Trying to glean credible trends from the 2018 mid-term elections
cycle is a very daunting task. Of course, nearly every pundit and
political analyst is doing it, and many are throwing caution to the
My own take on 2018, as my readers already know, is to be very
cautious because of voter volatility, serious questions about the
usefulness of public polls so far, and yes, the phenomenon of
In fact, I think it is President Trump who is the primary motivator
for voter turnout for both major political parties --- obviously for
But there are some emerging characteristics of this election that
I think are worth noting.
For one, both parties seem to be nominating their best or strongest
candidates, with a few exceptions, for the competitive U.S. house
and senate seats, and for governorships. Some further tests of this
remain in Arizona, Wisconsin, Minnesota and other primaries ahead,
but both party establishments seem determined to do well this year
--- Democrats to try to win back control of the U.S. house, and to
set up some momentum to block the re-election of Mr. Trump in
2020; Republicans to keep control of Congress while creating their
own momentum to re-elect the president.
There are many battlegrounds for 2018, and as almost always in
mid-term elections, local circumstances and the quality of
incumbent candidates, both incumbents and challengers, play a
larger role than they often do in a presidential election year.
Two cases in point, are the competitive senate races in Ohio and
Florida where veteran Democrats are running for re-election. In
Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown, once thought very vulnerable, is
a strong campaigner -- and now is favored. (His original
challenger had to leave the race.) In Florida, aging Senator Bill
Nelson is facing the current GOP governor, Rick Scott, who is so
far running a strong race, and is favored to pick up this seat for
his party. Of course, by election day, matters could change.
GOP Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci, especially if there is a
Republican tide, could win an upset. If there is a Democratic
tide, Bill Nelson could surprise in Florida.
I think there is too much usage of the term “wave’ in the election
commentary so far. A real wave, especially one against the party
in power, would require a larger magnitude of incumbent defeats
than is now indicated. A wave election is always possible, but the
numbers from the primary season so far, I would contend, do not
signal a true wave.
On the other hand, there could be some significant outcomes in
November, including the GOP losing control of the U.S. house,
and/or making major gains against the Democrats in the U.S.
i have written extensively about the many competitive state and
federal elections this year in Minnesota because this battleground
state’s races are so emblematic of the complexity of this cycle
Historically, more often than not, incumbent presidents handicap
their parties in the mid-term congressional elections, and clearly
this is the hope of Democrats in 2018. It could turn out that way,
but Mr. Trump’s recent political rallies, including a spectacular
one in Duluth, Minnesota, could presage an atypical cycle this
In any event, the primaries so far this year are sending out some
very mixed and enigmatic clues to what voters will do at the
end of this fascinating campaign season.
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights resered.