● Pres-by-CD: It's cold outside, so our ongoing project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide is heading to Florida where it's warmer. You can find our complete data set here, which we're updating continuously as the precinct-level election returns we need for our calculations become available.
Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton 49-48, just a small shift to the right from Mitt Romney's 50-49 loss to Barack Obama in 2012, but one that made all the difference in deciding Florida's 29 electoral votes. Note that is the first cycle where Florida used its new court-drawn congressional map after the state's previous Republican-drawn map was struck down for violating the state's voter-approved law against political gerrymandering. (Note also that our 2012 numbers for Florida, adjusted retroactively for redistricting, come from the state, so any comparisons between 2012 and 2016 aren't quite apples-to-apples.) Clinton carried the same 13 congressional districts that Obama won while Trump took the same 14 Romney seats, but there were some big swings in both directions.
We'll start with a look at the two Republicans who hold Clinton/Obama seats. Florida's 26th District, which is located around Miami and includes Key West, shifted from 55-44 Obama to 57-41 Clinton. However, that didn't stop Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo from decisively winning a second term by a 53-41 margin in his rematch with ex-Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia. During the 2014 GOP wave, Curbelo unseated Garcia 51.5-48.5 in the old, more conservative version of the 26th.
Outside groups on both sides spent heavily on this race, but Curbelo heavily outspent his Democratic foe. Garcia narrowly defeated the DCCC's favored candidate in the primary, and he brought some ethical baggage and strange behavior to the general election: Most notably, Garcia actually said aloud that Hillary Clinton "is under no illusions that you want to have sex with her, or that she's going to seduce you." Team Blue may be able to do much better in the future against Curbelo if they manage to nominate someone else. However, Republicans frequently do well downballot in the Miami area even as traditionally Republican Cuban-American voters have become more hospitable to Democratic presidential candidates. This seat is blue enough that Curbelo shouldn't be entrenched, but he won't be easy to beat.
The neighboring 27th District, which includes much of Miami, shifted even further to the left: Obama carried the seat 53-46, while Clinton won 59-39 here. Democrats haven't seriously targeted longtime Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a long time, and she pulled off a clear 55-45 win last year against Scott Fuhrman, a Democrat who used his personal money to run some ads but had little outside help.
However, this was Ros-Lehtinen's closest race since her initial 1989 special election victory. Still, Ros-Lehtinen is an institution in the Miami area and it will be very difficult for national Democrats to find a viable candidate, though this seat may be anti-Trump enough that a credible Democrat can at least make the incumbent sweat. And as longtime Democratic Reps. Ike Skelton and Gene Taylor learned the hard way during the 2010 GOP wave, being an institution will only take you so far if your party's president is horrifically unpopular with your constituents.
Two Republican incumbents lost their seats last year after redistricting made their seats considerably bluer than before. Obama only carried the suburban Orlando 7th District by an extremely tight 49.41-49.37 spread—just 4 hundredths of a percent—but Clinton won by a healthy 51-44 margin here. Republican Rep. John Mica couldn't run quite far enough ahead of Trump and lost 51.5-48.5 to Democrat Stephanie Murphy. But Mica really should be blaming himself, rather than Trump, for his loss. Mica did very little to prepare for a tough race after redistricting hit, and he refused to so much as hire a campaign manager even after Democrats reserved millions in air time against him. Mica hasn't ruled out a comeback bid, but national Republicans probably wouldn't want him back.
Meanwhile, the St. Petersburg-based 13th District shifted far to the right, but not by quite enough to save Republican incumbent David Jolly. While Obama carried this redrawn seat by a clear 55-44 margin, Clinton won just 49.6-46.4; Jolly lost his re-election campaign to Democrat Charlie Crist by a very similar 52-48 margin. Jolly had an awful relationship with the party leadership, and the NRCC didn't run any ads to help him, allowing him to get swamped on the airwaves. Jolly has expressed interest in a 2018 rematch, which his erstwhile allies at the NRCC probably aren't keen on.
Three open seats changed hands last year as well. Democrats essentially conceded the North Florida 2nd District after redistricting turned it safely red, while Republicans wrote off the Orlando-based 10th after the new map made it unwinnable for a Republican. However, the 18th District along the Treasure Coast was all but untouched by redistricting, and it hosted an expensive battle. The seat shifted from just 51-48 Romney to 53-44 Trump, and Republican Brian Mast defeated Democrat Randy Perkins by a slightly stronger 54-43.
