The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Psst! Those Open Seat House Races Don’t Look Bad for the Republicans After All!

Did it take a lot of time to go through the 34 House districts where an incumbent Republican is retiring? Yes. Yes, it did.

But when you go through those open seat House districts one by one, something becomes very clear: About two-thirds of them are very heavily GOP districts. I can give you a statistic like “25 out of the 34 districts are ones where Trump won by 10 points or more,” but it’s better to go through all of my one-paragraph summaries and get a sense of just how red some of these places are: The eastern half of Idaho. Muncie, Indiana. The suburbs of Jackson, Mississippi. Republicans have held New Mexico’s Second District every cycle except one since 1980. Republicans have held Ohio’s 16th district every cycle except one since 1973. The last time a Democrat represented Pennsylvania’s ninth district, Franklin Roosevelt was president. The last time a Democrat represented Tennessee’s second district was 1855.

Got it? Some of these open seats are in some really, really Republican districts.

Could Democrats win open House seats in the suburbs of Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Columbus, Tulsa, Knoxville, Dallas, the Shenandoah Valley, etc.? Sure, anything can happen. But I wouldn’t count on it, and it suggests the “generic ballot” questions are even less useful than usual. We don’t elect the House of Representatives in a nationwide vote, it’s 435 separate contests, and most years, less than 100 competitive ones.

You find four seats the GOP is likely to lose (CA-39, CA-49, FL-27, and WA-8) and another four that look like real toss-ups (AZ-2, MI-11, NJ-2, and PA-15). The remaining are all pretty heavily Republican-leaning territories.

The other half of the story is that 15 House Democrats are retiring, and a handful are in districts where the GOP has a decent shot. (I counted four, where the Cook Partisan Voting Index is about D+3 or D+4. Your mileage and measurement for competitiveness may vary.)

In short, 25 out of the 34 seats where a GOP member of Congress is retiring in 2018 are in districts Trump won by 10 percent or more. Winning the House is going to be harder for Dems than the conventional wisdom suggests. This is where a lot of conservatives would look at it all and exclaim, “ah-ha! Media bias! All of the 2018 coverage is meant to encourage Democrats and depress Republicans!” And that might be a factor, but I’d point to the fact that no one particularly likes covering the House races, because they’re much more complicated than the Senate races.

If I say, “Texas,” you probably picture certain things: Oil rigs, J.R. Ewing, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, the Alamo, everything being bigger there. You probably think of Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, John Cornyn, and Rick Perry and feel like you have at least a general gist of the state’s politics.

If I say “Texas’ 27th Congressional District,” you probably don’t picture much of anything, because you don’t know what part of the state it covers. (It’s the district of the infamous pajama-wearing Blake Farenthold and stretches along the Texas coast from Corpus Christi to Bay City and then goes inland to Lockhart.)

Also, it’s a lot tougher to poll a House race. Area codes line up with state lines, so a pollster can program a certain area code and know they’re only reaching a particular state, making Senate and gubernatorial races much easier to survey. A pollster has to put in a lot more work to ensure he’s only calling respondents a particular house district.

John Kerry 2020! Hey, What’s John Edwards Doing These Days?

Wonderful: I’ll be writing the Kerry Spot until I’m old(er) and gray(er).

The Jerusalem Post quotes sources in the Palestinian Authority who said John Kerry is encouraging Palestinan officials to defy the Trump administration, that he has doubts Trump will be in office a year from now, and that he himself is thinking of running for president again.

Former US secretary of state John Kerry met in London with a close associate of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Hussein Agha, for a long and open conversation about a variety of topics. Agha apparently reported details of the conversation to senior PA officials in Ramallah. A senior PA official confirmed to Maariv that the meeting took place.

During the conversation, according to the report, Kerry asked Agha to convey a message to Abbas and ask him to “hold on and be strong.” Tell him, he told Agha, “that he should stay strong in his spirit and play for time, that he will not break and will not yield to President [Donald] Trump’s demands.”

According to Kerry, Trump will not remain in office for a long time. It was reported that Kerry said that within a year there was a good chance that Trump would not be in the White House.

It’s good to see Kerry’s assessment of American politics is as bad as his assessment of foreign politics. Look, maybe Trump has a heart attack (God forbid), or a full-scale public breakdown, or he gets bored with the job and decides he wants to turn it over to Pence and go back to being a television star. But Trump’s not getting impeached, barring an unbelievable smoking gun that spurs a bipartisan appetite to replace the president. You need a two-thirds majority in the Senate to remove a president from office, and at this point, there’s little sign of that happening.

