The 2018 midterm elections are 15 months away, but they are already on the mind of many Americans. With the favorability ratings of President Trump and Congress significantly low, Democrats believe that they have a real shot at taking back the House of Representatives. Some are even privately measuring the drapes before a single vote has been cast. It is a mistake.
Again, the election is 15 months away and there are many factors that could determine who holds the majority in the House and Senate. They could sway how Americans view the election and which candidate they vote for. Let’s examine some:
- Economy: Wall Street is booming, but Main Street is not feeling the benefits right now. Despite economic confidence being relatively high, wages are stagnant. At the same time, Americans are finding their cost of living increasing. This has caused Americans to use the money they normally put aside each month for savings to pay their bills. When people are not saving because they have to use more money to afford to live, it is not indicative of an electorate that will be too happy with the economy. If this trend continues, Democrats expect affordability to play a part in the 2018 midterm.
Donald Trump: President Trump is going to be a major factor in the 2018 midterm election. Democrats and the media will repeatedly highlight how this election cycle is a referendum on the President. His job performance, as well as whether or not Americans believe that he is delivering results, will loom large when voters go to the polls. Should he remain unpopular and Republican candidates continue to embrace him, it will not help the GOP’s chances at holding its House and Senate majorities.
- Obamacare: The 2018 Obamacare insurance rates are going to be released in October and will likely have some states facing double or even triple digit rate increases. Even though they did not implement the system, Republicans will be held responsible because they hold the majority in both chambers of Congress. Americans do not want to repeal and replace Obamacare, but to repair it. Theoretically, congressional Republicans should easily be able to implement a repair of the program, but have been unable to do so. They will have a limited window to actually repair Obamacare, as once early summer 2018 hits, whatever fix they put in will not impact 2019 rates. This will likely result in even more insurance rate increases in the days before the 2018 midterm elections. It could be devastating to GOP candidates.
- Democrats divided: The Democratic Party is currently trying to find its direction and a message that resonates with the American people. As we saw in 2016, saying “I am not Trump” is not a winning strategy. There are two wings of the Democratic Party: The Clinton wing and the Sanders faction. Each side distrusts the other and believes that the other is in charge and seeking to get them. This has created a dysfunctional party that is shooting itself in the foot. The disunity could hinder the party’s ability to adequately assist its candidates in the 2018 midterm election. A sampling of some of the division:
- The Sanders wing of the Democratic Party has been attacking Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Corey Booker (D-NJ), as well as former Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) for being, in their view, too moderate. These attacks send a signal to other Democrats that if they do not hold ultra-left views and positions, they will be targets too.
- When it comes to running pro-life candidates, Democrats are divided. Last month, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Governor Howard Dean (D-VT) said he would not contribute to the Democratic Party as long as they ran pro-life candidates. Other Democrats have echoed his position and are demanding idealogical purity from the candidates running on the Democratic ballot line.
- When it comes to health care, the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party is taking a rigid stance on single payer. They believe that supporting single payer health care should be a litmus test and that Democrats who are not publicly pushing it do not belong in the party and should be attacked. It will feed future problems for Democratic candidates in 2018.
- The Trump Base: There is no question that President Trump’s core supporters are incredibly supportive of the President (although there are signs the base is cracking). However, they will be key to Republican efforts to maintaining their House and Senate majorities. Trump needs to active them to get involved in the campaigns of GOP House and Senate candidates. Were this to happen, they would be a shot in the arm to Republican candidates. However, if they are not involved in the 2018 midterm elections, they will stay home and make it harder for Republicans to win. At present, Trump’s base is angry at Republicans in the House and Senate for failing to repeal and replace Obamacare, as well as the lack of legislative victories. They are not likely to vote for Democrats, but they could very well sit the election out.
What will be on the minds of voters in the 2018 midterm elections is far from set this early. A great deal can happen in 15 months and change the national conversation and mood. However, if the current trends continue, all of the above will play a role in who Americans will support in House and Senate races. At present, Democrats have many legitimate reasons to like where they stand, but the tide could still turn against them and/or their divisions could hinder their chances in 2018.