The state’s remaining congressional districts were afterthoughts in the general election, and most of them look like they'll stay that way. The one possible exception is the 25th, which stretches from Hialeah (near Miami) to Florida's southern Gulf Coast. The seat still backed Trump, but his 50-48 win was a huge drop from Romney's 55-45 margin. However, this is another area where the GOP is strong downballot, and Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart probably won't be vulnerable outside of a Democratic wave year for a while.
● ME-Sen: Though independent Sen. Angus King has caucused with the Democrats for four years and has generally been a reliable vote, Democratic ex-state Rep. Diane Russell isn't ruling out a challenge to King next year. However, Russell wouldn't play spoiler—indeed, she almost certainly couldn't. Russell was a leader in the successful effort to pass a ballot measure last fall that instituted ranked-choice voting for future Maine elections. If Russell ran, she wouldn't risk pulling votes away from King because if she didn't win, her supporters' ballots would get reallocated, and those votes would very likely go to other left-leaning candidates.
The sharp reduction in spoiler risk could, in fact, encourage lots of hopefuls to pile in. Former state Sen. Cynthia Dill, who ran against King in 2012 as the Democratic nominee and came in a distant third with just 13 percent of the vote, also isn't saying no to a repeat bid. But, says Dill, she thinks that if ranked-choice voting (also known as instant-runoff voting) survives a legal challenge, "it will increase the number of candidates but likely not impact the result," adding she still expects King. So far, no Democrats or Republicans are running, though GOP Gov. Paul LePage claims there's a "high likelihood" he'll get in.
● MO-Sen: So far, Rep. (and former RNC co-chair) Ann Wagner is the only Republican to even hint at challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2018: "She's immensely beatable," Wagner opined last year, before offering the requisite pablum about being focused on 2016 her re-election. On paper at least—as a female candidate who lives just a few miles from McCaskill in west St. Louis County and has extensive fundraising experience—Wagner ought to be the GOP establishment's dream candidate.
But this being Missouri— the same Missouri where Trump prevailed by nearly 20 points—there's no shortage of other Republicans who could run. Some, like Wagner, we've already discussed, but the National Journal's Kimberly Railey has offered up a few more potential names, including state Attorney General Josh Hawley, Rep. Sam Graves, state Treasurer Eric Schmitt, and state House Speaker Todd Richardson.
Most of these candidates fall to the right of Wagner, who is already taking intra-party flak after having "un-endorsed" Trump before capitulating and ultimately saying she'd vote for him last year. (In fact, former state party chair Ed Martin tweeted a picture of a "Trump for President" poster over a "Wagner for Congress" sign, with a spray-painted red circle-and-slash symbol defacing Wagner's emblem.) So even if Wagner does run—something that, as it happens, is looking less likely as of last week—there would almost certainly be an opening for a more reliably partisan option.
Hawley in particular is especially ambitious: a Yale Law grad, he's served in his current post for just one week and likes to claim he was deeply involved in winning the Hobby Lobby case that allowed employers to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage if doing so violated the company's "sincerely held religious beliefs." (Reality: He didn't get anywhere near oral arguments before the Supreme Court and was the last attorney listed on the plaintiffs' brief.) It probably wouldn't be too far off to consider him a Show Me State version of Ohio "Treasurer" Josh Mandel.
Graves, meanwhile, has been in office since 2001 and represents a district that stretches across the entire north of the state, so he'd have a distinct geographic base from which to run in a primary. (Fun fact: Ted Cruz's 2016 campaign manager, Jeff Roe, cut his teeth as Graves' top aide.) The genial, center-right Schmitt hails from suburban St. Louis, where he served two terms in the state Senate in a seat inside the 2nd Congressional District currently represented by Wagner.
Richardson, an attorney whose father also led state House Republicans and nearly served as speaker himself, is from the state's rural southeastern corner and, like Schmitt, would be considered a mainstream conservative in Missouri Republican politics. In the past, we've also mentioned Reps. Billy Long and Vicky Hartzler as possibilities, but like this new quartet of candidates, they haven't said anything, either.
● VA-Sen: A day after the Washington Examiner reported that conservative radio host and rabid Trump booster Laura Ingraham was looking at a run against Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine next year, Ingraham confirmed on the record ("after taking a deep breath") that she's "considering" the race. Ingraham seems to be a bit out of the loop, though: She claims she "did hear through the grapevine that Eric Cantor was considering running"—"That would be a fun primary, don't you think?" she added—but the former congressman unambiguously ruled out a comeback a month ago. (Try reading the Digest more often.) Ingraham certainly wouldn't be the first media figure to talk up a vaporware bid for political office in the service of boosting ratings, though.
