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With bicoastal strategy for midterms, Dems lack that really big wave

With bicoastal strategy for midterms, Dems lack that really big wave
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Huge waves don’t start out that way. High winds at sea can generate crests of 30 feet or more, though, several times the average wave.

Really big waves are caused by land. As big waves roll into shallow water, the energy propelling the wave has nowhere to go but up. The result can be the towering surges of which legends are made. A 100-foot wave was recorded 60 years ago in Alaska’s Lituya Bay, and one more recently was listed at 85 feet, but many scientists have dismissed unsubstantiated reports of gigantic waves.

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With all the chatter about a giant “blue wave” coming in 2018, you’d think there would be some consistent evidence of the gathering storm. Yet last week’s “Super Tuesday of the Midterm” came and went without any knockouts and, at best, mixed results for the Democrats. Voters head to the polls in five more states on Tuesday.

 

History may be on their side — the average number of House seats flipped in the first midterm election of any administration exceeds the number necessary for Democrats to take control of the House — but the specific indicators of 2018 don’t reveal a massive blue tsunami coming our way.

Democrats have developed a bicoastal strategy for picking up the seats they need. Most of “flyover America” doesn’t figure in their equation, although the upper Midwest has a half-dozen seats they think they can shift. There are also a couple in Kansas and Iowa they believe are in play.

The June 5 primaries gave yet another indication that there’s not a gigantic wave building off either coast.

The party needs to flip fewer than 25 seats to take control of the House and Democratic strategists have been salivating over the West Coast.

California has 14 Republican-held congressional seats. Fourteen seats is more than the entire delegations of all but nine states. Of those 14 seats, half were carried by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonO'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot Gabbard considering 2020 run: report Claiming 'spousal privilege' to stonewall Congress MORE in 2016, although it should be noted that Donald Trump’s campaign wrote off the Golden State, allowing the Democratic nominee to run up big numbers there.

California also has a goofy “jungle primary” system, a “reform” designed ostensibly to decrease polarization. Under this system, the top two vote-getters in the primary, regardless of party, advance to the general election. The major effect it has had is to increase the numbers of candidates on the ballot in the primary, with many also-rans believing they had a shot at being one of the top two.

Going into the primary, Democrats hoped the “jungle primary” could help them shut out Republicans in a few seats, especially that of retiring Congressman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceWith the NFIP underwater, expand private sector’s role GOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Election Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage MORE. If they scored double victories in those swing seat primaries, there would be no Republican on the ballot in the general election, thus guaranteeing a Democratic takeover. That didn’t happen.

In at least three of the seats, the Republican incumbent got more than 50 percent of the vote, making a Democratic takeaway an unlikely prospect. In others, the Republican candidates totaled more than 50 percent combined.

Additionally, Republican voter intensity was up and the Democrats’ vaunted “enthusiasm gap” was down. That combines to portend good things for the GOP as it seeks to hold those seven battleground seats along the West Coast.

Republican prospects were further bolstered at the top of the ticket. There, Republican businessman John Cox garnered better than 26 percent of the vote, earning a second-place finish behind Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who got a third of the vote.

It’s a steep climb for Cox. But his ability to pour his personal fortune into the race and to be the voice of the two-thirds of California residents who think living there is “too expensive” (think $4 gallon gasoline) will gin up activity and generate GOP turnout — both critical to defending the swing seats Republicans hold.

Across the continent, New Jersey held its primary the same day. There, ethically-challenged U.S. Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezTrump lowers refugee goal to 30,000, he must meet it Blame Senate, not FBI, for Kavanaugh travesty Dems urge tech companies to remove 3D-gun blueprints MORE, a Democrat, will face another wealthy businessman, Bob Hugin, the Republican nominee. Although it’s an equally tough challenge for Hugin as it is for Cox out West, his ability to self-fund will make Hugin’s race much more competitive and provide a boost to down-ballot congressional districts.

On both coasts, and in the vast countryside between, there’s little sign of looming giant waves about to wash over the political landscape. To the contrary, the generic ballot is virtually even. Where the Democrats had a double-digit lead not long ago, the right track/wrong track numbers are vastly improved and rising along with President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE’s approval ratings, and good economic news continues to abound. All of that is a big plus for the GOP.

We’ve a long way to go before November, but right now the only wind driving a “blue wave” is the hot air coming from the national media.

Charlie Gerow, first vice chairman of the American Conservative Union, has held national leadership positions in several Republican presidential campaigns. He began his career on the campaign staff of Ronald Reagan. A nationally recognized expert in strategic communications, he is CEO of Quantum Communications, a Pennsylvania-based media relations and issue advocacy firm.