How Hurricane Florence Could Hit the Midterms

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. voters have a history of punishing lawmakers who fumble disaster responses. President George W. Bush’s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 sparked a slide in his popularity, contributing to the Republican loss of the House in the 2006 elections.

Now, a year after Hurricane Maria sparked criticism of the Trump administration over recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Florence is aiming at the southeast U.S. Coast where there are at least a half-dozen Republican-held House districts in play in November’s midterm elections.

Vulnerable North Carolina Republicans Ted Budd, George Holding and Richard Hudson represent districts directly in the storm’s path. The South Carolina coastal district represented by Mark Sanford could also see wide-spread destruction. Democrat Joe Cunnigham is hoping to flip the seat after Republican primary voters picked President Trump acolyte Katie Arrington over Sanford earlier this year. If the storm takes a southern turn, as the latest projections suggest, look for major effects in the districts of vulnerable Georgia Republicans Karen Handel and Rob Woodall.

How Hurricane Florence Could Hit the Midterms

First term coastal Virginian Republican Scott Taylor is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Elaine Luria and farther inland Tea Party darling Dave Brat is facing a competitive challenge from Abigail Spanberger.

“Everyone’s taking this really seriously,” Taylor said in a C-SPAN interview earlier today, adding he was impressed with the federal, state and local response so far. And the president is expressing confidence.

“We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan),” Trump said in a morning tweet. “We are ready for the big one that is coming!”

Balance of Power

Former President George W. Bush will fundraise for Republican congressional candidates, according to Politico, starting with a Wednesday closed-door event in Fort Worth for GOP Rep. Will Hurd.

  • Bush also to hold events for Fla. Gov. Rick Scott, who is seeking to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson

Two polls out today show Democrats expanding general ballot lead.

  • American voters support Democratic candidates over Republicans 52%-38% in U.S. House races nationwide, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today
    • Independent voters support Democrats over Republicans 50%-35% and Democrats lead GOP 48%-42% among men and 55%-35% among women, according to the same poll
    • Voters say Congress should be more of a check on Trump 58%-27%, though Republicans say 62%-11% that Congress is doing enough to check the president
    • Poll conducted Sept. 6-9 surveyed 1,038 voters nationwide with error margin of +/- 3.7 ppts
  • NPR/Marist poll shows gap between Democrats and GOP has widened to 12 ppts, up from 7 in July, largely because of voters in the Midwest who have swung 13 points in Democrats’ direction
    • That poll of 949 adults has error margin of +/- 3.6 ppts

The Senate often cancels October sessions in election years, but this year Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planing to keep the chamber in session for a large portion of the month, according to a report by Politico.

  • The move would disproportionately affect Democratic senators, limiting their opportunities to campaign
  • Senate Republicans have two members viewed as vulnerable in the election: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller; meanwhile, Democrats are defending 10 total seats in states that Trump won in 2016, with at least four of them considered highly competitive

Trump ordered the government to prepare sanctions against any foreign country found to interfere with U.S. congressional elections in November.

Primary Night

Rhode Island voters head to the polls in the final congressional primaries. Here’s a look at what we’re watching:

RI-SEN: Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who’s seeking a third six-year term, has just one primary opponent, Patricia Fontes, who hasn’t reported any campaign donations to the FEC.

  • The likely Republican nominee is Bob Flanders, a former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice

RI-GOV: Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, who is seeking a second term but is dogged by low popularity in the state, is facing Matt Brown in the primary.

  • Brown, who served a term as secretary of state more than 10 years ago, was endorsed by the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, Justice Democrats and the progressive group Indivisible
  • Raimondo, a former venture-capital executive, has had her share of differences with leaders in the state legislature and her opponent has criticized her corporate ties
  • If Raimondo advances, as expected, she’ll face a general election challenge from the winner of the Republican primary between Allan Fung, the mayor of Cranston and 2014 nominee, and Patricia Morgan, the Republican leader in the State House

RI-01: Democratic Rep. David Cicilline has nominal primary opposition in Christopher Young, the same challenger he beat by more than a 2-to-1 ratio in the 2016 primary.

RI-02: Rep. Jim Langevin is unopposed in his primary; he’s seeking a 10th term.

After R.I., every state will have held a primary except Louisiana, which is holding a single-ballot, all-party election Nov. 6 in each House district.

  • If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, a Dec. 8 runoff would be held between the top two finishers

Read more from Bloomberg Government’s Greg Giroux.

Senate

MS-SEN: Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign accused her Republican opponent Chris McDaniel of “insulting” Trump and “the intelligence of the people of our state” for alleging the president only backed Hyde-Smith because McConnell pressured him to do so.

  • NOTE: Hyde-Smith was appointed to former Sen. Thad Cochran’s seat when he retired; she is now running to finish his term in race that features several candidates running on the same November ballot, including, McDaniel, a GOP state senator

NJ-SEN: Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s latest re-election ad attacks his Republican challenger, former Celgene Corp. CEO Bob Hugin, for a $280m legal settlement over the co.’s cancer-drug marketing.

