The Briefing, Vol. VI, Issue 45 – Election Guide 2018
Will Republicans keep the Senate? It’s likely.
Can they save their House majority? Well, the deck is definitely stacked against them there. But it’s not impossible.
Democrats need to gain a net 25 seats in all in order to gain control of the U.S. House. But right off the bat, they’re going to gain a net four seats because of a Democratic court-ordered redistricting in Pennsylvania. That means Democrats’ really need only a 21-seat gain.
And in the midterm of a Republican President’s first term, the playing field certainly favors them.
Still, it is not a foregone conclusion. The forecasters are very divided on this one. The backlash against Senate Democrats’ treatment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh has energized Republican voters. And no one can say much for sure about non-Republican Trump voters who may not have voted in previous midterms. Will they turn out? Are they part of the massive early voting surge that has occurred for both parties and unaffiliated voters?
It’s also very hard to imagine an election in which the House and Senate contests go sharply in opposite directions, which the polls suggest is going to happen.
Among the questions that the results will raise:
- Will the result of this election allow Democrats to impeach or otherwise impede the Trump administration?
- Will Democrats, if given a House majority, follow through on talk of abolishing ICE and the like with legislation?
- Does Trump’s aggressive participation in the midterms turn out to be a positive for Republican candidates? How will it compare to Barack Obama’s disastrous involvement in 2010 and 2014?
- Will Republicans turn Trump voters into Republican midterm voters?
- Will black voters turn out for Democrats, in contrast to 2016?
- How will Hispanic voters react to Trump? Will it be according to the media’s conventional narrative?
- How much added control will Democrats have over redistricting after the next Census as a result of victories in governors’ races?
- Will Democrats perform better at the state legislative level after the blowout of the Obama years?
- Will Trump have an easier or a harder time appointing judges and Supreme Court justices as a result of this election?
Here’s our guide, in order of the final poll closings in each state, so that you can follow along at home.
7 p.m. EST
Indiana: Republican Mike Braun is at least even odds triumph over Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, perhaps by a wider margin than the polls indicate. If he wins, then President Trump’s late visit to Indiana will be remembered as a plus for Braun. If not, then Republicans have good reason to be nervous about the rest of the evening.
A Democratic win, however, would keep hope alive a few more hours for a Democratic Senate majority.
Kentucky: The race to watch here is that of Rep. Andy Barr, R, against Democrat Amy McGrath. Barr is only just slightly favored to hang on, in which case Republicans just barely keep hope alive of hanging on the House by the skin of their teeth.
Georgia: The governor’s race is very close and could easily go either way. Expect a long night of counting, but give a slight edge to Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp over Democratic state Sen. (and former racy novelist) Stacey Abrams. Polling of Georgia consistently overestimates Democratic support in midterms. The race might still go to a runoff if neither candidate gets 50 percent.
On the other hand, a late poll by the Trafalgar Group, which has a strong track record of polling races for Trump and Trump-like candidates for whom respondents can be hesitant to express support, released a poll Sunday night showing Kemp up 12 points. This would be an astounding and confounding result. An early call in this race would strike fear in the hearts of Democrats nationwide.
Republican Rep. Karen Handel is on pace to narrowly survive a Democratic surge if narrowly, and Republican Rep. Rob Woodall will survive by a wider margin. If these two members of Congress go down, however, then Democratic control of the House is almost assured.
Virginia: Sen. Tim Kaine, D, will be re-elected in a landslide. Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock will almost certainly be sucked down in the undertow.
Also in danger, but not quite as badly, are Reps. Scott Taylor in the Tidewater area and Dave Brat in Richmond. Meanwhile, Republican and retired Air Force vet Denver Riggleman is trying to hold on to an open seat in a very close race against author and anti-Israel conspiracy theorist Leslie Cockburn, D.
7:30 p.m. EST
North Carolina: Republicans are expected to win at least one of the three competitive House races here — the one between Rep. George Holding, R, and Linda Coleman, D. But if they cannot win two of three, they are definitely on their way to losing their majority. The other two seats expected to be competitive are those of Reps. Mark Harris, R, and Ted Budd, R.
Ohio: Attorney General Mike DeWine, R, is a slight underdog against former CFPB Chairman Richard Cordray.
