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SC1: A Coin Flip

Joe Cunningham’s reelection will be a dogfight …

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South Carolina’s first congressional district (map) is a Democratic “toss-up” in the 2020 election, according to the first preview of congressional races released by the Cook Political Report this week.

That means the district could go either way, but is viewed as slightly more likely to be won by a Democrat …

During the most recent election cycle, the Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) classified the first district as “leaning Republican” – meaning it was supposed to lie somewhere between a staunchly red district and a true swing district on the ideological map.

Boy, were those projections wrong …

The first district was carried by U.S. president Donald Trump in the 2016 election by a whopping 13-percentage point margin, but it narrowly went for Democrat Joe Cunningham in 2018 – a shocking upset that has Palmetto politicos recalibrating their calculus in advance of the upcoming race.

A huge GOP field is already emerging to challenge Cunningham in 2020, but it seems abundantly clear this erstwhile Republican seat – which the GOP had held for nearly forty years – will not be easy to flip back.

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Nationally, Democrats appear exceedingly well-positioned to retain control of the House in 2020.  According to the first Cook report, 182 seats are listed as “solidly Democratic” and 37 seats are listed as “likely” or “leaning Democratic.” If the party were to win all of those races it would have 219 seats in 2023, one more than it would need for the majority.  By contrast, Republicans have 163 “solid” seats and 33 districts listed as “likely” or “leaning Republican.”  That gives them 196 seats, assuming they win all of those races.

The remaining 20 districts (including the South Carolina first district) are listed as “toss-ups,” with Democrats slightly favored in sixteen of those contests.

Assuming each of these “toss-up” seats were to fall in line according to initial projections, Democrats would wind up with 235 seats compared to the GOP’s 200 seats – which would be almost identical to the composition of the incoming congress (which features 235 Democratic seats, 199 GOP seats and one disputed seat).

Clearly, projections issued in December 2018 will have little bearing on the electoral landscape come November 2020.  No one can predict what seismic events might take place between now and then that could move the needle in one direction or the other.  And also, seats projections will not truly begin to come into focus until we know who is running in all 435 races.

Frankly, we hope 2020 is the year that ushers in a wave of credible independent candidates who are not beholden to the two-party system – which we maintain is badly broken and not representative of most citizens and taxpayers.

Will that happen?  We doubt it, but we will continue to push for a breakout from the stale, two-party system and its perpetuation of a wasteful status quo in Washington, D.C.

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