● TX-Sen: On Thursday, in a paywalled piece, local tipsheet Capitol Inside reported that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick might run for Senate, which would set up a titanic Republican primary battle with Sen. John Cornyn in 2020. However, later that night, Patrick's team told Texas Tribune reporter Patrick Svitek that the story was "fake news," and there may be reason to actually believe Patrick isn't interested: Last year, local observers speculated (with some justification) that Patrick might challenge Gov. Greg Abbott, but he very quickly shot down those rumors by announcing a bid for re-election (which he ultimately won by a slender-for-Texas 51-46 margin.)
But one slender tea leaf suggests we may yet witness some serious Republican-on-Republican violence: The day after the possibility of primary fratricide burbled up, Cornyn rolled out an endorsement from none other than Sen. Ted Cruz, who appeals to the exact same sort of implacable hyperconservatives that make up Patrick's frothing base.
In addition, Patrick wouldn't have to give up his powerful post as lieutenant governor, where he holds sway over the Texas state Senate, to run against Cornyn, and could keep his job even if he lost. Remember, Donald Trump doesn't bleat "fake news" when a story's false—he only ever deploys that catchphrase when there's a true story he doesn't like.
● FL-15: On Thursday, when Nancy Pelosi publicly addressed the absentee ballot fraud investigation in North Carolina's 9th District for the first time, she also took notice of a different scandal unfolding down in Florida. There, in the 15th District, Republican Ross Spano has admitted to accepting $180,000 in loans from two individuals, which election law experts say appears to violate the $2,700 per person limit on donations to federal campaigns.
After noting that the House "still retains the right to decide who is seated" with regard to the North Carolina controversy, Pelosi added, "This issue in Florida is one that we are tracking as well," and pointed out, "Any member-elect can object to the seating of another member-elect."
That, then, is a hint that the House could refuse to seat Spano, who beat Democrat Kristen Carlson 53-47. Such a move would create a vacancy that would in turn trigger a special election—the same sort of scenario contemplated in the Tar Heel State. At the moment, that doesn't seem especially likely, but we'll see if Republicans prove willing to cut Spano loose, much as they've started doing with Mark Harris in North Carolina.
● NC-09: Now Republican Mark Harris himself is signaling he's open to a new election, a day after North Carolina GOP chair Dallas Woodhouse did the same. In a video released on Friday, Harris said, "If this investigation finds proof of illegal activity on either side to such a level that it could have changed the outcome of the election, then I would wholeheartedly support a new election to ensure all voters have confidence in the result."
That's much the same formulation that Woodhouse offered, but the reality is, it doesn't matter what either man thinks: The state Board of Elections and/or the House of Representatives will determine whether there's a new election, and they're not exactly going to solicit input from the very people at the center of the scandal.
And that's exactly where Harris is. In a new FEC filing, Harris acknowledged that his campaign owes $34,000 to Red Dome Group, the consultancy that hired McCrae Dowless, who's accused of illegally collecting absentee ballots from voters and possibly tampering with them. The debt is described as "reimbursement payment for Bladen absentee, early voting poll workers; reimbursement door to door," which certainly sounds like a reference to what Dowless was reportedly up to, though Red Dome isn't commenting.
Harris also said that his campaign is "cooperating fully" with investigators, which is the only reasonable thing to say, but in an era where Republicans routinely trash all investigations that target them as "Phony Rigged Witch Hunts," it's almost a bit surprising. Harris' compliance, though, is assured whether he wants to offer it or not, since the Board of Elections just subpoenaed his campaign, along with Red Dome.
● NY-27: Earlier this year, when Republican Rep. Chris Collins was trying to get off the ballot in the wake of his indictment on insider trading charges, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw immediately expressed interest in running to succeed the troubled congressman and even interviewed with local GOP leaders. Those hopes went nowhere, though, because Collins, of course, was unable to extricate himself from the ballot and wound up just barely winning re-election.
