The Weekly Watchman: Election Day outlook

· November 6, 2018  
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The House outlook

It’s Election Day, and the House of Representatives remains in recess until next week. Which House races should conservatives be watching closely today?

The latest Cook Political Report shows bad news for the GOP: Eight races have shifted in favor of Democrats over the past week, including the district currently held by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., who is one of the stronger members of the House Freedom Caucus.

Key races

Member: Dave Brat, R-Va.
First Elected: 2014 (Virginia special election)
Liberty Score: 97%
Policy Strengths: Dave Brat is an economics professor. When he defeated then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in a special election in 2014, he sent shock waves around the political world. He is exceptionally strong on immigration policy and spending, and he has been a leader in creative solutions to balance the budget. He has also historically had very strong conservative staffers, many of whom have gone on to advance liberty in other Hill offices and outside groups.
Race Outlook: The current Cook Political Rating is “toss-up.” The last round of public polling has Rep. Brat up two points over his challenger.

Member: Scott Perry, R-Penn.
First Elected: 2012
Liberty Score: 89%
Policy Strengths: Scott Perry is a former brigadier general in the Pennsylvania National Guard. He has been a strong behind-the-scenes force for the Freedom Caucus since its inception. He is easily the best member of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation and is exceptionally strong on defense, spending, immigration, and energy issues.
Race Outlook: The current Cook Political Rating has moved this race from “lean Republican” to “toss-up.” The final round of polling has Rep. Perry up two points over his challenger.

Member: Ted Budd, R-N.C.
First Elected: 2016
Liberty Score: 95%
Policy Strengths: A gun store owner by trade, Ted Budd has been one of conservatism’s bright stars in recent years. He has great instincts, has hired solid conservative staff, and does what few other members do: lives out his conservative principles. He is a strong opponent of cronyism and a leader on energy issues and the Second Amendment.
Race Outlook: The current Cook Political Rating has this race listed as “toss-up.” The last round of public polling had Rep. Budd up three points.

Member: George Holding, R-N.C.
First Elected: 2012
Liberty Score: 80%
Policy Strengths: One of the key features of George Holding’s tenure in Congress is that he has actually become more conservative the longer he’s been in office. This is a rare trend, only achieved in recent memory by a handful of conservative lions like former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. He is strong on immigration and regulatory issues.
Race Outlook: The current Cook Political Rating has this race listed as “lean Republican.” The last round of public polling has Rep. Holding up nine points.

Candidate: Chip Roy, R-Texas
First Elected: N/A
Liberty Score: N/A
Policy Strengths: A former federal prosecutor, chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, leader in the conservative movement, and cancer survivor, Chip possesses what few other members or candidates possess: a true north compass combined with a backbone to fight for liberty. If he wins, expect him to be an immediate leader on reducing the debt, securing the border, and fighting for health care freedom.
Race Outlook: This race will all come down to turnout in the hyper-conservative Texas Hill country, which still maintains a vibrant Tea Party movement. Part of the district is in progressive Travis County, which contains Austin. Available public polling has had Chip Roy up consistently, and the Cook Political Rating has this race listed as “likely Republican.”
Disclosure: I have served as a policy adviser for Chip Roy’s campaign.

Candidate: Ron Wright, R-Texas
First Elected: N/A
Liberty Score: N/A
Policy Strengths: Endorsed by the fiscal hawks of the Club for Growth, Ron Wright has campaigned on reducing the national debt, securing the border, and growing the economy by limiting government and the regulatory state. He spent 30 years working in the private sector before serving as a Capitol Hill aide for retiring Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. He has most recently served as Tarrant County tax assessor.
Race Outlook: The current Cook Political Rating has this race listed as “likely Republican.”

Separate from these half-dozen key races today, there are GOP members who are surely heading for defeat, including Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., and Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas. Both of these members have shown incredible weakness with regard to spending, health care, and immigration issues, arguably the lynchpin issues of the conservative base.

Rep. Coffman has been one of the main agitators for amnesty within the progressive Tuesday Group caucus for years. And Rep. Kevin Yoder worked this past year to insert language into the Homeland Security appropriations bill that undermined the administration’s efforts to properly define “credible fear” for asylum purposes.

