It’s crazy to think we’re already a third of the way through the 2018 re-election cycle, but the GOP is really looking to capitalize on the upcoming election. With 25 Democrat and only 8 Republican senators up for reelection in the coming year, the odds of a heavy Republican majority aren’t great, but they should still hold and slightly enhance their edge. 10 of those 25 Democratic senators are from states that President Trump won during his race, so the GOP is looking to those as reservoirs of votes. This seems like great odds, but the statistics from past midterm elections prove that the party can’t get too cocky about smoking their Democratic counterparts.
In 35 years, 96% of senators from the opposing party of the president have been reelected in their midterm races, and while such a number can fluctuate based on the times, the numbers don’t lie. Republicans had hoped to greatly expand their majority in the Senate, and while such an event is still possible, the Democratic incumbents could certainly make it harder than they originally thought. Other than a handful of those who voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, it doesn’t look like these Democratic senators are too worried about opposing the Commander-in-Chief either. While the chance is very slim that Democrats could gain back the majority, the GOP can’t dismiss the idea and needs to work hard to make sure their eight midterm senators are reelected.
Senators from the same party as the president don’t have as good of a track record in their reelection campaigns, with a success rate of about 80%. For the Republican party to firmly hold their majority and expand it further, they need to focus on helping that percentage go up in 2018, particularly with Senators Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona. For Heller, coming from a state that went to Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, the challenge will be holding onto his seat in the midst of a voting pool that seems to lean towards liberal ideals. The upside, so far at least, is that the only other possible candidate is Danny Tarkanian, a Republican who has lost all his other races. Jeff Flake’s circumstances are a little different. While in Washington last week, my DECA State Officer Team and I actually met with Senator Flake, and I asked him what his toughest challenge would be in the 2018 election. Flake said his being one of the undecided Republican votes on the repealing of Obamacare, as well as the White House working with his opponents, will be his biggest challenges. Flake and President Trump have always been at odds, Flake being very critical of the president during the 2016 election and never endorsing him. Now, it seems as though Trump is working to oust Flake and put someone in who aligns more with his policies, talking to former state Sen. Kelli Ward, state treasurer Jeff DeWit, and former Arizona GOP Chairman Robert Graham about running against Flake in 2018. If the party was wise, they’d work to make sure Flake wins his race, even if by a slim margin, at least to ensure their majority. While there may be pressure from the White House to shake up Republicans in the Senate, the party needs to be careful that it doesn’t jeopardize them holding onto a majority.