A Divided Dixie

A Divided Dixie

  By Hastings Wyman –   It is no longer the Solid South, for either party. Southern voters kept Republican US Senate seats in GOP hands and, assuming Rick Scott’s (R) lead holds in Florida, defeated a long-time incumbent, US Sen. Bill Nelson (D), though Nelson may seek a recount. The GOP also turned back major gubernatorial challenges, defeating two African-American Democrats for governor in both Florida and – at this writing – Georgia. Moreover, a stronger than usual Democratic effort in Oklahoma by former state Attorney General Drew Edmondson failed to overthrow the Republicans’ hammerlock on the governorship; businessman Walter Stitt (R), a political outsider, prevailed. Other Southern governorships, as expected stayed under Republican control. But beyond that rosy Republican picture in the South’s statewide races, serious weaknesses in the GOP’s majority status were revealed in yesterday’s returns. In Florida, elections are always close, so the victory of Ron DeSantis (R) over Sam Gillum (D) by one percentage point, while unexpected, was hardly historic. But in Texas, US Sen. Ted Cruz (R), a shoo-in by most pre-election accounts, narrowly kept his seat, defeating the personable Beto O’Rourke (D) by 51% to 48%, suggesting that the Lone Star State is more Purple than Red, and will be more seriously contested by Democrats in the future. Similarly, in Georgia, as this is written. Stacey Abrams (D), an African-American woman, came close to defeating the hard-right campaign of Brian Kemp (R), the kind of result unimaginable in this Deep South state only a few years ago. Democrats can also be expected to stay in the hunt in the Peach State in...
US House: Money, polls favor Democrats

US House: Money, polls favor Democrats

By Hastings Wyman – It’s not over till it’s over, especially in this volatile age. But based on the financial reports in US House races in the South, and many polls from reputable pollsters, it is difficult not to see a very good night for the Democrats. While the generic outlook for the GOP and President Trump’s approval rating have improved over the past several weeks, the money and recent polling data in race after race, even in the conservative South, suggest a good night for the Resisters on Nov. 6. One example of the Democratic advantage can be seen in fundraising. The total cash-on-hand for Republican candidates in the six open districts (R) comes to $2,326,000; the Democratic total in the same districts was $4,685,000. Similarly, the cash-on-hand for Republican incumbents totaled $15,191,000, almost matched by the Democratic challengers’ total of $14,339,000. Of course, more money has been raised and spent in October. Nevertheless, the Democratic financial advantage is clear. Included in the chart below are money numbers from the Federal Election Commission. The 3rd Quarter numbers include all of the funds raised in this election cycle, through September 30. Incumbents are marked with an asterisk. Polling data is from Real Clear Politics (RCP). All of these seats are currently held by Republicans, except Florida 7. District/candidates                                3rd Quarter                 Cash-on-hand   AR 2 French Hill/R*                                      $2,550,000                   $1,464,000 Clarke Tucker/D                                     1,671,000                        230,000 52R; 40D (Talk Business; Hendrix)   FL 6/OPEN Michael Waltz/R                                       $1,032,000                   $465,000 Nancy Soderberg/D                                     1,980,000                    523,000 NO POLLS   FL 7 Stephanie Murphy/D*                               $2,958,000              $1,151,000 Mike Miller/R                                                542,000                     380,000 47D; 46R (St....
Oklahoma governor’s race not a done deal

