Monday, October 22, 2018

Control of Congress Looks Like A Split Decision

It looks increasingly as though the outcome of the midterm elections will be a split decision. While Democrats are still heavily favored to win control of the House of Representatives, their chances of winning control of the Senate have diminished. In fact, there is a possibility that Republicans could make some small gains in the upper house.

In the House, the news continues to be gloomy for Republicans. As of this writing, FiveThirtyEight’s forecasting model shows an 86 percent chance that Democrats will win a House majority. The simulations that power the model predict that Democrats will gain between 20 and 62 seats. On average, the Democrats gain about 40 seats, which is far greater than the 22 seats required for a majority. FiveThirtyEight’s website contains a district-by-district forecast of the outcome of the election.

The situation is reversed in the Senate. The forecasters at FiveThirtyEight show a 78 percent chance that Republicans will retain control of the Senate, which is great news for the GOP. Keeping a Senate majority means that Republicans will be able to continue approving judicial appointments and have an edge in ratifying the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico. FiveThirtyEight's simulations show that, on average, the GOP will see a net gain of 0.3 seats in the Senate. Since Senate seats aren’t distributed in fractions, the most likely outcome is either that the status quo is preserved or that Republicans pick up one new seat.

Control of Senate will most likely come down to nine seats that are considered tossups. Five of these seats are held by Democrats, which puts them at a disadvantage for winning a majority right out of the gate. While some of the tossup Senate races are in perennial swing states, several revolve around vulnerable Democrat incumbents in red states. Further bad news for Democrats is that at least one of these seats are likely to be flipped by Republicans.

The Senate races have been impacted by the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, which resulted in at least a temporary bump for Republicans. Democrats have been helped by a large fundraising advantage for most of this election cycle.

“Why is it as close as it is when [Trump] won by 19? Clearly, the other side has dominated on resources,” Missouri Republican candidate Mike Braun said in Politico. Braun complained that Republicans had been outspent by “3-, 4-, 5-to-1” margins by Democratic groups earlier in the race.

“We've been behind the 8-ball, and now it's more on parity, and so the message is getting out,” Braun added.

Here is a state-by-state breakdown of the tossups:

In Arizona, Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema are locked in a dead heat despite the recent embarrassing revelations about Sinema’s disdain for her state. Jeff Flake’s Republican seat could easily go to either party and is the best chance for a Democrat pickup.

In Florida, Democrat incumbent Bill Nelson is defending his seat against Rick Scott. Polling has been close, but a recent CNN poll showed a surge toward Nelson giving him a slight edge after a barrage of advertising over the past few months. Currently, Nelson is favored to hold his seat.

Indiana is another case of a Democrat incumbent, Joe Donelly, in a tight race. While the race is still considered a tossup, Donnelly holds a small lead over Mike Braun, his Republican opponent.

In Missouri, another Midwest Democrat, Claire McCaskill, is attempting to fend off Josh Hawley. Polling is very tight and the race is statistically in a dead heat.

In Montana, yet another Democrat incumbent, Jon Testor, is battling a strong challenge from Matt Rosendale. There isn’t a lot of polling in Montana, but Testor has consistently held a small lead. The odds are good that he will retain the seat.

Nevada is a state where the situation is reversed. Republican Dean Heller was initially a Trump critic, but he reversed himself enough to win President Trump’s endorsement in the primary.  Now Heller holds a small lead over Democrat Jacky Rosen with the latest poll showing Heller up by seven points. This poll may be an anomaly, but Heller looks likely to retain his seat.

North Dakota is looking worse and worse for the Democrats. The last two polls show Republican Kevin Cramer with a double-digit lead over incumbent Heidi Heitkamp. A moderate Democrat in a red state, Heitkamp, who was already in a tight race, suffered in the polls for her vote against Brett Kavanaugh. North Dakota is looking more and more like a Republican pickup.

In Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen have been locked in a tight race for Bob Corker’s Republican seat. In recent polling, Blackburn seems to have opened up a lead. At this point, Republicans are favored to keep this seat.

Finally, Ted Cruz’s Texas seat has been considered a tossup. Although the polling is tight between Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke, it seems certain that Texas voters will send Cruz back to Washington.

At this point, it seems likely that the current Senate balance will be preserved or that Republicans will see a net gain of one seat when the electoral smoke clears. Several very close races for Democrat seats could easily add to Republican gains. Any extra Senate votes for confirming judges would make a reasonable consolation prize for losing control of the House.

Originally published on The Resurgent

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