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— Neither President Donald Trump nor Joe Biden has a sizable advantage in the presidential race, while the Maine Senate contest has moved into the toss-up category. The latest updates to POLITICO’s Election Forecast are here.
— A series of apparently Trump-inspired protests against coronavirus mitigation efforts sprouted up across the country over the weekend, but the majority of Americans are actually more concerned governments will lift economic and social restrictions too soon and allow the virus to spread.
— ActBlue collected $533 million over the first three months of 2020, a massive haul that is powering Democratic campaigns for its presidential candidates down the ballot to Senate and House races. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee raised $24 million in March, its strong fundraising continuing apace.
Days until the absentee ballot deadline for the Ohio primary: 8
Days until the 2020 election: 197
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Predicting the future seems like a futile exercise these days, particularly considering the fact that just six weeks ago we were writing this newsletter inside our bustling newsroom in Arlington. But now that Trump has a general-election opponent and primary season is well underway, it’s time to revisit POLITICO’s Election Forecast, our effort at rating the contests for president, Senate, House and governor’s races across the country.
THE SENATE — Republicans are still favored to keep control, but Democrats have “strengthened their hand with a slate of challengers raising massive sums of money in races that represent the heart of the battle for the majority, putting control of the Senate within reach,” Campaign Pro’s James Arkin writes. Senate Leadership Fund president Steven Law told James that 2020 is shaping up like “a challenging election from top to bottom.” Both parties are going to be well-funded in this fight: While leading Democrats in the four races that POLITICO rates as toss ups all outraised the GOP incumbents they are facing, the incumbents hold cash-on-hand advantages in three of the four contests.
— Our lone Senate ratings change: Maine moves from Lean Republican to Toss Up. GOP Sen. Susan Collins appears destined for a close race with Democrat Sara Gideon, the heavy favorite to win her party’s nomination.
THE HOUSE — Democrats’ grasp on the majority has gotten stronger, thanks to robust fundraising and GOP recruiting failures. “Flipping the House is unlikely at this point,” former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told Campaign Pro’s Ally Mutnick. “You never say never, but unlikely.”
The first-quarter fundraising reports underscored Republicans’ money struggles, which could be difficult to remedy in the current economic situation. “Every one of the 42 members in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s protection program for endangered incumbents had at least $1 million in cash on hand at the start of April, and all but two of them have at least twice as much banked as their opponents,” Ally wrote. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer (Minn.) told Ally that the party can boast “success stories,” but it also has “a long way to go.”
— Our most consequential House ratings changes: Illinois-06 (Likely Democratic), Illinois-14 (Lean Democratic) and New York-19 (Lean Democratic) each moved one notch toward Democrats because of weak GOP candidates. Meanwhile, one swing district moved toward Republicans: Pennsylvania-01, which went from Toss Up to Lean Republican as the filing deadline came and went without a strong Democratic recruit to take on GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.
THE PRESIDENCY — Despite a modestly favorable national environment, we don’t see a significant lead for Biden and Democrats yet. Trump still retains some key advantages: A dominant financial position, far greater national organization (more on that later) and a durable Electoral College edge. Biden leads Trump in national polls — including a 7-point lead in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday — but we have the decisive eight battleground states in our Toss Up category, accounting for 112 electoral votes.
In case you missed it, I gave subscribers a full survey of the political landscape over the weekend.
OPEN AND SHUT — Officially, the Trump administration is still urging the sort of “social distancing” measures that have apparently slowed the spread of the coronavirus. But only if you ignore the president’s personal-slash-campaign Twitter account.
After tweeting on Friday that three states with Democratic governors should be “liberate[d],” “Trump aides and allies say they are growing confident that an earlier restart amid the coronavirus pandemic could help the president in his reelection campaign, according to six people close to the White House or Trump campaign,” POLITICO’s Anita Kumar reports. “They point to emerging signs around the country. Trump-supported activists are protesting strict stay-at-home orders. …. A growing chorus of Republican lawmakers across the nation are on board.”
But after a weekend of small-but-vocal protests outside government buildings — including in some GOP-controlled states like Texas and Maryland — here’s a reality check: Poll after poll shows Americans say, overwhelmingly, they are more concerned the country will reopen too soon and allow the virus to spread, versus stay shuttered for too long and risk further economic damage. In the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, by a nearly-two-to-one margin, registered voters say they worry the U.S. “will move too quickly in loosening restrictions, and the virus will continue to spread with more lives being lost” (58 percent), versus the country “will take too long in loosening restrictions, and the economic impact will be even worse with more jobs being lost” (32 percent).
