Today, our journey through the midterms takes us to two Southern states that Trump won and where Democrats are trying to make inroads.
The current Congressional delegation favors the GOP 3-1 and that will not change come January. Likewise, Roger Wicker, the incumbent GOP Senator is running against some dude for the Democrats and will win reelection for another term.
That leaves the special election to finish out the term of the retired Thad Cochran who was replaced by the appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith by Governor Bryant. She is a former state legislator and state agricultural commissioner. Technically, this is a non-partisan “primary” where if no one gets 50%+1 of the vote, it goes to a runoff in December. The problem here is the presence of three viable candidates- Hyde-Smith, conservative Republican Chris McDaniel, and Democrat Phil Espy. Espy is black and running in a state where 38% of the population is black. He is also a former Obama administration Agricultural Secretary whose family in the Delta region has influence and deep pockets.
McDaniel is running to the right of Hyde-Smith, the latter of which is largely running positive commercials extolling her conservative credentials especially on judicial nominees. During the Kavanaugh vote, it is no coincidence that she sat front and center. She further has the support and endorsement of President Trump who recently had to cancel a campaign event in Jackson due to Hurricane Michael.
As for McDaniel, he barely lost a close primary and runoff in 2014 challenging Cochran and originally was going to run against Wicker until the Cochran vacancy opened up. Unlike 2014, many of the supportive conservative groups are absent this time around and without that outside help, he has proven to be a very weak fundraiser. It does not help that the NRA has endorsed Hyde-Smith.
The hopes of the Democrats lie in the likely chance of a runoff with McDaniel and Hyde-Smith splitting the conservative/GOP vote. However, they also secretly realize that should both Republicans garner anywhere near 48% of the vote on Election Day, Espy’s chances of a runoff victory decrease dramatically.
Here, Democrats may be under the mistaken impression that since they stole a seat in neighboring Alabama, they have a realistic chance here. Of course, they are ignorant of the fact that a smear campaign against Roy Moore- hence, different dynamics- played a role in that race. We shall see come 2020 whether Doug Jones keeps that seat in Alabama against someone without the bogus alleged baggage Moore carried into the race.
In short, both Wicker and Hyde-Smith are eventually returned to the Senate.
An open Senate and Governor’s race plus nine Congressional seats are up for grabs in Tennessee. The current Congressional delegation favors the GOP and there is absolutely nothing to suggest that will change come January despite three races are open ones held by Republicans- Duncan in the 2nd retiring, Black in the 6th who ran for the gubernatorial nod and lost in the primary, and Blackburn in the 7th who is running for Senate.
That Senate seat became open when incumbent Republican Bob Corker decided to call it quits. Sensing a serious primary challenge and his relative unpopularity and approval in his home state over his sometimes NeverTrump rhetoric, that left an opening for Marsha Blackburn who eventually won the nod.
The Democrats believed they had the perfect foil in former Governor Phil Breseden. Initially, he led in polling, but that has changed of late. The Democratic Party believed that he was the perfect “moderate” candidate to take on any Republican in a state Trump won in 2016 and where he remains popular. However, recent footage of his campaign people saying that this moderate image is basically an act to garner votes have surfaced (thanks to Project Veritas).
And Blackburn has gone after Breseden for some of his actions while Governor of Tennessee. For example, she has accused him of ignoring and turning a blind eye to sexual harassment charges in his administration (it is delightful watching Democrats defend themselves over this issue) which has caused him to counter with commercials denying the allegations. She also attacked him over a law that would have provided driver’s licenses for illegal aliens. Again, he had to explain his position. In short, Blackburn and others have put Breseden on the defense. Americans for Prosperity have jumped into the fray attacking him over healthcare policies. When not attacking, she is playing up her endorsement from Trump.
Most notably, country star and American icon Taylor Swift recently waded into the race in support of Breseden citing her support for LGBTQ rights and using a series of leftist talking points against Blackburn. The problem here is perhaps the issue. By using it, Swift focused the race on an issue that was not even an issue and one which will not play well in Tennessee. It seems to have moved some fence-sitters away from Breseden into the Blackburn fold. The polls indicate such with Blackburn now up by about eight points.
Earlier, this writer would have come back to this race at the end, but recent events now lead me to say with a good deal of confidence that Blackburn will win the open seat.
There is an open gubernatorial race featuring Republican Bill Lee against Democrat Karl Dean. Neither the RGA nor the DGA is investing heavily in this race since Lee consistently polls ahead by double digits. It does not hurt that current Governor, Bill Haslam, has been singing the praises of Lee.
Considering the best the Democrats can come up with here is some state trooper violating a nondisclosure agreement (you know- those things Democrats rail against when Trump is involved) and telling the Lee campaign that Dean was going to a “Muslim event,” you know they are grasping at plastic straws.
To wit, Bill Lee will be the next Republican Governor of Tennessee.
After this entry, the numbers stand as follows:
US Senate 44-26 Republican, US House 109-71 Republican, and 25-10 Republican.
Next and tomorrow: the Golden State, California.