Midterm Madness Part I: What’s Going On


In light of the upcoming midterm elections, I will be writing a series of articles explaining various aspects of the election season. Part I will inform readers on several key issues that have defined the election cycle. Part II, which will come out in a week or so, will examine the election numerically. Part III, which will come out a few weeks before the Nov. 6 election, will contain predictions for all of the House, Senate and Gubernatorial elections this year. Part IV, which will come out a few weeks after the election, will list the outcomes of the election, compare them to my predictions, and explain any upsets. Part V, which will come out in early December after the special election in Mississippi is resolved, will analyze the outcome of the entire election and its impacts.

Before I begin, I would like to attribute much of this series to the Cook Political Report, University of Virginia Center for Politics and 538.com. Their extensive data collection and thorough political analysis is what made this possible.

Everyone who has watched the news in the past two years knows some of the seven key issues that have set the stage for the 2018 election: healthcare, immigration, gun control, #MeToo, the Russia investigation by Robert Mueller, the Supreme Court and the Trump Administration. Four of the seven are issues that have worked to Democrats’ favor, while three have not.

First is the major issue of 2017 that set the backdrop for the 2018 election: healthcare. The GOP’s attempt to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) met a fiery end after stirring up significant resistance from supporters of the law. Ever since then, Republican incumbents (elected officials who are defending their seats) who voted for the unpopular repeal attempt have seen their election prospects errode significantly. This is a sharp contrast to 2010, when support for Obamacare cost 63 Democrats their seats in the House of Representatives.

Another issue that was once a sore spot for Democrats but is now a key campaign issue is gun control. In the aftermath of recent outbreaks of gun violence, especially the school shooting in Parkland, Florida earlier this year, massive support for gun regulation has in many cases outweighed the damage that the NRA has historically inflicted on candidates who dared to take a public stance in support of gun control. Although this is more complicated on the Senate level, the support for gun control amongst Democratic candidates has played into the dynamics for many races in the House and on the state level.

No list of events that have set the stage for the 2018 midterms would be complete without the #MeToo movement that rose to prominence in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations. There has been plenty of hype about the prospects of a second “Year of the Woman,” named after the original “Year of the Woman” in 1992, when the number of Women in congress increased significantly in the fallout of the Senate’s handling of Anita Hill’s harassment accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. While the political implications of #MeToo can be heavily debated, the electoral impact of #MeToo will almost certainly benefit Democrats more than Republicans for a simple reason: riding on the energy of #MeToo, Democrats have nominated many more women this cycle. Of the record-setting 200 women running for the House of Representatives, 78 percent are Democrats. In fact, the number of Republican women in the House is poised to fall with several incumbents running for other offices and others highly endangered in November.

At first, the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election appears to be a powerful argument to give Democrats control of Congress. The idea is that Republicans, who stand to lose if Mueller finds proof that Trump colluded with Russia to rig the 2016 election, have no incentive to protect Mueller should Trump decide to fire him. Therefore, handing control of the Senate to Democrats would prevent this potential abuse of power by Trump. However, for reasons that I’ll get to when I talk about the Senate in Part II, Democrats have generally avoided campaigning on this issue.

The Supreme Court seat vacated by swing-vote Anthony Kennedy is an even less rosy issue for Democrats to discuss. While the introduction of an Anita Hill-esque #MeToo element gave Democrats another campaign issue to argue that they should control Congress, the impact of Brett Kavanaugh’s recent confirmation is not certain at this moment in time. The question is, now that he has been confirmed, will the spike of Republican energy seen by polling during the confirmation process endure, or will it fade as liberals are further energized to resist?

The thorniest issue by far for Democrats is immigration. While mainstream liberal immigration stances on immigration (namely support for DACA) have majority support, conservative anti-immigration rhetoric is an incredibly effective tool for rallying and turning out Republican voters. In many toss up elections, the victor will come down to which side has the most energy. For many of the reasons on this list, Democrats are very enthused to vote. However, like Kavanaugh, immigration could close that enthusiasm gap enough for Republicans to salvage some endangered seats.

The last key issue of this cycle is the president himself. Midterms are typically a referendum on the president, and 2018 does not look like an exception. Trump is an exceptionally unpopular president for a numerous reasons, which will likely inspire huge backlash from Democrats, Independents and even some Republican voters against the current Republican-controlled Congress. Many Republican incumbents in districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016 are struggling to outpace the blue tint of their seats. Republicans looking to fill open seats in those same districts have the same challenge but without the added boost of incumbency. Even incumbents in districts that Trump won by small margins are finding trouble outrunning the blue wave. The Senate, however, is not as simple…

Midterm Madness V: What’s Next?

Midterm Madness Part IV: What Happened

Midterm Madness Part III: What to Watch

Midterm Madness Part II: What to Know