In theory, wave elections are very exciting for political analysts and aficionados. They tend to feature lots of upsets, which unfold in cascading fashion, adding to the drama. But in other ways, they are fairly humdrum because there is usually plenty of warning that they’re coming. As in the Morton Salt ads back in the day, “When it rains, it pours.” The bad news for one party gets pretty relentless; it’s like hearing the same song played over and over.
The last two weeks have seen some significant movement in Democrats favor. First, there were the impressive results from last Tuesday's elections. This week, we’ve seen two polls — one by Quinnipiac and one by Marist — that show Democrats with a congressional ballot advantage of +13 to +15. Three other recent polls — ABC/Washington Post, Fox, and NBC/Wall Street Journal — show Democrats with an advantage of anywhere from +7 to +15.
These are political wave numbers.
This article has been updated since it was first published to include new information about the future of the race.
Revelations today that four women have accused former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, the GOP in the special election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, of sexual harassment in a series of events that occurred more than 30 years ago has put this race into limbo. With the December 12 special election just 32 days away, GOP strategists are scrambling to figure out their options.
In a blow to House Republicans, popular moderate GOP Rep. Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02) announced he will not seek another term in 2018, citing both term limits on his chairmanship of the House Aviation subcommittee and a "vocal and obstinate minority within both parties" that has "hijacked good legislation in pursuit of no legislation." His decision moves his South Jersey seat all the way from Solid Republican to Toss Up.
For years, the best tool to predict which party will gain House seats in any given election has been the so-called "generic ballot test." The "generic" is a poll question that asks voters which party they’d support in the upcoming congressional election. While it can’t tell us exactly how many seats one party or the other should expect to gain/lose, it does give us a good idea of the range we can expect. And, right now, Democrats should be very happy about what they are seeing. The RealClear Politics average shows Democrats with a whopping 10.5 percent lead on the generic.
Senate Republicans started the cycle with a good electoral map that gave them some hope that they could gain seats, even in a mid-term election when history strongly suggests that they should lose them. But, a growing schism in the Republican Party is threatening to erode many of the advantages Senate Republicans have, and is beginning to jeopardize their ability to gain seats as they are forced to fight multiple primaries that have the potential to provide Democrats with opportunities that didn’t exist just a month ago.
By now it’s become pretty obvious that while many Republican members of Congress may be privately cheering for Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, they aren’t going to follow their lead and publicly break with the president or their party.
Politics is not all that complicated. It is a game of incentives. And, right now there is no incentive for Republicans to split from the President.
Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake announced today that he will not seek re-election in 2018. While Flake was considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents on the ballot this cycle, his decision to retire may not improve Republicans' chances of holding the seat.
We may have already reached a critical juncture in the 2018 Senate midterm elections, so beware of simplistic interpretations. Too often people look at possible electoral outcomes in a binary way; everything is either a zero or a one. In this case, it’s either Democrats cannot win a majority in the Senate, or Republicans will lose their majority. Many people turn a deaf ear toward nuances and “what if’s.”