But the incumbent's legal woes haven't dissipated in the slightest, and Mychajliw continues to prepare for the possibility that Collins will be forced to vacate his seat early—so much so that Mychajliw just abandoned his plans to challenge Erie County Executive Marc Poloncarz next year. Instead, explained Mychajliw, "My heart is set on running for Congress in NY-27 if and when that seat opens up."
The "when" will probably be soon enough. Collins is set to go on trial in Feb. 2020, but he could always accept a plea agreement that involves his resignation from Congress, a move that often involves prosecutors recommending a lighter sentence. That in turn would trigger a special election, though Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has wide latitude on when to call one, and he's often let seats remain vacant for unseemly stretches in order to further his political aims. Of course, Collins could fight his case all the way through and hope for an acquittal, in which case Mychajliw would be out of luck.
● Governor-by-CD, Senate-by-CD: We'll hit Minnesota next, another state where both parties got some big wins. Democrat Tim Walz defeated Republican Jeff Johnson 54-42 in the race to succeed retiring Gov. Mark Dayton, while Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar beat Republican Jim Newberger 60-36 to win a third term. Appointed Democratic Sen. Tina Smith also won a special election for the final two years of former Sen. Al Franken's term by beating Republican Karin Housley 53-42.
Democrats kept their five-to-three majority in the state's House delegation, but half of Minnesota's congressional districts changed hands. Republicans flipped Walz's open 1st District and the open 8th District, while Democrats unseated two Republican incumbents in the 2nd and 3rd Districts in the Twin Cities suburbs.
We'll start with a look at the two seats that went from blue to red. The 1st District in the southern part of the state has long been swingy territory, but it lurched hard to the right from 50-48 Obama to 53-38 Trump. Republican Jim Hagedorn failed to unseat Walz in 2014 and 2016, but he defeated Democrat Dan Feehan in a tight 50.1-49.7 win. The good news for Team Blue is that there's reason to hope that this seat could be in play again in 2020. Walz carried his constituency this year by a narrow 49.5-47.2, while Housley only won it 48.6-46.4 in the Senate special. (This was the one seat to back both Walz and Housley.) Klobuchar had no trouble taking the 1st District 54-42.
Team Red also flipped the 8th District in the rural Iron Range region in the northeast corner of the state. Democrats used to do well in this area, but it swung hard from 52-46 Obama to 54-39 Trump, and Republican Pete Stauber defeated Democrat Joe Radinovich 51-45 this year. The 8th was closer in the gubernatorial and Senate specials, but it narrowly backed both Republican nominees: Johnson won the seat 49-47, while Housley took it 48-47. However, Klobuchar won the district 54-43, very similar to her performance in the 1st.
We'll turn next to the two seats that flipped to the Democrats. The 2nd District moved from 49.1-49.0 Obama to 46.5-45.3 Trump, but Democrats did much better there this year. While Democrat Angie Craig lost her 2016 race to Republican Jason Lewis 49-47, she turned the tables and beat him 53-47 this time. Walz and Smith won the 2nd by a similar 52-45 and 51-45 margin, respectively, while Klobuchar took it 59-38.
The 3rd was even friendlier to Team Blue this year. While the seat moved from just 50-49 Obama to 51-41 Clinton, Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen turned back a strong opponent in 2016 by a wide 57-43 margin. But Trump was utterly toxic here down the ballot in a way he wasn't in 2016, and Democrat Dean Phillips unseated Paulsen 56-44. Walz and Smith each won 54-42 here, while Klobuchar took it 63-35.
There is one other seat worth highlighting. Veteran Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson has held the rural 7th District in the northwest corner of the state even as its become redder and redder, but he's had a few close races recently. Peterson defeated underfunded Republican Dave Hughes by an unexpectedly close 52.5-47.5 in 2016 as this seat was swinging from 54-44 Romney to 62-31 Trump. Hughes ran again in 2018 and once again attracted no help from national Republicans beyond a few supportive tweets from Trump, but he again held Peterson to a tight 52-48.
