Blue wave or bust? Today’s primaries may provide some perspective

June 5, 2018

California is not the only state holding primaries today although it has gotten the lion’s share of newsprint and posts on the subject. In fact, nationwide, June 5 will be the closest thing we get to a Super Tuesday in a non-presidential-election year, the news site FiveThirtyEight points out this week.

The following three states will hold primaries—and FiveThirtyEight has given us a heads-up on which races to watch:·

  • Alabama (2nd Congressional District): Republican Representative Martha Roby could become the next congressional incumbent to lose a primary this cycle. She put a target on her back, FiveThirtyEight believes, when she announced she would not support Donald Trump in the aftermath of the “Access Hollywood” tape scandal in 2016. Furious Trump supporters waged a write-in campaign against her that dramatically cut down her margin of victory—and they still view her as a turncoat. While her two Democratic opponents may not beat her in the primary, all they need to do is keep her from winning more than 50% of the vote, which would force a one-on-one runoff in July. This race could tell us a lot about the importance of absolute loyalty to Trump in today’s GOP.
  • Mississippi (3rd Congressional District): No matter who wins this  six-way Republican primary, the open seat is unlikely to figure in November’s battle for House control. The 3rd District is 26 percentage points more Republican-leaning than the nation as a whole, FiveThirtyEight says, so there will be no drama.
  • New Jersey (S. Senate; 2nd, 5th, 7th and 11th Congressional Districts): With five of its 12 congressional districts expected to be competitive in November, New Jersey is one of a handful of blue states that, alone, have enough vulnerable Republican seats that they could decide which party controls the House next year, FiveThirtyEight says. We all should be watching these results closely.

What’s more, the Senate race will be a cliffhanger: Incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Menendez was “severely admonished” in April by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting gifts from a wealthy friend, after a multiyear corruption scandal that ultimately ended with a mistrial and the government’s decision not to retry him. Although state Democrats have stuck by Menendez as he faces re-election, his legal trouble has left him unpopular with New Jersey voters. Menendez faces one challenger in the Democratic primary, Lisa McCormick, and her performance on Tuesday indicate whether New Jerseyans want to move on from Menendez’s scandal—or from Menendez, himself. Given New Jersey’s D+12 partisan lean, the Democratic winner will be heavily favored over the Republican nominee, who is likely to be wealthy former pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin. Hugin has been campaigning on the platform that he will not bow to the whims of the current president, if he wins the job—but will concentrate on serving his constituency.

Research contact: @baseballot

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