No matter how unpopular or popular a President might be in the run-up to a midterm election, individual candidates matter.
Good candidates win elections. Bad candidates lose them.
Republicans have good candidates, battle-tested candidates, running in marginal seats. That gives them a huge advantage.
Barbara Comstock, Carlos Curbelo, Peter Roskam, Steve Knight, Jeff Denham and Rodney Davis are good candidates who have won in tough races before. They know how to raise money, hit the stump, run digital campaigns, and outwork and outhustle their opponents.
They fill up their days and their nights campaigning because that’s what they do to win elections.
They are also a good fit for their districts. To win campaigns, you have to fit your district.
Much has been said about the supposed blue wave that is going to hit Washington. I can’t go to any meeting in this town where the general assumption is that the Democrats have the House majority wrapped up.
But if you look at the various races scattered across the country, you start to wonder.
For example, in Miami, former Clinton Administration official Donna Shalala is running in a district that has a majority of Spanish-speaking voters and has been represented by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for,it seems, decades. Ileana has endorsed Republican Maria Salazar. Salazar is Cuban while Shalala speaks not a word of Spanish. This was supposed to be slam-dunk for the Democrats, but Salazar has a huge lead in the polls. Shalala, it turns out, is not a good fit for the district.
In Minnesota, Jason Lewis is running against Angie Craig. Lewis. a former radio talk show host, defeated Craig in a very tight election in 2016. You might think that the Kavanaugh nomination could help the very liberal, gay-rights activist Craig, until you realize that she has been endorsed by Keith Ellison, a Muslim running for Attorney General in Minnesota, who has been accused by his ex-girlfriend of sexual battery. Garrison Keilor, who was forced to resign from his radio show because of #metoo allegations and Al Franken, who was also forced to resign for the same reasons, are also huge supporters of Craig. Apparently, #metoo only works against Republicans.
That is not the only thing that leaves her open to charges of hypocrisy. She has sworn off all corporate contributions and has promised that she would never lobby, but in her previous life as a lobbyist, she actually ran a corporate PAC. In this part of Minnesota, her story doesn't quite add up.
In Kansas, a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter won the primary to take on Kevin Yoder. A member of the Ho Chunk Indian tribe and lesbian, Sharice Davids, had never voted in a Democratic primary in the district before voting for herself in this last election. It is clear that she can fight in a cage. It’s not clear how that experience will help her accomplish much in Congress, should she get elected, which right now seems rather far-fetched.
In California’s 25th district, which according to Democratic candidate Katie Hill, has more law enforcement personnel residing in it than any other district in California, former police officer and current incumbent Steve Knight is running a strong race against the millennial and proudly bi-sexual Hill. Hill, who is also married, makes much of her youth, but it is still an open question if the folks who live in the.25th district, a district that is the home to many defense contractors and aero-space companies, want to be represented by a millennial who has little if any experience in the field.
Candidates matter and to be successful, they must fit the district.
Republicans have good candidates who fit their districts. Democrats have candidates who fit the ideological profile for their party but don’ t necessarily fit their districts as well.
In 2006, Rahm Emanuel, who was then the chief strategist for House Democrats, went out of his way to recruit candidates who culturally conformed to the expectations of their constituents. That’s was one of biggest reasons Democrats were able to take back the House.
That’s not happening this year. National Democrats have lost control of their primary process and as a result, they have nominated candidate far outside the norms of the districts they seek to represent.