On November 6th, 2018, the U.S. midterm elections will occur, contesting 35 out of 100 seats of the Senate, all 435 seats of the House of Representatives, and 39 gubernatorial seats (including 3 territories). This high-stakes midterm season will determine the composition of Congress in 2019 and 2020—if Republicans retain their majority in both houses after the elections, Congress will be able to continue pushing for Trump’s agenda during the remaining years of his current term. However, analysts think that Democrats have more momentum than the GOP, especially in the elections for the House of Representatives. This “blue wave” resembles the takeover of Congress in the 2014 midterms by Republicans after the reelection of Obama in 2012. If the Democrats win control of either house, they will have the power to counter Trump’s policies, like the Republicans in 2014.
According to RealClearPolitics, there 201 seats that are likely to be won by Democrats, 191 for Republicans, and 43 tossup seats. This means that even if Democrats win less than half of the tossup seats, they can still secure a majority in the House. 41 of the 43 tossup seats are currently Republican incumbents, so nearly every tossup seat Democrats win is a flip from Republican to Democrat. Given these circumstances, Democrats will most likely win back the House.
However, in the Senate, of the 35 contested seats, Democrats currently occupy 26 seats (including Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Angus King (I-ME) who caucus with the democrats) and Republicans occupy only 9 (including Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) and Bob Corker’s (R-TN) old seats). Because less Republican seats are contested this midterm season, Republicans have a lower chance than Democrats of losing seats in the Senate. Therefore, Republicans will probably retain control of the Senate.
Currently, 33 governors are Republicans, 16 are Democrats, and 1 is an Independent. In this midterm season, RealClearPolitics predicts that Democrats will probably win at least 20 seats and Republicans will probably win at least 22, so Republicans will no longer dominate the gubernatorial seats.
Changes within Both Parties
An ideological change is occurring in the Democrats as well—candidates further left of traditional Democrats, touting progressive ideas such as Medicare for All and free college, are emerging across the nation and winning primaries. The most prominent such candidate is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a socialist who defeated incumbent Joseph Crowley (D-NY), the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus who had the endorsement of New York’s governor and senators. The mainstream media’s generous publicization of Ocasio-Cortez’s upset helped fuel other progressive campaigns, including Ayanna Pressley, who unseated 10-term U.S. Representative Michael Capuano (D-MA) in the primaries. In the 2016 presidential elections, candidate Bernie Sanders succeeded at energizing crowds based on his progressive ideas. Democratic leaders hope that progressive candidates in this midterm season will do the same. However, many strategists think that this shift in ideology will cause a rift in the party between progressive and moderate candidates.
In addition, Democrats are fielding more minority and female candidates. Democratic voters’ perception of Trump as racist may partly explain this diversifying of the Democratic candidate. In the elections for the House, 180 of Democrat nominees are women and 133 nominees are people of color. According to Politico, women could win up to 127 more seats in the House this election, potentially resulting in 211 women in the House of Representatives. Democratic strategists hope that the female and minority candidates will help rally female and minority voters and promote the Democratic party’s reputation.
President Trump has made it a large priority of his administration to maintain the Republican majority in Congress—especially the Senate, which is essential for confirming executive and judicial nominees. GOP leadership has recognized Trump’s knack for energizing the voter base and thus Trump has campaigned for Republican candidates across the nation, especially in swing states, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida, and states that Trump had won comfortably in the 2016 election, including North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Montana, and West Virginia.
Unsurprisingly, many Republican candidates have made a point of embracing Trump and his agenda—and thus straying from orthodox Republican ideas—as a strategy to garner support. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor of Florida went as far as to air an ad that depicted his children building a wall and reading Trump’s The Art of the Deal. The candidates endorsed by Trump have been mostly successful. For example, after Trump endorsed Katie Arrington via Twitter a few hours before polls closed, Arrington defeated Trump critic Mark Sanford (R-SC), for his seat in the House, against analysts’ expectations. After Trump endorsed Kris Kobach, a candidate for governor of Kansas with similar political stances with the President, he edged out incumbent governor Jeff Colyer for the Republican nomination. In the next congressional term, many more Republican congressmen will be adherents of Trump and his brand of conservative populism.