October 17, 2018



Matt Damon is an actor not usually known for the depth of his political commentary, but he surprised many people last year for saying that America has become a "culture of outrage and injury."

In some ways, he may be correct. "Offensive" comments, either written or verbal, now spark "outrage," precipitating demands for the suppression of non-conforming thought and/or the removal, censure or defeat of the person voicing their opinion.

The extent of this pernicious trend will be evident on Nov. 6 when liberal Democrats aligned with, for example, the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, organized labor, feminists and other assorted leftists, among many, many other groups, will have an opportunity to demonstrate how much they - and America - detest Republicans and President Trump.

They can, and may, elect many women to governorships and U.S. Senate seats. They can put African-Americans in the governorships of Georgia, Maryland and Florida and into a Mississippi senate seat, and they can elect a Hispanic governor in New Mexico, Arizona, Massachusetts and Texas -­the latter two being real long shots. Or they can flop, which would be the verdict if Republicans keep control of the U.S. Senate and House.

This year is not just the undercard for 2020's main bout, when Trump will be on the ballot, but it's also an opportunity for Democrats to get a lot of diverse people, especially women, into prominent offices from which they can run for a president or a vice-president in the future. Unfortunately for the Democrats, those newcomers may not be in a position to run nationally in 2020, and could require some seasoning and a record of accomplishment.

There are 36 governorships on the 2018 ballot, of which 26 are held by a Republican, nine by a Democrat, and one by an Independent. Of the Republicans, 13 incumbents are term-limited and retiring, and 13 are seeking re-election. Of the Democrats, three are term-limited, one is retiring, and five are seeking e-election. Of those 18 running again, four are women.

But that will change somewhat but not dramatically in 2019. Of the 50 governors, five are currently women and there could be as many as six more women elected. Democrats have nominated credible female candidates in Michigan, Kansas, Maine, Idaho, New Mexico, Georgia, New Hampshire and Wyoming, and Republicans likewise in South Dakota. In each of those states a man opposes the woman. Incumbent women in Alabama (R), Rhode Island (D) and Oregon (D) will win, but the Republican in Iowa, who succeeded to the governorship, is in a tight race against a man. In each of those states a man opposes the woman. There is no woman-versus-woman contest in 2018.

There are 35 U.S. Senate contests in 2018, and Democrats face a real hole in that they hold 26 of those seats ... which means Republicans must defend only nine. All 26 Democratic incumbents seeking re-election, with just five deemed vulnerable: Those in North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Florida and West Virginia, two held by women. Republicans hold a 51-49 Senate majority, which was why they got Judge Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. They have four vulnerable seats - incumbents in Texas and Nevada, and open seats in Arizona and Tennessee. Their other five incumbents are secure. The Republicans' worst-case scenario is that they lose Nevada and Arizona (Democrats in both states are women) but knock off Democrats in North Dakota and Missouri (both women), along with a pick-up in Indiana and/or Florida. That would increase their party's majority to 52-48 or 53-47. But it's unlikely to be worse than 51-49. That means another conservative justice goes on the Supreme Court should a vacancy or two occur during 2019-20.

Of the 35 senate seats in contention, Democrats have nominated a woman in 15, and Republicans in six races. Of the 36 governor contests, Democrats have nominated a woman in 12 and Republicans in three races. Such a disparity lends credence to the perception that the Republicans are the patriarchal party and the Democrats the matriarchal party.

There are 19 women in the 100-member Senate. Despite all the fever and furor of 2018, it is doubtful that there will be more than 20 female senators in 2019. If there are gender gains, it will be in the U.S. House, where there are many women running against male Republicans. If Democrats make a net gain of 23 seats, retake control of the House, and restore Nancy Pelosi as speaker, it can be perceived as a great victory for women and liberals.

CALIFORNIA: The state is not just Democratic, but lopsidedly so. With a Hispanic population at 39 percent, Asian-Americans at 15 percent and African-Americans at 7 percent, no Republican can win statewide. Trump received just 44.4 percent in 2016. Gavin Newsom (D), the lieutenant governor, will easily succeed Jerry Brown (D) as governor. And a Democratic avalanche will further buttress the Democrats' 39-14 congressional delegation edge; Republicans may lose up to five seats. Both Newsom and senator Kamala Harris (D), who is of African and Asian heritage, are future presidential prospects, but not in 2020.

