1.7 million in the bank.

House

CA-53: On behalf of KGTV-TV and the San Diego Union Tribune, SurveyUSA is out with the first poll we've seen of the March 3 top-two primary for this safely blue open seat.

Former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign policy adviser Sara Jacobs, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran in the nearby 49th District last cycle, leads with 23% as one of the Republicans, pilot Chris Stoddard, takes the second place general election spot with 10%. Republican Famela Ramos and Democrat Georgette Gómez, who is president of the San Diego City Council, are at 5% each, while no one else breaks 4%.

Gómez, who is the only local elected official in the race, has the support of the state Democratic Party, but she ended December with a bit less money than Jacobs. Gómez actually outraised Jacobs $263,000 to $141,000, but Jacobs self-funded an additional $530,000 and held a $471,000 to $349,000 cash-on-hand lead. Two other Democrats, Marine veteran Janessa Goldbeck and UC San Diego professor Tom Wong, had just over $100,000 to spend.

GA-09: State Rep. Matt Gurtler announced this week that he was joining the GOP primary for this safely red open seat.

Gurtler was elected to the legislature in 2016 at the age of 27, and he quickly made a name for himself by opposing GOP Speaker David Ralston. Gurtler, who describes himself as an advocate for limited government, also developed a habit of voting against all manner of bills that came before him, and by May of 2018 he had racked up more "no" votes than anyone else in the 236-person legislature.

Ralston responded by backing a 2018 primary challenge to Gurtler, but the incumbent won 60-40. Gurtler was already facing another primary opponent when he decided to call off his re-election bid and run for Congress.

NC-11: On Wednesday, retiring Rep. Mark Meadows endorsed businesswoman and party activist Lynda Bennett in the crowded March 3 GOP primary to succeed him. However, there are plenty of reasons to think that Meadows was pulling for Bennett before this week.

Meadows announced his departure in December one day before the filing deadline and after it was too late for anyone running for another office to switch to this race. Meadows' decision came as a shock to everyone except for maybe Bennett, who set up a Facebook campaign page five hours before the congressman broke his own news. Meadows, though, insisted to Roll Call this week, "It was my original intent to stay neutral in the race. However my silence in the primary was being misused by some candidates to present [an] inaccurate picture for political gain."

Meadows' endorsement did seem to take one of the contenders off guard. Wayne King, who resigned as Meadows' deputy chief of staff to run here, said, "Meadows told me he was not endorsing anybody in the race" when they spoke just a few weeks ago.

NY-16: Middle school principal Jamaal Bowman received an endorsement this week from the Working Families Party, a small but influential party with ties to labor groups, in his June Democratic primary against longtime Rep. Eliot Engel. Engel has consistently received the WFP’s support in past contests.

Bowman is one of a few candidates challenging Engel for renomination in this safely blue seat, a diverse district that includes southern Westchester County and the northern Bronx, and he was already looking like the congressman’s main opponent before this week. Bowman raised $162,000 during the fourth quarter of 2019 and had $186,000 in the bank, while none of the other candidates had more than $25,000 to spend. Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, brought in $630,000 during this time, and he had $806,000 on-hand.

Bowman has been arguing that voters should oust Engel because he’s too moderate and too close to special interests. The challenger used his kickoff to go after Engel for taking donations from lobbyists and voting for the Iraq War.

TX-12: Veteran Rep. Kay Granger is up with her first negative TV spot against businessman Chris Putnam ahead of their March 3 GOP primary. The narrator begins by describing Granger’s conservative record and reminds the audience that she has Donald Trump’s endorsement. The narrator then calls Putnam “a millionaire who moved here four months ago” and says that “[i]nvestors sued his company for fraud. And he voted to raise property taxes twice.”

The primary for this safely red Fort Worth seat has attracted heavy spending in recent weeks, with the anti-tax Club for Growth and their allies airing ads against Granger while the establishment-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund is supporting her. However, Putnam himself didn’t bring in much money during the final months of 2019. Granger outraised him $414,000 to $71,000 during the fourth quarter, and she ended the year with a $774,000 to $407,000 cash-on-hand lead.

TX-22: A recently formed super PAC called Texans Coming Together has launched an ad campaign in support of nonprofit CEO Pierce Bush in next month’s GOP primary, though there’s no word on the size of the buy. The group’s spot, it won’t shock you to learn, refers to Donald Trump four times while not mentioning anyone from the candidate’s famous family once.

TX-28: Conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar has launched a TV ad against immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros ahead of their March 3 Democratic primary showdown that could easily pass for a Republican campaign commercial.

The narrator begins by declaring, “Two candidates for Congress. One stands with families. One supports allowing minors to have an abortion without parents' knowledge.” The GOP frequently uses this line of attack against pro-choice candidates, and Cisneros responded to it in her fact-check of the spot by writing, “Jessica Cisneros supports allowing women to make their own healthcare decisions, not the government or politicians like Henry Cuellar.”

The commercial goes on to say that Cisneros is someone “who gets her money from outsiders, and who just moved here six months ago.” Cisneros, though, grew up in the Laredo area and even interned for none other than local congressman Henry Cuellar in 2014. The Cisneros camp also notes that, while Cuellar’s ad makes it sound like he’s being supported by local donors, he’s received more than half of his money from PACs and committees.

The commercial then takes one more page from the GOP playbook and insists that Cisneros, who backs the Green New Deal, wants to “shut down the oil and gas industry.”

WI-07: The special GOP primary is on Tuesday, and Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman reports that there’s been plenty of outside spending on behalf of both veteran Jason Church and state Sen. Tom Tiffany.

Church has received a total of about $1 million in support mostly from two groups, With Honor Fund and the newly formed Americans 4 Security PAC. Tiffany, meanwhile, has benefited from a total of $789,000 in spending largely from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth, two groups that are often on opposite sides in Republican primaries.

Both Church’s and Tiffany’s campaigns have spent comparable amounts, and since we haven’t seen any polls, there’s no indication which candidate is favored next week.

‘After many sleepless nights,’ Alabama Sen. Doug Jones will vote to convict Trump

When Doug Jones was elected senator as a Democrat in Alabama, he had two basic paths open to him: He could be a wannabe-Republican in a doomed effort to be re-elected from the deep red state, or he could maintain his dignity and uphold his principles. He chose the latter path, and continues to do so on impeachment.

“On the day I was sworn in as a United States Senator, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. At the beginning of the impeachment trial, I took a second oath to do ‘impartial justice’ according to the same Constitution I swore to protect,” Jones said in a statement. After considering those oaths and all of the evidence, “After many sleepless nights, I have reluctantly concluded that the evidence is sufficient to convict the President for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.”

Jones said he had “struggled to understand the House’s strategy in their pursuit of documents and witnesses and wished they had done more,” but that ultimately, whatever the House could have done better, “The President’s actions demonstrate a belief that he is above the law, that Congress has no power whatsoever in questioning or examining his actions, and that all who do so, do so at their peril.”

Doug Jones is making this about what’s right—something not one Republican, no matter how politically safe, has said they’ll do.

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