The 2018 midterm elections are still 16 months away, but educated speculation on them offers some good and bad news for Democrats to retake control of the U.S. House and Senate, and maybe even some statehouses, now that President Donald Trump and a Republican-led Congress have shown just how terrible their policies and appointees are.
With a clear view of who they elected last year, and what the Trump agenda means for most people going forward, will voters rally around the Trump White House and its GOP enablers in Congress, or will voters change direction like they did in 2006 and 2008?
Those were both wave election cycles for Democrats in Washington and Columbus. In 2018, voters will have the opportunity to replace Republicans with Democrats to provide sorely needed checks and balances on an executive branch run amok?
Dems Good On Generic Ballot
A preview of next year’s midterm elections by Larry Sabato, chief guru behind “Sabato’s Crystal Ball,” says the so-called “Generic Ballot Model (GBM)” gives Democrats an early advantage for control of the House, where Republicans rule with a 24-seat advantage.
In the Senate, the GOP advantage is far slimmer at just two seats, so it only takes three Majority Caucus defections to avoid a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence. The GBM is the percentage of voters who say they intend to vote for either the Republican or the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in their district.
Sabato says “the president’s party almost always loses House seats in midterm elections — this has been true in 16 of 18 midterm elections since World War II.” He argues that where the GBM “is in early September of the election year gives the best measure of which party is likely to perform best.”
Two additional predictors that historically impact which direction midterm elections will swing are also identified: 1) Which party controls the White House (Republican) and 2) the number of seats held by each party prior to the election (241 R v 194 D).
“The president’s party matters because, regardless of whatever else is going on, voters tend to turn against the party in the White House in midterm elections. And the number of seats each party holds prior to the election matters because, all else being equal, the more seats the president’s party has to defend, the more seats it is likely to lose.”
Based on calculations made by Sabato for next year, “Democrats will need a lead of at least five points on the generic ballot in early September of 2018 in order to gain the 24 seats that they need to take control of the House,” a lead that could be possible.
FiveThirtyEight, well-respected for its national political calculus, says Democrats hold an adjusted lead of close to seven points on the generic ballot.
“A lead of that magnitude would result in a predicted Democratic gain of close to 30 House seats, more than enough to regain control of the chamber,” the site said.
Even when the model’s standard error of 11.6 seats is factored in, Democrats still have a two-thirds chance of regaining control of the House.
The good news for Democrats on the nation level quickly fades when applied to Ohio, where gerrymandering by victorious Republicans in 2010, when they won an almost-historic record of 63 seats following a tumultuous summer of anti-Obamacare rallies and rhetoric, has solidified a GOP majority of 12-4 over Democrats.
The optimism Sabato offers to Democrats nationally wanes when it comes to Buckeye State elections. Ohio is a traditionally swing state that went hard right in 2016, where Republicans control the statehouse by super majorities in the House (66-33) and Senate (24-9).
According to Jeff Singer at Daily Kos, the bad news from Ohio is the 52-44 win margin by Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton last year, a major reversal of fortune from 2012, when incumbent President Barack Obama defeated GOP standard bearer Mitt Romney 51-48.
In heavily gerrymandered Ohio, Donald Trump won 13 state seats Obama won, while only loosing seven seats won by Romney four years earlier. Trump took it to Clinton in many predominantly white working class areas, including the traditionally Democratic Mahoning Valley near Youngstown, a former bustling steel town down on its luck for decades.
In Ohio’s Washington delegation, gerrymandered districts make it a steep uphill climb for Democrats to win in districts Republicans will have to go a long way to loose. But with Ohio Republicans mostly hiding from voters over whether they support Trumpcare, the Republican health care plan that turns Obamacare upside down, going a long way to lose could be a shorter trip than previously expected.
Now that Trump advocates control the Ohio Republican Party, run by Trump follower Jane Timken, Ohio won’t be neglected by the White House and national Republicans, who will fight for the president even more than they did last year, when he was a wild-card outlier they neither liked nor trusted but voted for anyway because voting for Hillary Clinton was unthinkable.
With all statewide offices up for grabs now that current officeholders, all Republicans, are termed out, Democrats have their work cut out for them. Can their candidates and the issues they are running on, from making local governments and schools whole again to attacking the state’s opiate crisis to creating jobs faster, galvanize enough voters to come home to values and policies that work for the common workers, not the elite wealthy?
Will Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan’s call for national Democratic leaders to resign to make way for new leaders with a new message be the change that’s needed? Or will adhering to traditional Democratic values and messages, from increasing the minimum wage to protecting women’s health care rights to reducing the costs and college, creating jobs beyond minimum wage, and defending Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, be the better path taken?
“We’re asking candidates in these deep red districts to battle the Republican party,” Congressman Ryan said, Politico reported. “We’ve got a lot of energy in our base, which is very exciting for a lot of us to see that on the ground, but you’ve got to beat the Republican and you’ve got to carry this very toxic Democratic brand on your back, too. That’s a tough thing to ask a candidate running for congress.”
Some new slogans for Democrats are already out there, but they may not make the final cut if one try at new messaging — Democrats 2018, We win moral victories, not elections — is an example of where the Ryan caucus would take the party. Another one is, “I mean, have you seen the other guys?”
Whatever the final calculus is for Democrats on message or leadership next year, if Republicans, Democrats and independents who voted for Trump last year to see what really shaking up Washington really looks like are having second thoughts or buyer’s remorse now that they see their wish playing out in real time, Democrats will either become a Phoenix rising from the ashes or turn into a manicured, well-dressed corpse ready for political interment.