About 48 hours from the time I’m writing this, we should have a pretty clear idea of what the House and Senate will look like when they reconvene in January. Will Republicans hold onto both chambers in Washington, or will Democrats gain control of one or both? Before we get to that, a bit of historical perspective is worth a look.
The White House Usually Loses Seats in the Midterm
Traditionally, yes. This is mostly true. Going back to 1982, the party that holds the White House has lost seats in both the House and the Senate in seven of the nine previous midterm elections. The only outliers are 1998 and 2002.
Why does this happen? Good question. The public can be fickle, I suppose. It’s also true that the party out of the White House has more campaign ammo to unload. That was evident in 2010, when Republicans destroyed Democrats over the Affordable Care Act. Ironically, that same set of laws is coming into play again in this midterm election; only this time, Republicans are getting beaten over it. Seems people who were once against it are now for it.
Like I said…fickle.
Voter Turnout is Much Lower in the Midterm Elections
Historically speaking, voter turnout in midterm elections is always lower than in presidential elections. For example, 60.1 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2016 election. The 2014 mid-term election? 36.7 percent, which was a sharp decline from previous mid-terms. The highest mid-term voter turnout in modern times was 48.7 percent in 1966. Since 1982, however, turnout has cracked 40 percent only four times.
What to Expect Tomorrow
Turnout is anticipated to be high. Already we’ve seen high turnout for early voting around the country. Here in my home state of Nevada, for example, 40 percent of registered voters have already gone to the polls. That’s a massive increase over 2014, which barely cracked 25 percent.
My prediction: national voter turnout will be somewhere around 45 percent. That’s purely a hunch. Even with all the hyperbole and rhetoric around this being “the most important election of our lives,” some people simply choose to not vote.
High Voter Turnout = Democratic Party Wins
Though that’s been true in the past, I’m not so sure it’ll be a clean sweep tomorrow. Yes, Democrats are predicted to win enough seats (they only need 25) to reclaim the majority in the House of Representatives, but the Senate is another story entirely. That seems odd, considering Republicans are clinging to a 51-49 majority, but several factors favor their Senate races (we’ll get to that later).
For now, here’s how you’ll be able to tell if Democrats are truly leading the turnout: winning in Trump districts. If Democrats are competing and winning in districts and states that Trump won in 2016, then Democrats have momentum. We’re seeing many signs of Republicans in trouble in the House as well as gubernatorial races, but not the Senate. Again, we’ll get to that.
Before We Get Into it…
Here’s what I expect overall tomorrow: Democrats will win back the House, but not the Senate. In fact, don’t be surprised if it ends up Republicans gain a Senate seat. There. That’s the overall prediction. Now then, let’s look a little bit deeper at some races.
The House of Representatives
All 435 seats in the House are on the line tomorrow. You already knew that. There are far, far too many races out there and there’s no need to handicap them all. A handful of races, however, could be bellwether elections that may predict the intensity of the so-called “blue wave.” In fact, BallotPedia has a list of several key battleground House races on its website. Spoiler alert: most of these seats are currently held by Republicans.
As mentioned previously, the party that controls the White House traditionally loses in the mid-terms. Some degradation of Republican power is predicted.
Here are the House races I’m highlighting to watch tomorrow:
California 48th: Dana Rohrbacher (R-incumbent) vs. Harley Rouda (D)
Rohrbacher’s been in that seat since Christ was a corporal (as my dad used to say). True, California is a deep, blue state. But Orange County is a traditional Republican stronghold with Rohrbacher representing it for 30 years now. Why is this a fight right now? Ol’ Dana’s been the subject of some potentially naughty dealings with Russians of late. That hasn’t helped. Will it be enough to unseat him? We’ll see.
PREDICTION: ROHRBACHER STAYS
California 49th: Mike Levin (D) vs. Diane Harkey (R)
Republican incumbent Darrell Issa is stepping down after nine terms in office.
PREDICTION: LEVIN FLIPS 49 BLUE
Indiana 6th: Greg Pence (R) vs. Jeannine Lee Lake (D)
Yes, Pence is part of that Pence family. He’s the arrogant, lazy, entitled brother to the dimwit vice president. Yes, I called him a dimwit because he is a dimwit. Greg Pence is going to win this race going away. He has zero political experience and is running a campaign in name only. He refuses to debate his challenger. He refuses to make appearances. He’s running a lazy campaign because he’s a lazy, lazy man who doesn’t deserve to win. But he will win. And voters who pull the lever for him should be embarrassed they did so. Greg Pence represents everything that is wrong with politics. Everything. This is why I sometimes despise my former home state.
PREDICTION: PENCE WINS. PENCE SUCKS. IN-6 SUCKS
Michigan 8th: Mike Bishop (R-incumbent) vs. Elissa Slotkin (D)
Just looking at this district makes you want to scream for impartial re-districting. It looks conveniently drawn. Just sayin’. Though Bishop’s only held the seat for two terms, MI-8 has been a red district for 18 years. Until now.
