We spoke with three election experts – Dr. David Barker at American University, Dr. Danny Hayes at George Washington University, and Dr. Candice Nelson at American University – to get their perspective on what to expect in November.
1. Democrats will flip the House.
According to Barker and Nelson, Democrats are likely to gain a majority in the House of Representative. Barker noted, “Over the last 100 years, in the midterm following the election of a new president, that president’s party loses an average of between 30 and 40 seats in the House.” Since the Democrats only need 25 seats to flip the House, it seems likely that they will win enough seats to do so. All three experts were unsure as to whether the Democrats could win control of the Senate.
2. The Resistance will show up in force.
Following Trump’s victory in 2016, enthusiasm on the Democratic side surged. We’re likely to see this energy at the polls, particularly in groups that tend not to vote, such as young people and Hispanics. “I think it will be most interesting to see what happens with suburban Republican women,” Nelson added, a group that polls suggest is on the fence about Trump. Since the midterms are seen as a “referendum on the incumbent president,” as Hayes put it, the outcome will provide a gauge on where the public stands on Trump.
3. Who run the world? Girls! (Well, Women)
We’re going to see a historic number of women are running for office in the 2018 midterms, overwhelmingly as Democrats. Particularly after the blatant sexism of the last presidential election, some critics have questioned whether the growth in female candidates could weaken chances of a Democratic win. But Hayes, who specializes in women in politics, disagrees. “Women win their races at just as high rates as men do; they’re just much less likely to run,” he remarked. “For 2018 specifically, the biggest effects of all of these women running isn’t going to be felt. It will be felt years down the line, when the legacy of this surge in candidates is more women see that politics is something they can pursue.”
4. Democrats will put their bickering on hold to unite against Trump.
There’s a major divide within the Democratic Party between, in Nelson’s words, the “older, more conservative wing and the younger, more progressive Bernie Sanders wing.” But these tensions probably won’t play a significant role in the midterms, when Democrats are united against the president. “The divisions in the party are much smaller relative to the dislike of Trump,” Barker commented.
5. The midterms are important, but keep your eyes on 2020.
The upcoming presidential election is going to be one of the most important in history. Not only will both parties have to address their internal divisions and determine what their future approach will be, Trump’s unique style of governing will also be put to the test. Barker explained, “2020 will be the moment where ‘Trumpism’ will be validated or repudiated. By Trumpism, I mean the overall style of his presidency: general idea that you can become president without any political experience, the way he talks about his opponents, the crassness, the number of scandals… If Trump is re-elected, we can expect that this is how both political parties are going to behave moving forward.”