Any pundit is eager to be able to alert his or her readers to news
of an emerging political trend, especially if the trend is credibly
to a big electoral wave, red or blue, The temptation is considerable
to be the first to herald a sensational outcome at the polls .
Most cycles the signs come relatively early. This was true in he
mid-term elections of 2010 and 2014 when voter dissatisfaction
with Obama administration policies (but not with Mr. Obama
personally) foreshadowed Republican gains. Of course, many in
the media turned their eyes from the voter signals --- and saw
only that the president was still relatively popular. In 2016, with
no incumbent in the presidential contest, the mis-reading by many
observers was epic and historic.
Now we are less than six months from the 2018 mid-terms, the
primary season is underway, and the irresistible search for
political omens is on.
So far, however, the omens appear to be mixed and contradictory.
Democrats have done well in most special elections, but have
actually won few of them, Their general opposition to the
Trump presidency does give them energy and motivation to go
to the polls. But Republicans seem to be sticking with their
support of the president, and the early primaries can be seen
to foretell strong conservative turnout in November as well.
The Democrats have a clear advantage to make big gains in the
U.S. house --- as the Republicans have a big advantage in expand
their now slim control of the U.S. senate. These advantages have
not so far been diminished by the early primary voting.
In California, liberal prospects are complicated by state law
which requires the two top votegetters in a primary, regardless
of party, to be on the November ballot. This has put at risk
several likely Democratic pick-ups in Congress there because so
many Democrats are running in some primaries that it is quite
possible that only Republicans will be on the ballot in those
races on election day. The reverse is true in the race for
California governor in which there might only be two Democrats
on the ballot --- thus denying conservatives top-of-the-ticket
motivation for their voters. This would also likely dampen GOP
turnout overall --- a serious handicap to winning down-ballot
Primaries in Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia heartened
Republicans generally as voters nominated strong U.S. senate
challengers, but the Democrats still have the advantage of
incumbency in those states.
Minnesota’s primary is not until August, but the state has
non-binding endorsing conventions before that, and this
process has muddied several races. The state has the unique
distinction nationally of having two U.S. senate seats on the
ballot in 2018 (one of which is competitive), four very close
U.S. house races (half the state’s entire delegation), and an
open contest for governor that could resound nationally.
Important state primaries are ahead. Montana, Wisconsin
and Michigan have key GOP senate primaries. A gubernatorial
controversy in Missouri still affects that potential GOP senate
President Trump looms over the 2018 election in spite of not
being on the ballot The North Korean crisis in on-again then
off-again, the Middle East is in perpetual motion and new
global trade agreements are yet unfinished.
The Democrats continue to be pulled to the left by grass
roots forces. Four members of the socialist party in
Pennsylvania, running as Democrats, just won state house
primaries --- and are likely to win in November. That has
excited the more radical wing of the party, but has not
likely helped more moderate Democrats running in other
Far right Republican candidates in Arizona, Wisconsin
and other states present their party with a similar
The vital difference, bottom line, can be put to the relative
quality of the candidates in competitive races this year.
The hype so far predicting a political wave, either blue or
red, may turn out to be just political smoke in the end.
The political party which does best might be the party
which recruited and nominated the better candidates.
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.