Republicans shouldn’t lose any House seats in Ohio — if they do then it’s almost certainly lights out for their majority.
Vermont: Republican Gov. Phil Scott will convincingly win re-election.
West Virginia: Republicans are not expected to win this Senate race, but they might yet. If Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin somehow loses, then it’s going to be a Red Wave night. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has closed the gap late in the race. Manchin’s late admission in debate that he will be voting against Amendment One, the pro-life initiative on the ballot, could tip the balance. Democrats are indeed worried — Chuck Schumer’s Senate Majority PAC threw in about $1.5 million up against Morrisey in in the three days between Halloween and All Souls’ Day, and the DSCC dropped an additional $800,000 on airtime on the 31st.
Still, Democratic SuperPACs have effectively hammered Morrisey for his lobbying career and New Jersey origins. And Manchin’s vote for Justice Brett Kavanaugh might be just enough to save him — he’d probably already be a goner without it, but it doesn’t appear to have solidified the large lead he once enjoyed. Early voting is up significantly, but it would be wrong to assume this is good for Democrats. Although Democrats have a vast majority in voter registration and lead registered Republicans in early voting, GOP turnout is up by quite a by quite a bit more (45 percent as of Thursday, compared to 17 percent for Dems) since 2014.
Recall that 2014 was a bloodbath for the state Democratic Party, the election that all but put it out of business at the state level.
Meanwhile, Republican Carol Miller should be able to hold down the district of former GOP Rep. and now State Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins against moderate (maybe even conservative) Democrat Richard Ojeda.
8 p.m. EST
Connecticut: Republican Bob Stefanowski is closing strong against liberal Democrat Ned Lamont, who is best remembered for primarying former Sen. Joe Lieberman. Given the unpopularity of the exiting Democratic governor, Dannel Malloy, Stefanowski could have a real chance.
Florida: It doesn’t get any closer than this, nor will victory anywhere else be quite as sweet as in the Sunshine State.
Republicans are slight underdogs in the races for both Senate and governor, but they are definitely within reach of winning both. A win by Rick Scott against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson puts an early end (although perhaps the counting will go late) to any speculation about the Senate changing hands. Either way, Scott’s entry into this race put this one on the board — it has absorbed a ton of money that could have been spent to prop up other Democratic incumbents, and it was one of the master strokes in protecting Republicans’ Senate majority.
A win by Rep. Ron DeSantis for governor (slightly less likely, although all the polls are so close that it’s hard to say) would be more consequential still. It would squelch the career of Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, an ambitious Democrat, and offer DeSantis the chance to create a solid majority on the Florida Supreme Court for at least a decade.
Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R, could be the canary in the coal mine for the GOP House majority — if he holds on, things are going better than expected for the Republicans.
No one is quite sure what to expect in the neighboring 27th district, where Donna Shalala is favored to take over the seat left open by retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, a former Univision reporter, has shown unexpected strength, and Shalala has had some serious miscues. It would be a real coup for Republicans to keep this seat.
Meanwhile, the race in the fifteenth district between Republican Ross Spano and Democrat Kristen Carlson is a toss-up.
Illinois: Gov. Bruce Rauner, R, who lost conservatives’ trust during his first term, will lose re-election by a wide margin. Meanwhile, Rep. Peter Roskam, R, is in the fight of his life in his suburban Chicago district, and the same could be said forRep. Randy Hultgren. Downstate, Republicans really need Reps. Mike Bost and Rodney Davis to win.
Maryland: Probably no one expected this four years ago, but Gov. Larry Hogan, R, will win a second term easily.
Maine: Democrat Janet Mills is favored over Shawn Moody to take over the governor’s mansion. Meanwhile, Rep. Bruce Polliquin is on the ropes in the rural second congressional district. This is one Republicans would like to save from the fire if they can.
Massachusetts: Gov. Charlie Baker, R, will easily win re-election.
Michigan: Republicans face the possibility of losing the governorship and perhaps two House races: Rep. Mike Bishop is in some danger (although narrowly leading down the stretch) and Democrats also hope to seize the neighboring open 11th district in suburban Detroit. Only if the night goes very badly for Republicans will Reps. Fred Upton and Tim Walberg find themselves in trouble.
