U.S. Midterm Races Heat Up

U.S. Congressional midterm elections, slated for November 6, were widely viewed earlier this year as an easy opportunity for Democrats to regain a majority in Congress and perhaps even the Senate. But in recent weeks, Republicans have won back some momentum, and Democratic pollsters and pundits are manifesting less confidence. A new Washington Post/Schar School poll of 69 battleground House districts suggested a narrow lead for Republicans. Meanwhile, of the 100 Senate seats, there are only 13 competitive elections, ten of which are in states President Trump carried in 2016. And in the course of the wrenching battle for confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Republican senators appear to have convinced some voters that Democrats had engineered a dishonest campaign to tar Kavanaugh as a sexual offender in his youth. In two states in particular — Texas and Tennessee — polls taken following the Kavanaugh showdown indicated that the Democratic candidates had lost some support. 

It has been noted that red rural states, where Republicans are strong, will in all likelihood determine whether the Republican majority in the Senate endures. In Congress, Democrats will need to win 23 new seats in order to win control. They will be aiming to score wins in suburban swing districts that trended toward Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections. They hope that high turnout among college-educated women in these areas can tip the scale in their favor.

A number of issues are being watched closely for their potential impact on election results.  Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections may galvanize Democrats — though some Republicans may also feel motivated to vote in defiance of what they see as the unjust targeting of the president. A new promise by the White House for middle class tax cuts, for its part, may win over some voters. Meanwhile, as thousands of immigrants make their way in a caravan from Central America through Mexico toward the United States, President Trump has seized on the matter to energize voters supportive of his strident stand against illegal immigration. Evoking calls Trump made during his 2016 election, he Tweeted threats to cut off aid to several Central American countries to punish them for failing to stop the movement of people toward the U.S.-Mexican border. 

With respect to foreign policy matters, there are mounting tensions with China and the possibility of American withdrawal from a U.S.-Russian arms control treaty. It also bears noting that Vice President Mike Pence recently accused China of seeking to skew 2018 and 2020 election outcomes against Trump, in response to his policies on trade with the Asian power.