In case you haven’t heard, we have an election on Tuesday. All 435 House seats are up for grabs and one-third of the 100 Senate seats will be voted on next week. The political pundits are assuming the House will go blue again and no one seems to think the Democrats will win a majority in the Senate. With the current political climate, polls are extremely unreliable and recent historical trends might not be an indicator of what is going to happen next week. Two things remain certain though. This is a pivotal election that will determine the future of the Trump administration and turnout will be much higher than the typical midterm election.
Democrats have been in the minority in the House since Obama’s first midterm in 2010 and they need to flip 24 Republican seats and keep the 194 they currently hold to win the majority. Looking back at Obama’s first midterm, he lost his super-election as most first-term presidents’ parties tend to lose power in their first midterm election. Earlier this year, less than 50 seats were considered toss-ups or leaning toward one party or the other, based on the averages of a few organizations. Today, the battleground map has changed with possibly more than 100 competitive seats up for grabs in the House.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has been overly optimistic about her party’s chances to win back the majority in the House. She sees the Democrats gaining at least 30 seats on Tuesday night. Earlier this week on Stephen Colbert’s show, she said, “What now I’m saying is, we will win. We will win.”
In the aftermath of the Kavanaugh drama, which happened decades ago in political time, it seemed that signs were pointing to the battleground map whittling down and an uptick in Republican voter enthusiasm. Since early October, however, pundits and analysts have pointed to a boost in Democratic fundraising and accelerating leads over the GOP in both the generic ballot and district-level polls. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight now puts the number of seats in play at twice as many as there were in the last midterm in 2014.
A number of circumstances have led to the midterms becoming as competitive as they appear to be today, including:
- A number of Republican retirements
- Democratic fundraising advantage
- Competent Democratic candidates in almost every district
- A decline in incumbency advantage as incumbents aren’t shoe-ins like they once were in this anti-establishment era
- Since congressional districts were redrawn eight years ago, some districts, including many in the Sun Belt, have become more competitive
- Redistricting in Pennsylvania and a few Republican scandals have added more competitive seats into the mix in recent months
On Tuesday, the Democrats will have a chance to win around 100 House seats and they only need to win a net of 24 seats total to get the majority back. Still, one would be hard pressed to pick a solid dozen or more of those competitive seats that can be safely predicted to be won by a Democrat. Those 100 can really go either way. If Republican voters turn out to vote all the polls and predictions of a blue wave will be proven false if they beat the polls by two or three percentage points, well within the margin of error.
The Cook Political Report writes that President Trump’s low approval ratings and Democrats needing a pressure release this election will help the Democrats take back the House. Looking at it from a national level, it seems that the Democrats have a good chance of getting more power in the nation’s capital, but each race is essentially a local election with a sprinkling of national pro or anti-Trump sentiment affecting turnout as well. One week prior to the election, Cook predicts that the Democrats will gain anywhere from 20 to 40 seats on Tuesday.
There is still no way the Democrats win the Senate though. If Democrats win the House and Republicans keep the Senate, we will have gridlock in DC once again. But, could that actually help ensure a Trump reelection in 2020? If Democrats get what they want and get some power back and feel like they have properly resisted after this election, would they then be less enthused come the next presidential election? Get ready for the fever pitch to start on Wednesday as the presidential horse race begins. God help us.
Democrats are defending 10 seats in the Senate that President Trump won in 2016 and only one GOP seat in Nevada is up in a state that Clinton won. There are eight races that have been labeled competitive in the Senate with six of them in states won by Trump. There are also five competitive Senate races in states held by Republicans with four of those in states carried by the president two years ago. In sum, Trump carried ten of the 13 states with competitive Senate races, Trump carried four of these Senate races by more than 20 points, and Trump carried another three by 15 or more points.
An argument I see in support of Republicans surprising a lot of us is Trump’s rising approval ratings. Though these elections are local, the president has undoubtedly been both polarizing and inspiring. The question that remains is whether the left’s Resistance or the right’s Trump Train will turn out in bigger numbers on Tuesday.
After bottoming out at 36.4 percent in mid-December 2017 before the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the president’s approval has risen six percentage points throughout the last ten months to around 42 percent today, according to FiveThirtyEight’s “How Popular Is Donald Trump?” which takes into account and weighs a number of different presidential polls. Interestingly, Rasmussen, which was the most accurate predictor of any other major polling organization in 2016, is given a C+ rating and a lower weight in the poll. Rasmussen has the president’s approval rating in the 49 to 50 percent approval rating range over the last few days.
Though Democrats could very well win on Tuesday, I don’t think it will happen. Last-minute events could still alter the outcome. The anti-Semitic shooting in Pittsburgh and the confounding mail bomber events in recent days might have some effect. But I think the caravans coming to the border will have a greater pull in getting many illegal immigration concerned GOP voters out to the polls. I think the pro-Trump base has not shrunk, but grown, in 2018. I think young people will say they are going to turn out to vote to stick it to Trump, but they will do what they always do and vote in embarrassingly low numbers. I trust Rasmussen’s poll of at least half the country approving of the president’s job performance. I do not trust the generic congressional ballot that gives Democrats an enormous lead over the GOP. And I also believe that the Democrats’ fundraising advantage matters little in these polarizing times.
It all comes down to turnout. In this divisive and ultra political time we are living in, turnout will likely be very high compared to other midterm elections. Will the GOP have enough to hold back the incoming tide of the blue wave? I think they do. But that is really only my gut feeling at the end of the day. I also had a gut feeling two years ago when everyone else thought I was crazy.
Really only one poll matters and it happens on Tuesday, November 6th.
If you are still unsure of which major party to choose from, just ask yourself, do you really want Nancy Pelosi as our speaker of the House again?