Ratings Change: Franken Steps Down Amid Allegations, Seat Starts Likely Democratic
Minnesota Senator resigns after colleagues call for his exit

Sen. Al Franken’s resignation puts another Democratic seat into the 2018 mix, but it’s still unclear whether his departure provides Republicans with a legitimate takeover opportunity.

To handicap a race, it’s helpful to know where the contest will take place and who is running. In this case, we know the place is Minnesota, where, despite Donald Trump’s surge in the Midwest, Hillary Clinton narrowly prevailed in 2016, 46-45 percent, and where Republicans haven’t won a Senate race since Norm Coleman’s 2-point victory in 2002.

Ratings Update: Tennessee Senate Remains Solid R for Now
Democrats may still have uphill battle, even with Bredesen

Democrats made a big splash this week with the entry of former Gov. Phil Bredesen into the Tennessee Senate race, but the party still has an uphill battle in a state President Donald Trump won convincingly, and it’s not even clear Bredesen gives Democrats the best chance of winning.

On the surface, having a former two-term governor running for an open seat (GOP Sen. Bob Corker is not running for re-election) looks like a great takeover opportunity for Democrats, but there are some signs that the race should still be considered a long shot.

No One Is Afraid of a Government Shutdown
Democrats nor Republicans while White House seems to encourage it

Call me crazy, but I don’t think we’ll see a compromise before the looming budget deadline. Why? Because no one in Washington is particularly afraid of a government shutdown.

Democrats aren’t afraid of a government shutdown because Republicans are in control of the legislative and executive branches, and they believe the GOP will get blamed for the impasse.

Who Is Running the Mysterious PAC Supporting Roy Moore?
Treasurer Brooke Pendley is a hard person to find

Brooke Pendley is a self-described “fire-breathing young female conservative patriot” out “to save Judge Roy Moore” with a newly formed political action committee, but good luck trying to find her beyond the fundraising emails.

On Oct. 17, Pendley filed a statement of organization for Club for Conservatives PAC with the Federal Election Commission, listing herself as the treasurer. Over the course of less than three weeks, Pendley has sent out at least 10 fundraising emails.

The Battle for Orange County in the Fight for the House
A handful of competitive races could decide the majority

YORBA LINDA, Calif. — Celina Estrada and Sam Zapata weren’t even born when Republican Ed Royce was first elected to Congress in 1992. Yet a year before the 2018 elections, the two students spent a recent evening knocking on doors in the hills of Orange County, California, to support the vulnerable congressman.

Royce hasn’t had a close race in years. In 2016, he won with 57 percent and outspent his Democratic opponent, $3.7 million to $77,000. This cycle, however, inspired to counteract the effects of a Donald Trump presidency, five of his Democratic challengers had over $100,000 in their campaign accounts at the end of September, and two of them are self-funders.

Rating Change: Alabama Senate Race Moves to Toss-Up
One month out, Moore allegations could cost GOP a Senate seat

Roy Moore is testing a once-hypothetical question: What would it take for a Democrat to win a statewide race in Alabama?

Under normal circumstances, Alabama would elect a Republican to the Senate, even a candidate as polarizing as the former state Supreme Court chief justice. But the situation changed when The Washington Post reported allegations of Moore’s past sexual misconduct. This is no longer a normal election.

9 Thoughts After Democrats’ Big Wins in Virginia
As with early GOP victories, resist reading too much into Tuesday’s results

Everyone take a deep breath. We’re all starving for tangible election results and now we have them. But just as earlier Republican wins in congressional special elections this year are no guarantee the party will have a good 2018, losses on Tuesday night don’t necessarily tell us a Democratic wave in the House has developed.

Democrats had to win the governorship in Virginia, and they did. After coming up short in every House special election this year in districts President Donald Trump carried last fall, Democrats didn’t have an excuse to lose a state that Hillary Clinton won by more than 5 points. And Ralph Northam responded with a resounding victory for Democrats. That being said, the win maintains the status quo considering Virginia already has a Democratic governor.

Rating Change: LoBiondo Retirement Makes GOP Seat More Vulnerable
South Jersey race moves from Solid Republican to Leans Republican

Republican Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo’s retirement gives Democrats a better opportunity to win New Jersey’s 2nd District. 

Democrats have had their eye on the South Jersey seat for years, particularly after President Barack Obama won the seat by 8 points in 2012. But the party has struggled to find a credible candidate against the congressman, considering his close ties to organized labor.

Key House and Senate Races Are in Distinctly Different Locations
Roll Call’s most vulnerable incumbents list is out, one year before midterms

There is a striking lack of overlap between the Senate and House battleground races taking shape. Over 70 percent of the competitive House races are in states without a key Senate race.

[Check out Roll Call’s coverage of the 10 most vulnerable House incumbents, and the 10 most vulnerable Senate incumbents from Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman.]

Members Face Tough Odds in Races for Governor
Competitive primary, general elections await nine representatives running

There’s been plenty of media attention on the twelve members who have decided to call it quits and retire from the House, and another eight members are seeking a promotion to the Senate. But nine additional members are forgoing likely re-elections for uncertain and challenging races to become their state’s governor.

Many of them have to navigate crowded and competitive primaries (including knocking off an incumbent in one state), and the precedent for members getting elected governor isn’t great.