● AL-Gov: Republicans have controlled Alabama's governorship since Bob Riley narrowly unseated Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman in 2002, and that winning streak is likely to continue into 2018 in this very conservative state. Still, a few Democrats are eyeing this contest, hoping that termed-out Gov. Robert Bentley's sex scandal and former state House Speaker Mike Hubbard's felony conviction will convince voters that it's time for a change. State House Minority Leader Craig Ford expressed interest back in October, and now Sue Bell Cobb, a former state Supreme Court chief justice, is also talking about getting in.
Cobb won the chief justice post 51-49 in 2006, making her one of the last Democrats to win statewide. Cobb floater her name for governor back in 2010 but stayed out, and she ended up resigning her post in 2011. Cobb's early departure, which she said came about so that she could spend more time with her family, allowed Bentley to appoint a new chief justice, a turn of events that did not sit well with the trial lawyers who spent heavily to get Cobb elected in the first place.
Cobb later wrote a piece for Politico Magazine titled, "I Was Alabama's Top Judge. I'm Ashamed by What I Had to Do to Get There," in which she denounced the role outside groups, including trial lawyers and labor, played in judicial races. Cobb also recently endorsed Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination for U.S. attorney general. Yellow Hammer State Democrats don't exactly have a formidable bench, but it's possible that Cobb has just burned too many bridges to win a contested primary. Cobb says she's being encouraged by supporters to run for governor in 2018, though she says she hasn't made a decision.
And it wouldn't be an election year in Alabama if we didn't get to whip out one of our favorite headlines, "Parker Griffith Can Lose." That's right: 2014 Democratic nominee Parker Griffith, who lost to Bentley 64-36 before the governor's scandal became public, says he'll "probably" run again. Griffith was a conservative Democrat who won a competitive open U.S. House seat race in northern Alabama in 2008, but joined the GOP the next year. Griffith's new party had little use for him, and he was unseated in the 2010 Republican primary by Mo Brooks, who beat him by a brutal 51-33 spread.
Griffith did not get the message and challenged Brooks two years later in the primary, losing by a considerably worse 71-29 margin. Griffin still did not get the message and mulled running against Brooks as an independent in 2014, only to rejoin his original party and lose to Bentley. We assume if Griffith runs for governor again it will be as a Democrat, but you never know with this guy.
● CO-Gov: On Tuesday, former state Sen. Mike Johnston kicked off his bid for the Democratic nod to succeed termed-out Gov. John Hickenlooper next year. Johnston is a former Obama education adviser who notably backed a law that allowed undocumented immigrants who graduated from Colorado high schools to pay in-state tuition at state universities. So far, businessman Noel Ginsburg is the only other declared Democratic contender. However, a number of other politicians are publicly or privately considering, most notably ex-Sen. Ken Salazar.
● CT-Gov: Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst just became the second Republican to form an exploratory committee for a gubernatorial run next year, joining Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton in the preparatory phase of the contest. After he came very close to winning a race for state treasurer in 2014, Democrats tried to unseat him from his post as selectman the following year and nearly did.
Herbst returned the favor by helping to raise money to defeat Democratic legislators in 2016 and successfully targeted a state representative he'd beaten in a race for student body president in college 15 years earlier. Herbst seems to take particular relish in needling Democrats, who like him just about the same. But he represents a town of just 36,000 souls, and even his piss-and-vinegar attitude might not be enough to win a GOP primary if, as expected, bigger names get in.
● IA-Gov: Last month, former Gov. Tom Vilsack refused to rule out a comeback bid for his old job, but a return to the campaign trail is now looking very unlikely. On Tuesday, Vilsack, who spent the last eight years in D.C. as Barack Obama's agriculture secretary, accepted a job as CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, an industry lobbying group. That's not the kind of position you'd typically accept if you're expecting to run for office again, but promoting the dairy business is probably popular in Iowa, so this is a bit different than your usual K Street lobbyist gig.
● IL-Gov: State Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat who succeeded none other than Barack Obama in the Illinois state Senate, has been mentioned as a possible statewide candidate for a while, but he's never gone for it. However, at a recent breakfast honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Raoul didn't rule out a bid against GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, saying that he doesn't "ever close any doors."
Ex-Gov. Pat Quinn, who lost his seat to Rauner 50-46, was also at the event, and stomach-churningly, Quinn held the door open to a bid of his own. When asked if he'd be interested in a rematch, Quinn said he would "take a look at that at the right time." Hopefully, Quinn just decides to enjoy his retirement. Just before the 2014 election, Quinn posted an anemic 31-54 approval rating in PPP's final poll.
