November 13, 2017
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Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, confidently told The Atlantic that his party is "going to take the House and we're going to take the Senate" in 2018. Citing the unanticipated Democratic gains in the Virginia election as "foreshadowing of good things to come," Ellison pointed to the Alabama Senate race between the controversial figure of Roy Moore and the Democratic underdog, Doug Jones, as evidence of a shifting national terrain.

"Alabama is a blue state in the making," Ellison said in the interview, which was conducted before The Washington Post reported last Thursday that Moore initiated inappropriate relationships when he was in his 30s with girls as young as 14.

Alabama is typically considered to be a Republican stronghold. President Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the Yellowhammer State by 27 points in 2016, and in 2012, Republican candidate Mitt Romney beat former President Barack Obama by 23 points. Still, Ellison expressed optimism about Democrats' chances in Alabama: "It's full of folks who want a better life, who want higher pay," he said. "I think Roy Moore is, he's a perfect villain, he's a gun-toting racist, law-violating theocratic person. And Doug Jones is a civil rights hero. If we don't win, it means only one thing, we have not gone to the grassroots and mobilized the people enough."

Asked if the Democratic Party was doing enough to support Jones, Ellison answered: "We're trying. But only time will tell. The election will tell." In the RealClearPolitics average of polls conducted after allegations came to light, Moore leads Jones by a narrow 2 points. Read Ellison's full interview at The Atlantic. Jeva Lange

October 13, 2017
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Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced to applause Friday that she would stay in the Senate after having publicly flirted with a potential run for governor in her home state, BuzzFeed News reports.

Fellow Senate moderates had urged Collins, who has been a critical no vote in health-care debates, to stay in Washington, Politico reports. Democrats in particular had been following Collins' decision, because had she chosen to run for governor, a progressive candidate could have potentially won her vacated Senate seat.

"Given the contentious environment in Washington right now, my voice and vote matter a great deal," Collins said earlier this month. "On the other hand, if I were fortunate enough to be elected governor, I could work more directly on job creation."

On Friday, Collins announced: “The best way that I can contribute to these priorities is to remain a member of the United States Senate." Jeva Lange

October 11, 2017

The Trump administration's reluctant response to Russia's meddling in the 2016 elections has left some vulnerable Democrats fearing that Moscow could try to swing the results in 2018 to the GOP's advantage, too. Democratic senators up for re-election are "concerned the Trump administration is dragging its feet on thwarting sophisticated Russian cyber operations that could have significant impact on their races — and could even sway which party wins control of the Senate," Politico reports.

While President Trump has dismissed the focus on Russia as being a hoax, "experts and government officials at the state and federal level report that the U.S. government is woefully unprepared for future attacks," New York wrote last summer, with officials "citing both indifference from President Trump and others in the White House, as well as the Trump administration's failure to properly staff federal agencies responsible for dealing with such threats, like the Department of Homeland Security."

Even many Republicans have expressed concern about the 2018 elections, which begin as soon as March, with the Texas primary. "You can't walk away from this and believe that Russia's not currently active in trying to create chaos in our election process," said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman.

Time is ticking. Former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, who served in the Obama administration, emphasized in August that elections are "almost as vulnerable, perhaps, now as we were six, nine months ago." Jeva Lange

August 16, 2017
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Greg Pence might be gearing up to run for Indiana's newly vacated 6th district seat, which was once occupied by his younger brother, Vice President Mike Pence, Roll Call reports. The eldest Pence is currently serving as the finance chairman of Indiana Rep. Luke Messer's (R) Senate campaign, and his unusual visibility in the role is leading some to suspect he might be eyeing Messer's empty seat.

"If you're looking for people to go run for office, I'd put [Greg Pence] at the top of the list," said Bob Grand, a fellow member of Messer's finance team.

Another Republican familiar with Indiana told Roll Call that the 6th district might be especially receptive to Greg Pence's name, as the Trump administration remains popular in the region. "There's just no real frustration that you read about. That's not on the ground in the 6th District," the Republican said.

