17 May 2018

Sabato Puts 50-50 Odds Of Dems Retaking The House In 2018

The U.S. House

Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball is one of the most credible predictors of election outcomes in Congressional races. He gives the Democrats a 50-50 chance of retaking the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 with a wide range of possible outcomes. Democrats need to pick up 23 seats (net) to achieve this outcome.

This is somewhat hard to reconcile with some stunning special election victories in recent months for Democrats running in safe Republican seats. But, gerrymandering. But, voter turnout and voter suppression. But, tribal politics. But, resignation in the face of one act of Trump Administration/GOP mischief after another. But, a diffuse sense that individual members of Congress are responsible for the acts of fellow party members. 

The U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate race is much easier to make predictions about at this point, because there are far fewer races to analyze and none of the district boundaries have changed, and polling is more easily available.
There are 35 U.S. Senate seats up for election this year, 33 of which would ordinarily be up for election and 2 of which (Minnesota and Mississippi) are open due to vacancies. Democrats need to win 28 of the 35 seats up for election to win a majority; Republicans need to hold just 8 of the 35 seats up for election to retain a Senate majority. The Democrats need to pick up 2 Senate seats to gain a majority in the Senate (including independents who caucus with the Democrats). 

Simply put, there is a less than 50-50 chance of Democrats gaining a majority in the U.S. Senate. It would take a big "blue tsunami" for that to happen. A "par for the course" outcome in the current quite favorable environment for Democratic candidates would be for Democrats to win 25 seats which would mean that there would be 47 Senators who caucus with Democrats and 53 with caucus with Republicans, for a net loss of two seats. One can't simply predict the outcome of each race independently, however, because midterm elections are all strongly correlated with each other.

This said, however, a narrow majority in the Senate is not nearly as powerful as a narrow majority in the House. Defections do happen in the Senate on individual votes among a handful of moderates (some of whom will be gone after 2018), 

Of the Senate races, eighteen have at least a remote possibility of changing hands in an extraordinary election while seventeen (13 Democratic and 4 Republican) are safe. 

Democrats need to win fifteen of the eighteen seats that are in play. Republicans can achieve a 50-50 tie in the Senate with gives them a majority with Vice President Pence casting deciding votes in cases of ties for the Republicans, with just four out of eighteen seats that are in play. The seats that are in play break down as follows (according to Real Clear Politics with incumbent parties in open seats, incumbent candidates where an incumbent is involved, listed following each state, and bold face type for the state if Trump won that state in 2016):

Thirteen safe Democratic seats with Democratic incumbents who, except in the open seat in Maine, are running for re-election. Clinton won twelve of these states in 2016 and won most, but not all of Maine's electoral votes in 2016.

Six likely Democratic: Michigan (Stabenow-D), Minnesota-2 (Smith-D), New Jersey (Menendez-D), Pennsylvania (Casey-D), Wisconsin (Baldwin-D), Virginia (Kaine-D) 

Two lean Democratic: Ohio (Brown-D), Montana (Tester-D)

Eight toss ups: Arizona (R), Indiana (D), Tennessee (D), Florida (Nelson-D), Missouri (McCaskill-D), Nevada (Heller-R), North Dakota (Heitkamp-D), West Virginia (Manchin-D).

One lean Republican:Texas (Ted Cruz-R)

One likely Republican: Mississippi 2 (Hyde-Smith-R)

Four safe Republican seats (including the open seat in Utah) with Republican incumbents who, except in Utah, are running for re-election (all were won by Trump).

Fourteen of the eighteen Senate seats in play are in states that Trump won in 2016. Four are seats that were won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

Yet, 2016 was not a landslide election. Clinton won the popular vote and 236 out of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. But, the 2018 mid-term elections in the U.S. Senate happen, more or less by chance, to be in territory that is disproportionately favorable to Republicans.

Federal Races In Colorado

There is not a U.S. Senate race this year in Colorado. 

The only races of national importance will be its seven Congressional District races, several of which are safe seats. The 6th Congressional District held by Republican Mike Coffman is the likely to flip in 2018, based upon voter registration and support for Clinton in the 2016 election, but Mike Coffman has consistently exceeded expectations for a generic Republican in this suburban Denver district.

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