Looking to 2018: Democrats in Danger

2018 US Senate Election Map

Typically, midterm elections bring congressional reinforcements for the party that is not in the White House. 2018, however, is not showing much promise for Democrats. Coming off of a general election that underperformed expectations, the Democrats are heading towards the midterm elections with much lower prospects.

In fact, many experts are predicting that Democrats will have their hands full defending the seats they currently hold, not to mention going after Republican-held seats in solid-red states.

Currently, the Democrats are outnumbered in the Senate 51-48, and in the House of Representatives with an overwhelming Republican lead of 239-192. Barring an unprecedented sweep in the House races, which would involve retaining 192 seats while flipping 47 Republican seats, it seems that the best chance for Democrats is to retake control of the Senate.

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In 2018, there will be 25 Democratic Senate seats up for re-election, 8 Republican seats, and 2 independent seats. Democrats would need a net increase of 3 seats to attain a Senate majority. To make matter worse for the Dems, based on the 2016 electoral results, 10 of the blue seats up for re-election are in states that went solid red this year: Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. If everything stays the same (which experts agree is highly unlikely), the Democrats could stand to lose 10 states instead of gaining 3, greatly increasing the Republican majority.

According to the UVA Center for Politics’ Crystal Ball, an online publication that analyzes political data, the Democrats have not been this exposed (vulnerable) since 1970, during the Nixon administration.

Source: UVA Center for Politics' Crystal Ball
Source: UVA Center for Politics’ Crystal Ball

The publication, in their analysis, notes that while there are some similarities between the Nixon years and our current political climate, “the political environment was far less polarized in 1970 than it is now.”

The outlier in this scenario is President-elect Donald Trump. In 2006, the Democrats took control of the House and Senate, as well as winning the majority of state gubernatorial elections and a large portion of state legislative races. The Democrat’s success is largely attributed to the unpopularity of second-term Republican President George W. Bush, and specifically public frustration with the War in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, economic performance, among other factors. Much of the Republicans’ and Democrats’ midterm hopes rest on Trump’s performance over the coming years. Big wins in economic and foreign policy, and avoidance of scandal, will likely translate to continued Republican control in 2018.