1 Senate, 1 House seat bucking trends and leaning red

For the past couple of weeks, it’s seemed as if all the polling news has been in favor of the Democrats and portending doom for the GOP in the midterms. Of course, I watch a lot of CNN and that’s their default spin anyway. But it’s tough to deny that some of the numbers have been unsettling, to say the least. That’s why it came as a pleasant surprise when I was browsing some of the latest polling data this morning and found two races which appear to be defying the conventional wisdom.

The first one is a hot topic across political media and you’ve probably already been watching it closely. Ted Cruz is in trouble, right? The Democrats are about to flip the Lone Star State blue and Beto O’Rourke is the new savior of the progressive movement. (Well, if you don’t count Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Julia Salazar, anyway.) But not so fast there, campers. The latest numbers out of Texas are doing a u-turn and heading in the other direction. According to Quinnipiac, Cruz has opened up a nearly double-digit lead and is back above the 50% mark. (Washington Examiner)

Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz has widened his lead on Democratic challenger Rep. Beto O’Rourke in their marquee race to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate, according to a new poll.

Cruz has support among 54 percent of likely voters, enjoying a 9 percentage point advantage on fundraising powerhouse O’Rourke, a Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday found.

Cruz wins Republicans, men, women, and white voters, while black and Hispanic voters back O’Rourke, the study reported. While more than half of independent voters break for O’Rourke, a majority of the poll’s respondents approve of the job Cruz has done in the Senate.

Quinnipiac has been a reliable outfit for a while now and the poll has a decent sample size. It’s also fresh enough to take into account recent drops in the President’s approval rating and most of the Kavanaugh debacle. So while this is still closer than most people thought a Texas race would be only a couple of years ago, Cruz can at least breathe a bit easier heading into the final 48 days.

One other race probably hasn’t been on everyone’s radar to the same extent and that’s the contest for California’s 39th Congressional District seat. This is a swing district that Cook rates as a tossup, and it features two candidates with virtually no name recognition outside their own neighborhoods. The 39th went for Hillary Clinton by a narrow margin in 2016 and is considered one of the more ethnically diverse districts in the state. But former GOP state representative Young Kim has opened up a ten point lead over Democrat Gil Cisneros in the latest Monmouth survey. (The Hill)

The Republican in a hotly contested House swing district in California is ahead by 10 points over his Democratic opponent according to a Monmouth University poll released Tuesday.

Republican candidate Young Kim, who formerly served in the California State Assembly, is leading Democrat Gil Cisneros among likely voters in California’s 39th Congressional District 51-41 in the poll.

The district is one of the most ethnically diverse in the country, and the support for each candidate is sharply divided along racial lines. Cisneros holds a 54-29 percent advantage with Hispanic voters and a slim 43-41 advantage among Asian voters. However, Kim has a 58-36 advantage among non-Hispanic white voters.

This one doesn’t look like it’s going to come down to a referendum on Trump or even shifting demographics. Young Kim appears to have struck a chord with people, while Cisneros is a novice who only recently moved into the district after winning the lottery. (That’s not a euphemism. He literally bought a winning lottery ticket, came into some cash and moved to a nicer neighborhood.) The 39th is located mostly on the southern outskirts of L.A., taking in parts of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino counties. You’d think this might be a solid blue piece of real estate, being so close to Hollywood, but it’s more diverse than we might have expected.

The GOP still has a seriously heavy lift in front of them in terms of keeping both the House and Senate, but we really need to be returning to the established law which maintains that all politics is local. The Democrats have a huge story arc to lean on from a national perspective, summoning up the #RESIST movement to drive their base to the polls. But if the GOP is going to stop the bleeding, it’s going to be done one battle at a time, district by district. And if they can salvage a competitive race like California 39, there are plenty of other possibilities out there waiting for the right candidate with the most appealing message.

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