US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

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US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby cmsellers » Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:59 pm

This article from Sabato's Crystal Ball made me think that it might be time for a thread on midterm Senate races (and House and state house races too, if you've got anything interesting to share on that front). It's clear that Roy Moore's charming peccadilloes (which are totally a smear campaign by the liberal media anyways) are working against him, to the point that Sabato's Crystal Ball marked the seat a slight favorite for Jones, but we have a thread on that already.

However if Jones wins the seat, the Democratic odds of retaking the Senate in 2018 increase dramatically. They're still underdogs but if if they hold all the seats they have (hard) and take Alabama, Arizona, and Nevada (easier) they'll get a Senate majority. They're defending seats in Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota, and West Virginia, would will be tricky no matter what (if Hillary were president West Virginia's Joe Manchin would be the only one with a prayer of surviving), and Rick Scott could make Florida very competitive.

However the interesting thing is that they have a chance to pick up seats in Tennessee and Texas. In Tennessee Bob Corker is retiring, and Sabato's Crystal Ball just moved Tennessee to likely Republican (as opposed to Safe Republican), while in the Cook Political Report it was already there. I imagine that Tennnessee Republicans would have to nominate a truly awful candidate for the Dems to have a shot, but it's a possibility.

Personally, the race that really interests me is Texas, for obvious reasons. The Cook Political Report has it as safe Republican while Sabato's Crystal Ball has it as likely Republican, and I think they're both overstating Cruz's position. Now this may be wishful thinking, particularly because the Castro brother who some polls showed ahead of Cruz has declined to run, so the Democratic frontrunner is congressman from El Paso named Beto O'Rourke. However O'Rourke is an Anglo who managed to win against a conservative Hispanic incumbent (in the primary) in El Paso. This tells me he's a good campaigner. He also opposes the War on Drugs, which is something that will make him stand out against Cruz.

Ted Cruz has had consistently negative favorability and job approval ratings, to the point that the Republicans tried (and apparently failed) to find a more reasonable candidate to primary him. (I would have eagerly voted for George P. Bush over Cruz in the Republican primary, even knowing it made it more likely the GOP would hold the seat and perpetuated a political dynasty to boot. I really hate Cruz.) Some back-of-the-envelope estimates I did suggests that Texas gets about three points bluer every two-year election cycle, but with considerable noise. From Trump's margin of victory to a Cruz loss would require a nine-point swing in one election cycle, which would be improbable for sure. But it doesn't seem impossible to me, particularly given that Cruz is a weak candidate and O'Rourke seems to be a strong one.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby Cpt._Funkotron » Sat Nov 18, 2017 9:03 pm

Figurative God, I hope so.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby Absentia » Sun Nov 19, 2017 1:10 am

I'd be happy just to get the House out of Republicans' mitts. That's enough to block whatever crazy shit Trump wants to pass. The Senate would be a feather in the cap, but not all that practically significant until Dems can take back the White House.

I don't think it's going to happen anyway, unless there are more bombshell scandals waiting to drop on Republican candidates. I just can't see a state like Missouri staying blue under less than extraordinary circumstances.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby cmsellers » Sun Nov 19, 2017 1:25 am

The Senate is important because if Ginsburg, Kennedy, or Breyer dies it can block Supreme Court nominees not named "Merrick Garland." And if Trump fires Sessions and Mueller in a Saturday Night Massacre, Democrats can refuse to confirm Sessisons' replacement. It will also give Democrats a majority on investigative committees, which mean they can do things like subpeona his tax records.

That said, I'd prefer a Senate with Cruz and Menendez both gone where Republicans maintain the majority, to one with Cruz and Menendez both in it and a Democratic majority. And if I had to get rid of one of them, I'd rather get rid of the Democratic Menendez. I complained about Ted Cruz here because my issues with him are political, but Menendez's behavior extends beyond politics and may end up presenting Republicans a pickup opportunity in deep blue New Jersey, and I just started a thread about it here.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby Marcuse » Sun Nov 19, 2017 3:12 pm

I have to wonder, given the inability of the Trump administration to pass legislation when it controls both the Senate and the House, whether a Democrat majority would meaningfully alter his ability to pass hideously ill-thought-out laws at all. Of course there's other advantages, but the Republicans have been spending a lot of their time derailing his shit already, so I'm pretty sure that Trump's greatest legacy will be the nuclear war that kills us all. Except even his person in charge of that has said he wouldn't listen to a direct order if he thought it was illegal. So Trump can't do shit, as usual.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby Doodle Dee. Snickers » Mon Nov 20, 2017 3:22 am

No.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby ghijkmnop » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:00 am

