We’re less than two months past Republicans’ smashing victory in the the 2016 elections. And we’re still weeks away from when Members of the 115th Congress will be sworn in. So of course it feels like the perfect time to begin thinking about the 2018 elections.
We know what you’re thinking: Isn’t it way too early to even think about what could happen two years from now, especially given just how politically unpredictable the Trump Administration could be? To which the answer is yes. It’s way too early. But hey, if we can begin celebrating Christmas on November 1, just a day after Halloween, it’s never too early to at least begin thinking about Election Day. And honestly, unless something dramatic happens, our next Election Day could look at lot like Christmas.
Stuart Rothenberg, writing for the Washington Post, explains why:
The upcoming Senate class is unusually unbalanced. Only eight Republican Senate seats are up for election in 2018, compared with 25 Democratic seats (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats). Ten of those Democratic seats are in states carried by Donald Trump.
By any measure, Democrats are on the defensive in the next fight for Senate control. A three-seat Democratic midterm gain, which would give the party a majority, looks virtually impossible given the seats up this cycle. …
The only Republican Senate seat at risk as the cycle begins is in Nevada. GOP freshman Dean Heller was elected in 2012 when he squeezed by Democrat Shelley Berkley in a photo finish, 46 percent to 45 percent. This year, Democrat Hillary Clinton carried Nevada narrowly in the presidential race, so you can bet Democrats will go after Heller with everything they have.
Looking a little closer, they’ll be defending seats in five Republican-leaning states that Trump dominated by double digits: West Virginia (where Trump won by 42 percent), North Dakota (where Trump won by 36 points), Montana, Indiana and Missouri (which Trump won by 21 points, 19 points and 19 points, respectively). They’re also on defense in two other swing states that Trump won—Florida and Ohio—that have relatively weak incumbents (Bill Nelson was re-elected with 55 percent of the vote in 2012, and Sherrod Brown with 51 percent, respectively). And finally, they’ll be forced to expend resources defending three other, traditionally Democrat-leaning states—Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin—each of which have blue-collar dynamics that have shifted quickly into the GOP camp.
House Democrats are arguably in a better position, simply by way of having every seat up for reelection. But, as Josh Kraushaar writes for National Journal, the party seems to be working hard to shoot their chances in the foot:
Democrats, however, are learning all the wrong lessons from the election results. They just reelected Pelosi as their leader even though she’s one of the party’s most unpopular figures—and has served as a mascot to rally Republican voters over the last six years. Instead of treating the House like a winnable goal, they’re complaining about gerrymandered districts and focusing more on the 2022 elections (the first election, post-redistricting) than the prospect of winning a majority in two years. They’re leaning more on Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for their messaging, even though the senators’ socialist rhetoric is toxic in the very districts that House Democrats need to flip.
Democrats are acting as if the House isn’t even winnable in two years. Pelosi brought back the same chairman, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who led House Democrats to one of the most disappointing elections in memory. They failed to recruit credible candidates in suburban districts that Clinton carried, and relied on a failed strategy that connected House Republicans to Trump instead of articulating a positive agenda.
Democrats have learned nothing. Rather than find ways to reach out to middle America, they are instead doubling down on a strategy that nets them comfortable margins in coastal enclaves of wealthy elites. Rather than move their policy platform towards the middle, which could appeal to voters in suburban swing districts, Democrats are instead shifting further to the left, speaking in terms that actively repel the voter base they’re attempting to court. And rather than select new, inspiring leaders to install a new political and policy strategy, they’re sticking with the same players that guided them to historic losses, only now they’re expecting different results.
It may be way too early to offer up any predictions for 2018, but we can say almost for certain that unless Democrats change something, they should expect more of the same results.