Midterm Roundup: The House Battlefield Expands & The Return of Sarah Palin

Party leaders signaled they expect a red wave in November, Sarah Palin announced her return to electoral politics, Nevada Democrats’ big gamble, and more…

State of Play – April 9

The House Battlefield Expands

Top congressional leaders signaled the House battlefield has widened as Republicans sense an incoming landslide and Democrats fear an across-the-board wipeout. Democrats’ leading super PAC, House Majority PAC, is spending a massive $102 million in 51 media markets, almost all of it to defend their incumbents and open seats. Meanwhile, Republicans expanded their House target list to a whopping 82 Democratic-held seats. Both parties seem to expect a red wave.

GOP Turns the Tables in Maryland

After a Maryland judge threw out the state’s aggressive Democratic gerrymander, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and the Democratic legislature agreed to a new compromise map that’s better for Republicans. Maryland’s lone GOP Congressman – Eastern Shore Rep. Andy Harris – has a safer seat in the new map. Western Maryland Rep. David Trone (D) finds himself in a more competitive seat that Republicans could win in a good year for their party. Florida, Missouri, and New Hampshire are now the only states that have yet to complete redistricting.

Democrats’ Bad Bet in Nevada

A New York Times report on the Silver State warned Democrats could face across-the-board defeats in a state they’ve won in every presidential election since 2008. Republicans swept every office during the 2014 Republican wave, and Nevada Democrats fear a repeat due to Biden’s unpopularity and Trump’s close finish in the state in 2020. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) and first-term Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) face well-funded GOP challengers. Democrats decided to spread out their voters in a bid to win three of the state’s four House seats in a good year for their party, but Democrats now fear this will backfire, costing them all four seats.

Top Senate Races Marred By Domestic Misconduct Allegations

Georgia: Both parties’ leading candidates earned negative press coverage for their personal histories. The ex-wife of Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) accused him of being a deadbeat dad, neglecting visitation and child support payments for his two young children.

Meanwhile, college football star and GOP frontrunner Herschel Walker was attacked by his primary rival Gary Black over allegations of domestic violence, including choking and holding a razor and a gun to his ex-wife’s throat. Some leading Georgia Republicans now openly worry Walker, who was endorsed by Donald Trump, could cost the GOP a winnable Senate seat.

Missouri: Show Me State Democrats landed a new candidate after allegations of abuse and domestic violence against nominal GOP frontrunner Eric Greitens were publicized. Anheuser-Bush heiress Trudy Busch Valentine is poised to spend millions and gives Democrats a solid candidate to capitalize should Republicans nominate a candidate weighed down by scandal.

The Once and Future(?) Governor

New York (Democratic primary): Ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is considering a comeback bid nearly a year after he resigned in disgrace amid sexual harassment allegations. Politico reported Cuomo’s efforts to hire a campaign team to defeat his successor, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, is running into one snag – no one wants to work for him.

Battle for the House

Alaska’s At-Large: The prospect of a Sarah Palin comeback earned skepticism in the last midterm roundup. Mea culpa. Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, and 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee jumped into the 51-candidate scramble to replace the late Rep. Don Young. She quickly earned glowing endorsements from Nikki Haley and Donald Trump, who she endorsed early in the 2010 gubernatorial and 2016 presidential primaries, respectively.

California’s 22nd (Special Election): Ex-Trump administration official Connie Conway took first in the special election to replace Rep. Devin Nunes (R), who resigned from Congress to run Trump’s social media company. She will likely face a Democrat in the June 7 runoff, which Republicans are favored to win. Conway promised to only serve through the end of this Congress in January.

Michigan’s 4th: Another one bites the dust. Rep. Fred Upton (R) announced his retirement, the fourth Republican to vote to impeach Trump for his actions on January 6 to decline to seek another term. Upton was drawn into a seat with fellow Rep. Bill Huizenga (R), who Trump endorsed and will now likely easily win this safe Republican southwest Michigan seat.

Nebraska’s 1st: Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R) resigned after his felony conviction on three charges, opening a special election. Ex-state Sen. Mike Flood (R), who was running against Fortenberry before his conviction and resignation, is now the frontrunner to succeed him.

New Hampshire’s 1st: The voter fraud calls are coming from inside the house. Matt Mowers, a former Trump administration official campaigning on election integrity, is running against Rep. Chris Pappas (D) after losing to Pappas in 2020. However, a new report alleges Mowers voted in two different states in the 2016 primaries, a potential violation of federal voting law.

North Carolina’s 11th: Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s immature antics, charges with driving on a revoked license, and unfounded allegations of Republican degeneracy have cost him support from top North Carolina Republicans. The state House Speaker, state Senate President and US Sen. Thom Tillis have all endorsed state Sen. Chuck Edwards, Cawthorn’s leading primary rival.

Ohio’s 7th: Rep. Bob Gibbs (R) announced his retirement after serving six terms. Gibbs’ rural Ohio district was redrawn to include more of Cleveland’s suburbs, and he faced a primary challenge from ex-Trump aide Max Miller, who’s been endorsed by his former boss. The wealthy Miller, the grandson of a local real estate magnate, has a checkered past including charges of disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, and allegations of assaulting his then-girlfriend, former Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

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© Dominic Moore, 2022