  • N.J. hasn’t sent a Republican to the Senate since 1972, and Trump is deeply unpopular in the state, but a poll from Quinnipiac University last month showed a tight race, with Mendendez’s lead at 6 ppts.

NV-SEN: Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen has a new ad attacking Republican Sen. Dean Heller as “Senator Spineless” and distancing the congresswoman from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi over her efforts to “bring some accountability to the VA.”

House

The second-ranking House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, says his party should increase oversight of Trump’s administration and tighten campaign finance laws if they take control of the chamber in November.

NRCC announces ad buys in several key districts, incl. MN-01, MN-02, MN-03, TX-07, TX-23, NY-19, NY-22, FL-26, VA-02, VA-10, PA-01, NJ-03.

CA-15: Republican congressional candidate Rudy Peters was the victim of an attempted stabbing on Sunday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

  • No one was seriously injured in the attack, and the suspect was charged with a felony count of making criminal threats and misdemeanor counts of exhibiting a deadly weapon and possessing a switchblade

MA-03: The Republican vying to replace retiring Rep. Nikki Tsongas, Rick Green, released an ad showing him swimming across the Merrimack River to beat traffic on the Rourke Bridge in Lowell, Massachusetts.

  • Green, who faces long odds for the seat seen as safely Democratic, says “our roads and bridges are supposed to speed traffic up, not slow it down” and vows to make infrastructure a top priority if elected to Congress

NH-01: Democrat Chris Pappas and Republican Eddie Edwards were projected to win their respective primaries in the race for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District on Tuesday, according to the AP.

  • Edwards would be the state’s first black congressman if elected
  • NH’s 1st district is now rated “Likely Democratic” by nonpartisan Cook Political Report

NH-02: The AP called yesterday’s Republican primary for Air Force veteran Steven Negron, who will battle incumbent Democrat Ann Kuster in November.

  • The New Hampshire district is rated “Likely Democratic” by Cook Political Report

NY-19: GOP Rep. John Faso and Democratic challenger Antonio Delgado are deadlocked in race for Faso’s second term in the Albany, N.Y.-area district, Monmouth University poll finds.

  • Delgado, an attorney and former rapper known as AD the Voice, leads Faso 45% to 43% among potential voters; that lead is within the survey’s error margin of +/- 4.9 ppts
  • Trump won district, which includes Kingston, Oneonta, Saugerites and New Paltz, 51%-44%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government

OH-11: Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican, filed paperwork establishing a committee to run for Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge’s seat.

  • In a second filing, Mandel wrote he plans to run in 2020, though move could be avenue to maintain campaign committee as opposed to serious congressional campaign in district seen as safely Democratic
  • Mandel dropped out of campaign for U.S. Senate in January, citing a health issue of his wife’s 

VA-02: Independent Shaun Brown is appealing to the Va. Supreme Court to put her name back on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election in the state’s congressional district that includes Virginia Beach and Williamsburg, CNN reported.

  • A judge in Richmond last week ordered Brown removed from the ballot, finding that her petition was rife with “forgery” and “out and out fraud”
  • The ruling left incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Taylor to face Democratic challenger Elaine Luria, a retired Navy officer, in the general election rated a “Toss Up” by Cook Political Report

TX-31: Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar is raising money for incumbent Republican Rep. John Carter, despite Democrats heavily targeting Carter’s seat and Cuellar’s own Blue Dog Coalition backing Democratic challenger M.J. Hegar, Politico reports.

  • Move is highly unusual, especially for a closely-targeted race
  • Cuellar’s response to Politico: “Although I was not a host of the event, I was honored to attend as I typically do for colleagues who visit my district. Judge Carter is a dear friend and trusted colleague with whom I work on Appropriations. He is knowledgeable and supportive of issues important to South Texas. In today’s climate, more than ever, friendship is more powerful than partisanship.”

Governors

FL-GOV: The Democratic Governors Association donated $1m to Andrew Gillum’s political committee, bringing the group’s total donation to $2m, they announced in statement.

  • Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, is running against former GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis, who said Monday he was resigning effective immediately to focus on the campaign
  • Quinnipiac University poll conducted Aug. 30 to Sept. 3 found the race is close, with 50% of likely voters backing Gillum and 47% supporting DeSantis

NY-GOV: Democrat Cynthia Nixon told the New York Times’s Lisa Lerer that she was “stunned” that her “bagel of choice for a few decades now” provoked such a frenzy.

  • In the interview, Nixon faulted her primary opponent, incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for “opening a bridge that’s unsafe to give himself a photo op” and those aiding him of a “disgusting and cynical” mail campaign that tied together a photo of her and the words anti-Semitism
  • In a blow to Nixon, comedian Amy Schumer, who donated $10,000 to her campaign, according to the New York Post, said on Instagram that she’s voting for Cuomo because “sadly, I don’t believe she would know what the heck to do”

Also of Note

Washington state Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal is launching a PAC to fund candidates that support expanding Medicare coverage to every American.

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