A Primary Post Mortem -- The Sunday Political Brunch -- May 13, 2018

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CHARLESTON, West Virginia - The first big primary election cluster of the 2018 campaign season is over, and there's a lot to dissect. West Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina and Indiana all held primaries this past Tuesday, and the results are intriguing. Let's "brunch" on that this week.

"Trumping West Virginia" -- Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, (R-WV) is his party's nominee to take on Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). Look for this to be a battle over who supports President Trump the most. Yes Manchin is a Democrat, but he's perhaps the most conservative of his party in the Senate. Manchin says he voted with Trump 60 percent of the time, including recently supporting Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State and the scrapping of the Iran nuclear deal. But expect Morrisey to attack Manchin for his past support of Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama, as well as Manchin's vote against the Tax Reform Bill.

"House Cleaning?" -- Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) gave up a safe U.S. House in his losing bid for the Senate nomination. Now, popular State Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-Logan) has a realistic chance to beat Delegate Carol Miller, (R-Cabell) in the race to succeed Jenkins. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is likely to dump a lot of money in the race to make it competitive. A safe seat for the GOP, is now likely a toss-up that Democrats could win. This will be a recurring theme.

"Indiana Doesn't Want Me" -- Like West Virginia, Indiana had a fascinating and combative Senate Primary Tuesday night. Two sitting U.S. House members sought the nomination, but both were defeated by former State House Member Mike Braun, (R-IN). That leaves two GOP Indiana Congressional seats open. Mind you, one of them is the seat long held by now Vice President Mike Pence, so there's a good chance it will stay Republican, but an open seat means it is more vulnerable.

"Ohio Showdown" - Four-term Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) is his party's nominee to take on incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in November. But that leaves Renacci's 16th district Congressional seat wide open. He was preceded in that office by a Democrat, and only retained the seat in 2012, by four percentage points. You can bet Democrats will make a strong bid for this seat in what is essentially a more "purple" district, that a firm "red" or "blue." Again, it could be a seat national Democrats target and try to flip.

"Primary Pains" -- Last week I wrote about a vulnerable Republican Congressional seat in North Carolina. Sure enough, in a rematch Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) lost to challenger Mark Harris, whom he barely defeated in 2016. It's a marginal district and again, one Democrats plan to target as a possible pick-up in November.

"Peat, and Repeat!" -- Yes, I'm painting a theme here. With 40 Republican U.S. House members either retiring, or running for other office this year, that leaves a lot of open seats in Congress. The biggest departure was House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R-WI) announcing he would not seek re-election. Right now Republicans hold 235 seats in the House, but if they have a net loss of 18 seats, Democrats will be back in charge of the House. It's very doable in what may be a big anti-Trump year.

"The Other Senate Race" -- West Virginia's U.S. Senate race got most of the national attention, Tuesday night, but keep an eye on Indiana. Senator Joe Donnelly, (D-IN), is thought to be one of the most vulnerable seats in the nation. In 2012, Donnelly barely got 50 percent of the vote over a very controversial Republican nominee. Many view this as the most likely Senate seat the GOP can flip this year. I would imagine Vice President Pence stumping for nominee and former State Rep. Mike Braun.

"The Trump Factor?" -- This is a very polarizing President, so he'll have to choose his battles carefully. Trump, I predict, will visit West Virginia often since he remains so popular here. He defeated Hillary Clinton by 42 percentage points here. But, will Trump travel to campaign for Republicans in North Carolina and Ohio, where he won by much smaller margins? I suspect some candidates will openly embrace and campaign with Trump, while others will give him the proverbial "ten-foot pole."

"Why All of this Matters" -- Midterm elections are a report card on any President's first two years in office. Traditionally the party out of power gains seats - like House Democrats in 2006 and House Republicans in 1994 - and both of the those times the minority party surged into the majority. 2018 could be fascinating, so stay tuned!

What is trending in your state? Just click the click on the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

(c) 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Mark Curtis, Ed.D. is a nationally-known political reporter, analyst and author, and is now Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia.

Photo courtesy: localdvm.com

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