Please Don’t Call It a Push Poll: Transgender Edition
Survey either measures public opinion or it doesn’t

Danica Roem and Bob Marshall are facing off in an unusually high-profile race for the Virginia House of Delegates — Roem, a transgender Democrat, is challenging Marshall, a conservative Republican. The race reached a new level in the final weeks when allegations of a so-called push poll came to light.

My longtime colleague Stuart Rothenberg jokes that there are some columns that need to be written over and over again. The debate over push polls is one of those topics.

I Interviewed 16 House Candidates in Two Days and Survived
Five takeaways from Democratic hopefuls

I’ve interviewed at least 1,000 congressional candidates over the last 16 years, but never 16 candidates in two days.

More than 100 Democratic candidates running for the House descended on the nation’s capital a few weeks ago for candidate training hosted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. My Inside Elections colleague Leah Askarinam and I interviewed eight candidates each day.

Rating Change: Virginia Governor’s Race Moves to Tilts Democratic
It will not be easy for Democrats to explain away a loss here

Democrats have been racking up special election victories in state legislatures around the country, and millions of people have been hitting the streets and packing town halls in protest of President Donald Trump. But they are still looking for their first signature victory since the former reality television host took over the Oval Office.

It was easy for Democrats to explain away special election losses in Kansas, Montana, South Carolina and even Georgia’s 6th District, considering voters there favored Trump in 2016. But the stakes are much higher in next week’s gubernatorial race in Virginia, which Hillary Clinton won by more than 5 points.

Rating Change: Democratic Challenger Puts Utah Seat in Play
Rep. Mia Love facing competitive race with Salt Lake County mayor’s entry

It’s not hard to see Democratic takeover opportunities in districts where Hillary Clinton prevailed or President Donald Trump won narrowly last fall, but Democrats have expanded the map with at least a couple of recruits who should make Republicans work to defend some deeper red territory next year.

Former Kansas state Rep. Paul Davis, for example, announced his candidacy in August, giving Democrats a credible candidate in the Sunflower State’s 2nd District, which Trump carried by 18 points, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections. Davis, a former state House minority leader, carried the district in his 2014 gubernatorial bid, and when he entered the congressional race for retiring Rep. Lynn Jenkins’ open seat, we changed the rating from Likely Republican to Leans Republican.

Rating Change: New Hampshire Open Seat Moves to Toss-Up
Shea-Porter was already considered vulnerable in 1st District

Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter’s retirement leaves an already competitive seat more vulnerable for her party as an open one, considering President Donald Trump carried New Hampshire’s 1st District 48 percent to 46 percent last fall.

“I felt the tug of family at our reunion on Independence Day, and I have continued to feel it,” Shea-Porter said in a statement Friday.

Nine Thoughts After the Alabama Senate Runoff
Moore beat candidate supported by Trump, McConnell

A year ago, the idea that Roy Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, would be elected to the U.S. Senate was absurd. But he took one giant step closer to that reality with a convincing victory over appointed-Sen. Luther Strange in Tuesday’s special election Republican primary runoff.

The recent result wasn’t a surprise, thanks to numerous public polls showing Moore with a commanding lead, but it’s still shocking to see a candidate supported by President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell go down to a significant defeat.

Moore Campaign Removes Endorsement From Deceased Conservative Leader
Phyllis Schlafly died a year ago

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is racking up endorsements from inside the state and around the country for his challenge to Republican Sen. Luther Strange, but one in particular stood out: renowned — and deceased — conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly.

Schlafly died on Sept. 5, 2016, at the age of 92, two months before Donald Trump won the presidential election and four months before Republican Jeff Sessions left his Senate seat in order to become attorney general, yet she was included on the endorsements page of Moore’s campaign website. 

Strange and Allies Overwhelming Moore in TV Ad Spending
One week to go in competitive Alabama Senate special primary

Sen. Luther Strange and allies are dramatically outspending Roy Moore and friends on television in the special Republican primary in Alabama.

With a week to go before the runoff, Moore is leading the appointed senator by a couple points or more, depending on the poll.

LGBTQ Women Balance Opportunity, Possible Extinction in Congress
Close calls, impossible races, and evolving bench contribute to low numbers

It’s been almost 20 years since Tammy Baldwin’s historic election, yet just one woman has followed her through the LGBTQ glass ceiling. And if both women lose competitive races in 2018, the next Congress could be without any LGBTQ women.

While the lack of LGBTQ women in Congress is inextricably linked to the dearth of women on Capitol Hill, the story of lesbian candidates includes some close calls, quixotic races, and a movement still evolving to position more qualified LGBTQ women to run for higher office.

Rating Change: Dent Retirement Puts Seat in Play
Pennsylvania Republican says seventh term will be his last

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent capped a tumultuous week for Republicans on the Hill by announcing he would not seek re-election in 2018, leaving his 15th District open and vulnerable to a Democratic takeover.

Dent’s decision is the biggest news to come out of Allentown since earlier this summer when Philadelphia Phillies rookie slugger Rhys Hoskins was called up to the major leagues and hit home runs at a faster initial pace than any player in history, after batting 29 home runs with 91 RBIs for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.