Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Delaware U.S. Senate- Race of the Day

90 Days Until Election Day

Delaware U.S. Senate

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

It is pretty inconceivable that Democrat Tom Carper might be truly vulnerable this year as he seeks his fourth term in the U.S. Senate. After all, he is also the state's former Governor and at-large U.S. House Member. Going back to his election as State Treasurer, he has held statewide office continuously since 1977 and has never lost an election. There have not been a lot of polls, for such a low-radar election, but the one that has recently been released, by Gravis Marketing, showed some pretty surprising results, both in terms of a primary and general election for Carper. Thus, while this may eventually be confirmed as "Safe" for the Democrats, an abundance of caution has to put this as "Likely."

For decades, Carper has been respected in Delaware and viewed as the kind of politician who values the search for common ground over simply making speeches or headlines. Now, in his early 70s, he was not expected to have much of a race in 2018, especially as Delaware becomes more secure for Democrats. The past couple of years though have seen conservatives bring up an episode from Carper's past. During his 1982 run for Congress, a story in a New York newspaper had his then wife accuse him of hitting her and her children. At the time, Carper denied the story that he had been violent towards his wife or stepchildren. In a 1998 Delaware interview, Carper admitted having slapped his ex-wife once. With the advent of the "Me Too" Movement and discovery of various past misbehavior by prominent men, this story came to light again in late 2017. Carper admitted he slapped his then wife one time and regretted it, while insisting he was honest in his 1982 denials of abuse.

It is tough to say if this is something that people in Delaware are truly talking about, as Carper has been remarried for many years without much of a hint of scandal but for some reason, his poll numbers were surprisingly low in the late July Gravis survey.

First, he has to face an early September primary, and he is being challenged by Kerri Harris, an Air Force veteran and State Human Affairs Commissioner. A first time candidate, Harris, a biracial lesbian, has attracted some notice on the progressive left-wing "netroots", and people associated with the Bernie Sanders political network as many of them feel that Carper is too much of a moderate compromiser. Harris recently received the endorsement of and campaigned alongside New York Congressional nominee Alexandra Cortez-Ocasio, a self-described Democratic Socialist who shocked the political world by knocking off a long-time prominent incumbent in her state's Congressional primary. Almost nobody saw that result coming until the very end, and the New Yorker's political profile has skyrocketed. Could the same thing happen in Delaware? I would say that is unlikely but  the recent poll only had Carper at 51 percent among Democrats, with Harris at 19 percent and 30 percent undecided. This may turn out to be a cakewalk for the incumbent at the end, but if anything, he should have his eyes open to this challenge at the present.

The Republican primary is a low-key affair featuring three candidates, one of which is a California businessman who is running for the Senate in about a dozen states. The two leading contenders though are actual Delaware residents and both have embraced the Donald Trump Presidency and leadership of the Republican Party. Especially doing so is Rob Arlett, a Navy veteran and Sussex County Councilman who chaired the Trump campaign in his state. Attorney Gene Truono, is a former PayPay executive who points to his business experience and outsider status. The Gravis poll shows Arlett ahead 19-15 but with 60 percent undecided. Clearly, anything can happen in this primary. Like the situation between two little known Republican Senate candidates in Connecticut though, the Italian-American ballot name could help Truono.

The news from the Gravis poll though was that against these unknowns, in a Democrat state, Carper only received 47 percent support and had a lead in the single digits. (For what it's worth, Arlett did one point better than Truono.)

This could very well be an outlier. I would not be surprised at all, but voters in both parties just might be a bit fatigued with Carper after more than 40 years straight in statewide political office. There is a long tradition in Delaware, of longtime Senators, once thought of as unassailable losing reelection. That is how Carper came to his current office in 2000.

Nonetheless, the opponents for Carper are not exactly strong candidates. Republicans should perhaps regret that there could not recruit anybody stronger, or the fact that there really are not any strong Republican hopefuls left in the state. Most likely, if Carper prevails in his primary, as expected, the left-wing base in his party will still vote for him, with or without much enthusiasm and he will win comfortably. For now though, all there happens to be is one documented survey showing a lot of angst in Delaware.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 3 D (2 Safe, 1 Likely), 1 R (1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
26 D (23 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely), 43 R (42 holdovers, 1 Tossup)


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