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As more Republicans drop out – like House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey did in late January after 23 years in the House – Democrats become more hopeful of winning not only toss-up elections but those in districts like the Wisconsin 6th, where victory has been out of reach.“Normally you’d think Grothman’s district is safe,” said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette University Law School Poll.
With competitive races around the country, huge sums of outside money are expected to flow – and already have, in some places. He said national polling showing an advantage for Democrats is a “starting point,” but the picture remains incomplete until data from individual districts starts showing up.“We have insufficient data,” he said.
Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., should be feeling safe heading into this year’s elections: He’s a two-term incumbent in a rural-suburban district that hasn’t elected a Democrat since the 1960s. At a recent town hall meeting in Theresa, a village about 40 miles north of Milwaukee, Grothman heard constituents fret over Social Security, immigration, the debt, farming and more – and not all of them happy with the direction of a Republican-led Congress.“The truth is, I’ve always been a Republican, but I’m starting to feel like the Republican Party does not represent me at all,” said 57-year-old Anne Rinzel, who raises crops in nearby Lomira.
Qualified candidates seem to be lining up to take on entrenched Republicans or vie for open seats not only in toss-up districts in California, New York or New Jersey – which Hillary Clinton won easily -- but in areas that Trump won by a comfortable margin, particularly in suburban enclaves or around university centers in the Midwest and elsewhere.
The Real Clear Politics average of approval polls had Trump’s numbers at 42% approval, 54% disapproval on Feb. While slightly improved from his average a few weeks before, the statistical analysis site Five Thirty showed that was still lower than any other president’s approval rating after one year in office dating back to Harry Truman.
Ben Rumeau, a 27-year-old conservative in Philadelphia, said he initially supported Trump’s run for president, but has soured on him.
Lauren Baer, a Democrat from Palm Beach Gardens who announced her run for the U. House District 18 seat held by Republican Brian Mast, speaks at an Indivisible Martin meeting Monday, Oct. Across the nation, Democrats have appeared increasingly bullish on taking back one or both chambers of Congress, fueled by low approval numbers for President Donald Trump and high voter enthusiasm among their supporters.
“It just flip-flops from two extremes.”Another such flip may be coming.Another sign of new Democratic strength: In a January special election, Republicans lost a Wisconsin state Senate seat the party had held for 17 years. Scott Walker called it “a wake-up call.” Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, finding current congressional districts in the state to be unconstitutional, ordered the map redrawn by Feb. That new map could upend several districts in Pennsylvania, potentially increasing Democratic chances in areas currently represented by Republicans, especially those around Philadelphia, where Trump eked out victories or lost.Experts say some or most of the Democratic gains can be attributed to Trump, who continues to have record low approval ratings.Republicans, meanwhile, are counting on a strong economy and the passage of the recent tax bill – which should mean fatter paychecks for many families – to buoy them and limit losses that normally happen to the party in power in a midterm election.Democrats also face headwinds from a midterm electorate that typically skews older, whiter and less urban – which could hurt their chances – and congressional district lines which have, in many states, been drawn to protect Republican officeholders.“I think what you could say is (overall) midterm elections tend to not be particularly kind to Democrats. Experts say the primaries may signal what’s to come in November.“If you see Democrats up by 10% on the generic ballot, that puts them in a decent position,” said Geoffrey Skelley at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, one of the experts the USA TODAY Network consulted in developing its list of bellwether districts.Many see political newcomers, especially women and veterans, vying for seats. Andy Barr faces a Democratic field that currently includes the mayor of Lexington, a sitting state senator and a retired U. Marine lieutenant colonel and pilot, Amy Mc Grath, whose initial campaign video went viral as she walked down a runway with jets lined up behind her, telling the camera, “Some are telling me a Democrat can’t win that battle in Kentucky.