Quinn also had a turbulent relationship with labor, and he did not please teachers' unions when he chose former Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas, who hails from the Michelle Rhee school of education "reform," as his running mate in 2014. (Case in point: This week, Rauner appointed Vallas to the Chicago State University Board of Trustees and is recommending him to serve as chair.) The Democratic primary to face Rauner might be crowded and if Quinn runs, his name recognition could yet help him slip through with a plurality. Still, it's unclear if there is anyone who actually wants Quinn to run again, except for maybe Bruce Rauner.
Two other Democrats were at the breakfast as well and publicly confirmed their interest for the first time. Billionaire J.B. Pritzker, who is probably the only Democrat capable of outspending the wealthy Rauner, said he was "willing to step up because we've got to win." Businessman Chris Kennedy, a son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, also said he was still considering whether or not to run. Last month, an unnamed Kennedy aide told Politico that Kennedy was planning to announce his campaign after New Year's Day. However, there were similar reports back in 2009 that Kennedy was about to announce a Senate bid, but he didn't end up running.
● MN-Gov: A number of Republicans are considering running to succeed retiring Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, and we may be able to add another to the potential candidate list. Mike Lindell, the "CEO and inventor" of the Minnesota-based company MyPillow (which runs a shit-ton of ads on Pandora), reportedly told Alpha News that he's thinking about getting in.
Lindell was an ardent Donald Trump supporter during the presidential campaign, so we can guess what kind of campaign he'd run. And in perfectly Trumpy fashion, Lindell quickly proceeded to say that he didn't mean what he'd just said. Lindell insists that while "[p]eople have called me" about a bid, he's "said absolutely not." But Lindell didn't completely take his name out of contention, saying, "Anything can happen with Mike Lindell." (Just like his hero, Mike Lindell seems to enjoy referring to himself in the third person.)
Indeed, Lindell’s like Trump in more ways than one. MyPillow has faced a swath of lawsuits and fines over false claims about its product’s alleged curative powers. Last year, 10 California district attorneys sued the company for false and deceptive advertising; that same day, MyPillow settled for about $1 million in fines and removed its medical claims from its California ads. MyPillow also saw its Better Business Bureau grade change from A+ to F over the content of its ads. (No, we didn't expect this Digest to have an item about the ethics of pillows, either.)
● NJ-Gov: On Tuesday, GOP Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno announced her long-awaited campaign for governor in this fall's election. Back in 2009, Chris Christie chose Guadagno as his running mate, and their victory made her the first lieutenant governor in the state's history. But that was a long time ago: Guadagno used her kickoff speech to go after her boss' use of taxpayer money for Christie’s frequent use of a state helicopter, and for a $300 million renovation of the state capitol.
New Jersey is a blue state and Christie has awful approval ratings, so it makes sense for Guadagno to promise change. Guadagno and Christie also have a horrible relationship and took opposite sides on some high-profile ballot measures last year. Back in November, Christie even went out of his way to deliver an explicit eff-you to Guadagno. The lieutenant governor was supposed to give the keynote speech to a conference of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, a highly anticipated speech ahead of her planned gubernatorial bid. But Christie swooped in at the last minute, taking Guadagno's speaking slot and using his speech both to criticize her opposition to tax increases he supported, though he didn't mention her by name.
Guadagno will face Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and Steve Rogers, a Trump fan who is also a member of the Board of Commissioners in the small North Jersey town of Nutley, in the June GOP primary. Ex-Saturday Night Live cast member Joe Piscopo is also considering getting in, because apparently life actually is too long to avoid watching Joe Piscopo mull a run for office.
Democrats, meanwhile, have a very good chance to retake the governorship this November. Former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy has the backing of most of New Jersey's prominent Democrats, while Assemblyman John Wisniewski is hoping to use Murphy's Wall Street resume against him. State Sen. Ray Lesniak is also in, at least for now.
● NV-Gov: Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt hasn't publicly said much about his 2018 plans, but all signs point to him running for governor. Last month, Sen. Dean Heller decided to seek re-election rather than campaign for the governor's office; at the time, Jon Ralston reported that Laxalt "indicated" he might run for the state's top job even if Heller did, too. A little while later, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison also announced that he wouldn't seek the GOP nod, either, removing two top potential opponents.
This week, we also learned that Laxalt raised a hefty $1.2 million during 2016, more money than any Nevada Republican has ever raised this far from Election Day, though he could use the money to run for re-election or for governor. Robert Uithoven, a Laxalt consultant, also says that while his 2018 "decision is yet to be made," Laxalt's "viability for a successful campaign in either office is without question." Every cycle, there are always plenty of politicians who look poised to run for office but surprisingly back out, so nothing's guaranteed. But if Laxalt isn't a gubernatorial candidate, he's doing a convincing job playing one.
