Article By Jesse Barker Gale:
On November 6, 2018, tens of millions of Americans will cast their ballots in the 2018 midterm elections for the United States Congress. All 435 voting members of the House of Representatives and 35 members of the 100-member Senate are up for election.
Currently, the Republican Party holds a slender majority of seats in both the Senate (51-49) and a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives (235-193, with 7 vacant seats). President Donald Trump, also a Republican, is not up for election until 2020. However, the popularity, or as has been the case in recent years, the unpopularity of the president, influences the electability of the candidates running in the president’s party.
The most reliable polls indicate the Republican Party will maintain their control of the Senate and the Democratic Party will erase the Republican Party’s majority in the House of Representatives.
In the Senate, of the 35 races, 7 are close enough to be considered ‘toss-up’ races, meaning we don’t know whether they will elect a Democratic or Republican Senator. These seven races: Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Arizona, Nevada, and Tennessee will decide whether the Republican or Democratic Party controls the Senate in the next Congress.
Four of these states voted for Donald Trump in 2016, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and Montana, and are currently represented by Democratic Senators. One state, Nevada, voted for Hillary Clinton and is held by a Republican Senator.
Of these five seats, Missouri and Nevada are the two closest races, with incumbent Senators Claire McCaskill (D) and Dean Heller (R) facing approximately even chances of retaining their seats on November 6.
The remaining two states, Arizona and Tennessee, are ‘open seats’, meaning there is no incumbent Senator. In Arizona, Republican Senator Jeff Flake declined to seek re-election, saying, “The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I’m not willing to take, and that I can’t in good conscience take.” However, polling data showed Senator Flake, a persistent critic of President Trump, losing in a primary election.
In Tennessee, Republican Senator Bob Corker refused to run for re-election, citing his pledge from 2006 to only serve two terms in the Senate. However, in a situation similar to Senator Flake, Senator Corker’s criticism of President Trump would have made his path to re-election difficult.
Typically, Arizona and Tennessee are considered ‘safe’ Republican seats, but the lack of an incumbent Republican candidate, the unpopularity and divisiveness of Donald Trump, and strong Democratic nominees have turned these seats into pick up opportunities for the Democratic Party.
The likely outcomes of these Senate races will see the Democratic Party retain their seats in Florida, Indiana, and Montana, with a better than even chance of capturing the seat in Arizona. Tennessee is likely to remain in Republican hands, and Missouri and Nevada will go down to the wire.
The balance in the House of Representatives is less easy to determine. The Democratic Party needs 23 seats to win the majority, and current projections have them winning anywhere from 18 to 52 seats from the Republican Party. The median number of seats the Democrats are projected to pick up is 37, enough for a solid majority.
It is the former scenario which is the nightmare for the Democratic Party. Failing to ‘flip’ one of the Houses of Congress would leave the Democrats largely unable to block further elements of President Trump’s agenda.
Controlling the House of Representatives would allow the Democrats to aggressively push back against the more contentious elements of the Trump Administration’s policies and launch investigations of the President and his Cabinet Secretaries and senior officials.
The House of Representatives also controls the budget process, meaning, in a scenario where the Democrats win the majority, they would be in a tremendously strong position to deny President Trump funding for many of his election promises.
As the Democrats saw in the humiliation of 2016, nothing is pre-ordained. There are multiple scenarios in which the Republican Party maintains their majority in the House of Representatives and the Democrats are relegated to the sidelines for another term.
This election is critical for the Democratic Party. Failure to translate the widespread opposition to President Trump and his Administration’s policies into an positive electoral result will irrevocably fracture the Democratic Party along establishment and insurgent lines, limiting their effectiveness into the future.
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