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this page updated Sept. 15, 2018

Governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House Races

U.S. Senate  |  U.S. House  |  Governors

Will the Blue Wave Materialize or Can Republicans Defy History?

Buoyed by successes in 2017, Democrats are hoping for a wave election as happened in 2010.  Historically the president's party has not done well in the first midterms.  Democrats, particularly on the left, are energized (1, 2, 3); they have done well in the 2017 off-year elections (+) and in special elections (1, 2).  Some see the prospect of not just a wave but a tsunami.  Many observers believe Democrats will be able to reclaim the majority in the U.S. House, but the Senate is seen as a much more difficult task. 

Trump confounded the pundits in 2016, and it is entirely possible that he could do so again.  The economy is, according to many indicators, doing well (+).  Trump has followed through on major promises such as appointing conservative judges, cutting regulations and cracking down on illegal immigration (1, 2).  President Trump's selection of Brett Kavanaugh to succeed Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has set off a contentious debate but was widely lauded by conservatives (+).  Trump's base appears solid, and the Republican Party has lined up behind him with just a handful of exceptions (+).

Yet the seemingly never-ending string of lies and misleading statements (1, 2), outrages, and scandals (+) continues.  Like an ominous cloud the Mueller investigation looms over the administration (+); it could unleash a deluge or pass harmlessly by.  Trump's performance at the joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their summit meeting in Helsinki on July 16 drew widespread criticism, being variously described as disgraceful, humiliating, a fiasco, and even treasonous (+)

In August and early September the Trump controversies have continued unabated.  Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault's book Unhinged (Gallery Books, Aug. 14) was poorly reviewed, but her taped conversations made a splash.  On Aug. 21 a jury found former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty of eight of 18 counts of bank and tax fraud, and Trump's former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen reached a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to eight counts including bank and tax fraud and a campaign finance violation (+).  Bob Woodward's latest book, Fear: Trump in the White House (Simon & Schuster, Sept. 11) provided more fuel for critics, as did an anonymous Sept. 5 op-ed ("I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration") in the New York Times (+).  Whether any of these many "chickens come home to roost" before Election Day and whether it makes any difference in the outcome remains to be seen.   

Then there is the much vaunted blue wave.  The myriad resistance efforts that sprang up in the aftermath of the 2016 election could help propel Democrats to victories in 2018.  A record number of women are running for governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House (+) and state legislatures (+), many of them Democrats (>).  The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers notes that some of the same factors that made 1992 the "Year of the Woman" are present in 2018: a large number of women candidates, a large number of open seats, and men behaving badly (>).

Democrats face the danger of what Washington Examiner senior columnist Michael Barone termed "Trump Derangement Syndrome." 
If they are to achieve their wave ambitions in 2018, they will need to do more than just run against Trump.  Certainly there are plenty of issues to be discussed: the merits and effects of Republican tax cuts/"tax reform" (1, 2, 3), health care, immigration (+), gun control and 2nd Amendment rights, tariffs (1, 2, 3), Trump's pullout from the Iran deal, and North Korea (1, 2).  In July Trump several times threatened a government shutdown if Congress does not provide funding for his border wall. 

In 2017-18 Congressional Democratic leaders unveiled a series of proposals under the rubric of "A Better Deal (>)."  The first of these, announced on July 24, 2017, was a "pledge to fight for good-paying, full-time jobs with a promising future for 10 million Americans – A Better Deal on Jobs."  A total of a dozen proposals were released; the most recent of which, announced on May 22, 2018, is "A Better Deal for Teachers and Students."  "The Better Deal" did not seem to catch on and on July 20 House Democrats floated a new slogan "For the People."

