Recent polling suggests that the two red state senators are in for the fight of their careers in the Senate this year. A slew of polls released over the past few weeks has shown a very rocky road to reelection for the North Dakota and Florida democrats.
Heidi Heitkamp is in her first reelection race for the state of North Dakota. She barely won the seat in a presidential election year with a 50.2% victory over Republican House Representative Rick Berg. Her victory was so razor thin, at under 3,000 votes in her favor, that her victory would not have happened had it not been a presidential election.
Rick Berg was attempting to take the seat, long held by Democrat Kent Conrad. He conceded the next day without a fight.
His replacement in the House of Representatives, Kevin Cramer, was investigating the possibility of challenging Heidi Heitkamp for the seat and declined in January. This dashed the hopes of Republicans of a well known, statewide republican to challenge Heitkamp.
“We’ve decided that the best thing for our family and for me and I think, frankly, for North Dakota is for me to seek reelection to the House of Representatives,” he announced to the audience of a North Dakota radio program.
“And while it’s still a robust campaign — there’s still a lot of work to do — it’s far less intense than flying around the country for the next 10 months every weekend going to Chicago and New York and you know, someplace far away to raise adequate funds to, you know, to run.”
But then, suddenly, Cramer changes his mind a few weeks later and announces that he is in fact running for the seat.
Kevin Cramer is the current at-large representative for North Dakota and thus is the only representative that North Dakota has in the House of Representatives. Having won statewide three times with increasingly large margins makes it a titanic matchup between the two politicians.
Heitkamp, the current Senator and former North Dakota Attorney General for eight years, is only running three points ahead of Cramer in the North Dakota race. She currently is sitting way below 50 percent, and for a sitting Senator, that is poison.
Gravis states that the senator gets 43 percent of potential voters to her opponent Cramer sitting at 40 percent. The same dynamics of 2016 is also apparent in this race as well, women polling heavily for the democrat and men having the opposite inclinations.
Tax reform is also increasingly popular in the state. More people are indicating that they are going to vote for a candidate who backed the measure than not, by a six point margin. They also approve of the legislation by nearly the same amount.
Florida will be tougher for the Republicans, but polling has consistently shown that voters don’t really like Bill Nelson as of late. He went from being 28 points ahead of a hypothetical matchup between himself and Florida Governor Rick Scott and now sits at a four point advantage in Gravis’ polling of the race.
In Mason-Dixon’s own polling of the race, the senator leads Rick Scott by a point.
Bill Nelson, like Heidi Heitkamp, is sitting well below the 50 percent re-elect mark that a sitting senator should want to have, gaining a 44 and 45 percent. He also has horrible approval ratings with only 37% of statewide voters having a positive opinion of him.
Rick Scott has made no public remarks as to his decision to enter the race, but he is being pressured by many individuals, including President Trump, to enter the Florida Senate race.
“I hope this man right here, Rick Scott, runs for the Senate,” Trump said during a visit to Florida in 2017.
“Who knows what he’s gonna do?,” Trump added, acknowledging the unpredictability of the Florida governor.
There are indications that the governor may decide to announce after the Florida legislative session ends on March 9.
The recent gun control legislation the governor has backed has resulted in a backlash among republicans and could complicate things for the would-be candidate Scott. If the party is significantly incensed about the gun control push, someone else may decide to run for the seat, setting up a repeat of the Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio fight of 2010.
The sudden bolting of the governor from the Republican party in 2010 led to a serious discussion to limit the practice through enacting sore-loser statutes to prevent the practice.
Bill Nelson is a three term democrat who has managed to skate through several elections by facing a weak candidate in 2000, the demonized Attorney General Katherin Harris in 2006, and finally faced a frat party boy and wannabe political dynasty trust fund child Cornelius Harvey McGillicuddy, or Representative Connie Mack IV. He was the son of the former senator who occupied the senate seat before Nelson took over, Connie Mack III.
Bill Nelson would finally have a challenger who would make the senator fight for the seat, should Rick Scott decide to run later this month.
It also does not look good for the democrats in Florida when their once massive lead in party registration keeps shrinking between elections. In 2016, the Florida Democratic Party held a 330,000 voter registration lead over the Republican party. In 2018 so far, the Republicans have managed to close that gap by 70,000 voters.
All of this polling is pointing to a decidely less “wave-y” election for the democrats, with the national numbers showing them up only moderately. Most national polling includes states where the democrats have massive leads in political preference, which drown out the less one sided states in the rest of the country.
For further information on the generic ballot and the latest polling for another very endangered senator (McCaskill), see an earlier article here.
Unfortunately for democrats, the election will not be held in the coastal metropolis cities on the coasts in 2018. In red states that gave President Trump his victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, there appears to be another wave beginning to lift the republican candidates to dethrone many vulnerable democrat senators.
Which wave are Americans going to see in November this year?
This article has been updated.