IL-06: From Leans Democrat to Likely Democrat
IL-14: From Toss-up to Leans Democrat
Friday morning, the highly respected Cook Political Report issued ten ratings changes for congressional races across the country including the 6th and 14th congressional districts.
For Republicans, the changes are ratings downgrades and for Democrats, there is caution to the rank-and-file to not become complacent because of the new ratings.
While the bulk of the reasons for the ten changes to favor incumbents, most notably that impeachment votes in December are no longer on voters’ minds concerning Democrats who cast the votes to favor impeachment, some familiar themes jump out within both districts.
From Cook Political Report for the 6th:
“Republicans were initially excited about former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti’s bid, but she dropped out last October after failing to gain traction and instead, Republicans nominated former state Rep. Jeanne Ives in the March 17 primary.
“Ives primaried former Gov. Bruce Rauner from the right in 2018, attacking him for expanding transgender rights and making Illinois ‘a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants and criminals.’
“That approach is unlikely to translate well in this upscale, blue-trending seat.
“Casten ended February with $2.2 million on hand to Ives’s $375,000, and the race appears to be slipping away for the GOP.”Excerpt from Cook Political Report analysis 3/27/20
The last sentence concerning fundraising is the most likely reason for the 6th’s, and nearly all of the ratings changes issued today. As presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden knows full well, fundraising has all but stopped in the face of the coronavirus national emergency, and face-to-face big dollar fundraisers will likely not resume in earnest until the summer.
As pointed out, Casten had over $2 million cash on hand at the end of February according to his FEC filing, and while Ives’ primary opponent did not make her break a sweat in last week’s primary, raising large amounts of campaign cash from donors/voters, most of whom are less wealthy than six weeks ago due to jobs and investment losses, is a challenge any non-incumbent challenger faces.
The Ives campaign issued this response to the Cook ratings change:
“Jeanne has always been the underdog. She is a talented politician with a record of surprising political prognosticators. We have had now three very successful fundraising quarters, as our Q1 filing will show.
“We did a head-to-head poll before Christmas that showed her beating Casten by 9 points.
“Sean Casten has no idea who he’s up against, and neither does the Cook Political Report.”Campaign spokesperson for Jeanne Ives for Congress, 3/27/20
The 14th district analysis takes a different tone:
“[Congresswoman Lauren] Underwood, a former Obama HHS official, defeated GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren by four points in 2018 in an outer suburban district President Trump carried by four points in 2016.
“Republicans are still livid that Hultgren lacked the time and resources to point out Underwood, who touted her nursing credentials, never practiced as a nurse in a clinical setting. But Underwood, 33, may have just caught another big break.
“In the low-turnout March 17 GOP primary, dairy mogul and state Sen. Jim Oberweis, 73, prevailed with 26 percent to 23 percent for state Sen. Sue Rezin and 20 percent for Trump Commerce official Catalina Lauf.
“Since 2002, Oberweis has self-funded nine different runs for office, including a failed run for governor, three failed Senate bids and a failed run for Congress in 2008.
“Oberweis’s dairy brand may be universally known in Chicagoland, but even Republicans privately acknowledge his political brand is tarnished.
“His office-shopping and emphasis on combating socialism and illegal immigration don’t connect well with swing voters and Democrats will bring up old research from the 2014 Senate race that he claimed a Florida penthouse as his primary residence to dodge Illinois taxes.
“So far, Oberweis has self-funded $1 million for his latest effort, and his personal wealth obviates the need to fundraise during a crisis. But Underwood ended February with $2 million on hand and will be well-prepared against an opponent four decades her senior.”Excerpt from Cook Political Report analysis 3/27/20
COMMENTARY: The ratings change in the 14th is not a surprise, but one I expected, particularly after tweets from National Journal‘s Politics Editor Josh Kraushaar from a week before the primary, like this one from primary election night citing early returns:
The analysis by Cook on the 14th district contains some inaccuracies which betray a lack of due diligence, most notably Jim Oberweis self-funded his primary victory with $500K, as February’s FEC filing revealed.