Honestly, I don't think so. With GOP people vacating seats, I see them being replaced with Anarcho-Capitalists, Christian Taliban, Neo-Nazis, or just plain assholes-- and the political climate right now will see them all elected while the Blue Team continues to clutch their pearls and wonder what the hell is going on.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby Doodle Dee. Snickers » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:09 am

For a full answer, I believe the Democrats are defending 23 seats to the Republican's...seven? Three of which are attainable, I suppose (assuming [and with all due respect] McCain's doesn't open up), but that counts on them losing none of theirs, and they have people running in some pretty red states. Manchin I could see keeping his seat, he's pretty popular in his state, but good luck to Heitcamp and Donnelly. If Alabama does decide not to confirm every horrible thing people think about them and elects Doug Jones, however, then I'll say they have a real shot. The generic ballot is strong enough in the Democrat's favor to take the House and make up a lot of ground in the states where they've been decimated for the last ten years like they did in Virginia. However, the Senate is an entirely different beast, and they have too much ground to protect and not enough opportunities to steal.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby cmsellers » Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:02 am

Heidi Heitkamp is actually a slight favorite in North Dakota; like Manchin she's a bit of a local brand. However Donnelly and McCaskill supposedly don't have the same personal brand and only held their seats last time because of rape-related gaffes their opponents made.

However while the Democrats are overextended and Democratic voters are less likely to turn out for midterms, what elections this year have shown is that well-educated suburbanites who usually lean Republican have turned out and voted Democratic, while blue-collar Obama-Trump type voters have stuck with Republicans but not turned out as well as they did in 2016.

I don't think anyone disputes that Democrats will find it incredibly hard to take the Senate, but the people who are saying they might take it have already baked the unfavorable electoral map into their equations. I feel like you're making the same mistake a lot of pundits did in 2016: forgetting that election outcomes tend to be correlated. If the Democrats are able to win in North Dakota and West Virginia, they have a pretty good chance of pulling out a win in Missouri and Indiana too. Same for Nevada, Arizona, and even Texas, all of which have similar demographics to one another.

Incidentally, while people are lumping Donnelly and McCaskill together, I feel like McCaskill is in a marginally better position for three reasons. First, she seems to be a national political figure in a way that Donnelly isn't, which may mean she's better at getting stuff done. Second, Missouri had the largest gap between the presidential and senate vote of any state in 2016, to the detriment of Roy Blunt, who squeaked into office in comparison to Trump's victory. Third, Missouri has a slightly higher share of college graduates than Indiana does. Her position is still tough, I just think it's slightly less bad than Donnelly's.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby iMURDAu » Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:01 pm

ghijkmnop wrote:Honestly, I don't think so. With GOP people vacating seats, I see them being replaced with Anarcho-Capitalists, Christian Taliban, Neo-Nazis, or just plain assholes-- and the political climate right now will see them all elected while the Blue Team continues to clutch their pearls and wonder what the hell is going on.


They'll also extend an olive branch to each of the groups mentioned and then wonder why they aren't able to work well with them as they're allowing themselves to be bullied. Or I'm just projecting because that's what they do currently.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby tinyrick » Mon Nov 20, 2017 2:50 pm

I think the midterms are likely to be a bloodbath. I know it's been said that Democrats don't show up to vote in midterms, but that is a function of the Democrats appealing to younger voters who don't show up to every election like older voters do.. Millenials aren't the first generation that was politically apathetic. I remember seeing charts showing baby boomers being less likely to vote when they were in their 20s too. Now about half of those we call millenials are in their 30s now and are becoming more politically active. I've never seen such focus being given to state and local elections.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby cmsellers » Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:01 pm

There are two rules of US politics in conflict at the Midterms:

1. The party which controls the White House almost always loses seats.
2. Democrats usually have a harder time of things because young voters and minority voters don't show up to vote.

The first rule was more likely to prevail anyways: it's the rule which has been more consistently true. The second rule basically describing the post-Clinton state of affairs rather than a longstanding norm of US politics. (Two of the three post-WWII exceptions to the first rule were under Clinton and W.) What the special elections and Virginia elections this year have shown is that Trump's coalition is such that he swapped college-educated white voters, who vote consistently, for non-college-educated white voters, who don't.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby Doodle Dee. Snickers » Mon Nov 20, 2017 10:31 pm

cmsellers wrote:There are two rules of US politics in conflict at the Midterms:

1. The party which controls the White House almost always loses seats.
2. Democrats usually have a harder time of things because young voters and minority voters don't show up to vote.

