Making Sense of the Midterms


By Sarah Waters, Staff Writer & Copy Editor

With the midterm elections quickly approaching, new developments in the election cycle are more rapid fire than ever.

As of this Monday, Democrats’ advantage in the race for the House majority seems so insurmountable that Congressional Republicans are already instigating intra-party disputes. Republicans, burdened by an exceedingly unpopular president and surpassed by record Democratic enthusiasm, are expected to lose seats in the House โ€” the only question being how many.

According to FiveThirtyEight, a premier website that analyzes political statistics and predictions, Democrats have an 82.7 percent chance to take back the house, whereas Republicans have just a 17.3 percent chance of retaining their legislative majority. The data site indicates that the most probable scenario โ€” at an 80 percent chance of happening โ€” includes the Democrats gaining anywhere from 19 to 55 seats.

Despite House Republicans retaining traditional advantages like incumbency and the effect of gerrymandering, there are plenty of structural factors that put Democrats ahead that are seeming to outweigh. For example, the party in power (this year, the Republican Party) usually has an unsuccessful midterm. This seems to be the general trend seeing as over the past 21 midterm elections, the majority party has lost an average of 30 seats in the House and four seats in the Senate.

Democrats also boast an unprecedented fundraising advantage, which has drastically increased the amount of truly competitive races. According to the New York Times, the fundraising discrepancy has put Republicans on the defensive in over 40 districts, far more than previously forecasted.

The Senate, however, is a different story. FiveThirtyEight gives Senate Democrats a mere one in six chance of gaining control, with the average forecasted Republican gain being anywhere from just 0.6 seats to four seats.

However, this cycle’s Senate races are historically volatile; for example, states like Nevada and Missouri have candidates for the upper chamber locked in a dead heat. In Nevada, Republican Dean Heller has a three in five chance of winning, but Democrat Jacky Rosen is barely behind with a two in five chance. Missouri is a similar story, with Democratic Incumbent Claire McCaskill boasting a three in five chance and Republican Josh Hawley holding out at two in five.

In Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson has a five in seven chance of taking the seat, but former Republican governor Rick Scott is further behind at a two in seven chance. Another race leaning Democratic is Indiana’s contest between Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican Mike Braun. Donnelly has a three in five chance of securing the seat. FiveThirtyEight also categorizes Missouri and Nevada as toss-ups, indicating that polls demonstrate neither candidate with an insurmountable advantage. Florida and Indiana lean Democratic.

In the Midwest, Democrats are looking to make their biggest strides. The party is favored to take 14 House seats in the region, a statistically significant amount relative to what’s been forecasted. The gains are widespread, with Democrats looking to Pennsylvania for a pickup of four seats, Iowa and Kansas for two, and Michigan for one seat in the House.

Democrats’ advantage isn’t just limited to the house; they’re also favored in plenty of Senate races, like in Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. At a state level, many gubernatorial races also lean Democratic, in states like Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Ohio and Wisconsin’s governorships are toss-ups, as well as Kansas and South Dakota, two historically Republican-stronghold states.