Forecasting the 2018 Senate Midterms

The U.S. Senate is virtually evenly divided- 51-49. That two seat Republican Majority might as well be a bigly wall though, as Mitch McConnell has continued to cement his legacy as the man who destroyed the Senate. He used the filibuster at unprecedented levels and denied President Obama a fairly won seat on the Supreme Court when he wouldn’t even give Merrick Garland. Now he’s gutted the filibuster’s use on Supreme Court nominees. The Senate is more partisan under McConnell than at any point in our history.

So who will control the chamber? A few numbers to consider-

  • Ten (10)- the number of Democrats defending seats in states Donald Trump won in 2016.
  • Nine (9)- the number of Republican Senators up for election in 2018.
  • Two (2)- the net number of seats Democrats need to win the Senate.

There seem to be three strong possibilities for this election in the Senate. In order of probability, in my opinion:

  1. Republicans narrowly hold on and maybe even pick up one to three seats.
  2. Blue Wave- the Democrats pick up at least two, maybe four or five on the high end, and take the Senate.
  3. Red Wave- Republicans pick up five or more seats.

That’s the range of possibilities, and it’s not that easy to predict which one it will be. About 18 months ago I would have listed the “Blue Wave” option in third, because they had too many tough defenses. Now it’s plausible, though I still doubt it.

So let’s rate these seats out. Here’s my current ratings:

Safe Democrats-

California, Hawaii, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Washington

Likely Democrats-

New Mexico, Minnesota (Klobuchar), Maine, Virginia

Lean Democrats-

Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota (Smith), New Jersey

Toss-Ups-

Nevada, Tennessee, West Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Florida, North Dakota

Lean Republican-

Arizona, Texas, Mississippi (Hyde-Smith)

Likely Republican-

Mississippi (Wicker), Nebraska, Utah

Safe Republicans-

Wyoming

Current Conclusions-

I would currently take a guess of the Republicans holding 53-47. That can move, but just the sheer volume of Democratic toss-ups gives them the edge. In fact, I almost moved Florida and North Dakota the GOP’s way, but held off for now. There is a pathway forward for Democrats though, and it begins with wins in Nevada and Tennessee. While I’m skeptical they can run the table, that is the base of their chances. Ultimately, I think they will need a tough win- in one of Texas, Arizona, or the Mississippi special election- to really have a shot though. The good news is they have somewhat “pros” running in each seat (Beto, Sinema, and Espy). Right now though, I’d be more likely to be on the GOP winning Florida, North Dakota, and Missouri, than the Dems rolling these seats up.

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