Midterm Predictions

by | Nov 5, 2018 | Politics

Note: These predictions have been developed by one analyst and do not reflect the opinions of Politics NC as a whole.

          With less than thirty-six hours remaining until election returns begin pouring in, I’ve made some predictions for the congressional and gubernatorial elections nationwide, as well as the legislative elections here in North Carolina.

Democratic Hold (25)
Democratic Gain (2)
Republican Hold (7)
Republican Gain (1)
New Composition: 50 Republicans, 50 Democrats

          Thirty-five of the one hundred seats in the United States Senate are up for election this year, including thirty-three regularly-scheduled elections and two special elections (represented by the boxes in Minnesota and Mississippi). Due to the staggered nature of Senate election cycles, nearly three-fourths of the seats up this year happen to be held by Democrats – this could be viewed as a blessing or a curse by Democratic candidates, as they have little room to make gains but would rather be defending their seats in a Trump midterm than any other year.

         Ten Democratic senators are up for reelection in states Donald Trump won in 2016 – this prediction suggests nine will survive, due both to their popularity as incumbents and to the pro-Democratic national environment. Democratic Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin are all popular and each face weak Republican challengers, so I would be surprised if any lose on November 6. Democratic Senators Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Jon Tester of Montana are each in closer races – Nelson faces a particularly strong challenger from Florida Governor Rick Scott – but are all favored to win another term. Democratic Senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, meanwhile, are in tossup races – this prediction suggests both will narrowly prevail, but I wouldn’t be surprised if either (or both) lose. These two races are certainly the most difficult to call.

          The one Democrat I do think will lose reelection is Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who faces a strong challenge from GOP Congressman Kevin Cramer in a state Donald Trump won by thirty-six points in 2016. I wouldn’t be surprised if Heitkamp squeaks by, but this race leans Republican.

          Democrats, meanwhile, are expected to make gains in two western states – Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen presents a strong challenge to incumbent Republican Dean Heller in Nevada, and Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema seems to have an edge against Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally in the Arizona race to succeed retiring GOP incumbent Jeff Flake. Both of these races will come down to the wire, however, and Republicans could win one or both.

          Three more Republican seats are expected to stay in GOP hands but could be competitive. In Tennessee, Democratic former governor Phil Bredesen is running a strong campaign against Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn in the race to succeed retiring GOP incumbent Bob Corker. In Texas, Republican Senator Ted Cruz faces a charismatic challenger in Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke. And in the Mississippi special election to determine who will serve the remainder of former GOP Senator Thad Cochran’s term, Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith (Cochran’s appointed replacement) faces challenges from both Democratic former US Secretary of Agriculture Mike Epsy and Republican state Senator Chris McDaniel, with all three candidates appearing on the same ballot due to the state’s election rules. If none of the three win an outright majority in November, the race will go to a runoff in December, which could leave control of the Senate unknown for an entire month after Election Day.

          If these predictions are correct, the Senate will see a fifty-fifty tie, with Republicans retaining control due to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence. This map displays the new composition of each state’s Senate delegation if the predictions hold true:

Two Democrats (19)
Two Republicans (19)
One of Each (12)

Democratic Hold (193)
Democratic Gain (37)
Republican Hold (203)
Republican Gain (2)
New Composition: 230 Democrats, 205 Republicans

This prediction entails Democrats net gaining around thirty-five seats in the House, retaking the chamber with a 230-205 margin over the GOP. In North Carolina, Democrat Dan McCready is favored to defeat Republican Mark Harris in the CD-09 race to succeed Congressman Robert Pittenger, who Harris defeated in the primary. In CD-13, Republican incumbent Ted Budd is expected to win reelection by a small margin over Democrat Kathy Manning, although the race remains a tossup. And in the state’s other tossup race, CD-02, Republican incumbent George Holding is expected to narrowly defeat Democrat Linda Coleman, although a Coleman win wouldn’t be a surprise.

Democratic Hold (9)
Democratic Gain (10)
Republican Hold (16)
Republican Gain (1)
New Composition: 26 Democrats, 24 Republicans

          Thirty-six states are electing governors this year – I expect Democratic gubernatorial candidates to win ten states currently held by Republicans, resulting in a 26-24 Democratic majority of governors nationwide. In Maine, Florida, Michigan, and New Mexico, polling suggests Democratic candidates are favored to win open seats being vacated by term-limited Republican governors. In Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa, meanwhile, Democratic challengers are favored in their races against Republican incumbents. The three closest gubernatorial contests I expect Democrats to win – Ohio, Kansas, and Nevada – each feature open seats, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Republicans hold any or all of them.

          Republicans, meanwhile, are favored to pick up the state of Alaska, in which the nation’s only independent governor recently ended his reelection bid after receiving challengers from both major parties. Alaska’s race will be close, as will three more I expect the GOP to hold narrowly – Georgia, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. A Democratic win would not be unexpected in any of the three, with each race featuring a strong Democratic candidate fighting to win a traditionally Republican state in an open race. Four traditionally Democratic states in the northeast, meanwhile, feature popular Republican incumbents running for second terms, with the GOP expected to hold Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maryland by comfortable margins.