The first rule was more likely to prevail anyways: it's the rule which has been more consistently true. The second rule basically describing the post-Clinton state of affairs rather than a longstanding norm of US politics. (Two of the three post-WWII exceptions to the first rule were under Clinton and W.) What the special elections and Virginia elections this year have shown is that Trump's coalition is such that he swapped college-educated white voters, who vote consistently, for non-college-educated white voters, who don't.


Alright, let me put you through my thought process for the Senate while I stare at the Cook Political Report.

The geography is just bad for Democrats. Heitkamp (I mixed her up with and forgot McCaskill) and Manchin do have a personal brand that might see them through, true, but I have a hard time seeing Donnely and McCaskill surviving the midterms. There is a blue wave coming, true, but the blues don't turn out anywhere near as much in off-year elections as the reds. Given that Tom Perez has been doing a fantastic job at revitalizing interest in off-year elections, I still don't know if it'll be enough to beat out reliable red voters. At best, they're toss ups.

There is also possibility that Bill Nelson of my native Florida loses it, I could absolutely see him blow it. There's also a chance that Sherrod Brown or Maine's King could lose it (sadly not Maine's Stephen King, though that would be pretty dope if he ran for Senate). The odds are simply not there; there's too much that the Rs could pull one out of the Ds column, and not enough vice versa. So when you need two to win, that there are four they stand an even chance of losing (plus two they stand some chance of losing) is daunting. If they lose even one, the chances of taking the Senate becomes near zero.

Ted Cruz is hated enough to get voted out, I suppose, but I could see it becoming the same bind as Alabama ("We hate pedophiles, but we hate Democrats even more [not that I would call Ted Cruz a pedophile, I don't think even pedophiles deserve that]"). While Texas has been slowly turning blue, I'm pretty sure that it's still red enough to vote in a hated Republican senator statewide if the alternative is voting blue. I'll hear arguments for Corker's seat, if those arguments begin with "There's no fucking way Tennessee will vote for a Democrat." and aren't followed with a "But".

Otherwise, they've got a shot Heller's seat, which they could conceivably get, but I doubt it. Jeff Flake's is definitely in play, though. If they do take Alabama, however, I'll agree that it is possible they take a slim majority.

This is the only wild card, to me: the Millennials. True, given the natural pendulum and cyclical nature of politics, I do think Trump will be like Carter, but with the political parties swapped. Instead of ushering in Reagan, he'll usher in a new wave of liberalism through sheer divisiveness and incompetence (assuming, of course, that Democrats take the advantage). I also pointed out the political situation Republicans find themselves in, where Millennials have pretty normal views on the Democrats (43/42/15 in like/dislike/don't know) whereas the Republicans are in deep shit (25/65/10) and Trump is almost certainly only going entrench those numbers further (or, worse for Republicans, pull even more people out of that 25 column). Plus, there's a lot of evidence from the 2017 elections that they're royally pissed right now (I certainly am) and are energized enough to get out to the polls. This isn't like a Tea Party situation, where Republicans were excited about new voters until they realized it was the angry old white voters who always vote for them; some of these people do genuinely seem to be new voters. So I'll give you the Millennial thing, but it's still a big question mark for me.

So you would think that I would figure 2018 and 2020 a surefire thing, especially with Democrats now talking jobs again and the Republicans digging us further down the economic inequality rabbit hole. However, there are four problems: it's hard to pinpoint when political gravity is going to kick in, it's hard to tell how much polarization will simply not allow the natural course of politics to happen, I don't know that the gain of suburban voters is enough to compensate for the loss of the white working class, and the geography is so bad for Democrats that a presidential candidate can lose by almost three million votes and still take home well over the EC votes he needs to become president.

So in my mind, there's not enough in play for Democrats and too much working against them for it to happen. Maybe if the generic ballot was like...+15D instead of +8 or +10. Tell you what, I'll hedge my bets and give it a 10% chance, but it's a very long shot.

60% chance they take the House, though. Same chance as I'd give them of taking the WH in 2020.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby IamNotCreepy » Tue Nov 21, 2017 2:50 pm

I hope to God Bill Nelson doesn't lose his seat. I don't think he will. Most likely Florida Governor Rick Scott is going to run against him, but despite being elected twice, Scott isn't terribly popular.

I like Bill Nelson. I did a phone interview with him when I worked for the local news station.
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Re: US Midterms 2018: Can Team Blue take the Senate?

Postby cmsellers » Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:45 pm

IamNotCreepy wrote:I hope to God Bill Nelson doesn't lose his seat. I don't think he will. Most likely Florida Governor Rick Scott is going to run against him, but despite being elected twice, Scott isn't terribly popular.

He is, however, richer than Croesus and willing to spend his own money to get himself elected.

Of course Hillary outraised Trump and look how that turned out.
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