How will the 2018 mid-terms turn out? Based on all the data I’ve seen , Republicans will have a decent night in the Senate while Democrats are headed up for a successful evenings in the U.S. House and Gubernatorial elections. In this column, I’m going to breakdown the 2018 elections.
We begin with the Senate.
The Democrats will hold onto their seats in Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Florida, and Montana. Democrats can be thankful Trump won the election. If Hillary Clinton had won, you’d have had a Republican wave and many of these would have gone the other way.
Many Republicans love Michigan GOP nominee and Iraq War VetJohn James, but he picked the wrong year to run. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is corrupt, but NewJersey is used to corrupt politicians and will follow the advice of one of their newspapers to choke down and re-elect a corrupt Senator to own Donald Trump and the right. Wisconsin and the Minnesota Special elections were always going to be long shots in this cycle, and I don’t see them coming in for the Republicans.
Florida was always going to be a tough race. It’s a purple state and incumbent Bill Nelson (D-Fl.) is an inoffensive Center-Left Democrat. Governor Rick Scott (R-FK) is a strong candidate, but there won’t be a “red wave” in a year like this, so he’s not going to be strong enough to beat Nelson.
Montana has voted Republican in all but one Presidential election since 1964. They have an equally long history of electing Democratic Senators and Governors. Former Senator Max Baucus was elected to six terms with a solid left-wing voting record by using populist rhetoric. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) is following Baucus’ playbook, he consistently leads in the polls, and he’ll likely eke out a narrow victory.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV.) has walked a fine line. He’s given the appearance of independence while not going against his party when his vote has been needed. Despite multiple visits by the President, Manchin has run a campaign that shows he knows how to win in West Virginia. He may be one of the last Democrats to possess that ability.
I’ll predict that Republicans will keep the four currently-held seats that are in doubt.
In Tennessee, Phil Bredesen (D-TN) has run a competitive campaign as a moderate Democrat. Such a candidate used to win in Tennessee all the time, but the GOP edge in this state has put ahead Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN.) Bredesen is seventy-four and this campaign will almost certainly be his last. It likely will also be the last hurrah for electable statewide Democrats in Tennessee for a generation.
While Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) should cruise to re-election by around twenty percentage points, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) can be expected to win re-election by only three-to-seven percentage points. Cruz has no one but himself to blame. He spent the first two-thirds of his term running for President and made a series of calculating, too-cute political moves. For example, in 2011 Cruz stated, as a Supreme Court litigator, “The Fourteenth Amendment provides for birthright citizenship. I’ve looked at the legal arguments against it and … those arguments are not very good.” Now he says he needs to see the legal arguments against allowing the President to use an Executive Order to overturn that provision of The Fourteenth Amendment.
The road Cruz has taken to re-election has been humiliating as he’s come hat in hand to President Trump and Mitch McConnell (whom Cruz publically called a liar on the Floor of the Senate in 2015) to obtain their help to save him from Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX). They’ve complied, but this leaves a key question as to what Ted Cruz will be if re-elected. During his first four years in the Senate, Cruz was a rebellious Constitutionalist who stood for principles. Now Ted Cruz represents doing whatever it will take to win the next election. If Cruz doesn’t want another tough fight in 2024, he better do a better job both meeting the needs of constituents and deciding what type of Senator he’s going to be.
Cruz’s cynical approach gave Beto O’Rourke the opening heneeded to offer a campaign that takes a less cynical approach, while attracting the love of progressives acrossAmerica with his unabashed liberalism. He’s borrowing from Obama’s playbook asthe hard left Democrat running as a candidate who wants to transcend ideology.O’Rourke will likely lose the Senate run, but he is set up for a 2020Presidential run. Expect media to point out that Lincoln too lost a closeSenate election in 1858 before being elected in 1860, as the media has noproblems comparingtheir favored candidates to Lincoln.
Republicans will hold Arizona and Nevada, but we won’t know for sure until days—maybe weeks after the election. In Arizona, the polls have been all over the place in the race between Congresswomen Martha McSally (R-AZ.) and Krystin Sinema (D-AZ.). Sinema’s led throughout much of the year. The McSally campaign has had limited results as it has sought to expose Sinema’s extremist past (such as when she called Arizona “the meth lab of Democracy.”) However, analysis of the early vote, shows McSally and Republicans with a major lead that will be difficult for Sinema to overcome.
In Nevada, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV.) has held up better than expected as the only Republican incumbent up this year from a State Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. He’s led recent polls more often than not. Democrats do have an advantage in the early vote, but depending on how Independents have been voting, Heller could bridge that gap. While this one will be close, Heller has run a good campaign and has the advantages of incumbency on his side.
The Republicans will pick up three Senate Seats by taking down three Democratic Incumbents. As I’m predicting no Republican seats falling, this will give the GOP a gain of three in the Senate, which would result in a 54-46 Senate.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is almost certain to lose re-election. She was already falling behind Congressman Kevin Cramer (D-ND) but she has pushed this seat out of reach with her vote against the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh and her campaign’s exposing the identities of several sexual assault victims without any regard for their safety . With Heitkamp’s defeat, North Dakota will have an all Republican Congressional delegation. This may not seem odd for a red state. Yet as late as 2010, North Dakota had an all-Democratic delegation.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has been in a tight race with State Attorney General Josh Hawley for most of the year. Recent polls show the race tied. McCaskill will likely lose for three reasons. First, when she was elected, the state was a swing state that voted for the winner of all but one Presidential election from 1896-2004, but the state has since become a red state. Second, her vote against Brett Kavanaugh, which was announced before the hearings on Dr. Christine Ford’s allegations of sexual misconduct, is going to loom large when voters go to the polls. Finally, her attempts to distance herself from “crazy Democrats” is awkward and has created friction between her and her base.
Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) won a fluke victory in 2012 in the home state of Vice-President Pence. Like McCaskill and Heitkamp, he voted against Kavanaugh and like them he’s going to struggle to survive as the Senate becomes more polarized. Polls show the race tight with Donnelly having a mere 0.8% lead in the Real Clear Politics average. Indiana is hard to poll. In 2016, the polls were off significantly for both the Presidency and the Senate. The 2016 RCP poll average showed Republican Todd Young ahead by 0.9% in the U.S. Senate race and Donald Trump ahead by 10.7% in the Presidential race. Young won 9.7% and Trump won by 19%, which amounts to a massive polling error. Given Indiana’s Republican bent, and the closeness of the polls, I give the edge to Mike Braun (R-IN) to be Indiana’s next Senator.
Best Case Scenarios
The best-case scenario for Democrats is to win the open seat in Arizona and defeat Heller, while avoiding losing any incumbent other than Heitkamp. In that scenario, the Democrats would pick up one Senate seat, and the Senate would be divided 50-50 with Republicans maintaining control due to Vice-President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.
For the Republicans, the best case is to win all the seats I’ve listed plus one extra pick up. Florida is the most likely upset due to Rick Scott’s popularity. However, I could see New Jersey providing a surprise. While public polls indicate that Menendez is headed for re-election, Democrats are spending like they believe Menendez could lose. Either way, the most Republicans will pick up is four seats, which would lead to a 55-45 Senate.
The Democratic generic ballot polling in U.S. House races has stabilized after slipping a bit in the aftermath of the Kavanaugh hearings. Recent Individual district polls have offered far more bad news for the GOP than the Democrats, including polls featuring Steve King (R-IA) in a competitive race as well as twenty-two term Congressman Don Young (R-AK) trailing his opponent by one point.
Republicans have too many members retiring and too many members representing districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Driven by the far left, Democrats have failed to nominate candidate that fit these districts, so the Democrats will not win as many seats as they could have, and many of those who do win will be one-term wonders. Still, Democrats should pick up thirty-five seats and gain a 230-205 majority in the House. The Democrats could pick up forty seats at most. If Republicans get very lucky, they could hold Democratic gains down to perhaps twenty-five seats.
Democrats are set to make major gains in Governor’s races on Tuesday.
The Democrats will hold all their current statehouses, including those considered somewhat in danger. They’ll have little trouble retaining control of the Governorships in Colorado and Minnesota. While one poll in Connecticut put Republican Bob Stefanowski ahead by two in the Governor’s race, that’s out of sync with the rest of the polling in the Governor Kate Brown (D-OR) has been in a tight race for months but her opponent Knute Bueller (R-OR) hasn’t been able to gain traction. Signs point to Brown narrowly winning re-election.
Democrats are set to defeat Governor Bruce Rauner (R-IL) and pick up Republican-held Governorships in Florida, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, and Ohio. For Florida, it will be the first time they’ve elected a Democratic Governor since 1994.
Republicans should be able to re-elect Governor Chris Sununu (R-NH) and hold the open Governorships in South Dakota. Republicans should narrowly hold on to the open seats in Georgia, Kansas, and Nevada as the Republican candidates have led narrowly in most polls. Governors Kim Reynolds (R-IA) and Scott Walker (R-WI) will hold on for narrow victories. In both cases, polling has been sparse with the last two polls yielding contradictory pictures of the race. However, the overall condition of the states’ economies argue for keeping the incumbents in power. Wisconsin is tough to call, but Walker’s organization, plus his early and frequent alarms that they faced a tough race may be enough to save him.
Republicans should capture the Governorship in Alaska which is currently held by Independent Bill Walker (I-AK). Walker dropped out of the race less than three weeks before the election (before early voting started) and endorsed Former Senator Mark (D). The race has tightened but so far Republican Mike Dunleavy is leading.
Overall, I predict Democrats will pick up six governorships. That will still leave Republicans with twenty-eight out of fifty governorships, but they’ll have lost control of several key swing states. There are likely to be accompanying Democratic gains in most state legislatures. This could have a significant impact on redistricting and the composition of the U.S. House until 2032.
The best case scenario for the GOP would be to end up holding the Governorships of Ohio and Florida. While the polling in both states has been pointing towards the Democrats, most don’t show the Democrats significantly ahead.
The scenario for Republicans is a complete breakdown. Many races are on a razor’s edge. If the electorate nationwide turns out a little more Democratic than pollsters predict, races that look to lean Republican could go the other way which could mean Democratic victory in places like Kansas, Georgia, Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Alaska. In addition, some polls have shown South Dakota to be competitive, a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic Governor since 1974. While I don’t think it’s likely that the Democrats will pick up thirteen governorships, it could happen.
So to summarize my predictions:
U.S. Senate Predictions: +3R -54R, 46 D
GOP Best Case Scenario: +4R-55R, 45 D
Democratic Best Case Scenario: +1D 50R, 50 D.
U.S. House Prediction: +35D 230D, 205 R
GOP Best Case Scenario: +25D 220D, 215 R
Democratic Best Case Scenario: +40D 235R, 200 D
Governor Predictions: 28R, 22D +6 D, -5R
GOP Best Case Scenario: 30R, 20D, +4D, -3R
Democratic Best Case Scenario: 29D, 21R, +13D, -12R
After Tuesday, America will have more elected Democrats than it did before. The only question is how many more.