In the Senate race, John James is taking his shot at Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
Missouri: It’s hard to say which Senate race is the closest in America, but it might well be the one between Attorney General Josh Hawley, R, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D. Although we gave Hawley the edge last week, he hasn’t exactly opened up a big lead. This is one of the many races in which Trump intervened, and upon which his intervention will be judged as a success.
Mississippi: The only important race is a jungle primary Senate contest that will go to a runoff. The most likely result is that Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith will face Democrat Mike Espy on November 27. Republican State Sen. Chris McDaniel, however, aspires to ruin those plans by displacing one of the two.
New Hampshire: Gov. Chris Sununu, R, should easily win another term.
New Jersey: Democrats expect to pick up two open House seats. They’d also like to defeat Reps. Leonard Lance, R, and Tom MacArthur, R, if they can.
As for Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, his corruption drew the race close. Republican challenger Bob Hugin claims to have a lead in internal polling. Don’t put any large bets on him, because none of the other polling supports such an idea. But you really never know what’s going to happen in a race like this one.
Oklahoma: Republican Kevin Stitt is in an uncomfortably close race for governor, to succeed unpopular GOP Gov. Mary Fallin.
Pennsylvania: Democrats will win the governor and Senate races easily. The more interesting questions is what a partisan court-ordered redistricting round will do to the state’s House delegation. Thanks entirely to redistricting, Republicans will lose four net seats at the outset. Beyond that, Republican Reps. Scott Perry, Brian Fitzpatrick, and Mike Kelly have a reasonable but narrow path to holding on to their seats. If they all do, then Republicans will have dodged a bullet. If they all lose, it’s going to be hard to keep the GOP House majority intact with a net loss of seven seats in this one state.
Tennessee: Republican Bill Lee will win his race for governor going away. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R, should also win her race for Senate by a more modest margin over former Gov. Phil Bredesen.
9 p.m. EST
Arizona: Republican Gov. Doug Ducey should win easily over his radical opponent. The tossup race is the one between Reps. Kyrsten Sinema, D, and Martha McSally for Senate, and that one could easily go either way. The early vote favors registered Republicans, but that doesn’t mean they’re all voting for McSally.
In House races, Republicans risk losing McSally’s open House seat around Tucson and the border.
Colorado: Democratic Rep. Jared Polis is favored to win for governor. Democrats expect to defeat Rep. Mike Coffmann, R, in Denver’s eastern suburbs.
Kansas: Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, best known for his hawkish immigration politics, holds the narrowest of leads in a three-way race. Even though liberal Independent Greg Orman has dropped out, Kobach is still in a neck-and-neck with Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly.
In the House, Rep. Kevin Yoder, R, trails his Democratic opponent in his Kansas City seat. Democrats are also hoping that Paul Davis, their 2014 gubernatorial nominee, can take over the second district left open by retiring Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R.
Minnesota: Republicans’ best pickup opportunity in the country is in the open eighth district, where Pete Stauber, R, has a clear lead over Democrat Joe Radinovich. Republicans are in danger of losing two seats in the Minneapolis suburbs (those of Reps. Erik Paulsen and Jason Lewis), but they also have a reasonable chance of winning the open first district, where Jim Hagedorn is vying for the seat left open by Democratic Rep. Tim Walz. There has been no polling in the seventh district, where moderate Rep. Collin Peterson, D, had an unexpectedly close call in 2016.
Walz is favored to win for governor.
Karin Housley is a longshot for Senate, but not a completely hopeless longshot. She has closed the gap with appointed Democratic Sen. Tina Smith and could give her a close shave. Who knows? Minnesota is poorly polled as a rule and always quirky in its politics. It quite nearly delivered a surprise for Trump in 2016, so anything could happen.
Nebraska: Republican Rep. Don Bacon is favored to hold on to his Omaha-area seat, which had fallen into Democratic hands in the past.
New Mexico: There’s only one competitive race in the Land of Enchantment — Republicans would love Yvette Herrell to hang on to the open House seat in the southern half of the state.
New York: A great many Republican House members are at risk here. But the ones in the most trouble are Reps. John Faso and Claudia Tenney, in the Hudson Valley and the Binghamton area, respectively. Incredibly, Rep. Chris Collins is expected to survive in spite of the insider trading charges against him.
North Dakota: Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer should easily defeat Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who faced an uphill battle but ran one of the most incompetent campaigns in America.