Democratic Hold (15)
Democratic Gain (7)
Republican Hold (28)
Republican Gain (0)
New Composition: 28 Republicans, 22 Democrats

          I expect Democrats to make substantial gains in the North Carolina Senate and narrowly break its supermajority, although Republicans will comfortably maintain control of the chamber overall.

          The most obvious Democratic pickup is SD-15 in Raleigh. Fearful that all three of Wake County’s Republican-held seats were at risk of flipping due to the area’s strong Democratic trend in 2016, GOP legislators took advantage of court-ordered redistricting in 2017 to triage one district, hoping to save their incumbents in other two. The triaged district, SD-15, will be won by Democratic attorney Jay Chaudhuri, an incumbent who currently represents SD-16. Chaudhuri’s current district will be won by Democratic attorney Wiley Nickel.

          The next likeliest Democratic pickup is SD-41, currently held by Republican Jeff Tarte. The district became substantially more Democratic due to redistricting, and although it will be competitive, Democratic challenger Natasha Marcus is favored.

          The other five districts I predict Democrats might gain are tossups: Harper Peterson over Republican Michael Lee in SD-09, Sam Searcy over Tamara Barringer in SD-17, Mack Paul over John Alexander in SD-18, Kirk DeViere over Wesley Meredith in SD-19, and Michael Garrett over Trudy Wade in SD-27. All five of these races are tossups, and I could easily be wrong on any of them. I probably will be on some.

          In four more competitive districts, I think Republicans will hang on: Bob Steinburg over D. Cole Phelps in SD-01, Louis Pate over David Brantley in SD-07, Danny Earl Britt over Democrat John Campbell in SD-13, and Tom McInnis over Democrat Helen Probst Mills in SD-25.

          The following map displays the ten districts I expect to be most competitive come Election Night. I recommend readers focus on these ten districts as election returns come in, as they will together determine the new balance of power in the North Carolina Senate.

Republican Favored (24)
Democrat Favored (16)
Competitive (10)

Democratic Hold (44)
Democratic Gain (12)
Republican Hold (63)
Republican Gain (1)
New Composition: 64 Republicans, 56 Democrats

I expect Democrats to make substantial gains in the North Carolina House of Representatives and comfortably break its supermajority, although Republicans will narrowly maintain control of the chamber overall.

Democrats are almost guaranteed to gain at least three seats due to recent redistricting. Kandie Smith in HD-08, James Gailliard in HD-25, and Pricey Harrison in HD-61 are all expected to comfortably win seats currently held by Republicans. Harrison, the incumbent for HD-57, will be succeeded in her current district by fellow Democrat Ashton Clemmons.

Redistricting also put four Democratic incumbents at significant risk of defeat. I expect Democrats George Graham in HD-12, Joe John in HD-40, and Ken Goodman in HD-66 to each win reelection, although all (particularly Graham) face tough reelection bids. Incumbent Bobbie Richardson in HD-07, meanwhile, is likely an underdog in her race against Republican challenger Lisa Stone Barnes, who has taken advantage of the once-solidly Democratic district’s new Republican lean.

The other nine Democratic pickups I predict are Ron Wesson over Ed Goodwin in HD-01, Terence Everitt over Chris Malone in HD-35, Sydney Batch over John Adcock in HD-37, Lisa Mathis over John Sauls in HD-51, Erica McAdoo over Stephen Ross in HD-63, Ray Russell over Jonathan Jordan in HD-93, Brandon Lofton over Andy Dulin in HD-104, Wesley Harris over Scott Stone in HD-105, and Joe Sam Queen over Mike Clampitt in HD-119. All of these races are tossups, and any of them – particularly HD-51 and HD-105, both of which are essentially coin flips – could easily go Republican.

There are an additional eleven competitive districts in which I expect Republican incumbents to hang on: Larry Yarborough over Darryl Moss in HD-02, Ted Davis over Marcia Morgan in HD-19, Holly Grange over Leslie Cohen in HD-20, Nelson Dollar over Julie von Haefen in HD-36, John Faircloth over Martha Shafer in HD-62, Debra Conrad over Terri LeGrand in HD-74, Donny Lambeth over Dan Besse in HD-75, Linda Johnson over Aimy Steele in HD-82, Larry Pittman over Gail Young in HD-83, John Bradford over Christy Clark in HD-98, and Bill Brawley over Rachel Hunt in HD-103. Many of these races are pure tossups and could easily go Democratic on November 6.

The following map displays the twenty-four districts I expect to be most competitive come Election Night. I recommend readers focus on these twenty-four districts as election returns come in, as they will together determine the new balance of power in the North Carolina House of Representatives.

Republican Favored (52)
Democrat Favored (44)
Competitive (24)

          One final note to wrap things up. Many of these races are pure tossups, and it’s impossible to predict with confidence how each of them will pan out. I can, however, predict with certainty that some, if not many, of the predictions discussed today will indeed be incorrect. That’s the nature of the game.

          Best of luck to all tomorrow.


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