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By John Ubaldi
Columnist, In Homeland Security
In a few days, Americans will head to the polls to cast their ballots for their preferred candidates in hundreds of districts. Pollsters and political pundits have spent months sizing up the mood of the electorate, trying to be the one group that predicts the outcome of the mid-terms with near-perfect precision because they got it remarkably wrong two years ago when Donald Trump surprisingly won the presidency.
Historically, the party that controls the White House during the mid-terms often suffers at the ballot box. With this historical trend in mind, the Republicans and President Trump may be in for a long night if the Democrats take back the House of Representatives for the first time since the mid-term elections in 2010.
For the Democrats to regain control of the House of Representatives, they would need to flip 24 seats. One of their many strategies is to win the open races in the deep blue state of California and pick off the remaining seats needed from Republicans in office.
The real emphasis of this strategy for Democrats is to make this election a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency while focusing on the blue coastal corridors to expand their base. But is an overwhelming Democratic win actually likely?
Past Election Historical Trends
Democrats sense that this year’s potential blue wave is similar to their effort in 2006, when they regained both houses of Congress for the first time since 1994. Unlike today, however, the major issue in 2006 was the Iraq war.
Most voters saw this war as an expensive disaster. Consequently, they made President George W. Bush and the Republicans pay dearly at the ballot box.
Other wave elections, such as the 2008 election that brought Barack Obama to power, was the result of Iraq war fatigue. Also, the financial crisis helped give the Democrats their largest majority since the 1970s. In addition, the 2008 election gave Democrats a veto-proof majority in the Senate, a super majority in the House of Representatives and the White House.
But only two years later, the electorate turned against the ruling party when many voters showed their dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” Many people also complained about a stagnant economy. Those two issues resulted in the Republicans taking 63 seats in the largest House swing since 1948.
In the aftermath of that 2010 race, President Obama referred to the election as a “shellacking.” Four years later, “Obamacare” and a dismal U.S. economy gave the Republicans a Senate majority.
However, arguably the most famous of all wave elections was the one that shook the political establishment of both parties – but ‘wave’ in this case refers to the huge turnout of one candidate’s base. It was, of course, the election that most political pundits and commentators on both sides failed to see coming: the election of Donald Trump in 2016.
No Galvanizing Issue This Time Around
The 2018 mid-terms do not have that one singular issue to galvanize the country beyond the Democrats’ deep distain for the Trump presidency. It certainly has fired up the Democratic base.
In its attempts to gain traction, the Republican base has pointed to screaming protesters, Democratic Senators trying to filibuster and interrupt proceedings on Capitol Hill, and the accusations by Christine Blasey Ford. Ford, a California professor, alleged that Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh allegedly had sexually assaulted her decades earlier.
However, by putting up these obstacles, Democrats run the risk of further galvanizing Republican voters. For example, news sources showed the Republicans’ anger and outbursts that accompanied the Kavanaugh hearings.
Key Issues for The 2018 Mid-Terms
What are the major issues that will propel voters to vote next Tuesday, other than a seemingly growing hatred for President Trump and his policies?
The economy is always the biggest factor in deciding if the minority party can make gains in the legislature. The Democrats used the economy issue effectively when they tackled President Reagan’s policies in 1982. During that time, the U.S. was mired in the second deepest recession since the Great Depression, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
President Bill Clinton also used the economy in 1992 when he successfully campaigned against one-term President George H.W. Bush. To reinforce his point, Clinton used the slogan “It’s the economy, stupid.”
But today, the U.S. economy is experiencing record growth. The latest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) report of a 3.5 percent increase shows that the U.S. is on the verge of a growth rate of over 3 percent for the first time since 2005.
The second major issue is healthcare. Beginning November 1, a new Obamacare enrollment period opens. If the public sees substantial increases in their healthcare premiums, they could take out their angst on either major party.
Will voters hold the president and Republicans responsible for not replacing Obamacare, a major 2016 campaign promise? Or will they hold Democrats responsible for passing the law in the first place?
Immigration Also an Election Factor
Immigration is also a major factor in the election. Thousands of migrants from Central America have been trekking northward through Mexico toward the United States, with the stated aim of traveling through Mexico to reach their final destination of America. Once they set foot inside the U.S., they can claim refugee status, seek asylum or find various other ways to remain in the U.S. and avoid deportation. Democrats and Republicans have starkly differing views on the migrant caravan – and on immigration in general – but the electorate will have the biggest say on the issue next week.
Independents and Turnout
Currently, pollsters and political pundits are pointing to Democratic gains in the House, with a narrow miss on taking the Senate. But these people were wrong during the 2016 presidential election and it’s anyone’s guess what voters will do in the mid-terms.
The 2018 mid-terms will be decided by voter participation – especially from each party’s base – and which party independents voters will support. In each of the last wave elections, the party that won the independent vote also won the election.
A Democratic victory may well be on the horizon, but it’s a “purple wave” that often decides the outcome.