Should Dems Hold Out Hope for the 2018 Election?

It’s been a tough year for Democrats. To be fair, the last few years have been rough. The party had their moment back in 2008, got stuff done like the Affordable Care Act, then lost it all within a couple of elections.

Trump’s victory in 2016 was the final nail for total Republican control. Now the left is playing defense, acting like the Rebel Alliance to Trump’s Imperial Empire. Still, many hold out hope. Some optimistic and motivated supporters are turning to the 2018 midterm elections as the point when the tide could turn.

Their latest track record doesn’t look good, having gone 0–4 in recent special elections. But even there, hopeful supporters point to narrowed margins between republican and democratic competitors in highly red states.

Is there hope for Dems next year? Yes, if the numerical gods are smiling upon them.

The Numbers Game

It’s simplistic to treat politics as a numbers game, but that’s essentially what voting is. The side with the most votes wins — unless you get into pesky things like the electoral college. The likelihood of a party’s victory often comes down to either location or voter turnout.

Many congressional seats are considered strongholds for Democrats or Republicans. Georgia’s 6th District — the one that just received so much attention — is a good example of an election that tends to be a safe bet. The closeness of the recent election has some Democrats hopeful for the future, but it would be difficult — but necessary as you’ll see below — for the party to peg their 2018 hopes on this kind of race.

Locations that are considered tossup races — as in they can go either way — often come down to voter turnout. Strong turnout often results in democratic victories.

In order for the Democrats to have any realistic hope for 2018, the conditions need to be right. Tossup seats need to be up for grabs and voter turnout must be strong.

The Potential for 2018 Election Victory

Both the House and Senate offer potential for the Democrats. All 435 House seats will be up for grabs along with 33 Senate spots. In order for Democrats to claim success, they’d have to take control of one or both. This would involve keeping their existing seats and/or taking enough seats from Republicans.

The House race will be a challenge for Democrats. Republicans currently hold 238 seats, which is 20 more than the majority they need for control. It’s difficult to determine which seats are likely to be tossups, but sites like 270toWin predict 11 spots will qualify. Nine of those are currently held by Republicans.

Unfortunately, the challenge Democrats face is taking more entrenched House seats away from Republicans. It’s not completely far-fetched given the close gaps in recent special elections and the President’s low popularity rating, but the odds aren’t favoring the left.

The Senate race has nine Republican-held seats open for the taking. Unfortunately, that means the Democrats will have to successfully defend 25 seats, some of which are in states Trump took in 2016. Current predictions suggest 12 races will be a tossup in states like Montana, Arizona, and Florida. The left needs to take 3 seats for control.

Major Challenges and Likely Outcomes

The Democrats may have their fingers crossed for 2018, but they might need to adjust their expectations. There are significant challenges for victory. The strength of the Republican’s hold on the House and Senate is just the start.

The House race will be the biggest challenge. If Democrats are thinking strategically, they’d be wise to prioritize which fights they feel like they can win. The House just might be a throw away fight so the party can focus on taking control of the Senate. It wouldn’t be ideal for controlling the legislative branch, but it would take power away from the Republican political bastion. In the Senate, Democrats will be playing a defensive and offensive game. Holding all of their 25 seats while taking 3 from the right won’t be easy.

Finally, Democrats are also facing the challenging conditions of a midterm election. Voter turnout is typically lower during a midterm than a presidential election. In 2006, this worked in the Democrat’s favor. In 2010, it worked against them. Traditionally, those that do show up tend to be white, older, and male: a demographic well within the Republican’s wheelhouse.

For Democrats to have any chance, they will have to up their game. The party continues to be in disarray after the 2016 Presidental election, so it’s difficult to say if they can turn things around in time.

Smart gamblers would put money on red. But in a post-Trump victory era, who knows what is possible?

Originally published at DevAD Magazine.

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