Throughout the first 200-plus days of Donald Trump’s presidency, it’s been common for analysts to say he is struggling through sub-40% approval ratings despite not having to reckon with a major non-scandal crisis. Whether that was true before last weekend is debatable -- do North Korea’s provocations count? -- but it’s almost certainly not true now after Hurricane Harvey struck Houston and southeast Texas.
Ever since Donald Trump won the presidency, 2018’s race for the Senate seemed to pit two powerful, competing forces against one another: the Republicans’ long and enticing list of Democratic targets, several of which are in some of Trump’s best states, versus the longstanding tendency of the president’s party to struggle to make gains in midterm elections.
A couple of weeks ago, Crystal Ball senior columnist Alan Abramowitz unveiled a model for predicting party change in next year’s gubernatorial elections. The results were rosy for Democrats: The model suggested Democrats should gain somewhere between six to nine governorships depending on the Democratic lead in House generic ballot polling. The Democratic advantage is in large part simply because: 1.) There is a Republican in the White House, and the presidential party often loses ground in midterm elections up and down the ballot; and 2.) Republicans are defending 26 of the 36 governorships up for election next year, meaning that they have a lot of ground to defend while the Democrats have relatively little.
If Democrats do have a chance to win the House next year, it might be because they translated a currently big field of announced candidates into credible opportunities to flip not just some of the top seats on their list of targets, but also some seats that, on paper, might not seem like they should be competitive. If that’s what happens — a big if at such an early point in the cycle despite President Trump’s unpopularity and the usual midterm trends that favor the party that does not hold the White House — it would mirror what happened when the Democrats last won the House from Republican control in 2006.
As they dig their trenches to try to withstand what may (or may not be) a Democratic wave, Republicans may take heart in the performance of their current incumbents last year as a buffer against a potentially challenging environment next year.
A new book tells the story of a president who made his name as an entertainer and a Democrat before moving to the Republican Party and then launching a bid for the presidency. This candidate won his party’s presidential nomination despite objections from some party stalwarts that he was unelectable in the fall. He then captured the presidency in part because he was able to perform better than Republicans typically do in some traditionally white, working-class areas in key states.
Democrats are hopeful that Republicans’ vote last week to pass the American Health Care Act provides them an argument to use in next year’s election. Only 20 House Republicans voted against the bill, which is not polling well and which Democrats are angling to use as a cudgel against the GOP.
Whatever happens in the first round of voting in the special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District on Tuesday, it seems like a safe bet that the result will get a fair amount of national attention because of what it may tell us about the 2018 midterm. But before getting into what those lessons may be, let’s remember that this is a special election — and thus it features special circumstances.
It’s been nearly a week since the Republican plan to dramatically alter the Affordable Care Act died without a vote in the House of Representatives. It’s 84 weeks until the next national election, the 2018 midterm.
Democrats have a path to winning a House majority next year, but that possibility is highly dependent on variables over which they have effectively no control. That’s the takeaway from our initial ratings of 2018’s House races, a list that is heavy on Republicans who start this cycle only mildly endangered.