While termed-out GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval has an image as a moderate, Laxalt has a very different profile: As Ralston puts it, the attorney general likes to hold himself out as Nevada's "One True Conservative." Democrats may have an easier time against a creature of the far-right like Laxalt than they might have had against Heller or Hutchison, but that doesn't mean he'll be a pushover. 2018 will also be the first time that Nevada Democrats have needed to run without Harry Reid and his top aides leading their formidable voter turnout effort.
Meanwhile, the Democratic field has also been slow to take shape. Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak is the only Silver State Democrat to publicly talk about running, and he has about $3 million in the bank that he can transfer to a gubernatorial campaign. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sisolak expects to announce his plans by the end of April. However, state Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford hasn't ruled out his own bid, while rich guy Steve Cloobeck is reportedly trying to convince Ford and Sisolak to defer to him.
● TN-Gov: GOP businessman Randy Boyd has reportedly been considering a campaign to replace termed-out Gov. Bill Haslam next year, and he recently stepped down as commissioner of the state's Department of Economic and Community Development. Boyd has now confirmed his interest publicly, saying he'll spend the first two weeks of February weighing his options.
● GA-06: One piece just clicked into place for investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff: On Tuesday, fellow Democrat Josh McLaurin dropped out of the expected special election for Rep. Tom Price's House seat and endorsed Ossoff, a former staffer for Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson, in his stead. McLaurin, a local attorney and political novice, said he "promised to step aside if a clear frontrunner emerged" in order to maximize the chances that a Democrat would make the runoff, and he called Ossoff precisely that frontrunner.
That's a selfless attitude that the Democratic Party—hell, all humanity—could use more of. As we've noted before, all candidates from all parties would run on a single ballot, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a runoff regardless of party if no one clears 50 percent. With too many Democrats in the field, there's a good chance the left-leaning vote could get split and send two Republicans to the second round. McLaurin wisely understood this problem and instead chose to be part of the solution.
However, two other Democrats are still in the race, former state Sen. Ron Slotin and former state Rep. Sally Harrell. But Ossoff's campaign is unquestionably the furthest along: He launched with an endorsement from Lewis (who's been in the news a little bit lately, you might have seen), said he's already secured $250,000 in donation pledges, and is the only candidate to hire professional staff so far, including fundraisers who worked for Deborah Ross' Senate race in North Carolina and a pollster.
Given the compressed timeframes special elections always run on, plus the difficult odds Democrats face in this conservative district, Slotin and Harrell really need to think hard about whether they're helping the party by staying in the race, or whether they'd serve the cause better by following McLaurin's lead.
● Cleveland, OH Mayor: Mayor Frank Jackson, a Democrat, hasn't announced if he'll seek a fourth four-year term this year, but he can expect some opposition if he does. City Councilor Jeffrey Johnson, who has been a frequent Jackson critic, announced this week that he would face him in what would be a non-partisan race. Johnson is arguing that Jackson hasn't done enough to help "the least of us" and has instead aided corporate interests. All the candidates will compete in the Sept. 12 primary, and the top two vote-getters will face off in November.
Johnson, who served on the Cuyahoga County Commission and in the state Senate in the 1980s and 1990s, was once a rising Democratic star, and he was a serious congressional candidate in 1998. However, Johnson was indicted during that race for accepting campaign contributions in exchange for helping grocers get state licenses, and he was sentenced to 15 months in prison. In 2009, Johnson successfully relaunched his political career by winning his council seat.
● Where Are They Now?: Perhaps the only career move as predictable as an ex-House member becoming a lobbyist is a disgraced ex-Staten Island Republican House member becoming the co-host of a pro-Trump show. No, not Mike Grimm, he's busy trying to get his law license back now that he's out of jail: It's that other disgraced ex-Staten Island Republican congressman. Vito Fossella, who served in the House for 12 years, will be part of a Trump-tastic TV show for the conservative site Newsmax.
Fossella's congressional career went up in flames in 2008 after he was arrested for drunk driving, and a woman who was not his wife showed up to bail him out. That incident led voters to learn that Fossella had a secret second family—and convinced him not to run for re-election that year. Fossella has occasionally flirted with a comeback but never gone for it.
But now, Fossella will be hosting a show where he’ll talk to Trump voters from swing counties about why they love them some Donald and "sit down for dinner, break bread and engage in organic conversations with American families." Boring, but maybe Newsmax wouldn't approve a show where Fossella would sit down for dinner, break bread and engage in organic conversations with second American families.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.