PREDICTION: ELISSA SLOTKIN WINS
New York 14th: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) vs. Anthony Pappas (R)
This is a solid blue district that Ocasio-Cortez is likely to win in a landslide. That’s not the story. The story is the fact that she primaried Democratic incumbent Joseph Crowley by running to his left and grabbing more than 56 percent of the vote. Ocasio-Cortez is poised to become a darling of the left and (I’m guessing) a favorite target of Fox News because she uses the evil ‘s’ word to describe herself. That’s democratic socialist, in case you wondered. At 29 years old, I expect Ocasio-Cortez to be the far left’s favorite voice in Washington.
Utah 4th: Mia Love (R-incumbent) vs. Ben McAdams
An interesting battle between a pair of potential darlings of their respective parties. Mia Love made headlines four years ago when she won this seat because she’s a young, African-American, conservative woman who toes the party line. Her challenger is the current mayor of Salt Lake City and considered a moderate. Personally, I know nothing about this race, other than polls have it tied or McAdams leading. Keep an eye on this one.
PREDICTION: NO LOVE FOR MIA; McADAMS WINS
The U.S. Senate
This is a tough map for Democrats. They’ve got to defend 23 of the 35 seats up for election tomorrow. And they need to flip a net total of two seats to gain the majority. Not so easy, considering 17 of those seats (nine of which are held by Democrats) are in states Trump won in 2016. This is why Democrats have never been confident about their chances.
Realistically, about five or six of these races are tight. And Democrats would need them all to break their way to win the majority. Chances of that happening? About 1/7, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. And I agree with them. But who knows. Perhaps Democrats thread the needle just so and produce their magical unicorn. I’m not betting on that, but there are a handful of races worth watching tomorrow. These will likely determine if the Senate goes red or blue.
NORTH DAKOTA: Heidi Heitkamp (D-incumbent) vs. Kevin Cramer (R)
Heidi’s in deep, deep trouble. Polling shows Cramer’s lead has widened over the past month. Unless something crazy happens—and, really, how often does something crazy happen in North freakin’ Dakota?—Heitkamp is likely one-and-done as a senator.
TEXAS: Ted Cruz (R-incumbent) vs. Beto O’Rourke (D)
This has been an intriguing race to watch. Cruz, for the record, is a slimy, sweaty, chinless weasel. He’s a first-term senator that even his fellow Republican senators don’t like. But he’s a national brand (and Donald Trump’s latest lapdog). O’Rourke has become a national brand, too. Young, popular, hip, pulls in crowds of young people…sound familiar? Yeah, don’t your hopes up. Obama was smart enough to be in Illinois. O’Rourke is running to unseat a deep red senator in a deep red state. Unless all the polling data in Texas is wrong—which I don’t expect—Cruz will win tomorrow.
PREDICTION: SIX MORE YEARS OF THE SWEATY, CHINLESS WEASEL
INDIANA: Joe Donnelly (D-incumbent) vs. Mike Braun(R)
Indiana Democrats are something like el chupacabra. You hear about them, but rarely see one in person. Donnelly is a Democrat. An Indiana Democrat, so he’s really not all that liberal. But that doesn’t seem to matter anymore in the Hoosier State of Mind. Outside of two or three counties, Democrats don’t fare well in Indiana. But I think those two or three counties will come through for Donnelly tomorrow. Why? I have no idea. Hope, I guess.
NEVADA: Dean Heller (R-incumbent) vs. Jacky Rosen (D)
This is one the Democrats need if they want to flip the Senate. Rosen is in her first (and only) term as a House rep. Heller is clinging for dear life in a state that seems to be going from red to purple. This race is truly neck-and-neck. Being as how I canvassed for Jacky Rosen, I will not make a prediction; just advise you to watch this one.
PREDICTION: YOU DECIDE
ARIZONA: Martha McSally (R) vs. Kyrsten Sinema (D)
This is the first real chance in a long time Democrats have at an Arizona Senate seat. Republican Jeff Flake (who lives up to his last name, if you ask me) is stepping down. Again, this is a race Democrats need. Sinema’s been leading most of the way in polls, but McSally’s narrowed the gap in recent days. I’m predicting a shocker here.
MISSOURI: Clair McCaskill (D-incumbent) vs. Josh Hawley (R)
This one has Democrats genuinely nervous. McCaskill’s vying for a third term in a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996…but did elect Democrat Jay Nixon for governor in 2008 and 2012 (thanks, Obama!). Two problems for McCaskill this time, though. 1: Trump destroyed Clinton in 2016; and 2: she doesn’t have a moron like Todd Akin to run against this time. Hawley is a young Republican whom I’m sure has designs on something greater than the Senate. This could be his steppingstone.
PREDICTION: TOO CLOSE TO CALL
There you have it, kids. Now get out there and vote!