THE VEEPSTAKES — Biden’s search for a running mate “is already taking shape along familiar fault lines, mirroring the ongoing debate over whether the Democratic Party should focus more on winning back the white working-class Rust Belt voters it lost to … Trump in 2016 or re-energizing the minority-powered coalition that elected Barack Obama to two terms,” POLITICO’s Marc Caputo writes, noting that Biden’s campaign “hasn’t yet started the process of formally vetting or interviewing” potential picks.
— Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) will be the next guest on Biden’s podcast, in an episode dropping this morning, Axios’ Alexi McCammond reported. Klobuchar is the second potential running mate to pop up on the podcast, following an appearance by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this month.
THE LEFTOVERS — Biden easily defeated Bernie Sanders in Wyoming’s party-run, ranked-choice primary, according to results released on Sunday. Ballots were due by the end of last week, but the state party said 90 percent of the ballots were returned by April 2, six days before Sanders dropped out of the race. In-person caucuses that were planned for April 4 were canceled. The final alignment: Biden 72 percent, Sanders 28 percent. The state party released a full breakdown of results here.
We’re quickly running out of contests with significant voting prior to Sanders’ dropout. Next Tuesday’s absentee ballot deadline from Ohio’s primary will likely bring the tabulation of more votes cast weeks ago: It’s thought that in-person early voting in the runup to the state’s original, March 17 primary date will account for a significant share of the vote.
SUPREME CHEESE — The liberal group Demand Justice is launching a six-figure digital ad buy focused on the Supreme Court decision this month blocking a court order extending the period to return absentee ballots in the Wisconsin primary election, James writes in. “You have now proved to me you will choose politics over the well-being, health, safety — the very lives — of people in Wisconsin,” said Jennifer Taff, the Wisconsin voter featured in the ad. Demand Justice said it is a $500,000 digital buy in Wisconsin and nationally.
THE CASH DASH — ActBlue broke records for total raised, total donations and more in the first three months of 2020, POLITICO’s Scott Bland reports. “More than 4.3 million donors gave $533 million through ActBlue,” Scott writes. And while much of that went to presidential candidates, Scott writes that ActBlue’s platform was “a huge boon to Democratic Senate challengers and House incumbents, after predictions that the presidential campaign would siphon away the online money that powered so many Democratic victors in the 2018 midterm elections.”
— The RNC’s $24 million haul in March is “an early indication that …Trump’s fundraising machine could be able to withstand the economic collapse brought on by the coronavirus,” POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt writes. “Despite a global pandemic that has shuttered much of the U.S. economy, the RNC’s total represented its best March fundraising performance in history.” All monthly fundraising reports for March are due to the Federal Election Commission today.
FIRST IN SCORE — Senate Majority PAC is launching a new ad in Iowa boosting Democrat Theresa Greenfield ahead of the June primary, James writes in. The ad is focused on an anti-corruption that has also been a major part of Greenfield’s campaign, with a narrator saying she is “tough enough to take on the special interests.” The ad is part of a new seven-figure buy in the state.
THE SENATE MAP — The stage is set for the June 30 Democratic primary in Colorado: Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff easily defeated two other candidates in the state’s Democratic assemblies on Saturday, qualifying him for a spot on the ballot against former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has been endorsed by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. “Romanoff has strong activist support and momentum, while Hickenlooper has far more money and superior name recognition,” the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter wrote.
RIP — Former Arizona Gov. Jane Dee Hull died late Thursday, just hours after her husband of 66 years, Terry, passed away. Hull, a Republican who became governor following the resignation of Fife Symington in 1997 and was elected in her own right to a full term a year later, was 84 years old. Read the Arizona Republic’s obit.
CODA — QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Advice to fathers: The answer on what you think of the boyfriend is always, ‘I like the boyfriend.’ Always. Because there’s only two options: Either you like the boyfriend, in which case you say, ‘I like the boyfriend.’ Or you don’t like the boyfriend. But you can never say you don’t like the boyfriend. I learned this lesson the hard way. Otherwise it triggers NDS. NDS is Natural Defiance Syndrome.” — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on having his daughter, Mariah, and her boyfriend — whom Cuomo says he likes — joining his family at home these days.