As Republicans wind down their disastrous 2017, major losses loom on the midterm horizon, according to campaign forecasters.
Virginia + Alabama = jeopardy for the GOP.
That’s the formula more and more campaign forecasters are now working with as they try to calculate just how much trouble Republicans face in next year’s midterm election cycle, and specifically in the House, where Democrats need to flip 24 seats to take control of the chamber. If they did, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's short, turbulent reign would come to an abrupt halt.
Following the GOP’s shellacking last week in Virginia, and indeed across the country — coupled with the unfolding political fiasco in Alabama where Senate candidate Roy Moore is being accused by nine different women of sexual harassment or assault — the looming question is: what does all of it mean for 2018?
A key take-away from the Virginia win was the increased voter turnout for Democrats, who have traditionally struggled to get people to the polls for non-presidential elections. But with Donald Trump in the White House producing unprecedented incentive for Democrats, Democratic turnout in the commonwealth this year was up 20 percent compared to 2013 — the last time the state elected a governor — in regions won by Hillary Clinton last year.
“The results suggest Northern Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock (VA-10) is the single most vulnerable GOP incumbent in the country,” writes campaign forecaster David Wasserman at the non-partisan Cook Political Report. He suggests that if the election were held today, Democrats would be favored to win the House, an outcome that was unthinkable just six months ago. (Note: Just 23 Republicans currently occupy congressional seats carried by Hillary Clinton.)
Additionally, based on the shifting political landscape, the Cook Political Report this week changed its ratings for seven congressional districts, and in six of those races the advantage has swung toward Democrats.
Wasserman’s colleague, Amy Walter, is even more forthright: “A wave is building.” Walter says the proof is in the cascade of recent polling results where voters are asked if they would prefer a Republican or a Democrat be elected to Congress. In that generic ballot setting, Democrats are posting historic winning margins by ten points and more, which is astounding considering how politically polarized the country is today.
“These are political wave numbers,” says Walter, and points to wave election cycles in 2010, 1004, and 1994 as examples of how Democrats may be on the cusp of sweeping victories next year.
Republicans, of course, also have to run under the looming specter of Trump, who remains the most unpopular first-year president in modern American history.
“Exit polls revealed an unmistakable anti-Trump backlash Tuesday,” Politico reported following GOP losses last week. “And the stark results cast fresh doubt on the health of Republican majorities in the House and Senate, in addition to gubernatorial races in next year's midterm elections.”
Meanwhile, Democrats are raising lots of money to wage war in 2018. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee collected $7.7 million last month, compared to $5.4 million in 2015, the last non-national election year. To date, DCCC has raised nearly $90 million this year, compared with $57 million at the end of October 2015.
Look for more Republican members opting for retirement in coming weeks and months.