While Greg and Mike Pence are close, "Greg doesn't have any electoral experience himself," Roll Call notes. His counsel to Mike Pence is "best described as the kind of candid advice only a brother could give." Jeva Lange

August 9, 2017
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Republican Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) has made an enemy out of President Trump, and Trump's wealthy backers are returning fire. Billionaire Robert Mercer, who helped fund Trump's journey to the White House, has now contributed $300,000 to a super PAC backing Kelli Ward, a former Republican senator who is challenging Flake in the Arizona primary, Politico reports.

Flake is one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in 2018, and one who has made a name for himself recently by publicly opposing Trump. In addition to refusing to endorse Trump in 2016 (Trump at one point threatened to spend $10 million of his own money to see Flake fall in 2018), Flake wrote in his new book that the president's conduct "would have had conservatives up in arms had it been exhibited by our political opponents."

“We are so grateful to Mr. Mercer for his courageous support for Kelli Ward, a true conservative champion," said Kelli PAC chairman Doug McKee in a statement. "Early investments in a campaign like this are so valuable." Jeva Lange

August 7, 2017

At least nine House members are planning to leave the Hill next year in order to run for governor, a risky gamble that historically has not paid off. "The last time this many sitting representatives ran for governor, in 2006, twice as many lost as won," Politico reports.

But frustrations with the House make the move tempting for Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike. For Democrats, a gubernatorial win would offer the ability to go from being a member of the minority party to the leader of an entire state, as well as grant important redistricting powers. Republican representatives, meanwhile, look up to governors who are "taking action, making the tough decisions, and are able to point to key results for the people of their states," Republican Governors Associated spokesman Jon Thompson told Politico.

House Democrats who have announced gubernatorial runs include Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (N.M.), Rep. Tim Walz (Minn.), and Rep. Jared Polis (Colo.). Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) has dropped out of the governor's race. Rep. Diane Black (Tenn.), Rep. Kristi Noem (S.D.), Rep. Steve Pearce (N.M.), Rep. Jim Renacci (Ohio), and Rep. Raul Labrador (Idaho) are the Republicans making a push for governor. Read more about the races and the longshot odds at Politico. Jeva Lange

July 6, 2017
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On paper, the 2018 midterms should be great for Republicans in the Senate. With a 52-seat majority, the party has to defend only eight seats while 23 Democrats and their two allied independents are up for re-election, including 10 in states that President Trump won in 2016, five of them by double digits, The Wall Street Journal notes.

So it may seem odd that Republicans are finding it hard to recruit top-notch challengers for next year's midterms. But it isn't that strange, really, the Journal says. "Midterms are often referendums on the president and Mr. Trump currently has a 37 percent approval rating, according to Gallup. And history shows the midterm elections more often than not go poorly for the party that controls the White House." The National Republican Senatorial Committee declined to comment to the Journal on its recruitment efforts.

"It's hard to knock off an incumbent in a good year," says Josh Huder at Georgetown's Government Affairs Institute. "In a not-great year, those odds drop even further." Republican strategist Chuck Warren suggests that Republicans with the money or connections to mount a challenge are also being dissuaded by what appears to be a toxic environment and thankless work in Washington.

In any case, good years don't always turn out great. In 2016, for example, Senate Democrats gained only two seats despite a similarly friendly map where 24 Republicans were up for re-election versus only 10 Democrats. You can read more about 2018 midterms at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

June 20, 2017

Wisconsin Democrat Randy Bryce announced his long-shot bid against Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Monday night in a stirring two-and-a-half-minute video disparaging the Republican health-care proposal.

"I've spent my entire life in southeastern Wisconsin," Bryce tells Wisconsinites. "I can see what people need. I can do so much more, and I will do so much more, taking my voice — taking our voice, and what we need — to Washington, D.C."

Bryce — who nods to his two decades as an ironworker with his Twitter handle, @IronStache — lost races for the Wisconsin legislature in 2012 and 2014. Ryan, a former vice presidential candidate, has held the 1st congressional district seat in the state since 1999. But despite the odds, Bryce remains optimistic: "I've learned a lot," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "The people of Wisconsin know who I am. I have community roots."

Those roots are on display in his moving campaign announcement, which you can watch below. Jeva Lange

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