Beyond this range of issues, there are those who want to talk about impeachmentbillionaire investor Tom Steyer has poured millions into his "Need to Impeach" campaign—but Democratic leaders and most Democratic candidates are not going that far, instead focusing on ethics and "the pay-to-play culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence embodied by the Trump Administration (+)."  Use of the "culture of corruption" theme really ramped up in Aug. 2018.  Democrats could point to not only the guilty findings of former top Trump associates Manafort and Cohen, but indictments of a couple of Republican congressmen—Rep. Chris Collins (NY) on Aug. 10 for insider trading and Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA) and his wife on Aug. 21 for misusing campaign funds.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Photos: Eric M. Appleman/DEMOCRACY IN ACTION

The election cannot help but be a referendum on Trump, but it will also be a referendum on Democrats.  Republicans have a prime target to motivate their base: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is seen as a stereotypical San Francisco liberal.  There was some talk among Democrats in the first part of 2017 about the need to replace Pelosi, but that petered out following their successes in the off-year elections.  Pelosi is also a strong fundraiser.  The defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), the fourth ranking Democrat in the House, by progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the June 26, 2018 primary, raised questions about Pelosi's future and the direction of the party.  In a sense the Clinton-Sanders division of the 2016 campaign continues.  Is the face of the Democratic party Pelosi and Schumer or Bernie Sanders or even Barack Obama (1, ,2)?  If Democrats fall short in 2018, their decision to stick with Pelosi rather than present a new face will be seen as a key factor.  For all the talk of Democrats being more energized, Republicans do have a strong motivation of their own.  They have thrown their lot in with Trump, and they know that loss of the House could seriously imperil the Trump agenda.  Democrats would take over committee chairmanships and have subpoena power.  Trump himself is leading the Republican effort, motivating his base, holding rallies and fundraising (1, 2, 3).  The Republican National Committee seems to be doing well, pointing to record fundraising, while fundraising at the Democratic National Committee has been lackluster (+). 

Outside money will play a large role. 
In Jan. 2018, The Hill reported that the Koch network "will spend more than $400 million on conservative causes and candidates in the 2018 midterm election cycle (>)."  (In July 2018 the Koch network drew headlines when it made clear it would not be writing blank checks for Republican candidates, as it pointedly declined to back a number of candidates including U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer running for U.S. Senate in North Dakota).  On June 20 Michael Bloomberg announced he would support Democrats' efforts to win control of the House, stating "too many [Republicans] have been absolutely feckless, including – most disappointingly – the House leadership."  In July 2018, Politico reported that Tom Steyer "plans to spend at least $110 million in 2018" focusing on building out Next Gen America and Need to Impeach (>).

The threat of Russian meddling in the 2018 midterm elections remains high (+).  There is also the continuing struggle between Republicans and their allies and Democrats and their aliies over election integrity/voter suppression through measures such as voter ID requirements and voter roll maintenance/purges (+).
  A July 2018 report from the Brennan Center for Justice found that "every state in the country can and should do more to protect voters from improper purges" and that jurisdictions which have experienced racial discrimination, which prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Shelby v. Holder were subject to pre-clearance, are a particular concern (+).

For voters there is the paradox that while there is more information than ever about the candidates, there is also more slanted, half-true and outright false information.  In the era of "fake
news," voters must look carefully at the information they are receiving (>).  Trump frequently attacks mainstream media, and there are a number of conservative outlets that uncritically repeat his message (>).  Conservatives likewise point to media bias.  For example, the Media Research Center reports that a study of "all broadcast evening news coverage of the President from January 1 through April 30 [2018]... found 90 percent of the evaluative comments about Trump were negative (>); conservatives have also raised concerns about the social media giants (+).  Regardless of your political persuasion if you have the time and ability, try to attend candidate events in person, pose questions, and see how or if the candidates respond.  This is not always possible as some candidates hide behind consultants, endorsements, and slick ads or are masters of distraction and diversion.  It is also helpful to look at the communications from the candidates themselves.  Do they offer slogans and push hot button issues, or do they present ideas on how to address real problems facing our communities and our nation.  The latter is what the 2018 mid-term elections should be about.

Odds and Ends: AP, HRC.

U.S. Senate
Of 35 seats at stake, 24 are held by Democrats, two others by Independents who caucus with the Democrats, and nine by Republicans.  While Democrats only need a net gain of two seats, due to the map they face long odds in achieving that goal. 

Party CommitteesDSCC  [Organization]   |   NRSC  [Organization]   |   FEC 
Key Super PACs:  D - Senate Majority PAC (+)   |   R - Senate Leadership Fund

U.S. House

Democrats need a net gain of about two dozen seats.  More than twice as many Republican Members than Democrats are retiring.

Party Committees
:  DCCC  [Organization]   |   NRCC  [Organization]  |   FEC
Key Super PACs:  D - House Majority PAC    |   R - Congressional Leadership Fund
see also: Roll Call's Casualty List
FairVote: Monopoly Politics


Of 36 seats at stake, Republicans hold 26, and half of those will be open (12 term-limited and 1 retirement).