Oklahoma governor’s race not a done deal

By Hastings Wyman – Oklahoma is just about the Reddest state in the Union. The Sooner State hasn’t given its electoral votes to a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson was elected in 1964. And in 2016, Hillary Clinton lost every one of the state’s 77 counties to Donald Trump. But that’s not the whole story. Since Trump won the presidency in 2016, Democrats have won at least four special elections for legislative seats vacated by Republicans. Term-limited Republican Gov. Mary Fallin is leaving office with low approval ratings, due to budget cuts that hurt schools. Moreover, with just 15 days till Election Day, the GOP nominee Kevin Stitt, a very successful and wealthy businessman, has still not managed to top 50% in a single voter survey, and Democratic nominee Drew Edmondson, four times elected Oklahoma’s attorney general, remains in striking distance. Still, despite some pessimistic signs, the GOP has some strong factors in its favor. Stitt is a political outsider in a year when insiders haven’t fared well at the polls. “He is one Republican who could run against Mary Fallin and Edmondson,” says Keith Gaddie, a political scientist at the University of Oklahoma. Fallin endorsed Stitt, but his campaign down-played her endorsement. Moreover, “There’s no anti-Trump pull” hurting Republicans.” Indeed, Vice President Mike Pence headlined a rally in Tulsa last Thursday. He praised the Trump Administration as “a foreshadowing of what you’re going to see here in Oklahoma” under a Stitt governorship. The audience of some 3,500 “roared its approval of just about everything Trump,” reported the Tulsa World. Moreover, Republicans aren’t pessimistic. “In Oklahoma, you would always want...
Tennessee: Senate race shifts right

Tennessee: Senate race shifts right

By Hastings Wyman – Last month Democrats became optimistic that a US Senate seat in Tennessee most observers had seen as staying in the Republican column might cross the aisle and provide an unexpected pickup. In mid-September a CNN poll showed the Democratic nominee, moderate former Gov. Phil Bredesen, leading the hard-right Republican standard bearer, US Rep. Marsha Blackburn, by 50% to 45%. This was after Blackburn, 66, had hammered away at Bredesen, 74, contending that a vote for the Democrat was a vote for “Chuck” Schumer (D-NY), the Senate’s Minority Leader, and his leftwing policies. During their one debate, Blackburn mentioned Schumer’s name twelve times, reported The Tennessee Journal. But folks outside of the nation’s capital don’t give national politics the scrutiny that is the daily fare of political junkies. Most Tennessee voters are probably barely aware of Schumer’s name, much less what he stands for. All of that changed, however, in the first week of October during the contentious and unseemly battle over the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. That was the week the “race got turned upside down,” says Deb Wooley, former executive with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce. It was also the week that President Trump, who is popular in the state, came to Johnson City, Tennessee to boost Blackburn. He attended a high-end fundraiser for her, then spoke to a larger crowd outside open to the public. Then after weeks of ducking and weaving, Bredesen announced on Oct. 6, the day the US Senate confirmed Kavanaugh, that if he were in the Senate, he would he would have voted...
A black woman governor of Georgia? Maybe.

A black woman governor of Georgia? Maybe.

By Hastings Wyman – In an era when political norms are no longer sacrosanct, it is probably not too much of a shock that Florida, with its multicultural electorate, including lots of Yankees who have moved there, could be on the brink of electing an African American governor. But Georgia? In the Deep South? A state not known for racial tolerance? Well, yes, the Peach State has a toss-up contest for governor between Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican, who is white, and former state House Minority Leader Stacy Abrams, a Democrat and an African American. The most recent poll, taken late last month by Landmark, showed Kemp with 48% to Abrams’ 46%. Abrams’ internal poll gave her a 48-42% lead, still a close race. Several factors have made Abrams a strong contender, despite earlier assumptions she faced near-certain defeat. For starters, Democrats have been running stronger than in 2016 in virtually every election since Trump’s victory. In addition, Georgia has a sizable black electorate which is expected to respond positively to Abram’s candidacy. Moreover, the state’s population continues to grow more diverse, with Latinos, Asians and out-of-staters moving in in significant numbers. Abrams has moderated in her emphasis somewhat. For example, earlier she advocated a $15 minimum wage, but the issue does not appear on her campaign website. She also emphasizes her work in the legislature with Republicans. But her strategy is not based on appealing to moderate Republicans. “Abrams is not interested in bringing over Republican voters,” says former state GOP chairman “Chuck” Clay, “but in bringing in new voters… If she could turn out...