The Republican U.S. senate majority has survived a very
potentially vulnerable election in which they risked 24
incumbent seats to the 9 risked by the Democrats. Although
their 54-46 majority was reduced to 52-48, they win on
any tie vote since Vice President-elect Mike Pence will now
also serve as the presiding figure of the senate with the power
to cast the deciding vote should there be any such ties.
The most sobering prospect for the Democrats, however, is
that in the next mid-term elections, in 2018, the circumstances
of 2016 will be reversed --- with 25 incumbent Democratic
senate seats at risk, and only 8 GOP seats.
Of course, any speculation now about individual races in 2018
is premature, since it is likely that there will be incumbents in
both parties who will retire. Furthermore, the dimensions of
any Republican pick-up of current Democratic seats will
depend in large part on the performance of the incoming
Trump administration in its first two years. Historically, it
should be noted that two recent successful presidencies,
those of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, suffered setbacks
in their first two years.
Nevertheless, (without retirements) a first glance at the 2018
races indicates that about a dozen Democratic senate seats
are likely vulnerable, including those in North Dakota,
Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Mexico, New Jersey, Montana,
Missouri, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Washington and
Wisconsin. (Eight of these states were carried by Mr. Trump
in 2016.) Of the eight GOP seats up in 2018, only two (Nevada
and Arizona) seem initially at risk.
Should Mr. Trump be successful in his first two years, and
the Republicans continue to recruit outstanding challengers
(as they did in 2014), the Democrats risk occupying less than
the 40 seats they would need to block conservative
As I noted, it is quite early in the 2018 campaign, and only one
incumbent (in Missouri) has formally announced her intention
to run for re-election. But any liberal senators plans to block
the initial efforts of President Trump and the conservative
majorities of both houses of Congress have to be sobered by
the risk that their efforts would be perceived by voters two
years from now as obstructionist and prolonging stalemate.
At the same time, these GOP majorities will need to produce
reform and results. The voters, as only one example, clearly
signaled they want Obamacare repealed (AND replaced with a
better system). If internal squabbles prevent the new
administration and new Congress from delivering on their
promises, it is clear that voters will not shrink from
expressing themselves again with their ultimate veto power
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.