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Midterms 2018: Close battle for Congress control

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Mary Moore HamrickMary Moore Hamrick
National Managing
Principal, Public Policy
@HamrickMM
The midterm elections are now just days away – with the big question of which political party will control the House and Senate still very much undecided.

With summer officially over, the 470 congressional races now have the full attention of voters, underscored by several recent polls showing voter enthusiasm at record levels.

A poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, for example, recently found that 61 percent of all registered voters say they are now more enthusiastic about voting than in past congressional elections. That’s higher than at any point during midterms in the past two decades.

Democrats since the start of the 2018 election cycle have had the edge in voter enthusiasm. But the question of whether the recent Kavanaugh confirmation hearings that so divided Americans will drive more Democrats or Republicans to ballot boxes will perhaps remain unclear until exit surveys are released.

What is clear is that the key issues among voters -- and on campaign trails across the nation -- are health care, the economy and whether Donald Trump has done a good enough job in his first two years as president to continue to give his Republican Party control of the House, Senate and White House.

Midterms are historically never good for a sitting president. Since WWII, the president’s party has lost an average of 25 House seats. In 2018, Democrats must win a total 23 House seats to take control of the chamber for the first time since 2010.

Mary Moore Hamrick “The key issues among voters are health care, the economy and whether Donald Trump has done a good enough job in his first two years as president to continue to give his Republican Party control of the House, Senate and White House.”
Mary Moore Hamrick
National Managing Principal,
Public Policy
President Trump’s approval rating is now at 43.6 percent, according to the most recent RealClearPolitics.com polls average. That’s a few points higher than before Kavanaugh’s confirmation -- and roughly the same percentage as Barack Obama’s in 2010 when his Democratic Party lost 63 House seats.

Republicans will continue to campaign on two Supreme Court appointments, the 2017 tax cuts and a robust economy with record-low unemployment.

Meanwhile, Democrats are expected to stick with a message that largely centers on Trump being unfit to run the country and promises of better access to health care and higher education for all Americans.

Beyond the historical data, Republicans are also at a disadvantage in House races, considering nearly four dozen GOP members this cycle have either resigned, retired or are running for another office. So having to recruit new, quality candidates and help finance their campaigns has really put a strain on the party’s resources.

Meanwhile, Democrats are at a disadvantage in their bid to erase Republicans’ 51-49 Senate majority, considering they must defend 26 of the 35 seats up for reelection.

Essentially 10 of those races were projected early in the election cycle to determine which party would control the Senate.

All of them have Democratic incumbents in states Trump won in 2016 — Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The Democratic nominee leads by double-digits in three of those races — Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And the party has several long-shot bids to win in Republican-held seats.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat running for the open seat of retiring Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake is deadlocked with the GOP nominee Rep. Martha McSally. And in Tennessee, the race between former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen and GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn remains a tossup.

Bottom Line We know one thing for certain, with House Speaker Paul Ryan retiring, the chamber will have a new leader, regardless of which party wins the majority. The other results will be revealed after election night.

Contact: Mary Moore HamrickMary Moore Hamrick
National Managing Principal, Public Policy
T +1 202 521 1545



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