Willie Nelson duets, frantic photo-ops, gratuitous light shows: Beto O’Rourke rallies have more in common with a country music concert than they do a political movement. Odd name aside, the Democrat contesting Ted Cruz’s Texas Senate seat could not be more quintessentially progressive. O’Rourke is part of a new breed of Democrats that are fighting for Republican seats up and down the United States, as Republican concern heightens for their mid-term prospects. The Texas Senate seat is just one battleground. On November 6th, the entire house faces re-election, as do 36 governors.
Six-year Senate election cycles mean that only a third of Senators are up for re-election this cycle. Republican Senators received a boost in national polls following Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, which puts them in a strong position to retain control of the Senate for the time being. Mid-term voters, as the BBC put it, are also generally ‘whiter, older and more conservative’. Most polling models, including Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, give the Republicans a chance of about 80% to take the Senate overall: they may even pick up a larger majority bearing in mind the four closest races (Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee,) are likely to swing their way.
A more interesting story has occurred in races for Governor. Democrats in the 36 gubernatorial elections are expected to win key races: even recouping prior losses in Illinois, Michigan, and New Mexico. The Florida race, historically well-contested, also looks good for the Democrats. Republican Ron DeSantis currently trails black Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum by around five points. Oddly, both men are under fire for scandals: Gillum for the FBI corruption investigation into his office, and DeSantis for his use of a ‘racist dog whistle’ when he encouraged Floridians not to ‘monkey this up’ and elect his African-American opponent.
It’s notable that DeSantis, like most other Republican Governors, has made little effort to distance himself ideologically from President Trump. Democrats nationwide are making much of Trump’s unpopularity with moderate voters: especially his healthcare bill. Discussion on healthcare implementation has all but disappeared from Republican talking points. They are at odds with the electorate, who in a recent Gallup poll cited it as the most important issue of the 2018 election.
This leads us to perhaps the most crucial election of the three: the US House of Representatives is elected every two years, which means it is more sensitive to popular preference. The Democrats are projected by most to win here, if only by a slim margin. The most pessimistic expectations still predict a blue wave of at least 19 reclaimed seats, likely closer to 35, come November 6th. Despite the huge lead Democrats have picked up in the popular vote (around 8.8% at the time of writing,) their majority will be relatively slim.
The House election in particular is vital for Democrats if they want to stall the Trump administration’s legislative agenda, which will die if either house of Congress is taken. A flip would also allow Democrats to launch many more investigations into Trump, through their leadership of committees: both on Russia, and on Trump’s alleged affairs. Polling inaccuracies have led to large prediction mistakes in the past, and most models this year are extremely sensitive to small changes in individual races. Election analyst Harry Enten put it best: ‘Republicans are a normal polling error away from holding the House. Democrats are a normal polling error away from a 75+ seat majority’.