Hughes was likely helped by Team Red's strong performances in statewide races. Johnson took the seat 57-40, while Housley won it by a similar 55-40. Klobuchar did carry the 7th, but by just a 48.4-48.3 margin. This seat will almost certainly turn red if Peterson retires, but if he runs again in 2020, there's good reason to think he could be in for a rough ride.
The state's remaining seats all look safe for the party that holds them. Klobuchar actually did managed to complete her sweep of the state's eight House seats by winning GOP Rep. Tom Emmer's 6th District 48.3-48.2, but both Johnson and Housley each won it by about 15 points. Democrats also have nothing to worry about in the safely blue 4th or 5th Districts.
● Governor-by-CD: Third up today is New Hampshire (sorry, you don't get to be first-in-the-nation for everything).
Democrats had overall a good night in the Granite State by holding both congressional districts and flipping the state House and Senate. The one bright spot for Team Red was Gov. Chris Sununu, who beat Democrat Molly Kelly 53-46 to win a second two-year term. Sununu carried both the state's congressional districts, taking the 1st District around Manchester 55-44, but only winning the 2nd 51-48.
However, New Hampshire voters have a reputation for splitting their ballots, and they did so this year as well. Democrat Chris Pappas held the open 1st District 54-45 against Republican Eddie Edwards, a win that will make him the state's first gay congressman. That wasn't just better for Team Blue than Trump's 48-47 win here, Pappas also ran ahead of Obama's 50-49 victory in 2012. Over in the 2nd, Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster won a fourth term 56-42. Two years before, Kuster had beaten another underfunded GOP foe by a modest 50-45 as the 2nd was moving from 54-45 Obama to just 49-46 Clinton, but Trump's unpopularity in this area more than made up for Sununu's narrow win.
● Governor-by-CD, Senate-by-CD: Finally, it's on Wisconsin! Last month, Democrat Tony Evers unseated GOP Gov. Scott Walker 49.6-48.5, while Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin won a second term by beating Republican Leah Vukmir 56-42. However, GOP mapmakers drew the state's congressional lines at the start of the decade to lock in the GOP's five-to-three edge, and the map did its job. While Baldwin won decisively, she and Evers still carried only the three Democratic-held House seats.
The one bit of good news in that is that Democratic Rep. Ron Kind's seat backed both Baldwin and Evers after swinging from 55-44 Obama to 49-45 Trump two years ago. Baldwin won this seat in the state's southwest 56-44, while Evers took it 50-48. Kind turned back an underfunded GOP challenger 60-40. Both Evers and Baldwin easily carried the safely blue 2nd and 4th as well.
The closest Baldwin came to winning one of the five GOP-held seats was her 50.3-49.7 defeat in the 1st District in the southern part of the state, which was being vacated by none other than Speaker Paul Ryan. However, Evers lost it by a larger 54-44 margin, while Republican Bryan Steil fended off Democrat Randy Bryce 55-42. This seat moved from 52-47 Romney to 55-42 Trump.
Baldwin also came relatively close to winning three other GOP-held seats. Vukmir won the 6th District north of Milwaukee 52.5-47.5, though Walker took it by a wide 57-41. GOP Rep. Glenn Grothman turned back a well-funded challenge from Democrat Dan Kohl 55-44. Over in the 7th District in the rural northwest corner of the state, Vukmir and Walker won 52-48 and 57-41, respectively. It was a similar story in the 8th District in the Green Bay area, where Vukmir won 51.5-49.5 and Walker prevailed 57-42. The 7th District moved from 51-48 Romney to 58-37 Trump, while the 8th went from 51-48 Romney to a similar 56-39 Trump; neither GOP Reps. Sean Duffy nor Mike Gallagher faced serious opposition this year.
Finally, the GOP's best seat was the 5th District, which favored Vukmir 57-43 and Walker 61-37. This suburban Milwaukee seat went from 61-38 Romney to 57-37 Trump, and GOP Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner has never fallen below 60 percent of the vote going back to his first House race in 1978.