Additionally, and articles will be posted over the weekend, McHenry County Blog analysis found up to three weeks ago, Oberweis was cruising to a double-digit percentage points victory in the March 17 Republican primary.
The only reason the primary outcome was closer than it actually would have been was the result of the huge spending of what Open Secrets calls a “Pop-up” super PAC of over $900K in the last 11 days of the campaign in a media blitz that brought Oberweis’ numbers down to the 2.8 percentage points margin-of-victory.
The other issues cited in the Cook analysis, Republican primary voters knew going into the March 17 primary, and Oberweis still won in spite of all of the call outs.
As cited on McHenry County Blog, Congresswoman Underwood herself sized up Oberweis’ general election challenge on February 18 speaking to the Evanston chapter of Indivisible.
Given the coronavirus national emergency and the Stay at Home order implemented by the governor last week, Oberweis’ people are taking advantage of this protracted time when the country is rightfully concerned about coronavirus and gearing up for the fall campaign quietly and behind the scenes.
Oberweis’ general election campaign should be taking apart Underwood’s actual voting record on specific legislation in Washington. That is something Cook omitted from its analysis of the 14th race.
Both Underwood and Casten, in their interviews on WTTW last week, have hinted to their records on Democratic-led legislation, including H.R. 3, Lower Prescription Drugs Now Act, and both Oberweis and Ives have the opportunity to present to voters why government price controls in H.R. 3 are bad, once the national emergency is over.
Voters, particularly in the more conservative 14th district, will not favor the left-of-center policies the House’s Democratic majority have attempted to legislate, but for a Republican controlled-Senate and White House have prevented them from becoming law.
As long as teams Oberweis and Ives are ready to use the truth, not bromides, abstracts, platitudes or talking points, both Republican nominees could be very competitive, let alone prevail.
Again, Cook‘s analysis did not take into account the issues or the Underwood voting record in the 14th, but something that was in the analysis is money.
Counting the $500K of self-funding for this year’s campaign, Oberweis has self-funded all of his high-profile campaigns beginning in 2001 to a total of nearly $15.5 million.
Given the condition of fundraising from donors and face-to-face fundraising resuming a month to two months away, Oberweis does have the potential to surprise the analysis and make this seat competitive.
Unfortunately for Oberweis, today’s ratings changes will impact fundraising above and beyond the economic impact of coronavirus. Oberweis has the personal wealth to partially compensate, Ives’ ability to raise money, as her campaign’s statement above noted, will be seen on the FEC filings next month.
The complete analysis by Cook Political Report can be read here.
UPDATE: The Jim Oberweis 2020 congressional campaign released the following statement in response to the Cook Political Report rating change for the 14th district:
“The Cook Political Report rating of the 14th Congressional District is based on false information.
“Jim Oberweis’ wife, Julie, is a Florida resident and claims their Florida condo as her primary residence. As a result, Jim cannot legally claim his home of the last 42 years for a Homestead exemption. The net result is that he pays MORE in Illinois property taxes than he otherwise would as a result of this arrangement.
“Very little of their combined income is Julie’s and thus very little of their combined income is not taxed in Illinois.
“Furthermore, Lauren Underwood now has a record as a sitting member of Congress. Her voting record is more liberal than even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s voting record.
“Do the analysts at the Cook Political Report really believe that a made-up story about Jim’s residence is going to matter more to voters than Underwood’s far-left voting record?
“The Jim Oberweis campaign has already begun to inform voters about Underwood’s extreme voting record. The voters in the 14th Congressional District do not support like the Green New Deal and open borders.
“Nor do they want socialist policies.
“Lauren Underwood is going to lose in November because she is too extreme, too liberal and too socialist for this district. Voters know Jim Oberweis. They know he is the common-sense alternative to the extreme policies of Lauren Underwood.”Jim Oberweis 2020 campaign spokesperson, 3/27/20