Friday, November 10, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Can The GOP Lose The U.S. House In 2018?

Many pundits are currently speculating about the political
control of the U.S. house in January, 2019 (following the 2018
national mid-term elections). Conventional wisdom now
says that it is quite possible that the Democrats could retake
control of this “people’s body” of the Congress.

Previous conventional wisdom was that Republicans had a
“lock” on control until at least 2023 when a the first U.S. house
after reapportionment takes office. That opinion was based on
the GOP voter advantage in currently-drawn districts.

Fueling the new guesswork is the notable number of retiring
conservative incumbents --- although most of those retiring
represent safe districts for their party. There likely will be
liberal gains in the next U.S. house --- although there are a few
good prospects for GOP gains, e.g. in Minnesota’s CD-1 where
the liberal incumbent is retiring to run for governor.

So which conventional wisdom is more likely to come true?

First, it must be said, any outcome is possible. Despite their
current large majority (241 to 194), the party in power often
loses many seats in the first mid-term election after they win
the presidency. On the other hand, as I recently pointed out,
the 2017 off-year elections revealed no dispositive evidence that
the Democratic victories in two “blue” states, and in the mostly
“blue” urban areas were an omen for next year. Michael Barone
further points out that the watershed “upset”election of 2016
is probably the “new normal.”

If the current debate and formulation of a new tax policy does
not result in a new tax code, as was promised by Republicans
in 2016, and combined with a failure to repeal and replace
Obamacare, also a major GOP promise, I think much of the
conservative congressional district advantage is severely
weakened. Prospects for Democrats to regain control would
then be significantly advanced.

Nonetheless, the speculation is rather premature. President
Donald Trump’s disruption of the Obama policy legacy and,
indeed, of the whole Washington, DC political culture, has
only begun. If it continues, and it is seen as an improvement,
a contrarian outcome in 2018 is possible. If his leadership
becomes mired in more stalemate in the Congress, or Mr.
Trump himself falters, next year would be a good one for the
opposition party.

More important now, I think, than any speculation about who
wins or loses in 2018 is keeping an eye on the quality of
recruitments by the two major parties for competitive seats,
the usable money they are raising (the net amounts after they
pay their fundraising consultants), and the voter ID/GOTV
strategies they are employing in the close contests. Also
important will be the opposition approach to Donald Trump.
The current strategy, as I and others have pointed out, is not
working beyond the liberal base. A refusal to take a new
strategic course may not make much headway in the “new

When we know who is running against whom, what the
Congress accomplishes in the coming weeks, and the state
of the economy in the spring and summer of 2018, there
will be time enough for making all the political guessing
we can muster.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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