11.06.2018 0

What to watch out for in the midterms for the House and Senate, sleeper races and bellwethers

By ALG Staff

The 2018 Congressional midterm elections are critical to the balance of power in Washington, D.C. Right now, Republicans hold a 25-seat majority in the House, although two of those are open seats Democrats have traditionally easily carried, and a 2-seat majority in the Senate.

Americans for Limited Government staff has compiled its best guesses at what to watch out for in the midterms, predictions, sleeper races and bellwethers. Whichever staff member gets it the closest gets a free lunch.

Rick Manning, President, Americans for Limited Government

This is the Donald Trump election, and the GOP should thank its lucky stars that he is a tireless campaigner as that energy has translated into voters across the nation.  Around Labor Day, the D.C. speculation was whether the Republicans would hold the Senate with a dead certainty that they would lose the House, GOP voter enthusiasm was rock bottom while the Democrats were on fire. Going into the election, GOP voter intensity is even with the Democrats and there are three reasons: Brett Kavanaugh, the migrant caravan and President Trump, who’s Energizer Bunny like campaigning to massive crowds has been a shot of adrenaline to the new Trump voter.

Pollsters don’t know what is going to happen as they come to grips with the difficulties of getting good samples in this age of mobile phones and caller id.  They also have the problem that voters don’t tell them the truth, and that there is likely a voter demographic shift that makes putting together models of the electorate increasingly difficult on a national level.  When combined with assumption biases based upon their own personal political bubbles, the profession has been reduced to less scientist and more political alchemist.

Given all of that, here are my predictions for the 2018 mid-term elections

House: Dems +13. 228 is the number of Republican House Members in the 2019 Congress – meaning that the GOP retains control. I wrote this number on my white board two weeks ago, and it means that while the Republicans will lose thirteen seats, it will be considered a very good day for them.

Senate: GOP +5. 56 is the number of Republican Senators in the 2019 Congress. In terms of specific states, I think the GOP holds the seats in Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee which are currently represented by Republicans.  My expectation is that the Republican candidates also defeat Democrats Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.).

Surprise victories:  The GOP will do well in targeted House seats in California largely due to the presence of a ballot measure to repeal a gasoline tax in the state which will drive voters in commuter areas like Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties to the polls.

Throughout the past 21 months, the Democrats have targeted seven House GOP members from California:  Jeff Denham (Calif.-CD10 area south west of Sacramento); David Valadao (Calif.-CD21 – central California south of Fresno, and my wife’s home district); Steve Knight (Calif.-CD25 – northern LA County); Ed Royce (Open seat Calif.-CD39 – Yorba Linda, Orange County); Mimi Walters (Calif.-CD45 – Irvine, Orange County) and Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.-CD48 – Huntington Beach, Orange County) and finally the open Darrell Issa seat in northern San Diego County – Calif.-CD49).

My surprise victories rest in these districts where I predict that the GOP will win all of the Orange County seats with Steve Knight and David Valadeo also prevailing.  If the path to a Nancy Pelosi majority in the House exists, it won’t be through a major sweep in the Golden State.

Early Districts to Watch:  Pennsylvania House seats, particularly those in the Philadelphia suburbs held by Republicans will be early indicators as well as four of the GOP defended seats in Virginia (Barbara Comstock, Dave Brat, Denver Riggleman and Scott Taylor) where only losing the Barbara Comstock seat in northern Virginia will be seen as a major victory.

If the Democrats are going to have a good night, they need to clean up in Pennsylvania where incumbent Republicans find themselves running in completely redrawn districts which are much more favorable to the Democrats due to a state court redistricting order.  When coupled with the top of the GOP ticket not performing well in the keystone state, Republican Congressmen like Scott Perry, Mike Kelly and Brian Fitzpatrick are fighting for their political lives, and how they do will begin to set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Robert Romano, Vice President of Public Policy, Americans for Limited Government

House: Dems +22 through +25. This could be one of the closest races for the House of Representatives in American political history. If Democrats pick up 22 or 23 seats, the House would be divided 218 to 217, which has never happened before. Midterms are always a tough affair for the White House incumbent party, averaging losses 89 percent of the time with an average loss of 35 seats, but those historical trends could be tempered by greater than expected Republican enthusiasm, enough to hold onto key districts and potentially keeping the House out of Democratic hands.

Senate: GOP +2 through +3. Look for Republican pickups in North Dakota and Missouri, and one or two of the following: Indiana, West Virginia, Montana or Florida. Potential Democratic pickups include Arizona and Nevada, one of which might offset GOP gains elsewhere. If Republicans hold onto the Senate, it would mark an historical exception to the rule, where on average the incumbent party loses seats 71 percent of the time, with losses averaging six seats.

Sleeper: If U.S. Rep. Marta McSally holds on to keep the Arizona Senate seat in the Republican column, it will most assuredly mean that not only had the GOP held onto the Senate, but mounted considerable gains across the country. It would show fundamental weakness in polling models that attempted to bank midterm turnout based on a Democratic Blue Wave, as well as perhaps major strength for President Donald Trump’s ability to mobilize his political base, a critical factor headed into 2020.

