2018 Senate Forecast
Winning a majority in the Senate this year may be the Democrat's chimera. Still, the potential actually does exist. The presidential election of 2016 was overwhelmingly a result of "negative" voter response; Hillary Clinton's negatives were stronger and more pervasive than Donald Trump's negatives, considering the landscape of the Electoral College.
Just six months ago Democrats were considering the possibility of losing up to six additional Senate seats; attitudes do change.
Newly registered voters, up over 1,000,000 from two years ago, overwhelmingly favor Democratic policies, and hold firm negative opinions of the President and Congress.
Of the 36 seats up for election this year, Democrats hold 24, many (10) of those in states that voted for President Trump in 2016.
There are currently six races that will determine who controls the Senate next year--Florida, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee and North Dakota. With six weeks remaining until the November 6 election polling begins to have more substantive value, though we must remember that in politics six weeks can mean the world.
In Florida this Senate race will end up as the most expensive in history. Governor Rick Scott, with virtually unlimited resources, has led in polling all year, until the most recent Rasmussen poll, which shows him now trailing Bill Nelson by one (45-44). At best the race can be called a toss-up; still, Rasmussen has a historic Republican bias of +5. Florida voters are largely placing the blame for their red-tide infection on the governor.
Texas Republicans are stuck with Ted Cruz who does have access to vast amounts of corporate cash, but his "social-issue" platforms are seen as repulsive by many people, even in Texas. He is challenged by charismatic and literate Congressman Beto O'Rourke who has mounted a spirited campaign refusing corporate money. Reuters now has O'Rourke up by 2. Quinnipiac is currently showing Cruz up +9. Several recent polls have been Cruz +4-5. The two candidates have almost identical approval ratings. O'Rourke does need to improve, as many Texas voters are unaware of his candidacy. There are three debates scheduled. If his presidential campaign is an indicator, Cruz will lose all three and the debates should raise awareness of O'Rourke with the electorate. If voter turnout is up for a mid-term election this race will become competitive.
Nevada remains a very tightly contested race. Sitting Senator Dean Heller (R) is finding it impossible to make any gains on Representitave Jacky Rosen. The present consensus is that the race is even. Dems hold the voter-registration advantage in Nevada with about 20% registered as Independent. Heller is a classical modern no tax, no regulation Republican; Rosen has been a champion of affordable health care. There is also a hotly contested governor's race in Nevada; voter participation should be up over an average off year. All things remaining equal this race will go to Rosen.
Arizona at this time is solidly in the D column. Representative Krysten Sienema (D), according to a recent CNN poll, has already hit 50% over the 43% of Representative Martha McSally. This race is Sienema's to lose. A recent FOX poll has Sienema up by 3. The President's "unfavorable" rating in the state is close to 50%, outpacing his approvals.
Tennessee is ready to elect former Governor Phil Bredesen, already with a 52% approval. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R) is an outspoken Trump supporter. NBC/Marist has Bredensen by 2. A FOX poll, with a highly flawed pool, has Blackburn ahead.
North Dakota, fracking gas and wheat, has incumbent Heidi Heitkamp (D) serving in the Senate. Kevin Cramer, her opponent, serves ND in the House and sits on the energy committee. Both candidates should be on a first-name basis with ND voters; both have reasonable approval ratings. The President's trade wars are causing havoc throughout American agriculture. Heitkamp is no stranger to tight races, winning her last by less than 1%. This race is too close to call; currently the advantage must be given to Cramer.
When the election is over Republicans will hold no less than 47 seats, Democrats no less than 44. Indiana and Missouri are on schedule for Democratic wins, Montana is a coin flip, incumbent Tester (D) will win with a significant voter turnout. Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Tennessee should see wins by Democrats. If the Dems can hold Indiana and Missouri and make the stretch of winning four of the six races noted they will take the Senate. In an election year six weeks is a lifetime.