He surprised his interlocutor by saying he was seriously considering running for president in 2020. When asked about his advanced age, he said he was not much older than Trump and would not have an age problem.

Let me offer a dollop of sympathy to Kerry — after all, he’s been very good for my career. Yes, his judgment is terrible, his mouth gets him in trouble all the time, he comes across as haughty and arrogant and smug and ludicrously out of touch and . . . er, where was I going with this?

Ah, yes, John Kerry, if nothing else, was willing to put in the work. He’s got the kind of résumé that usually made someone a presidential contender, in better, simpler times like . . . 2004. He’s not a reality show host, he’s not Oprah, he’s not some no-name congressman like John Delaney of Maryland, or some little-known mayor like Mitch Landrieu. By traditional standards, Kerry is qualified and prepared to be president. He’s spent his adult life working with policy and law, and that’s the sort of thing a president is actually supposed to do. Twitter, funny videos, NCAA Bracket picks, giving imaginary “awards” to media institutions the president hates — that’s all the circus that’s built up around the job, but none of that is the actual job.

Mind you, I think Kerry would be terrible at the actual job. But it’s not hard to imagine Kerry looking at the buzz around Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg, The Rock, and thinking, “you’ve got to be kidding me.”

Of course, he’s already out trying to create a separate negotiation with the Palestinians. Allahpundit quips, “If Bob Mueller can bring FARA back from the dead to indict Paul Manafort, surely Jeff Sessions can bring the Logan Act back from the dead to put an end to Waffles’s freelance diplomatic career.”

This Job Requires Some Writing, Some Paperwork, and Being the Boss’s Soul Mate

You’ve probably heard about Congressman Patrick Meehan, the Pennsylvania Republican and 62-year-old married father of three who settled a sexual-harassment complaint with taxpayer funds from a staffer he described as his “soul mate.”

Yesterday during a discussion on CNN’s The Lead, correspondent Kaitlin Collins offered a message to grown men in workplaces:

The young women that work for you do not want to date you. They do not want to be your soulmate. They do not want to get ice cream with you. They do not want to be your partner. When they start dating someone else, you cannot get angry with them for that . . . I shouldn’t have to tell you this. When a woman goes to work, they do not want to date their boss.

She’s right. But there’s an aspect of this that hasn’t gotten mentioned, and I doubt will get much attention beyond this newsletter.

Back in my journalism pollywog days, I recall going to some gathering at the National Press Club where the Washington offices of most of the big news organizations were represented. They went around the room and introduced all of the bigwigs, and I noticed a clear pattern. The vast majority of the Washington bureau chiefs were older white men. (Considering the demographics of Washington-based political journalists in previous decades, this wasn’t surprising.) A decent number of institutions had deputy bureau chiefs who were women or African American, Latino, etcetera.

But the assembled rank-and-file reporters looked like a Benetton ad — with a fairly lopsided majority of young women, and quite a few of them were quite attractive.

The room made pretty clear the people who ran Washington political journalism had made an effort to diversify at every level . . . except the top. And this effort for diversity had created a lot of working environments where older men managed a lot of young women. Examined through the right lens, the “diversity” in the reporters in that room had all the diversity of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show: good looking young white women, good looking young black women, good looking young Latina women, good looking young Asian women . . . 

Young guys can’t make an older straight man feel attractive. Yes, older men can find mentoring and managing young men valuable and rewarding, but when the boss is the other side of middle age and wondering if he’s still attractive or if his best days are behind him . . . a warm smile from us is not going to brighten his day the same way.

You’ll have to pardon my cynicism if I suspect that a certain portion of older men in leadership positions embraced “diversity” and “welcoming young women in the workplace” because they liked managing and being around young, attractive women. This doesn’t mean that every boss who hires a younger attractive woman is a letch or a harasser. But it does mean that attraction has been playing a factor in workplaces for a long time.

ADDENDA: Jazz Shaw with a good point about why Democratic senators will hesitate before trying to replace Chuck Schumer, one that is familiar to anyone who watched the “Republicans should replace John Boehner/Paul Ryan/Mitch McConnell!” arguments in recent years.  

If that happened, one of these up and coming POTUS hopefuls could step into the void. That could be Booker, Warren, Harris, Gillibrand, or one of a couple others. (Not so much Bernie Sanders since he actually quit the party again after he lost the primary.) But they might not want to. Being one voice out of nearly fifty, albeit one of the ones who get the most face time on cable news, is actually a much safer position than taking control yourself. If you become Minority Leader, people will actually expect you to do things. That’s what’s weighing down Chuck Schumer right now. But as long as you leave the burden on his shoulders and make a point of voting against any sort of deal, you get to play the hero while suffering none of the consequences.


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