Two years after the surprise election of Donald Trump and the Republican victory in both houses of Congress, Americans will return to the polls. Will they renew their faith in the Republicans or will they help the Democrats to take their revenge in the mid-term elections of November 6th? In all likelihood, both at once.
The blue wave anticipated a few months ago has lost vigor.
The enthusiasm of the Democrats, mobilized since the election of Donald Trump, remained intact. But recent hearings on the Supreme Court appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, who was charged with sexual assault, have helped rekindle Republicans.
The battle for control of the Senate and that for obtaining a majority in the House of Representatives are part of very different dynamics.
The House of Representatives: Democrats benefit
Republicans currently hold 236 of 435 seats. The Democrats, 193. And six seats are vacant.
Democrats need to snatch 23 Republican seats to regain control of the House, which they lost in 2010.
Propelled by the unpopularity of Donald Trump, they are better positioned to cross the threshold of 218 seats required by a majority.
“Republicans should pay the price of President Trump’s polarizing policies,” says Vincent Boucher, researcher-in-residence at the Raoul-Dandurand Chair Observatory on the United States.
Outgoing elected officials usually enjoy a vote at the polls, Democrats are also favored by the record number of Republicans who do not represent: almost forty. That’s double what we see among Democrats.
In recent weeks, the magnitude of the victory hoped for by the Democrats, however, melted.
The political analysis site The Cook Political Report predicts a gain of 25 to 40 seats.
A Republican victory in the House remains possible, but unlikely, says Vincent Boucher.
“If such a scenario occurs, it will be explained by low turnout. But it would be surprising, if we rely on the enthusiasm shown by the Democrats, “says the researcher.
Where will the control of the House of Representatives be played out?
Hot struggles are emerging in more than 70 districts in some 30 states, from California to Florida to New York and Minnesota.
Sign that the Republicans are in danger, 28 of the 29 struggles where the two camps are with the elbow in the polls are engaged in districts that represent.
Worse still, they are trailing in 17 districts that they won in 2016, while only two Democrats share this situation.
Republicans are particularly vulnerable in many of the 25 districts that chose their party in the House in 2016, but preferred Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump, including California.
The Democrats have in their sights in particular the Republican countries of this state, which will take on the shape of a battlefield, especially in the four Republican districts of Orange County, near Los Angeles.
Symbol par excellence of Hillary Clinton’s heartbreaking defeat in Democratic strongholds, Pennsylvania, where several districts are likely to change color, will also be at the heart of the fight for control of the House of Representatives.
Ordered by the Supreme Court of the State, the redrawing of the electoral map, considered biased in favor of the Republicans, could help the Democratic cause.
The year of the suburbs
Many competitive races in the country are in suburbs with diverse profiles, says Vincent Boucher.
Some dormitory cities, generally well-off and educated, whose traditionally Republican electorate voted “backwards” for Donald Trump, are likely to oppose him with a “counter-power”, particularly represented by women, explains Mr. Boucher.
The researcher also mentions the poorer suburbs, where there are large ethnocultural minorities, usually less likely to vote, and still others in the second ring or covering rural areas, which have already been open to Democrats.
We have the impression that the election will be played in constituencies that are found in the suburbs of major cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta and Miami.
Vincent Boucher, researcher in residence of the Raoul-Dandurand Chair
The majority of Republican districts that shunned Donald Trump in 2016 also have suburbs that could change color, according to The Atlantic .
The Senate: advantage to Republicans
From an arithmetical point of view, the Democrats seem to have at hand the reconquest of the whole Congress. With two seats in a Senate majority, the 49 Democrats seem well positioned to swallow the ground to 51 Republicans.
But these numbers are misleading.
“The dynamics in the races for the Senate is driven by the political map and geographic location,” summarizes Jennifer Duffy, an analyst of the Senate struggles for The Cook Political Report.
Of the 35 seats at stake this year (in 33 states), 26 are occupied by Democrats.
The situation is further complicated for Democrats: 10 of the states they seek to retain were won by Donald Trump, half by more than 19 points, according to an analysis by the Cook Political Report.
Spoiled by the electoral calendar, the Republicans defend only nine seats, including several castles.
Only one of them – Nevada, represented by Dean Heller – is in a state won by Hillary Clinton. This is also the Republican seat most at risk, according to Jennifer Duffy.
Where will the fate of the Senate be played out?
According to polls, trench warfare will be won in a dozen states, mostly Democrats.
An article that we will publish later this week will detail the most difficult struggles.
The general opinion is that Republicans are clearly favored.
“Democrats are on the defensive,” says Duffy. Their potential gains are limited, and they must defend several very vulnerable seats in Republican-dominated states.
The highly partisan saga surrounding Justice Kavanaugh’s appointment did not help them, especially in North Dakota, which supported Donald Trump 63% in 2016.
Analysts have little doubt about the defeat of outgoing Senator Heidi Heitkamp in the wake of his opposition to the appointment of the magistrate.
The road to a majority was already not easy for the Democrats, and it became more complicated.
Jennifer Duffy, analyst for The Cook Political Report
The Democratic senators of Montana, Florida, Indiana, Missouri and New Jersey are neck and neck with their Republican rivals and those of West Virginia and Minnesota have only a slight lead, according to The Cook Political Report.
Four Republican states are at the center of competitive struggles: Nevada, Tennessee, Arizona and Texas. A fifth – the Mississippi, which is the subject of a special election, leans toward the Republican candidate.
“If the Democrats head for a defeat in North Dakota, that means they have to win three of the four Republican seats at the center of tight struggles. It’s not realistic, “says Jennifer Duffy.
According to his statistical model, a net gain of two seats that would give Democrats control of the House is only the fifth most likely scenario.
It is more likely that Republicans will win one or even two seats, the number of elected representatives of each party will remain unchanged, or the two parties will be tied, a scenario that would allow Republicans to retain the majority through the dominant vote of vice president, evaluates the analyst.
Is the fate of both Houses sealed?
The Probabilistic Prediction Site 538 gives Democrats six chances out of seven to win their bid in the House of Representatives, but favors Republicans in the Senate, giving them five out of six chances to win.
On paper, the Democrats thus retain a tiny chance of winning the Senate, and the Republicans retain the House.
“Everything is possible – we saw it in 2016,” agrees Vincent Boucher. But these scenarios are at this stage unlikely.”