If there’s one thing we love about penning this column, it’s making ridiculously premature predictions. And though we’ve whiffed a few (like that time we opined that Bernie Sanders would “be out of the [primary] race by May at the very latest”), all in all our batting average is enviably high. And so, as we look down the final stretch of this year’s presidential and congressional elections, we have an overwhelming urge to predict exactly what will happen.
First, the easy stuff. Donald J. Trump, that pompous, orange-hued huckster, will be defeated in a landslide, and Hillary Clinton will become the 45th president of the United States. This, of course, means that Virginia Senator Tim Kaine will become vice president, and his vacant Senate seat will be filled by Governor Terry McAuliffe, who will almost certainly elevate U.S. Representative Bobby Scott to the chamber (Scott’s district, the 3rd, is the most reliably Democratic in the commonwealth, and so McAuliffe will be able to reward Scott for his years of public service while ensuring that his House seat doesn’t end up in Republican hands).
The donkeys will also flip the U.S. Senate, most likely by unseating one or all of the following elephants: Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Rob Portman in Ohio and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania.
And that, of course, brings us to the House of Representatives, which is still a very tough nut to crack for team blue. As of now, we just don’t see the GOP losing control, as the Dems would need to flip a nearly impossible 30 seats to retake control of the chamber. Still, with a racist demagogue at the top of the Republican ticket, anything can (and probably will) happen.
As it has been for many years, Virginia will be an excellent bellwether for how the Democrats do nationally. Both because the radical House-district gerrymander imposed following the 2010 census has been replaced by a court-ordered, less GOP-friendly map, and because a number of retirements has lessened the Republicans’ incumbent advantage.
There are basically four districts to watch on election night: If the Dems grab one it’s business as usual, two and it’s a decent night, three and it’s a high-fiving donkey celebration, all four and the Republicans may well have lost the House.
The first district to watch is the 4th, home of ex-U.S. Representative Randy Forbes (after his district’s Democratic makeup was increased during the latest redistricting, he ran and lost in the 2nd District Republican primary). Democrat Donald McEachin is expected to win this seat easily.
The second district to keep an eye on is the 10th, where Tea Party darling Barbara Comstock is up against LuAnn Bennett, a well-financed Dem. The 10th went for Mitt Romney in 2012 by a single point, and also voted for Marco Rubio over Trump in the recent Republican primary. Definitely a prime pickup opportunity.
The third key district is Charlottesville’s own, the 5th, where the unexpected retirement of Representative Robert Hurt created an open seat. It’s still favored to go to Republican Tom Garrett, but his far-right-of-center views, coupled with a strong win for the Clinton/Kaine ticket in the commonwealth, could put Democrat Jane Dittmar over the top.
Finally there’s the 2nd District, another open seat created by the retirement of a Republican—Scott Rigell. Nominally a “purple” district (Tim Kaine carried it with 52 percent of the vote in 2012), it will likely go to Republican Scott Taylor who is heavily favored to win over the underfunded Democratic nominee, economist (and Bernie Sanders delegate) Shaun Brown. But if Brown does pull this one off, she could very well be joining the House as a member of the majority.
Exciting times, people!
Odd Dominion is an unabashedly liberal, twice-monthly op-ed column covering Virginia politics.