Five midterm-election developments that aren’t getting much attention in the national media because they don’t fit the “blue wave” narrative.
One: Maryland Democrats have not yet mounted anything resembling a serious challenge to Republican governor Larry Hogan, in a state where Democrats enjoy a 2-to-1 registration advantage. Democratic challenger Ben Jealous is struggling in fundraising and Hogan consistently enjoys a double-digit lead in polling. You could arguably say the same thing about Charlie Baker’s lead in Massachusetts, but that state has a tradition of GOP governors — Mitt Romney, Jane Swift, Paul Cellucci, Bill Weld.
Two: While Democrats are wildly enthused about Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, the Lone Star State’s gubernatorial race doesn’t appear competitive at all, with the latest NBC News poll putting incumbent Republican Greg Abbott ahead of Democrat Lupe Valdez by 19 points. (NBC’s poll put Cruz ahead of O’Rourke by just four points. Do you think there will be a 15-point split in the results between the Texas governor and Senate race? Stranger things have happened, but not many.)
Three: Florida’s Bill Nelson has been in the U.S. Senate for three terms, and he might as well have been in the witness-protection program. Sure, he’s not exactly a whirling dervish of raw political charisma, and Florida has a lot of separate media markets and attracts a lot of transplants who might be less familiar with the state’s representatives, but a Mason-Dixon poll last month found that just 36 percent of likely voters recognized his name and felt favorable to him. Another 31 percent felt negative, 26 percent recognized his name but didn’t feel anything towards him, and 7 percent of likely voters didn’t recognize his name. That’s actually something of an improvement; last fall nearly half of Florida voters told a pollster that they didn’t know enough about him to have an opinion. Nelson’s not a goner, but Democrats will rightfully wonder how a three-term incumbent could enter a reelection bid in such weak shape.
Four: Few would predict Republicans to win a Senate race in New Jersey, but there are some sounds of rattles in the engine for incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez, who was indicted on corruption charges in a trial that ended with a hung jury. First, a Quinnipiac poll showed Menendez ahead of Republican Bob Hugin by six points; the same survey found 49 percent of respondents think Menendez was involved in “serious wrongdoing” and only 16 percent disagreed. Last week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee purchased $117,000 worth of ad time to defend Menendez and on Tuesday, the DSCC added another $340,000 in the New York market.
Five: Democrats are touting the fundraising totals of their challengers, and in many cases, they’re quite impressive by historical standards, suggesting their grassroots voters are fired up and opening their wallets. But the GOP fundraising, particularly by the larger party committees and, is also quite impressive. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, announced last month they had $71 million on hand; Ryan raised $51 million in the entire 2016 cycle. Put together all the Republican committees (the RNC, the NRSC, and the NRCC) and they’ve got $149 million on hand and about $1.5 million in debt; the combined Democratic committees have $141 million and $9.2 million in debt. When all is said and done, it is unlikely that one party will say that they lost in 2018 because they just couldn’t raise enough money.