David Wasserman: Five Political Trends That Deserve Your Attention in 2018
This is a guest blog post authored by the Cook Political Report's U.S. House editor and senior election analyst, David Wasserman.
At the Cook Political Report, my favorite part of my job is researching what's next in American politics. After the surprise 2016 result, business and association leaders are rightfully cautious about the political landscape. Predicting elections is a mix of art and science, and conditions change quickly. The 2018 election promises to be one of the highest-stakes midterms ever, with control of both the House and Senate on the line.
In the past year, my colleagues and I have had a front row seat to the action as we’ve interviewed scores of candidates in 2018's most competitive races in every corner of the country. Voters could have major changes in store for DC and state governments in 2019. Here are five voting trends that industry and association stakeholders shouldn’t ignore:
- 2018 is shaping up to be the Year of the Angry College-Educated Woman. If Democrats win back the House in 2018, they will likely do so by the margin of their female voters and candidates. What's more, 2018 is on track to set a record for the most college-educated U.S. electorate in history. That's bad news for Republicans, because roughly two thirds of college-educated women disapprove of President Trump, and—as last year's Women's March showed—they're politically motivated.
- Forget “soccer moms.” 2018's swing voters are “Roseanne independents.” The voters standing between a decent year for Democrats and a wipeout for Republicans aren't Fox News or MSNBC viewers; they’re relatively non-political, non-religious sitcom viewers who dislike both parties’ elites. Many of them voted for Trump and could care less about politicians’ sex lives. But they are concerned the recent tax bill could benefit the wealthy and large corporations more than the middle class.
- In 2018, the House and Senate might as well be two different planets. In my 11 years with Cook, I’ve never seen this little overlap between the key races: the House will be decided by suburban swing districts where Republicans are on defense, and the Senate will be decided by red, rural states where Democrats are on defense. It’s entirely possible that just as there was a split verdict between the popular vote and Electoral College in 2016, we could see a split Congress in 2019.
- In many districts, primaries are the new general election. There will be over 60 House and Senate seats without an incumbent on the ballot this November, nearly a record in the postwar era. But if you’re waiting until October to size up the candidates, it'll be too late to make a difference in most cases. Two thirds of open seats are safe for one party or the other, making primaries the real contest. Incredibly, in the last midterms, only 14.6% of eligible voters cast ballots in primaries.
- Both parties could be headed for a leadership shakeup. Speaker Paul Ryan's retirement announcement means change is coming for the GOP. But even if Democrats win back the House, many of their newcomers will be leery of voting for Nancy Pelosi, adding to the drama in Congress. The biggest shifts could take place in the states: there are 36 governors’ races on the ballot, and 16 are for open seats. Several could produce future presidential candidates.
Forecasting these races requires us to track hundreds of polls, ads and campaigns. It also gives us dozens of entertaining stories. But the reason I love interacting with live audiences is that it’s a two-way street. In 2016, breaking outside of the Beltway and traveling to speak with all kinds of groups allowed me a different perspective and forced me to question assumptions being made in DC. I look forward to more of those exchanges this summer and fall.
David Wasserman is the U.S. House editor and senior election analyst for the non-partisan Cook Political Report. Founded in 1984, The Cook Political Report provides analyses of presidential, Senate, House, and gubernatorial races. Wasserman analyzes the current political environment in lively and entertaining presentations that he can tailor to his audiences’ specific interests or locales. His data-driven forecasting looks at both national and local trends (if requested, he can even do a district-by-district outlook), the relationship between consumer brand loyalty and voting, and what the future holds for American elections.