A midterms deep dive: a Dentons elections report

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We are less than 150 days from November’s general elections. Roughly half of the state primary election contests, as well as a few special elections, are behind us, and the contours of the campaign battlefield for the November general election are taking shape.

So it’s an excellent opportunity for an update on the battle for control of the US House and Senate, and a look at the key races for governor and attorney general, as well as seats in state legislatures around the country.

  • The GOP currently enjoys a two-seat majority in the US Senate and a 23-seat majority in the US House of Representatives. In the Senate, Democrats are defending 26 seats to the GOP’s nine. As mandated by the Constitution, all 435 House seats are on the ballot in November.
  • In the states, the GOP currently holds 33 governorships, the Democrats have 16, and there is one Independent. As a result of retirements, the GOP will be defending 26 governors’ seats while the Democrats will be defending only 10. Elections for state legislators will be held in 46 states. In addition, 35 of 50 attorney general seats will be contested this election cycle. In 43 states, the attorney general is directly elected and 30 of states states will hold elections for the position this November. Moreover, 4 of the 5 states where the attorney general is appointed by the governor will hold elections for governor. Main, the sole state where the attorney general is appointed by the state legislature, is also holding legislative elections this November. Of the 99 total state legislative chambers in the US, the GOP currently controls 67 of them.

A few truisms about midterm elections:

  • While President Donald Trump won’t be on the ballot this November, his presence will be felt and will surely influence many House, Senate and even state races, for better and for worse.
  • Additionally, the party out of power–that is, the party not in the White House–always has the edge on voter intensity and enthusiasm. Midterms are often very unkind to the party in the White House.
  • Finally, history has shown that the generic ballot question, which simply asks voters which party they would prefer to control Congress, is fairly reliable metric of how many House seats turn over to the other party in the general election. (The most recent Real Clear Politics polling average has the generic ballot ballot at D+7.6.)

The answers to the following questions will help inform the path forward:

  • Just how large a shadow will President Trump cast on the federal races, or will those races turn primarily on local issues not involving the president?
  • Will a relatively strong national economy cause voters to “vote their pocketbooks” and overlook both their concerns about the president’s tweets and their unhappiness with congressional gridlock in Washington?
  • How much of a role will the #metoo movement, and women generally, play in the outcome of the elections?
  • With Democratic turnout this fall expected to be close to historic levels for a midterm election, what, if anything, can the GOP do to fire up its base and get them to voting booths this fall?

What else do we know at the movement? We know that there are more women candidates running for office, from both parties, than at any time in our history. We know that Democrats are leading the fundraising race at the candidate level but are still struggling at the national committee level. We know that retirements at the federal level, especially for the GOP, are reaching historic proportions and that those open seats are particularly vulnerable to national political sentiment.

Above all else, we know that events–nationally, locally, and on the world stage–that are presently unforeseeable have the potential to upstage all that we think we know today.

For a deep dive into the map, polling, historical data, and anecdotal evidence for virtually every election this fall, download Dentons’ latest election report here.