If you’ve read my previous posts, then you know that I am taking the position of an exceptional optimist when it comes to Democrats’ chances in November of 2018. But even so, I am willing to admit that since these elections are 18 months or so away, many events are yet to unfold which will affect the outcome. Thankfully, national prognosticators will be working around the clock from now until then, mass-producing predictions on the fate of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and most especially Paul Ryan.
Texans may have some trouble translating the national conventional wisdom–whatever it may be at any moment in the upcoming cycle–into realistic expectations for local results back home. Therefore, I am going to lay out the three most probable broad outcomes for the 2018 general election and what they would mean for Texas. (It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize there’s at least 2 more possible cases, even before one starts talking about coups d’etat or Russian invasions.) Here’s where the polls (and other data) are tentatively pointing:
Case #1 – A Neutral Political Environment
Broad Outline: The political coalitions of the Left and Right fight to a draw, as in 2016. Strong turnout on the Left–at least compared to other recent mid-terms–is countered by Trump loyalists who remain energized to support the President. There are no major systematic defections from the traditional Republican coalition.
National Results: Democrats gain a handful of seats in the House from low-hanging fruit like FL-27. Dems may win or lose the Nevada Senate race by a slim margin, but the party suffers a net loss of Senate seats because of losses in places like Indiana, Montana, and West Virginia.
Texas results: Democrats gain zero to four seats in the Texas House (maybe even losing HD 107). The party makes no gains in the state Senate and wins at most one Congressional seat. Democratic statewide candidates are defeated by the traditional wide margins.
Case #2 – “The Wave”
Broad outline: Greater energy on the Left translates to higher Democratic turnout. Trump’s ineffectiveness and the constant distraction of scandal depress turnout on the Right. Small-scale defections from the Republican coalition occur among educated moderates, but for the most part these voters behave like other Republicans, staying home rather than voting for Democrats. If polling data from today (RCP:D+6.8%) held steady until Election Day 2018, this is the most likely scenario.
National results: Democrats take–or come very close to taking–the U.S. House. A possible loss in the Indiana Senate race is offset by victory in Nevada and a competitive race in Arizona.
Texas results: Democrats gain 5 to 12 seats in the Texas House, and possibly a Senate seat. Congressional races in previously “safe” Republican seats like CD-7 become highly competitive, while statewide challengers lose by margins in the respectable low single digits.
Case #3 – “The Tsunami”
Broad Outline: The Left’s extra enthusiasm translates into historic turnout levels among their target constituencies. Trump’s incompetence and scandal depress turnout among his base, and finally drive educated moderate Republicans en masse into the arms of the Democratic Party.
National Results: Democrats easily take control of the U.S. House and hold all of their U.S. Senate seats. Democrats also win in Nevada and Arizona, and control of the U.S. Senate will come down to the results of Cruz vs. O’Rourke in Texas.
Texas Results: Democrats win 13-21 seats in the Texas House, along with 2-3 seats in the Texas Senate. Statewide challengers close the previous 14-point gap and have a real shot at winning.
House Districts by 2016 CCA vote.
What Democrats do now–recruiting, fundraising, message crafting, outreach–will determine which of these cases comes to pass next year. How well we support our candidates and how hard we work to communicate our message will have an effect on our results no matter what the national political environment.