Midterms 2018 Update: The Senate

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There are a lot of stories about the Democrats’ chances of flipping control of the House, but what about the Senate? Will Mitch McConnell continue to be the Majority Leader or can we finally make him the Minority Leader? Here’s where things stand.

Every two years, approximately 1/3 of the Senate seats are up for re-election. (Reminder that Senators serve 6 year terms.) In 2018, the Democrats are at a HUGE disadvantage because they have to defend 26 seats this year, while the Republicans only have 9 seats to hold onto. It is essentially the worst case scenario.

That said, the wave of enthusiasm on the Democrats’ side of the aisle is an advantage, but as there is no way of knowing how strong a wave it will be, we need to hedge all of our bets.

A great visualization of where we are most vulnerable, and where our best opportunities are, is looking at the range of race ratings from Cook Political Report (which is similar to what other ratings outlets use as well.) Those ratings are:

Solid Democrat
Likely Democrat
Lean Democrat
Lean Republican
Likely Republican
Solid Republican

The closer to Toss-Up a candidate it, the more competitive the race is. Those are generally the best place to aim our resources and efforts if we want a win on Election Night.

The Vulnerable Democrats

These are the Democrats whose seats we must defend at all costs:

The Democrats in the Toss-Up column are: Nelson (FL), Donnelly (IN), McCaskill (MO), Heitkamp (ND), Manchin (WV). They are the rare Democrats who have been able to get elected in red states that are turning more red. Their path to the Senate will be enormously tough.

The Democrats in the Lean Democrat column: Smith (MN) and Brown (OH).

We can help by signing up to volunteer on their campaign websites, donating to their campaigns, and amplifying their values and Senate accomplishments.

The Vulnerable Republicans

Again, assuming we can defend and hold onto EVERY Democratic Senate seat, we need to flip two Republican seats to take control of the Senate. If we only get to 50-50, then Vice President Pence breaks the tie, so that scenario is no good.

The Republicans in the Toss-Up column: Open (AZ), Heller (NV), Open (TN). (Jeff Flake (AZ) and Bob Corker (TN) are retiring, leaving their seats open.) Not having an incumbent running makes things a lot easier for the Democrats.

There are no senators in the Lean Republican column, but in the Likely Republican column, we have: Open (MS), Fischer (NE), and Cruz (TX). These seats are not rock-solid red, but will be much more difficult to flip than the races in the Toss-Up column.

So Now What?

Understand that at a minimum, the Democrats don’t want to lose any seats in the Senate. At the best, we can flip a few seats and be in the majority, although only by a slim margin. It all depends on the size of the Democratic wave — the more we can do to convey the urgency of these races to fellow citizens, and help these candidates and their campaigns, the more likely we can increase the turnout we’ll need to wrest control from the Republicans.

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