The ballyhooed “Blue Wave” is not going to happen, There will be more of a “Red Trickle.” Since President Trump’s inauguration, an incessant drumbeat by the “mainstream Media” and the keepers and icons of our national culture has informed us that the reaction to Trump will be a “Blue Wave,” pouring Democrats into control of the United States Senate and House of Representatives.
The Senate. Cooler heads have known from the outset that Democrats were in for a struggle this year. Because of a senator’s six year term the playing field in any election is set six years before. In 2012 the Democrats already had control of the Senate and in the Obama re-election year picked up two additional seats, giving them a majority of 55 (including two independents who voted with them). Those are the seats up this year. Ten of the Democrats on this year’s ballot are from states carried by President Trump.
As usual the majority of the 35 Senate seats on the ballot (the usual 33 plus two special elections to fill unexpired terms) are expected to remain in the same hands. Still, 26 of the 35 have been held by Democrats, giving them a larger exposure to loss and less opportunity for gain.
Only 14 of the 35 seats are considered to be seriously “in play” for changing party control. Of those, one is virtually certain to change parties – that of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota. She was already behind in the polls before her vote against now-Justice Kavanaugh, whose confirmation was favored by a large majority of her constituents.
Of the remaining 13 “in play,” four are leaning towards each party, according to the reliable FiveThirtyEight.com, while five are truly toss-ups – too close to call. They are:
Florida. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson faces popular Republican Governor Rick Scott. Scott should have been a favorite but he has problems in heavily conservative Southwest Florida, where usually supportive voters are angered by green algae on their waterfront from state environment management failures. Nelson will be reelected.
Indiana. Incumbent Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly in a Red state faces GOP challenger Mike Braun. Voters are sharply divided and 2.5 % conservative votes going to a Libertarian third-party candidate will make the difference for Donnelly.
Missouri, Incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has usually been able to walk the party line in D.C. and play moderate at home. I think it catches up with her and Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley wins.
Nevada. Incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller is in a mathematical dead heat with Democrat Jacky Rosen. Late breaking undecided voters seldom decide for the better-known incumbent. This one changes hands to the Democrat.
Arizona is an open seat, vacated by Republican Jeff Flake. Polls show Democrat Kyrsten Sinema with a slight edge over GOP Congresswoman and former fighter pilot Martha McSally. I know the state has changed a lot but I don’t believe it. I think McSally will win.
Those five states currently break down 3-2 for the Democrat and, if I’m right, they’ll stay the same.
Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Florida are among states with large demographic changes in recent years. The “leaning” category includes the Texasrace pitting incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz against Democrat challenger “Beto” O’Rourke. I don’t think Texas has changed that much either. Maybe, of course, it’s that I haven’t.
Even though it’s an off-year election, I think the Republicans increase their Senate majority by at least one. If the rule about late-deciders breaking against incumbents holds, they could gain six.
The House of Representatives. Democrats have a much better chance of getting control of the House. With three exceptions, the President’s party has lost seats in the House in mid-term elections since 1826. The three exceptions were affected by massive national events – FDR and the Depression in 1934, the reaction to efforts to impeach Clinton in 1998 and the 9/11 attacks before 2002. Moreover, the Republican majority is only 23 votes in the 435 member House. Pundits were predicting a “Blue Wave” Democratic pickup of 50 seat. The consensus has now dropped to about 30 seats changing hands.
Most House seats have been redistricted into “safe’ seats and only perhaps 100 to 150 seats may be seriously contested. Obviously national issues like President Trump have an effect on these elections but there are always local issues and personalities as well. The common wisdom is that Republican losses will come from woman voters in suburban districts, horrified at Trump’s behavior.
To the extent Trump is a factor, I think his support tends to be under-polled. Trump voters don’t like to admit to the pollsters that they are one of “the deplorables.” Washington political analysts, talking to each other, allow their anti-Trump biases interfere with their judgment.
I think the GOP may hold the House but I’m not willing to call it. I’m afraid my own biases may be interfering with myjudgment. What I will predict is that whoever wins, their majority will be in single digits.
Tuesday night will be a great show. Expect a lot of experts to be as surprised as they were Election Night in 2016.