Party CommitteesDGA  [Organization]   |   RGA  [Organization]
More:  NGA   |   Center on the American Governor
PrognosticatorsLarry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball   |   The Cook Political Report

More Statewide
Party Committees:
Republican State Leadership Committee   |   RLGA   |   RSSC
Republican Attorneys General Association
Democratic Attorney Generals Association
Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association

Democratic Association of Secretaries of State
MoreNLGA   |   NAAG   |   NASS

State Legislatures
Per the NCSL, legislative races in 46 states (88 legislative chambers) will be held.  6,066 seats are up for regular election—some of these will be uncontested—and there are special elections due to vacancies.

Party Committees
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee   |   Republican State Leadership Committee / RLCC
NCSL2018 Legislative Races by State and Legislative Chamber

Initiatives and Referenda

NCSLStatewide Ballot Measures Database
Ballotpedia2018 Ballot Measures
Initiative & Referendum Institute
Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (progressive)

More Links
2018 Libertarian Party Candidates
2018 Green Party Candidates
Constitution Party
Unite America (supports independent candidates; formerly The Centrist Project)
CAWP Election Watch
The Pro-Truth Pledge

The Cook Political Report
The Rothenberg Political Report
Sabato's Crystal Ball

Primary Dates





Nov. 6
no primaries in April or July.  NY has federal primaries on June 20 and state primaries on Sept. 13.       
NCSL Primary Dates


A Referendum on Donald Trump (and Nancy Pelosi)

Aligning with Trump in the Primaries
To what extent have Republican primary candidates sought to align with Trump?  Trump has endorsed or made statements of support on behalf of a number of candidates in the primaries (+), and those candidates have used clips, imagery and mentions of Trump in their ads and internet presences.  Other candidates who have not been backed by Trump likewise highlight their support for him.  One of the more dramatic demonstrations of support for Trump came from Rep. Todd Rokita in his unsuccessful primary campaign for U.S. Senate in Indiana; although Trump did not endorse Rokita, for one ad Rokita donned a MAGA hat.  Running in the Republican primary for governor of Florida, Rep. Ron DeSantis ran an ad, narrated by his wife, showing him playing with his young children–building a wall with daughter Madison, reading to four-month old Mason from one of Trump's books, and teaching Madison to read from a "Make America Great Again" sign: the ad closes on Mason in his crib a red MAGA jumper.  In other Republican primary ads, candidates accuse their opponents of not being sufficently pro-Trump.
examples of primary rallies...

candidates touting support for Trump...

Hoosiers for Rokita (IN)
"MAGA"  April 9, 2018

Raúl Labrador for Governor (ID)

Kelli Ward for Senate (AZ)
"Pretender" Jan. 12, 2018

Tim Burchett for Congress (TN-2)
ad July 13, 2018

more examples of primary endorsements...


Ron DeSantis for Governor (FL)
"Casey" July 2018

John Cox for Governor (CA)
facebook video, late May 2018

Lou Barletta for Senate (PA)
"The Lottery Winner" May 1, 2018

Renacci for Ohio
"Jim Renacci: Ohio First" May 2, 2018

examples of general election rallies...

Trump a Target for Democrats
To what extent do Democratic candidates, campaigns and committees invoke Trump...and are those appeals effective in swaying voters?

Northam for Governor (VA)
"Standing"  Nov. 2, 2017

 Villaraigosa for Governor (CA)
web ad June 2, 2018 for June 5 primary (2/3rds size)
DCCC website Sept. 7, 2018 screen grab

     Pelosi Liberals
     Republicans and their allies will brand many Democratic candidates as "Pelosi liberals."

Congressional Leadership Fund
"Sanctuary Cities"  Feb. 28, 2018
from the Mar.13, 2018 special election in PA-18.
Hoosiers for Rokita (IN Sen.)
"Fight Back"  Feb. 28, 2018
Matt Rosendale for Senate (MT)
"Stepped in It"  May 13, 2018

French Hill for Arkansas (AR-2)
ad, May 16, 2018
Balderson for Congress
"Difference" July 2018
from the Aug. 7, 2018 special election in OH-12