Coattails To Wave?

The Democrats will have to defend 26 Senate seats this November, (that includes the two independents who caucus with them). Nine of them, approximately one-third, were won in 2012 in part by riding Obama’s coattails. At least four of the nine look to be vulnerable. That presents some interesting situations. Let’s explore.

The nine are: Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Angus King (I) of Maine, Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

I hate to count chicken before they are hatched, especially in politics, but Hirono, Kaine, King, Murphy and Warren look to be safe; the word “safe” being relative. Virginia is purple but the 2017 elections make Kaine look less vulnerable. Maine is a bit of an odd duck politically but I still feel confident that King will be fine. I really can’t see Hawaii, Connecticut or Massachusetts electing a Republican in 2018.

In 2012 President Obama won Wisconsin and New Mexico, which had to help Baldwin and Heinrich. Both are purple states with Wisconsin starting to trend red and New Mexico leaning, but far from dependably, blue. There is no presidential race in 2018 and certainly no Obama on the ballot. While both Baldwin and Heinrich have the advantage of incumbency in 2018 they are far from shoe-ins.

Heitkamp and Donnelly were helped less by coattails because Obama lost their states to Mitt Romney in 2012. However Democrats and Democratic leaning voters tend to have a higher turnout in Presidential years than they do in mid-term elections. Further compounding their challenge is the fact that their states are red states.

I point all this out because too many progressives are getting too giddy about the chances of the Democrats taking back the Senate in 2018. I am much more sober in my outlook. As things stand as of this writing the Democrats need a net gain of two seats to take control of the Senate. While that is doable it is far from a certainty and even in a good year for Democrats they could actually end up losing Senate seats.

I only see three possible Democratic pick-ups (Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee) at this writing. Note, I said possible not probable. I have already noted four possible losses meaning even in a good Democratic year (which I think 2018 will be) the Democrats could still lose a net of one Senate seat in November.

As in sports, strange things happen in politics. I contend one of the reasons the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has gained so much popularity in recent years is because of the uncertainty and upsets. In politics weeks are months and months are lifetimes. It’s still a long way to November.

There will be a Democratic wave in 2018 I have two questions about it: How large will it be and will it be more impactful than Obama’s coattails?

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