While these losses will mean Democrat pickups, conservatives should console themselves with the reminder that neither of these members actually advanced liberty and often worked against it. Good riddance.

The Senate outlook

The Senate is expected to remain in GOP hands after today’s election returns, but anything could happen. There are three key races for conservatives to watch:

Member: Ted Cruz, R-Texas
First Elected: 2012
Liberty Score: 88%
Policy Strengths: Since his rise to prominence in 2012, Senator Cruz has been a conservative leader memorable for his various fights to defund Obamacare, stop the Gang of 8 amnesty bill, and prevent the Schumer gun-grabbing bill, as well as for his frequent battles with GOP leadership. Following the 2016 presidential race, he shifted away from his firebrand persona, and his voting record, unfortunately, shows it. Nevertheless, he still remains a policy leader on protecting the Second Amendment, border security, and repealing Obamacare.
Race Outlook: The latest Cook Political Rating has this race listed as “toss-up.” Sen. Cruz has much working against him despite being in deep red Texas. Many establishment Republicans have never liked his Tea Party brand. More hard-line Trump supporters still resent his denouncement of the president at the GOP convention. And movement conservatives have been disappointed in his voting record and lack of fight in recent years. The last round of polls shows this race tightening and Senator Cruz up an average six points over his challenger, Rep. Robert “I’m Irish but Pretend Not to Be” O’Rourke, R-Texas.

Candidate: Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.
First Elected: 2002 (House of Representatives)
Liberty Score: 80%
Policy Strengths: Having served 16 years in Congress, Rep. Blackburn has built a brand that is strong on immigration, energy policy, and telecommunications issues. She has long been a champion of keeping the government’s hands off the internet and for securing the southern border. Her election to the Senate would immediately improve the conservative makeup of the body.
Race Outlook: The latest Cook Political Rating has this race listed as “toss-up.” Despite running against a popular Blue Dog Democrat former governor, Rep. Blackburn maintained an average five-point lead in the last round of polls.

Candidate: Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.
First Elected: N/A
Liberty Score: N/A
Policy Strengths: Matt Rosendale is one of the few Republicans, aside from Chip Roy, who has successfully articulated that Obamacare’s onerous insurance mandates are the reason that premiums have doubled. He has advocated for repealing these federal regulations and advancing health care freedom despite many Republicans foolishly claiming that they will “protect” these destructive pre-existing conditions regulations that have made insurance unaffordable and diminished overall quality of care.
Race Outlook: The Cook Political Rating has this race listed as “toss-up.” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has long been a popular figure in the conservative state despite routinely voting with progressive leaders like Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The last round of public polls has Sen. Tester up an average 4.5 points.

Liberty outlook

Summary: Both chambers are in recess until next week. Today is Election Day, and it’s vital that conservatives protect their own as a progressive wave approaches to wipe out a Republican majority that has largely failed to live up to its promises for the past eight years. All indications suggest that the House is likely to flip to Democrat control and that the GOP is likely to retain control of the Senate, with possible pick-ups. But such indicators have been wrong before, and anything can happen. Therefore, this week’s congressional Liberty Outlook is: Code yellow.

Go vote like your republic depends on it. It does.


The Weekly Watchman

Welcome to the Weekly Watchman, a regular series at Conservative Review where we highlight and analyze legislation pending on the House and Senate floors so that you know exactly what your representatives are voting on — and the impact those votes will have on your freedom.

The truth is that every single vote cast in Congress either advances liberty or diminishes it. And in all the noise on social media and 24/7 cable news chaos, it can be difficult to keep track of what is really happening on Capitol Hill and what it means for you and your family.

Patrick Henry once stated, “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”


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Author: Drew White

Drew White spent three years at Heritage Action for America as a legislative strategist covering domestic policy issues. He then served as Sen. Ted Cruz’s domestic policy adviser for two years, working on issues including Obamacare repeal, educational freedom, elimination of federal agencies and departments, and defunding Planned Parenthood. Most recently, he served as senior federal policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He currently resides in Austin, Texas, with his wife and golden retriever, happily clinging to his guns and religion.