The 2018 Midterms: Why the House Moved Left and the Senate Moved Right

President Donald Trump speaks at a Make America Great Again rally in Cape Girardeau, Missouri on November 5, 2018. Right: Nancy Pelosi (Jim WATSON / AFP; MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump speaks at a Make America Great Again rally in Cape Girardeau, Missouri on November 5, 2018. Right: Nancy Pelosi (Jim WATSON / AFP; MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
By Thomas Del Beccaro

The 2018 Midterms are done except for some of the counting.  The House moved Left and the Senate moved Right. Simplistic reviews will say that this election was just a referendum on Trump. Yes, the President was a factor. But it was not just about Trump.

Indeed, six factors were at play that matter far beyond this presidency, and here they are.

1. History

Since Eisenhower (the television era), the President’s party has lost House seats in the first Midterm election EVERY time—but once. In 2002, Bush 43 and the Republicans picked up 8 seats in the unifying wake of 9/11. That particular 2002 dynamic, hopefully, will never be repeated.

President Clinton’s Democrats lost 54 seats in 1994 and Obama’s Democrats lost 63 seats in 2010. Both times the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives. The Republicans have now lost the House 8 year later, although their House losses were significantly less than the Democrats in 1994 and 2010.

In other words, Trump did better than either Clinton or Obama. Even so, that dynamic certainly favored the Democrats this time around as it has the out-party repeatedly over the decades and will again in eight years.

2. The Democrats Media Advantage

Let’s face it, the major media is heavily biased against President Trump. Studies show that over 90 percent of major media coverage has been negative for the President. There can be little doubt that that significantly affects the approval ratings of Trump and Republicans in general.

Given how well the economy is doing, President’s Trump’s approval rating should well be higher than it is. The fact that Trump’s approval rating is higher than Obama’s for similar periods is a testament to how well his policies have been received.

Long term, there is likely no end to that major media influence. It will be positive for Democrats and negative for Republicans for years to come. Because it is so lopsided, it is a very significant factor in our elections and will be so in 2020.

Those first two dynamics should be a surprise to no one. Number three, however, was a game changer.

3. The Democrats Money Advantage—Despite Their Claimed Objection To Money In Politics

The Democrats now have a money advantage over Republicans. We can start with the three billionaires—Tom Steyer, George Soros, and Michael Bloomberg. Their huge donations to Democrat-aligned groups played no small role in Tuesday’s results. As helpful as they were, it was just the start of the Democrats new found money advantage.

The Democrat House and Senate candidates nationwide outraised Republican candidates by over $300 million. That is an enormous advantage—call it their “crowd sourcing” advantage.

Whether it was for their Senate candidate in Texas or Arizona, or their candidate running for Florida governor, all of whom got far more than most of their contributions from outside their respective states, the Democrats now have a nationwide ability to support their candidates that far exceeds the Republicans’ ability.

Ten years ago, the Democrats elected President Obama with a huge tech advantage. The Republicans closed the gap over time. We shall see whether they close the gap in “crowd sourcing” fundraising.

4. Democrats Playing Defense in the Senate

The Democrats had to defend 26 of the 35 Senate races—many of those in red states. That alone favored Republicans—but it was more than that. The big picture is that the Republicans have what should be an enduring red state advantage.

If we look at the hour hand of time, not the minute hand of this election, our red state/blue state divide is deepening. People are sorting themselves out by moving to states that have the people with whom they identify more.

Going into this election, there were approximately 23+ reliable Red States (Trump won 30 in 2016) There also were 33 Republican governors going into this election. By contrast, there are only 16+ reliable blue states.

That dynamic gives the Republicans a significant advantage with respect to the Senate over time. So much so, that Republicans should hold the Senate, all other things being equal, for years and years to come and should settle into as many as 54-56 Senate seats.

Based on the above, it should be no surprise that the red state of North Dakota, which Trump won with 63 percent of the vote, elected a Republican Senator. The same can be said for Indiana and Missouri, and to a lesser degree Florida as well.

5. The Volatile House and Political Division

It is right to point out that the rash of early Republican retirements played a role in the outcome of this year’s Midterms. However, there are greater dynamics in play as well.

Chief among those dynamics is political division. We are in, what I call, the Divided Era of American politics. It is a period characterized as much by lasting political differences as by shared cultural values—a period with equal numbers on opposing sides of most political issues. Partisanship, sometimes bitter and often reflexive, is on the rise. That is reflected in our red state/blue state divide and in alternating control of the House of Representatives.

The very large population of the reliable blue states give the Democrats an advantage, not only when it comes to the Electoral College, but also with respect to the House. After all, just three states, California, New York and Illinois, have 98 House seats alone!

That’s 22.5 percent of all House seats from just three states. To be sure, not all those seats are held by Democrats—but the advantage is plain. Remember, LA County’s population is larger than 42 States.

Despite that population advantage, the country remains remarkably and almost evenly split as to who identifies as Democrats and Republicans. That certainly is part of the reason the Republicans have held the House since 2010, when the Democrats lost 63 seats—a historically high number.

The larger dynamic, however, is the volatility of the House. Since 1994, control of the House has now flipped 4 times. Before that it had been in Democrat hands 38 straight years.

Frequent changes in House control are hallmarks of divided eras, including this Divided Era. During the Gilded Age, from 1870 to 1900, the period most like our own historically, control of the House changed six times, including twice in back-to-back elections. We should expect more such changes to control of the House of Representatives in the not too distance future, if not in 2020.

6. What Didn’t Happen

Election reviews often talk about what happened, but not about what didn’t happen. In 2018, the Republicans failed to offer the voters a guide as to what they would do next. Elections are about the future and a roadmap to the future would have played well versus Democrat resistance. The failure of Republicans to nationalize this election with an agenda played a significant role in their losses.

In any case, it’s on to 2020 now. Given the nature of the current Democrats in Washington, and the counter-puncher President Trump, you can expect a highly partisan two years—even more so than the last two years, as The Divided Era deepens.

Thomas Del Beccaro
Thomas Del Beccaro

Thomas Del Beccaro is the author of “The Divided Era” and former chairman of the California Republican Party.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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