South Dakota: Believe it or not, Rep. Kristi Noem, R, is in danger of losing the race for governor. She should still win.
Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott should win re-election without trouble. Sen. Ted Cruz should also win, despite what will probably turn out to be a $75 million effort to topple him by the much-ballyhooed Beto O’Rourke. A Cruz loss, which would signal a terrible night for Republicans, reopens the possibility of a Democratic Senate.
The House Republicans at greatest risk are Reps. John Culberson and Pete Sessions, who both clung to narrow leads the last time their races were polled. GOP Rep. Will Hurd, on the other hand, should have a surprisingly easy time holding on to a seat that was drawn to be much more competitive than theirs.
Wisconsin: If you believe the Marquette Poll, then Scott Walker is very much still in this ballgame against Tony Evers, and could win a third term. But even in the best case scenario, this is going to be his closest race yet.
Republicans expect to hang on to the House seat of retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan, R. State Sen. Leah Vukmir is a very long longshot to beat Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D.
10 p.m. EST
Iowa: Gov. Kim Reynolds, R, is locked in a toss-up race against Democratic businessman Fred Hubbell. Meanwhile, Republican Reps. Rod Blum and David Young are both in critical condition. And late in his race, with his controversial comments and visit to Auschwitz, Rep. Steve King is showing some weakness in the polls as well, although most forecasters still favor him to win.
Montana: Democratic Sen. Jon Tester has the narrowest of nominal polling leads. It’s quite possible that all those visits by President Trump will put Matt Rosendale over the top, and the race is close enough that it could happen.
Win or lose, Republicans were happy to see Trump turn this into a real race, which it might not have been otherwise, after Tester spread rumors about one of his nominees.
Rep. Greg Gianforte, R, is also in a tight race for re-election against former state Rep. Kathleen Williams.
Nevada: Sen. Dean Heller, R, is ever-so-slightly favored to win re-election, but it’s too close for such a nominal advantage to matter much. The governor’s race between Attorney General Adam Laxalt, R, and Steve Sisolak, D, is just as close. Early voting favors Democrats slightly — as their voter registration advantage would suggest — but not by as much as it did in 2012, when Heller won despite Barack Obama’s victory in Nevada.
In the House, Republican Danny Tarkanian hopes to pick up the Vegas-area third district House seat left open by Heller’s opponent, Democratic Rep. Jackie Rosen.
Former Rep. Cresent Hardy, R, is back for the rubber-match against Rep. Steven Horsford, D.
Utah: Rep. Mia Love, R, is in serious danger of losing her seat to Salt Lake Mayor Ben McAdams, D.
11 p.m. EST
California: If Republicans have a relatively good night, then we might not know who wins the House for some time. That’s because of California’s slow mail-balloting system. Republicans risk losing between one and seven seats in the Golden State. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, Jeff Denham, Steve Knight, and Mimi Walters are all on the edge, as is the indicted Duncan Hunter. So are two other open Republican seats. Republicans’ only serious chance for a pickup is in the seventh district, against Rep. Ami Bera, D.
Idaho: Lt. Gov. Brad Little should win for governor, but Democrats might break 40 percent statewide — something that hasn’t happened in a while.
Oregon: There won’t be any House or Senate action here, but keep an eye on the governor’s race. Gov. Kate Brown, D, is surprisingly unpopular and has let her race against Republican Knute Buehler get uncomfortably close.
Washington: Dino Rossi, R, has run for statewide office over and over again and come up short. He is now running to keep retiring Rep. Dave Reichert’s seat in GOP hands. Polling in the race has been sparse and frankly unreliable in its wide swings. It would be a very nice moderate, suburban seat for the GOP to keep in such a rough environment, though. Republican Reps. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and Jaime Herrera-Beutler are both expected to win their races.
12 a.m. EST
Alaska: Despite the late exit from the race by independent liberal Gov. Bill Walker, Republican Mike Dunleavy is expected to win this one over former Sen. Mark Begich, D.
On the other hand, Republicans are quite worried about Rep. Don Young, and Paul Ryan’s Congressional Leadership Fund has cobbled together a last-minute get-out-the-vote operation to save him from defeat. This wouldn’t be the first time Young has had a close shave.