Saturday, March 10, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Too Soon Even To Guess?

The paradox of the 2018 election cycle is that the two
houses of Congress present such a different
opportunity for the two major parties to make gains.

In the U.S. house, which the Republicans control
241 to 194, there are about three times as many
incumbent GOP seats than Democratic seats rated
generally as competitive. The liberal party is therefore
hopeful not only to pick up net seats, but is counting
on a “blue” wave to bring them back into control.

In the U.S. senate, which the Republicans control now
51-49, twenty-five incumbent Democratic seats are up
this November, and only ten Republicans. Of these,
10-12 liberal seats are considered to be competitive
against only 3 conservative incumbents rated now as
vulnerable. The GOP is hopeful for several net
pick-ups, and that a “red” wave will give them a
veto-proof senate.

Historically, the party out-of-power (this cycle, the
Democrats) often makes big U.S. house gains in the
first mid-term elections of a new administration, and
gains in the U.S senate.

But 2018 could defy precedent, not only because of the
contrast in competitive seats in the two legislative
bodies, but also because the Trump presidency is so
politically disruptive and seems to break all the rules.

With more than seven months before election day, that
paradox is seemingly very much in play. Democrats
look strong in about three dozen GOP-incumbent  U.S.
house races (and GOP candidates strong in less than five
Democratic seats). In contrast, about six conservative
senate challengers are now appearing strong in serious
contests with Democratic incumbents. Only two GOP
seats appear similarly quite vulnerable.

However, since several senate party nominees have yet
to be chosen (in Wisconsin, Indiana and Montana, for
examples), and U.S. house redistricting in some large
states has taken place --- as well as the national
political mood being so unsettled --- the relative
partisan advantages exist now primarily only on paper.

Much could change over the next seven months.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is seizing the
initiative (albeit in unorthodox ways) in trade,
immigration and national security issues, the stock
market is soaring, and unemployment sinks lower with
each new monthly report.

Preoccupation with gleaning political trends from
various recent special elections, and a few yet to take
place, enables melodramatic headlines and speculation,
but given the circumstances enumerated above, there is
little irrefutable evidence of what voters will think and do
on that still-distant Tuesday in November next.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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