Republican candidates are looking strong in the seven competitive House races in districts represented by GOP members in Florida, a key battleground state won by Donald Trump in 2016.
That bullish outlook comes from President Trump’s rising popularity in the state, an energized base reacting to the Democrat smearing of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and potential coat tails from two strong candidates at the top of the ballot in key statewide races: Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican nominee challenging incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in the Senate race, and former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-06), who is battling left wing Democrat nominee Andrew Gillum in the gubernatorial contest.
Democrats need to pick up at least three seats from Republicans in Florida’s 27 member delegation in the House of Representatives in order to have the best chance of obtaining the net gain of 23 seats they need to take back the majority there, but barely five weeks from election day, they are not favored to pick up a single district in Florida.
Only eight of the state’s 27 Congressional races are competitive, according to the Cook Political Report’s most recent rating of competitive House races. One of those competitive races–the 7th Congressional District–is currently held by a Democrat, while seven are currently held by Republicans.
In July, Breitbart News identified these seven GOP-held competitive seats in Florida as among the 61 GOP-held competitive seats Republicans must win in November (along with flipping three Democrat-held seats) in order to maintain a majority in the House of Representatives.
Now in the first week of October, two and a half months later, not a single one of those seven Republican-held seats are currently rated by the Cook Political Report as as “Likely Democratic” or “Lean Democratic,” though the number of must-win GOP-held seats across the country has increased to 65.
One of those seven GOP-held seats–the 27th Congressional District in Miami, currently represented by Rep. Ilyana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27)–was rated “Likely Democratic” as recently as July, given its heavily Hispanic demographics.
But the narrow Democratic primary victory in August by 77-year-old Donna Shalala, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Bill Clinton administration, and the emergence of a rising Republican star as her general election opponent, former Spanish language broadcaster Maria Elvira Salazar, has catapulted the race from “Likely Democratic” to “Toss-up,” as Breitbart News reported last week.
The Sunshine State News reported that Salazar “has been remarkably efficient in using her name strength in Congressional District 27 to her advantage, and has turned this into a competitive race.”
Salazar also speaks both Spanish and English, while Shalala speaks only English, a key disadvantage for her because “the district is heavily Latino, with 57 percent of the registered voters being Hispanic.”
“Salazar also has an edge beyond her name advantage — she can campaign comfortably in the area to most audiences because she is bi-lingual; Shalala is not,” the Sunshine State News noted
Just as Hillary Clinton failed to generate the requisite enthusiasm among Florida voters to win the state’s electoral college votes in the 2016 Presidential election, the enthusiasm gap for Shalala among rank and file Democrats in the 27th Congressional District is palpable.
On Thursday the Cook Political Report moved the race in the adjacent 26th Congressional District from “Lean Republican” to “Toss-up,” but, as NBC reported on Wednesday, the only poll that shows the race tied comes from the campaign of his Democratic challenger:
The tight race has Cuban-American Republican congressman Carlos Curbelo in a virtual tie with his Democratic challenger, Ecuadorian-born Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, according to a recent poll commissioned by her campaign. Earlier polls had the moderate, two-term lawmaker winning by a wider margin.
Curbelo and Mucarsel Powell are campaigning to represent Florida’s 26th district, which is 70 percent Latino. It stretches from southwest Miami-Dade, all the way down to Key West and includes parts of the Everglades and the Gulf Coast.
The open 15th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL-15), plus the 16th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16), are currently rated as “Lean Republican” by the Cook Political Report.
Three competitive races in Florida are rated as “Likely Republican” by the Cook Political Report: the 18th Congressional District, where Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL-18) is running for re-election, the 25th Congressional District, where Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25) is running for re-election, and the open seat in the 6th Congressional District held by gubernatorial candidate DeSantis.
Though the old political saw that “all politics is local,” is often used to describe the outcome of Congressional elections, the 2018 midterms now appear to revolve around a single national question: Do you support the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh by President Trump to serve on the Supreme Court?
In Florida, as elsewhere, the answer to that key question, increasingly, appears to be “yes.”
After a precipitous drop of net job approval ratings from +22 in January 2017 to -1 in July 2017, President Trump’s net job approval rating in the state has steadied at +2 in September, according to the Morning Consult Poll.
On Thursday, Rasmussen Reports released a new poll that shows nationwide President Trump’s job approval rating has reached 50 percent, two points higher than the 48 percent job approval rating former President Obama had at the same point in his first term.
The recent jump in Republican enthusiasm nationwide in the past week thanks to the Democrat smear tactics deployed in the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, documented in this NPR/Marist Poll released on Wednesday, is taking place in Florida as well, and that is expected to further strengthen the position of the Republican candidates in these seven competitive races over the next several weeks.
As for the top of the ticket in the midterms, the latest polls show that Republican nominee Gov. Rick Scott is moving upwards, and that trend is likely to continue, given incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson’s decision to vote no on the Kavanaugh confirmation.
A Quinnipiac Poll conducted between September 20 and September 24 showed Nelson leading by seven points. The most recent poll, conducted by Mason Dixon between September 24 and September 27, shows that Nelson’s lead has dwindled to one point.
Former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-06), the Republican nominee for governor, had a rough start after pulling off a bit of an upset in the GOP primary, but he has gained ground in recent weeks as the left wing record of the Democrat nominee, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, has come increasingly to light.
Democrats are still within striking distance of taking back a majority in the House of Representatives come November.
But a little more than five weeks before election day, it appears that they will need to look to states other than Florida to pick up the net gains they need to accomplish that.