Is Florida flipping?

Is Florida flipping?

By Hastings Wyman – Florida is the largest swing state in the nation, and it usually anoints the winner by a narrow margin, be it George W. Bush, Barack Obama or Donald Trump. The state is a mainstay of the GOP’s strong base in the South, with its 29 electoral votes second only to Texas’ 38. Thus both parties have a major stake in statewide and congressional victories in the Sunshine State on Nov. 6. The Democrats, in short, want to turn Florida Blue. The GOP hopes to hold on to the all-important governor’s mansion and to gain a US Senate seat by defeating 18-year incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Moreover, several congressional districts currently in Republican hands may or may not look promising for Democrats, who hope to gain control of the US House of Representatives. But the best-laid plans of both parties can easily go astray. Polls show Democrat Andrew Gillum, the African-American mayor of Tallahassee, not only ahead of the GOP’s nominee, US Rep. Ron DeSantis, but increasing his lead with each voter survey. They also show that Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s challenge to Nelson is getting weaker in polls. Looking first at the governor’s race, the latest Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of recent polls shows Democrat Gillum ahead of Republican DeSantis (R) by 47% to 43%. The most recent survey, taken by Quinnipiac, shows Gillum with 54% to DeSantis’ 45%. Gillum has some high-profile support on the left. He’s been endorsed by Bernie Sanders and is receiving financial support from liberal California billionaire Tom Steyer. Later this month, he will be campaigning with Hillary Clinton....
What the September polls tell us

What the September polls tell us

By Hastings Wyman –   Some six weeks before the election on November 6 opinion polls are more predictive than earlier in the campaign season. In a nutshell, these surveys, reported on Realclearpolitics.com, show that in these contests, Democrats are poised to win two or maybe three new governorship’s (FL, GA & OK), at least one new US Senator (TN) and as many as five new members of Congress (FL 26, KY 6, NC 2, TX 7 & VA 7). The GOP, however, has a good chance of picking up a US Senate seat (FL), holding on to a hotly contested US Senate seat (TX) and a competitive congressional seat (TX 23). In some of these contests, Republican incumbents are ahead by a few points, but are under 50%, suggesting a serious challenge for the GOPers. Two takeaways of note: African-American candidates could get elected in numbers not seen since Reconstruction, including in bailiwicks with large white majorities. And a record number of Southern women are likely to be elected. Of course, polls can be wrong, campaigns could change minds, and new issues could take center stage. For now, however, here is a good snapshot of where the 2018 mid-term elections stand in September polling. In contests for governor, all four polls taken in September in Florida show Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) ahead of US Rep. Ron DeSantis. The most recent, taken by Rasmussen, shows Gillum with 48% to DeSantis’ 42%. DeSantis has been hurt by allegations that he has been associated with a white nationalist group. Should Gillum win, his election as an African-American campaigning as an...
KY 6: Can the GOP hold the line against a female fighter pilot?

KY 6: Can the GOP hold the line against a female fighter pilot?

By Hastings Wyman – Third-term US Rep. Andy Barr (R) in Kentucky’s 6th District (Lexington, etc.) is facing a tough battle with retired US Marine Lt. Col. Amy McGrath (D), 42, the first female marine to fly an F-18 jet in combat. The contest is widely considered a toss-up, which is borne out by the latest poll, taken earlier this month by the New York Times. The survey showed Barr with a statistically insignificant lead of one point – 47% to 46%. The money chase shows the same close race. At the midyear Federal Election Commission reports, Barr had raised $3,169,000 with $2,778,000 cash-on-hand. McGrath had received $3,025,000, with $734,000 on hand (she had already spent heavily to with the primary). Barr and his allies have launched a series of tough attack ads that have had some effect. “She was ahead 50% to 43% in her own poll” several months ago, says Al Cross, veteran chronicler of Kentucky politics, but decreased some four points as a result of the attacks, which feature videos of her making impolitic statements at public events. “She has a loose tongue,” says Cross. One attack ad shows a clip of McGrath telling a fundraiser in Massachusetts, “I am more progressive than anyone in the state of Kentucky.” Cross adds that the attacks have not hurt her more because “She has an air of celebrity that somewhat insulates her from these attacks.” The attacks, says Democratic consultant Dale Emmons, “are directly out of Mitch McConnell’s play book. Scorched earth.” Laura Glasscock, editor and publisher of the Kentucky Gazette, says “I’m hearing she’s going to keep...
Cruz vs. O’Rourke: Upset in the making?

Cruz vs. O’Rourke: Upset in the making?

By Hastings Wyman – “It will be the premier race in the whole country,” says University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray. The reelection of Texas US Sen. Ted Cruz (R), once considered a slam-dunk, is now a highly competitive contest between Cruz and US Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D). The latest average of five polls in July and August by Real Clear Politics showed Cruz with 45.8% to O’Rourke’s 41.4%. The most recent poll, by Emerson College in late August, showed Cruz with 39% to O’Rourke’s 38%. The money tells a similar story. As of June 30, challenger O’Rourke reported raising $23,648,000, slightly more than Cruz’s $23,467,000. Moreover, O’Rourke has thousands of $20 donors, who are now invested in his winning. “Cruz is taking it seriously,” says Murray. “He’s making deadly attacks on O’Rourke,” charging that he is out of touch with Texas values and has Hollywood backing, suggesting the Democratic candidate is more leftist than he likes to appear. “Cruz has pretty well solved his problems with self-identified Republicans,” says Harvey Kronberg, publisher of the Houston-based Quorum Report. “But he is wobbly with independents and Democrats… The odds favor Cruz because there are more Republicans in the state.” In an effort to boost Republican enthusiasm, and turnout, President Trump has agreed to come to Texas to campaign for Cruz. Observers aren’t so sure, however, that the Trump’s appearance will help Cruz. Murray says Trump is “probably not a help at all” to Cruz. And Kronberg goes further, saying, “The biggest problem for Cruz is a guy in the White House holding a grenade with the pin half-pulled.” (A...
Florida and Oklahoma: Outsiders win again

Florida and Oklahoma: Outsiders win again

By Hastings Wyman – Primaries in two Southern states last week continued the trend toward nominating candidates who appeal to disaffected voters. In Florida, surprising both pollsters and politicos, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum became the first African American to win Florida’s primary for governor. His victory mirrors that of Stacey Abrams in Georgia, where the former state representative defeated a white lawmaker for her party’s nomination for governor. Thus, the old Democratic establishments are finding themselves on the defensive as minority voters and left-of-center whites coalesce behind barrier-breaking candidates. The same trend was apparent in Oklahoma on the Republican side. Millionaire Kevin Stitt, who has never held public office, defeated Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett in the GOP’s gubernatorial runoff. Stitt, who ran as a conservative outsider, easily defeated the long-time business-oriented but progressive official. Florida “What a shocker!” proclaimed Barney Bishop, Tallahassee-based political analyst, and indeed it was. Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee who had been relegated to the also-rans in pre-primary polls and speculation, snuck up on everybody and became the first African American to win a major party gubernatorial nomination in Florida. Several factors helped Gillum win the primary. First, a majority of registered Democrats in the state are non-white and he courted this vote assiduously. Gillum “went after the very groups that have the worst record of turnout in mid-term, the young and African Americans. He understood the changing demographics of Florida,” says Dr. Susan MacManus, Distinguished Professor Emerita of political science at the University of South Florida. Since Gillum was the only black candidate on the Democratic ballot, other candidates avoided attacking him, but instead aimed...