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Democrats are in the catbird's seat in the 2018 midterms

Congressional Democrats, benefiting from President Donald Trump's low approval ratings and historic trends working ag...

Posted: Jan 30, 2018 3:28 PM
Updated: Jan 30, 2018 3:28 PM

Congressional Democrats, benefiting from President Donald Trump's low approval ratings and historic trends working against the party in power, sit in the catbird seat in the battle for control, according to new House and Senate ratings from CNN.

The House, in which Democrats need a 24-seat pickup to win the majority they lost in 2010, looks more favorable at the moment -- largely due to the wide number of GOP-held seats in some level of jeopardy.

According to CNN ratings, 61 Republican seats are either toss-ups (15), leaning GOP (21) or likely GOP (25). Compare that to just 22 Democratic seats in any sort of jeopardy this fall and you begin to grasp the depth of Republican vulnerability.

There are two major reasons why so many Republican seats are in danger this fall:

1. The 2010 and 2014 midterms were massive seat windfalls for Republicans. They won House control in 2010 and added to it in 2014. Following the 2014 midterms, Republicans had their largest House majority since 1929. What that means is the only place for them to go is down in terms of the seats they control.

2. Retirements in hard-to-hold districts have ravaged Republicans this year. Already 35 House GOPers have announced plans to retire or run for other offices this fall, far ahead of historic patterns. And it's not just the number of retirements that is hurting Republicans -- it's where the seats are. Already six of the 23 Republicans in districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016 are leaving and several others -- including New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, who announced his retirement Monday -- are walking away from seats where Trump barely won in 2016.

The unevenness of the playing field is no guarantee for Democrats, of course. Political winds can -- and do -- shift and the vast majority of Republican incumbents have been aware for the better part of the last year that they would face tougher-than-normal reelection races.

Plus, netting 24 seats is no easy task. Consider this: Even if Democrats win every one of the seats Clinton carried in 2016 that are currently held by a Democrat -- and they won't -- the party would still be a single seat short of the majority.

Still. Democrats have experienced a candidate recruitment windfall thanks to historic trends (the president's party has lost an average of 25 House seats in a first-term, midterm election in the post World War II era) and a current political environment dominated by Trump's unpopularity.

Combine that glut of quality candidates with a widening playing field and the weight of history and Democrats look to be in very strong position to win back control of the House -- with the important caveat that the election is still 280 days away.

On the Senate side, things look less rosy for Democrats -- but still far better than the party had any reason to expect when this election cycle started a year-plus ago.

The raw numbers are daunting for Democrats. They are defending 26 seats this November as compared to just 8 for Republicans. Of those 26 seats, 10 are in states that Trump carried in 2016 -- including five (Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia) that he carried by double digits.

Given the Republican tilt of the playing field, some GOPers were talking about the possibility of controlling a filibuster-proof 60 seats after the 2018 election. No one is talking that way now.

The stunning victory by Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama was not only a sign of how enthusiastic the Democratic base is but also narrowed the GOP Senate majority to just two seats.

The political environment -- and the ongoing battle between the establishment and Trump wings of the GOP -- have also contributed to faltering Republican prospects.

In Montana and North Dakota, Republicans have struggled to land a top-tier recruit despite the clear GOP tilt of those two states. Republicans have the opposite problem in West Virginia and Indiana, where contested -- and costly -- primaries are on the horizon.

In fact, of the five states Trump won by double digits in 2016, only in Missouri, where Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill is running for re-election, did Republicans get the candidate they wanted with a relatively clear primary field.

With just eight total Republican seats on the ballot this fall, Democratic pick-up opportunities are far more limited. But they do have two: Arizona and Nevada.

The Arizona open seat, caused by the retirement of prominent Trump critic Sen. Jeff Flake, sets up a contested and ideological primary on the Republican side while Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has a more straightforward path to the Democratic nomination. In Nevada, Sen. Dean Heller faces a primary from perennial loser Danny Tarkanian and a likely general election faceoff against Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen.

The disparity of seats being defended by the two sides gives Senate Republicans a considerable, foundational edge. But that edge has eroded over the past year as Trump's unpopularity has come home to roost -- in both polling and candidate recruitment in individual races.

Republicans are still the safe bet to hold the Senate, but a path now exists for Democrats to get back the majority -- albeit a very narrow path.

Taken together, Democrats are well-positioned to make significant gains in the House and hold their losses in the Senate down in 2018, according to CNN's ratings. The question now is whether Trump can find a way to effectively rally the Republican base and move his job approval numbers from the high 30s into the mid 40s (or even higher) between now and Election Day.

Count me as skeptical given the divisions in the country and the way in which Trump has governed over his first year in office.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
Rice412836
Kandiyohi408122
Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
Goodhue203228
Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
Waseca139211
Pine13658
Meeker12879
Roseau11964
Hubbard114925
Martin113320
Wabasha10561
Redwood94619
Chippewa8877
Cottonwood8664
Renville86527
Dodge8600
Watonwan8544
Wadena8016
Sibley7934
Rock7779
Aitkin76730
Pipestone72518
Fillmore6990
Houston6984
Yellow Medicine64812
Pennington6478
Kanabec61913
Murray5873
Swift5838
Faribault5612
Pope5391
Clearwater5248
Stevens5103
Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
Lac qui Parle3773
Lincoln3591
Norman3497
Big Stone3182
Mahnomen2964
Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
Traverse1481
Lake of the Woods1001
Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
Fayette103910
Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
Winneshiek97613
Iowa95812
Winnebago93023
Hancock8677
Grundy86311
Louisa86216
Sac8608
Chickasaw8574
Cherokee8484
Allamakee81811
Cass81623
Mitchell7984
Appanoose79312
Humboldt7715
Union7706
Shelby76511
Emmet76424
Guthrie75415
Franklin73921
Jefferson7142
Madison6864
Unassigned6690
Palo Alto6554
Keokuk5997
Howard5599
Pocahontas5584
Greene5250
Osceola5241
Ida48913
Clarke4874
Davis4709
Taylor4653
Montgomery46311
Monroe44412
Adair4418
Monona4352
Worth3630
Fremont3583
Van Buren3585
Lucas3256
Decatur3170
Wayne3007
Audubon2962
Ringgold2112
Adams1702
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