Midterm Results Put Dems’ Structural Disadvantages On Raw Display

on November 1, 2018 in Columbia, Missouri.
<> on November 1, 2018 in Columbia, Missouri.
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

By most objective measures, Democrats had a good night in the 2018 midterms. They flipped the House, winning a number of GOP-leaning seats to return to the majority for the first time in eight years and winning the popular vote by about a seven-point margin. They also flipped seven governors’ mansions, including some in red states.

But the Senate was a killing field for Democrats, largely because of how unfavorable the Senate map was for them heading into election night. And the bad news is it doesn’t get all that much better for them going forward in either chamber of Congress.

Simply put, if Republicans swept every Senate seat in the states President Trump won and Democrats won every Senate seat in the states Hillary Clinton won, the GOP would have a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate. Looking at just the most partisan states, not counting the six states Trump won that President Obama carried twice, Republicans would naturally start with a 48 to 40 lead in the battle for the Senate.

If Democrats hope to keep their newfound House majority and cut into the GOP’s newly expanded Senate majority, they’re simply going to have to keep winning races on unfavorable turf. That includes holding a number of the new House seats they gained in districts that have normally leaned slightly Republican — and winning some even tougher races in the Senate in a political environment that’s grown more sharply polarized with President Trump in the White House.

Democrats lost Senate seats in deep-red Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri, fell far short in their attempts to win deep-red Tennessee, came up just short in heavily Republican but Democratic-trending Texas and flipped their only target in a state Trump lost, Nevada, to see the GOP grow its Senate majority to at least 52 seats and likely more like 54, pending results in Florida, Arizona, and Montana.

The 2020 map will be easier for them. There’s only one Democrat up from a deep red state – Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL). Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) is the only other one up from a state Trump won. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Susan Collins (R-ME) both hail from states won by both Obama and Clinton. Democrats will likely have another crack at an open seat in GOP-leaning but Democrat-trending Arizona, and Sens. David Perdue (R-GA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Thom Tillis (R-NC) could be vulnerable as well in GOP-leaning but not safely Republican states.

The House will likely get a bit easier in 2022, as Democrats now hold governorships in some big states that have GOP-gerrymandered maps where they’ll be able to fight for court-drawn or compromise maps after the next census.

It’s a big deal that they now have governorships in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — as evidenced by Democrats’ netting three House seats in Pennsylvania alone Tuesday night after a court-drawn remap. And while they fell short in races for Florida and Ohio governor, new state laws aimed at curtailing gerrymandering could keep the GOP from drawing quite as egregious redistricting maps.

But the fight for Congress will still feel like an away game for Democrats for years to come. It’s not realistic to expect Democrats to win the popular vote by seven points every election, the number that was just enough to give Democrats the House this time around. With Trump’s deeply polarizing presence making it harder for moderates in both parties to win in unfavorable territory, the effort for Democrats to hang onto and pick up red-leaning districts and states in presidential election years becomes even more difficult.

Latest DC

Notable Replies

  1. One other Democratic handicap you didn’t mention: Democrats still have to work extra hard to overcome the strong strain of racism and xenophobia unleashed by Trump and Republicans throughout the land.

  2. The Florida referendum to grant the vote to felons adds 1,000,000 potential voters to a state that is typically decided by 100,000 votes or fewer. The Senate will be tough for the foreseeable future, but keep in mind that there is a decent likelihood of a recession between now and late 2020 given how frequently they occur historically. A President with 40% approval in boom times could easily be at 30% in bad times and at that level all bets are off.

  3. This is why complacency is not an option. In my perverted way of thinking, if last night had been too easy, I could see Dems falling back to their old ways. Under this scenario, we have tasted a bit of winning and we keep the motivation to want more.

  4. Not to mention the decades-long program of voter suppression Republicans have been engaged in, the nakedly partisan gerrymandering they do, and the ceaseless propaganda about “voter fraud”. They are a party whose philosophy and ideas are so bankrupt that they can only hope to cheat, lie and steal elections. (A bunch of FOX News tools responsible for a cult of personality doesn’t hurt either.)

  5. “Midterm Results Put Dems’ Structural Disadvantages On Raw Display”

    It did no such thing. The battles for the Senate were, ultimately, ignorant redneck racists versus reasonable and decent people. The former are still predominate in the South and much of the Midwest.

Continue the discussion at forums.talkingpointsmemo.com

21 more replies


Avatar for system1 Avatar for k_in_va Avatar for nickdanger Avatar for butlerknights Avatar for jep07 Avatar for radicalcentrist Avatar for jimtoday Avatar for irasdad Avatar for joebob Avatar for borisjimbo Avatar for pb Avatar for jeffrey Avatar for ronbyers Avatar for jtx Avatar for demosthenes59 Avatar for aiddon Avatar for marty110 Avatar for captaintangent Avatar for snafubar Avatar for swampsofjersey

Continue Discussion
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: