The presumption has been --- in the lead-up to date to the 2018
mid-term election cycle --- that voters would turn out so heavily
for one side or the other that it would be a so-called “wave”
election with many U.S. house and senate seats being taken from
incumbents. Pundits and other political observers have mostly
forecast a “blue” wave for the Democrats who, inspired by their
anger about the Trump administration, would take back control
of the U.S. house and lose almost no net seats in the U.S. senate,
as well as make significant gains in races for state governors and
Fewer commentators have argued, to the contrary, that 2018 will
produce a surprise “red” wave for the Republicans, led by a
booming economy, continued lower unemployment, and a series
of President Trump foreign policy and trade successes over the
summer. Such a wave would keep U.S. house losses to less than
10, pick up 6-10 U.S. senate seats, and maintain the huge GOP
dominance in the states.
The optimism of these opposing forecasts might be assumed by
their partisans and their sympathetic media, but so far these
outcomes are not supported by much hard evidence.
Of course, 2018 might yet produce a wave election, blue or red,
as has happened with some frequency in recent cycles, but it
might be politically prudent to consider what would happen if
there was no wave this year, but a mixed result.
What would that look like?
I suggest it would result in continuing Republican control of
the U.S. house, but by a reduced margin. Democrats
would win close races where anti-Trump sentiment is strong,
but lose those where the president still has support. The GOP
would pick up a few U.S. senate seats, but far fewer than they
might have, considering the mathematical advantage they have
this cycle. Close races for state governors and legislatures
would be determined almost everywhere by local conditions
and the relative quality of the candidates in each contest.
Waking up the day after such an election cycle, it would be
difficult to assert credibly a clear pattern of the national voter
It is true that huge sums of money are going to be spent by
the candidates, their parties, and the proliferating PACS on
both sides. It is also inevitable that media coverage of the
election will be as bitter and biased as it has been for some
time. Everyone’s mailbox, TV screen, internet inbox and car
radio will be overloaded with voluminous political advertising.
These efforts could induce a wave, or they could provoke a
If the quality of polling in recent cycles is repeated, it could be
quite difficult to discern a voter trend in close races until just
before election day. Even exit polls are now suspect.
Each party goes into the election with some serious problems.
Democrats are divided between mainstream liberals and those
who want to take the party to the left. Republicans are divided
in Washington, DC where they control the Congress by
mainstream conservatives and those further to the right who
are preventing key legislation.
Behind it all is the extraordinary and disruptive personality of
President Trump who invokes passionate antipathy among
most Democrats and passionate support among most
It is likely, considering the powerful emotions felt by loyalists
on both sides, they will predictably be voting for their own
party’s candidates in November --- all the coming political
gimmickry notwithstanding. It is also likely their turnout will
But those voters who belong to no party, or have only weak
ties to one party or the other --- what will they do next
Are they 5% or 10% or 20% of the electorate --- or less or
more? How many are they and what they will do --- those
are the key questions of this political year --- and their
answers will tell us whether or not there will be any kind
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.