GEORGIA: A growing 32 percent of African-American population puts the state in play, despite Republican dominance in the past two decades. Trump won the state with 50.1 percent, down from Romney's 53 percent 2012 win. The Democrats nominated Stacey Abrams, a black state representative, who defeated a white woman in the primary on the crest of a massive minority vote. Abrams, who faces Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), is not an accommodating Democrat. She is anti-Trump, has a liberal agenda, and thinks a minority/white liberal majority coalition will support it. To win, a Republican needs 65 to 70 percent of the white vote. That's becoming increasingly difficult. Polls show Kemp slightly under 50 percent, and Abrams around 40 to 45 percent. Kemp will win, if not on Nov. 6, but then later because a Georgia law requires a majority vote to be elected, and a Libertarian will get 2 to 3 percent, setting up a January Kemp-Abrams runoff, which, in a lower turnout, Kemp will win. Abrams candidacy is transformational: Democrats, in the Trump Era, need no longer appeal to non-liberal white voters; they just need to turn out their base.

FLORIDA: Demographics are different here. The state is 25 percent Hispanic, with a 17 percent African-American population. The Hispanics are split between Puerto Ricans, largely concentrated around Orlando in central Florida, and Cubans in Miami, with a dominant Jewish population on the east coast and a large gentile population on the west coast. Trump won the state with 49.1 percent. Andrew Gillum (D), the mayor of Tallahassee, won an upset in the primary over a female former congresswoman, and Ron DeSantis (R), a conservative congressman with a Naval background from the north coast, won his primary over the state agriculture commissioner. Gillum is espousing a leftist agenda, and is counting on a black/ Puerto Rican/white liberal coalition, while DeSantis needs 60 to 65 percent of the white/Cuban vote. Polls show DeSantis ahead, but not by much.

Rick Scott (R), the incumbent governor, got a boost from his handling of Hurricane Michael, and is running for senator against two-term incumbent Bill Nelson (D), who voted against Kavanaugh, which solidifies his liberal base. Nelson, age 76, has been kicking around Florida politics since the 1970s, so he might get enough of the vote to win. Edge to Nelson. But if Scott wins, the Republican majority will be upwards of 52-48.

KANSAS: There is basically a three-party system in this Republican state, which Trump won with 57.2 percent in 2016: Socially-conservative Republicans, socially-moderate Republicans, and Democrats. When the Republicans split, as the result of an acrimonious primary, Democrats win the governorship, as Kathleen Sebelius (D) did in 2002 and 2006. The 2018 Republican nominee is Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State, who has crusaded for "ballot security," which means a valid ID when voting, no voting by undocumented immigrants, and deportation of illegal aliens. Kobach won his primary narrowly, has a credible Democratic opponent in Laura Kelly, and has ten other candidates on the ballot, including wealthy liberal Republican Greg Orman, who lost a 2014 senate race. Kelly is favored.

TEXAS: Ted Cruz was, along with Marco Rubio, Trump's most persistent foe in the 2016 primaries. But being anti-Trump is no boon in a state that Trump won with 52.6 percent in 2016. Beto O'Rourke (D), an El Paso congressmen, is running a very vigorous campaign against Cruz, who is Hispanic (of Cuban descent) in a state with a 39 percent Hispanic population. Add to that the 13 percent African-American population, and Democrats are close to competitive. A Hispanic woman, Lupe Valdez, is running for governor. O'Rourke is getting a lot of out-of-state money, as a Cruz defeat would be an ecstatic event for liberals.

NORTH DAKOTA, MISSOURI and INDIANA: Democratic incumbents Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Claire McCaskill (MO) and Joe Donnelly (IN) have precarious seats in states that Trump won, respectively, by 64.1, 57.1 and 57.2 percent in 2016. All voted against Kavanaugh, which has energized the Republican base, all three Republican challengers are men, and all three Democrats are likely to lose, according to recent polls. At least two of the three need to win to have a Democratic takeover.

Send an e-mail to russ@russstew art.com or visit his Web site at www.russstewart.com.