US headed for divided government after mid-term elections

Brian Messing, Managing Editor


Over the past several decades, there has been a consistent cycle in American politics: one party wins a general election and congress, and then proceeds to perform horribly in their first mid-term election. The pattern continues with the party in the White House winning again in the next general election. This was the story for presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan.

Despite this pattern, the supposed “blue wave” does not appear to be nearly as destructive as it could be for President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. Recent polls show that the Senate and House of Representatives appear to be moving in opposite directions, with the House of Representatives shifting toward the Democrats, and the Senate shifting toward the Republicans.

According to Fivethirtyeight’s election forecast, which looks at polls in every Senate race and analyzes the results, the Republicans are likely to keep their majority with the same number of seats that they have now, 51, or gain one seat. The forecast gives the Republicans a 78.6 percent chance of keeping the Senate as of now. It’s also worth mentioning that the Republicans would have a practical majority with only 50 seats, since Vice President Mike Pence can break all 50-50 ties.

Part of the reason why the Senate is leaning to the right is because of the seats that are up for re-election. Only nine of the 35 seats that are up for re-election are currently held by Republicans, meaning that they have fewer seats to defend. Additionally, since the seats up for re-election were last up for re-election in 2012, a year when Democrats performed well at the polls, there are many democratic incumbents who may be vulnerable. For example, 11 democratic seats are up for re-election in states won by President Trump.

National political events have also influenced the mid-term elections, more so than usual. The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh can be credited for energizing the GOP base in the mid-terms. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a red state Democrat who was on the fence over the confirmation and ultimately opposed Kavanaugh, is currently down by a weighted average of eight points for re-election. Heitkamp is the most vulnerable Democrat up for re-election and has declined in the polls since opposing Kavanaugh.

Despite their woes in the Senate, Democrats appear to be almost a lock in the House. Fivethirtyeight gives the Democrats an 84 percent chance of taking the chamber back that has been under Republican control since 2010. The forecast currently predicts that Democrats will gain an average of 39 seats, giving them a majority in the lower house of congress. Democrats also lead on the generic ballot by around nine points, showing that their party is more popular as of now, which is typical in a mid-term election year following a general election defeat.

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