This is part two of my predictions on the upcoming midterm elections, this time focusing on the Senate. Missed my predictions on the House? Check them out here.
While the House looks bad for Republicans, the Senate looks just as bad for the Democrats. Senate elections rotate, meaning about one third of Senators are up for election every two years. This way the entire Senate goes up for election every six years, but not all at the same time. This year, 35 Senate seats are up for election. In a sheer stroke of chance, 26 of those seats are controlled by Democrats, only 9 by Republicans. In addition, 9 of those 26 seats controlled by Democrats are in states President Trump won in 2016. FiveThirtyEight gives the Democrats just a 16% chance of winning the Senate, the complete reverse of their position in the House.
This is why the Democrats could win a massive victory in the House and still lose seats in the Senate. It’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just horribly unlucky for the Democrats. This is the worse Senate map for a party since the modern system of electing Senators was created. Now, the nature of the Senate benefits small states, which tend to be more Republican, but red-state Democrats have found success managing this, which is why Democrats are able to compete in the Senate. You combine historic success of red-state Democrats with a national environment favorable to Democrats, their loses in the Senate will probably not be too severe. This year, of the 35 seats up for election, 8 are considered to be in play. They are, along with my predictions, as follows:
- Arizona Senate: Rep. Martha McSally (R) vs. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D). Prediction: McSally (low confidence). This is the race to fill the seat being vacated by Republican Jeff Flake, who has been run out Washington by pro-Trump forces. McSally had a tough primary campaign and Sinema was polling a solid lead until a few weeks ago. However McSally has picked up some momentum, and there’s been a lot of bad opposition research dug on recently on Sinema, including her referring to Arizona as “the meth lab of democracy”. I predict McSally keeps building her lead and takes the seat.
- Tennessee Senate: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) vs. Gov. Phil Bredesen (D). Prediction: Blackburn. This is the seat being vacated by Republican Bob Corker, who is in the same position as Flake. This race was a perfect storm for Democrats- Bredesen was a popular governor in the state with a moderate reputation who’s running in a year Democrat enthusiasm is high. This is why he’s managed to keep this race close even in a state as conservative as Tennessee. However Blackburn has opened up a lead, her conservative reputation is well earned, and I don’t see Tennessee going blue any time soon.
- Missouri Senate: Incumbent Claire McCaskill (D) vs. State AG Josh Hawley (R). Prediction: McCaskill (low confidence). This is probably the closest race on the table, and until recently RealClearPolitics was giving Hawley a lead of less than a point. However McCaskill has the advantages of incumbency, and she’s been in similar situations before, which is why despite a slight lead I don’t think Hawley will be able to #fireclaire.
- Montana Senate: Incumbent Jon Tester (D) vs. State Senator Matt Rosendale (R). Prediction: Tester. This is the safest seat for Democrats. Tester has a solid lead in all the polling data and while Montana is a really red state, Tester won similar races in 2006 and 2012. There’s no reason to expect he will not do it again.
- Florida Senate: Incumbent Bill Nelson (D) vs. Gov. Rick Scott (R). Prediction: Scott (low confidence). This is the big money race, between two big names in Florida politics. The aggregate polling data gives Nelson about a 3 point lead, but the polls have been all over the place. In one poll Scott is leading by a couple points, the next Nelson is ahead by the same amount in the other direction. This is the prediction I have the least confidence in, but my gut is telling me Scott takes the seat.
- Indiana Senate: Incumbent Joe Donnelly (D) vs. Mike Braun (R). Prediction: Donnelly (low confidence). Donnelly had been maintaining a sizeable lead, but this race has narrowed a bit. Even still, I think Donnelly will keep his seat. What happens will largely be determined by the Libertarian candidate, who is polling between 3 and 7 percent, how many votes he takes, and who he takes them from.
- Nevada Senate: Incumbent Dean Heller (R) vs. Rep. Jackie Rosen (D). Prediction: Heller (low confidence). A couple weeks ago I thought this was the seat Democrats would flip. Hillary Clinton won Nevada in 2016 and Rosen actually had a slight lead in polling. However Heller has taken a lead, he is running an effective campaign, and I’m going to bet on the incumbent.
- Texas Senate: Incumbent Ted Cruz (R) vs. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D). Prediction: Cruz. A lot of Democrats are really excited about Beto O’Rourke and his chance to turn Texas blue. The man has broken fundraising records and there are no shortage of hot takes on how Beto is uniquely talented politician. Lebron James even showed up to a recent game in San Antonio in a Beto hat. For some reason you can find Beto yard sides in New York. There’s even a term for this, it’s called Betomania. Regardless, Cruz is going to win. This race was never really a toss-up. Cruz has led in every single poll and he will win re-election by between 5 and 10 points. Beto might make an interesting Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate in 2020, but he’s got no chance of flipping this seat.
There is one race that used to be considered a toss-up I want to briefly mention, and that is the race in North Dakota between incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer. Cramer has opened up a massive lead in polling, and this race isn’t close. North Dakota is a very conservative state, and Heitkamp hasn’t governed that way. If you are curious as to why this incumbent is going to lose by 10+ points, there was an interesting piece in National Review a few weeks back if you’re interested. I’ll attach it at the bottom of this piece.
I said in my House predictions Democrat control of the House would probably not be a big deal and potentially might be a good thing. It is not so with the Senate. From a conservative perspective, it is imperative Republicans hold the Senate. President Trump has two real successes involving the legislature, one of which is appointment of originalist judges. That would not be possible with Democrats in control of the Senate. On top of that, you need a Republican Senate to act as a bulwark against likely Democrat control of the House, and to keep President Trump promoting conservative policies.
House: 230 Democrats, 205 Republicans
Senate: 53 Republicans, 47 Democrats
Thank you for reading, I’m curious as to how well this prediction will hold up in a few weeks. Think I’m wrong? Think Beto is going to win? Let me know! Sometime towards the end of this week I’ll publish my thoughts on how to improve voting, which should be fun. Attached below are various models and articles related to the Senate, I’d encourage you to check them out. As always, please like, comment, and subscribe, thank you for reading.
RCP Senate Prediction: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2018/senate/2018_elections_senate_map.html
National Review on Heidi Heitkamp: https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/10/bye-heidi/