Candidates in both parties are gearing up for an historic midterm election as voters will head to the polls and cast their ballots today. The 2018 midterms are widely viewed as a referendum on President Trump’s first two years in office — a dynamic that provides opportunities and challenges for both parties.
For Democrats, recent polling suggests that the minority party may take the House. FiveThirtyEight’s aggregate generic ballot poll currently shows Democrats leading by 8.6 points. A national margin of six points or greater usually indicates a “wave” election similar to results in 2006 when Democrats gained 31 seats in the House and six in the Senate. In addition to strong polling numbers, Democratic hopes for capturing the lower chamber are buoyed by favorable special election results, a slew of prominent GOP retirements, and strong anti-Trump sentiment in suburban districts held by Republican incumbents.
However, the outlook for the Senate paints a different picture as the data indicates that the GOP could retain their Senate Majority. Republicans came into 2018 with a favorable Senate map as Democrats have to defend 26 seats compared to the GOP’s eight. Of the 26 Democratic senators up for re-election, President Trump won 10 of their states — including five by double digits. Additionally, issues such as the Supreme Court and immigration appear to have boosted Republican Senatorial candidates in the closing weeks of the election.
As predictions continue to trickle in, it’s important to remember that dozens of races are within the polling margins of error heading into election day. High levels of enthusiasm on both sides have complicated the traditional political forecasting model for a midterm election, leaving election forecasters weary of repeating 2016 mistakes. It also remains to be seen how the unusually high number of “October surprises” — such as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history, the divisive battle to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a wave of pipe bombs being mailed to critics of President Trump, and the emergence of a caravan of Central American asylum seekers — have impacted the overall political landscape.