All politics is local is a famous line in American politics, but it seems to getting less accurate as each day goes by, with the country quickly becoming more and more polarized. It’s become exceedingly tough for a Republican to win in a Democratic-leaning area and vice versa, but even in this day and age it’s not impossible. This article examines a few races this in midterm where there seems to be a possibility that the trend of hyper-partisanship may be broken and analyzes whether that trend is a sustainable one come election day.
Oregon: An unpopular Governor threatens statewide and Congressional Democratic standing.
This midterm has been weird, but perhaps no race has been weirder than Oregon’s gubernatorial race, where an unpopular Governor and third party candidate has scrambled the field and led to the very real possibility that a Republican can be elected Governor for the first time since 1982. We’ve talked about this Tossup race plenty of times on this site and you can view our latest article here.
It’s not just the Governor’s Race where Oregon Democrats seem to be in poor standing, however. There’s growing frustration among Democratic ranks that they have been unable to put away Biden +13 OR-06 despite there being a scandal-plagued Republican candidate in Mike Erickson, who paid for his girlfriend’s abortion in 2001 despite self-identifying as pro-life and had a DUI arrest in 2016. The self-funding Erickson went on the airwaves early to paint Democratic State Rep. Andrea Salinas as an anti-police progressive, launching him into a four-point lead in the FiveThirtyEight polling average for this race. However, Democrats have respond with outside spending but it doesn’t seem to have made a dent in Erikson’s standing. In fact, they’re redirecting funds from the more Republican-leaning OR-05 in an attempt to save this seat. We can no longer call Salinas the clear favorite here, and we have moved this race to a Tossup in our previous ratings update.
In the other two competitive House districts, Democrats have grown increasingly pessimistic in progressive attorney Jamie McLeod Skinner’s ability to keep this seat against former Happy Valley mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer. That Democrats seem to be bailing for the more Democratic OR-06 speaks volumes to where they think this race is headed. Democrats have the edge in OR-04: we rate the race between Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle and 2020 Republican nominee Alek Skarlatos as Leans Democratic.
KS-GOV: A popular Governor seeks to buck partisanship.
If you asked someone in late 2021, most would have assumed that the Kansas Governorship, currently held by Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, would be an auto-flip – especially in the face of two credible Republican challengers in former Governor Jeff Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt. But things have turned in Kelly’s favor since then, as the Dobbs decision seems to have poked a hole into the inevitability of a massive red wave in this midterm. This has combined with Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejecting a ballot measure which would have made clear that there was no right to an abortion in the Kansas constitution. But the reason why Kelly is still in the game is because of Kelly herself: Her approval rating is strong at 55% according to the latest numbers from Morning Consult, and she has run a strong, disciplined campaign focusing on the economy and education, while tying state Republicans to unpopular former Governor Sam Brownback. Incumbent Governors, especially popular ones, are hard to beat, and Kelly is no exception. Kelly has incumbency, Schmidt has partisanship, and this race is a true Tossup.
OK-GOV: Massive polling miss or an upset on the horizon?
You may be shocked to hear that the Democratic gubernatorial nominee for Oklahoma has led more nonpartisan polls than the Democratic gubernatorial nominee for Oregon. We now have three polls in the past week that have shown State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister ahead of Republican Governor Kevin Stitt by various margins, and the race is a dead heat in the FiveThirtyEight polling average. While The Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and a few others have all degraded this race from Safe Republican to Likely Republican, Elections Daily remains unconvinced, for reasons outlined in this article. But to add onto that, polls showing a Hofmeister lead for Governor also show Republican Congressman Markwayne Mullin leading former Democratic Congresswoman Kendra Horn in the race for US Senate by only nine to 13 points. That does not seem to be compatible with the fundamentals of a federal race in a Trump+33 state, and so there’s reason to believe that the polls we’re seeing in Oklahoma are heavily overestimating Democratic support. For now, our belief in Oklahoma is that while Stitt will likely heavily underperform what partisanship may suggest, he is not in any real danger of losing and we’re therefore staying put with a Safe Republican rating.
ME-02: All the fundamentals are against him, but Jared Golden may win anyways.
A Democratic incumbent running for reelection in a right-trending Trump+6 district during a Biden midterm should spell disaster for said incumbent. But Representative Jared Golden, widely considered one of the top moderates in the Democratic House caucus, has maintained a powerful brand and seems to be in the drivers’ seat against former Republican Representative Bruce Poliquin, leading all polls conducted in the district so far by substantial margins. But there’s reason to believe this is a mirage. First, polls in ME-02 are notoriously unreliable: 2014 polling pointed toward a dead tossup (Poliquin won by five), 2016 polling pointed toward yet another dead tossup (Poliquin won by 10), 2018 polls showed a Golden lead when Poliquin won the first ballot, and many 2020 polls had Golden up by more than 20 points in a race he won by six. Both parties clearly don’t believe the massive Golden polling leads and are spending accordingly, with this district ranking 6th on the list of outside spending according to data collected by Rob Pyers. The aforementioned fundamentals also favor Poliquin in this district despite the polling, so Elections Daily is comfortable keeping this race as a Tossup.
RI-02: The strongest Republican recruit of the cycle seeks to win a Biden +14 district.
The Ocean State has not elected a Republican to Congress since the days of Lincoln Chafee, but the contest in the states’ 2nd Congressional district has quickly heated up to be perhaps the most competitive race in New England. Allan Fung, the former mayor of Cranston and two-time Republican Gubernatorial nominee, has converted his name recognition and high popularity into a very strong campaign against General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. All nonpartisan polls in the race currently show Fung with a comfortable lead, and even Magaziner and DCCC internals can’t find a lead for the Democrat. Not everything is looking up for Team Fung, however, has the highest he’s polled at in nonpartisan polls is 46%, and not the 48-49% he needs to win – it’s worth noting, however, that a DCCC poll released today shows both Fung and Magaziner at 48%. In a district that voted for Biden by a 56-42 margin, it’s reasonable to assume that the undecided voters lean heavily Democratic, and that could work in Magaziner’s favor in a federal race. We can no longer say with certainty that Democrats are favored here, however, so this race has been rated as a Tossup.