Midterm Overview

March 14, 2020

This year’s midterms will elect the 116th Congress of the United States and will also decide control of state houses and local legislatures. The congressional elections are the first of President Donald Trump’s administration, and voters largely see Trump as a deciding factor as to which lever they will pull on November 6 (or earlier).

The Senate

Thirty-three seats, a third of the US Senate, are up for election in 2018. Republicans currently enjoy a 51-49 majority, so Democrats need to pick up at least two seats to regain control (the two independents that caucus with the Democrats will be counted as Democrats here). The map is tough for them, however, Democrats must defend 24 seats in 23 states, nine of which Trump won in 2016. The Republicans must defend nine seats, only one of which, Dean Heller’s seat in Nevada, is in a state carried by Secretary Hillary Clinton in 2016. Six races are currently tossups, according to RealClearPolitics, and according to FiveFortyEight, Republicans are most likely to have a 52-48 Senate majority come January.

The House

The House of Representatives, as per usual, has all of its 435 voting seats up for re-election. The Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats or higher to win control of the chamber. Democrats are fighting in suburban and rural areas like Montana at-large, Orange County, Calif. and the suburbs of New York and Philadelphia in New Jersey. There are currently 36 tossup races, and according to FiveThirtyEight, Democrats are most likely to pick up a 233-202 majority.

The States

Thirty-five of fifty states will hold elections for governor this November. Republicans currently hold 33 governorships, Democrats 16, and Alaska has an independent governor. The Democrats would need a net gain of ten governorships or more to win a majority of state houses. There are 11 tossup races, according to RealClearPolitics, including extremely competitive races in Florida and Georgia, where Black progressives are attempting to prove that running to the left in a red state is a viable electoral strategy. These elections hold particular import because it will allow whichever party controls the governorship a seat at the table in their state’s redistricting after the 2020 Census. Forty-five states are holding elections for their state legislature this year, as well.

Generational Gaps:

Across generations, political ideology gets more and more conservative. In a Pew Research poll from March 2018, 12 percent of millennials self-reported as conservatives, as opposed to 23 percent of Gen X, 32 percent of Baby Boomers and 39 percent of the Silent Generation. There is also a wider gap in generational ideology this midterm cycle than in years past, according to a January Pew Research poll.

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