Bellwether: New York and Virginia Congressional seats will be called early and could tell the American people if the Blue Wave is materializing. This would be a situation where, if it is a Blue Wave, you would expect to see elevated Democratic turnout in areas where Republicans traditionally have a registration advantage. So normally safe seats would be suddenly close, and marginal seats would tilt Democratic, providing Democrats with the edge they need to make it a big night. Districts to watch include N.Y.-CD1, N.Y.-CD22, N.Y.-CD19, Va.-CD10 and Va.-CD7. Republicans must hold onto almost all of those seats if they have any hope of holding the House. If they win those seats strongly, it might be a better night for Republicans than the polls might suggest. If Republicans lose more than one of those seats, it could be a very good night for Democrats.

Natalia Castro, Multi Media Manager, Americans for Limited Government

House: Dems +24. Democrats will gain 29 seats and lose 5, resulting in a net gain of 24 seats. This will give the Democrats a 219 to 216 majority. I believe Republicans can take several more seats to gain a majority if a significant number of Trump supporters show up to the polls. However, House Republicans have done little to make voters enthused about showing support for them; however, Trump won a clear majority in many toss up districts in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, so if those voters return to the polls, Republicans could secure a majority.

Senate: GOP +4. Republicans will pick up seats, allowing them to retain a majority at 55-45. Seats in Florida, Missouri, Montana, and North Dakota will switch to Republican control. Florida is the biggest toss up in this scenario, however, polling remains well within the margin of error. Trump’s last-minute campaign stops in Missouri and Montana should help energize the base enough to push the states red. If Republicans are able to win in these four states it will be just barely, as polling continues to show these states neck and neck, representing a continually divided nation.

Sleeper: If Republican Ron DeSantis can win the governorship Florida it will clearly mean a Blue Wave is not taking place as expected and polling has been neglecting strong Republican challengers. While Real Clear Politics average places Andrew Gillum approximately four points ahead of DeSantis, President Trump has been especially vocal in his support for DeSantis in the last few days. Other popular Florida politicians such as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have also joined DeSantis on the eleventh hour campaign trail to push for voter turnout. DeSantis, despite polls, has claimed momentum is on his side, if he wins he will prove the polls wrong.

Bellwether: Illinois’ 6th Congressional District can be a national bellwether because if any place was expected to be affected by the “blue wave” it would be this district. Currently, Republican incumbent Peter Roskam’s Democratic opponent Sean Casten is up by two points in the polls. Democrats hope Casten’s win will prove suburban America, particularly suburban women, are moving away from the right and toward the left. Despite having Republican Congressional control since 1973, in the 2016 presidential election Hillary Clinton won the district by seven points. At the same time, the district re-elected Peter Roskam, making it one of 23 districts in the country to split their vote between Clinton and the GOP House candidate. In order to maintain Republican support within the district, incumbent Republican Peter Roskam has focused heavily on tax cuts and the return of manufacturing jobs. The direction this district moves will easily tell if that Republican message has resonated with voters.

Donald Wilfong, Development Officer, Americans for Limited Government

House: Dems +20. In the House, Republicans will maintain a small majority of five seats bringing the total tally to 215 Democrats and 220 Republicans. The Republicans won’t lose as much as originally predicted by the “Blue Wave” due to most of the 39 congressional districts considered as “toss-up” are districts which both Trump in 2016 and Romney in 2012 enjoyed marginal yet durable victories.

Senate: GOP +6. In the Senate, Republicans will pick up six seats, Florida, North Dakota, Missouri, Montana, West Virginia and Michigan, bringing the totals to 41 Democrats, 2 Independents (Sanders-Vermont and King-Maine), and 57 Republicans. This will be sure to have Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell smiling for the next two years as he will have a clear path to continue the re-vamping of our courts with Conservative judges.

Sleeper: A little known candidate Mike Miller is running in Florida’s 7th Congressional District that encompasses the Orlando area, he is challenging incumbent Democrat Stephanie Murphy. With the prediction of Rick Scott winning the Senate seat and Ron DeSantis winning the Governorship, Florida Republican voters will need to turn out in droves. With Senator Rubio winning the Orlando area in his 2016 re-election bid, it is clear there are enough Republicans who need to turn out in order to send Mike Miller to Capitol Hill.

Bellwether: As goes Florida, so goes the nation! The state which carried President Trump to his victory in 2016, will be the same state that carries the GOP to victory on election night 2018. If Republicans in Florida turn out as they should and cast their ballots for Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis, Republicans across America should rejoice for the ensuing election night. Florida is the most important swing state and will be the hardest test for the GOP’s messaging strategy in the 2018 mid-terms. With countless Get out to Vote (GOTV) rallies and visits from political elites, Florida has been heavily invested in by people from all over America. If Republicans can win both of these races, it will prove the GOP resources were spent wisely and will shape up into the Red Wave.

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