On Tuesday, off-year and special elections were held in various states across the country, most notably in Virginia, New Jersey, Maine, Washington, Georgia and Utah. Democrats made significant gains in five of these six states, foreshadowing a potential wave election for the 2018 midterms.
In Virginia, Democrats swept the governorship and other statewide offices, outperforming the polling data by nearly 6 points. The state legislature’s lower chamber, the House of Delegates, was thought to be out of reach for a Democratic takeover — prior to the election, Republicans held a 66 to 34 supermajority. However, as of Wednesday morning, Democrats were estimated to win anywhere from 49 to 51 seats, pending recounts of a few close races.
In New Jersey, Democrats won the governorship and full control of the state legislature. In Maine, an overwhelming margin in a public referendum expanded the state’s Medicaid program. In Washington, Democrats won a special election for a pivotal state Senate seat that flipped control of the chamber in their favor — Democrats now command the legislatures and governor’s mansions of every state on the western seaboard. In Georgia, the left picked up two state Senate seats in red-leaning territory. The only state immune to Tuesday’s blue wave was deep-red Utah, as expected. There, a Republican running to replace the House seat vacated by Jason Chaffetz won handily.
All in all, it was a solid night for a political party at the nadir of its power at both the state and national levels. The shocking over performance is a harbinger of things to come.
In November 2018, Americans will head to the polls to select winners in every U.S. House district and a slew of U.S. Senate contests. Both chambers are currently in Republican hands. Due to an unfortunate allocation of races, which, in 2018, are predominantly in right-leaning states and feature more Democratic than Republican incumbents, the Senate is almost entirely off the table. Due to out-of-control partisan gerrymandering and the tendency of liberal voters to cluster in urban centers, thus diluting their voting power, the House is itself a difficult prize. In order to flip control of the lower chamber, Democrats will need a vote margin in the high single-digits.
Judging by recent events, not only is such an outcome possible, but it might even be probable. The current Republican president is wildly unpopular. Additionally, one of the most predictive rules of American politics is that the president’s party loses support in midterm elections, as happened in 2006, 2010 and 2014. Considering this, as well as the fact that Democrats are now freed from their heavily disliked 2016 presidential nominee, the outcome is clear: If Republicans cannot separate their political brand from the president’s, they face utter annihilation at a time when their power should be practically unasailable. ■