2018 Midterm Elections Research

This was originally prepared for our Election special bonus episode which can be heard now by joining our Patreon!

The top 10 storylines of the 2018 midterms

1. Fear of immigration
2. Pre-existing conditions protection
3. Personal attacks
4. Being with or against President Trump
5. The red scare: socialism
6. Valuing military service
7. The opioid epidemic
8. Raising taxes
9. The “age tax”
10. Protecting Medicare and Social Security


Conservative pollster Henry Olsen podcasts

Centrist/Left Amy Walter’s Podcasts

Morning Consult Research

Cook Analysis


Key points

The spending is huge

The Center for Responsive Politics projects that more than $5.2 billion will be spent this election cycle, making it the most expensive midterm election ever by a wide margin.

With less than two weeks before election day, $4.7 billion has already been spent by candidates, political parties and other groups such as PACs, super PACs and nonprofits. Prior to this election cycle, no midterm election had surpassed more than $4.2 billion in spending when adjusted for inflation.

That includes third-party spending. – $460 million. $47 million in 2006. $281 million in 2014.

While Republican candidates are raising funds at record levels, the huge uptick in spending is driven primarily by unprecedented Democratic fundraising. Democratic candidates are projected to spend more than $2.5 billion this cycle, while Republicans are expected to spend approximately $2.2 billion.

Democratic House hopefuls have raised more than $951 million, crushing their Republican opponents’ $637 million haul. Things are closer in the Senate — $513 million to $361 million — but Democrats are still ahead.

In every kind of competitive race — even those in red districts — Democrats are either outraising Republicans or keeping pace.

For example, in 27 House races rated “Likely R” by Cook Political Report, Democrats are keeping up in fundraising, collecting $1.95 million on average to Republicans’ $2 million.

In 29 House races labeled “toss up” that are currently held by a Republican, Democratic candidates raised an average of $5.5 million, dwarfing the Republicans’ $3 million average.

Democratic candidates have benefitted from an unparalleled level of enthusiasm from female donors. Democrats running in the general election have raised $308 million from female donors, compared to approximately $90 million for Republicans.

Female Democratic Senate candidates — who are mostly made up of incumbents — hauled in an average of $5.3 million in contributions from women, accounting for 48 percent of their fundraising.

Individual contributors that list themselves as “retired” spent more than $298 million supporting candidates, parties and outside groups, nearly double what they spent in 2014. In total, 53 percent of funds coming from retired individuals and groups representing them went toward supporting Democrats.

Those in the education industry spent big this cycle to the tune of $71 million, 88 percent of which went to Democratic candidates. The sector spent just $34.4 million in 2014, with a smaller 74 percent of the money going to Democrats.

Health professionals also made a splash by spending double their 2014 total — approximately $140 million — with 57 percent aiding Democrats.

The Securities & Investment industry has spent at least $100 million more than in 2014 and has favored Democrats over Republicans — 52 to 46 percent — for the first midterm election cycle since 2006.

Contributions from several industries — including the liberal Public Sector Unions and the conservative Oil & Gas industry — either declined or flatlined when compared with the 2014 election.

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson are the biggest spenders so far this cycle, shelling out more than $113 million in support of Republican candidates. It’s the most the Las Vegas couple has spent in an election cycle, surpassing the $93 million they spent in 2012.

Tom Steyer comes in second place with nearly $51 million committed to helping Democrats. The billionaire environmentalist is not spending like he was in 2014 and 2016, when he was the top overall mega donor.

According to FEC data, Michael Bloomberg has so far fallen short of his promised $100 million in contributions to help Democrats win Congress. Still, his $38 million in support of Democrats is nothing to scoff at.

Lesser-known billionaire Richard Uihlein and his wife Elizabeth have spent more than $39 million in support of Republicans, good for third-most among mega donors.


Turnout is huge.

Marion County Early Voting Surpassing 2016 Levels

The Marion County Clerk says early and absentee voting in this year’s midterms is surpassing the 2016 Presidential election.

As of Friday, nearly 66,000 voters had voted early either in person or absentee. That’s more than 10 percent of the county’s registered voters.

That number was less than 42,000 at this time in 2016. And total voter turnout in the 2014 midterms was under 25 percent in the general election.

President’s Approval Rating Usually Matters


www.axios.com/trumps-approval-rating-ahead-of-midterm-election-d7f3ae72-1745-4e50-800d-a95c017152ad.html – June 22, 2018

President Trump has a 45% approval rating in the latest Gallup poll, the highest since late January, but it’s around the same percentage that past presidents had going into a midterm election in which they lost dozens of seats.

Why it matters: His approval increased by 1 percentage point each week in two previous polls, then it jumped up 3 points in the most recent poll. As the Cook Political Report’s Charles Cook writes: this 45% “needs to be the beginning of an upward trend through November if he hopes to salvage this House majority.”

Past presidents’ approval ratings going into the midterm elections:

Jimmy Carter: 49% approval in 1978. Democrats lost 15 House seats.
Ronald Reagan: 43% in 1982. Republicans lost 26 House seats.
Bill Clinton: 45% in 1994. Democrats lost 54 seats.
Barack Obama: 45% in 2010. Democrats lost 63 seats.

Be smart: A 45% approval rating is on the high end for President Trump, but it’s still not a sign that the GOP will be in the clear come November, especially given that the North Korean summit contributed to the latest figure.

Avg. Midterm Seat Loss 36 for Presidents Below 50% Approval
Presidents above 50% lose average of 14 House seats in midterm elections

Libertarian Candidates to Watch

  • Larry Sharpe for Gov of NY.
  • Gary Johnson for NM Senate
  • Lucy Brenton for IN Senate
  • Mark Rutherford for IN Sec of State
  • Travis Irvine for Gov of Ohio
  • Jeremiah Morrell for Henry County Council D3
  • Laura Ebke for Nebraska State Senate 32
  • Nicholas Sarwark for mayor of Phoenix
  • Ted Metz for Governor of Georgia

Listener suggested

  • Marco Battaglia for Iowa Attorney General. “It’s only him vs. Democrat Incumbent.”
  • Mark West for Governor of Arkansas
  • John Pickerill in his Colorado Legislature race as well!
  • Kash Jackson for Governor and Claire Ball for comptroller…….Claire is the only candidate that is actually a certified accountant
  • Danny Lundy brown township board
  • Another race to look at John Yeutter for Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector. It is just him and a Republican on the ticket.
  • Kriss DeForest “It’s probably a real long shot but we might be able to gain major party status with Jeff Caldwell in Gov of Kansas”
  • Ronnie Peterson – James Carstensen – Shreveport City Council
  • J Lee Miller Jr Yours truly for Oklahoma state house district 68. Lee for Liberty
    Open seat. Four-way race. Simple plurality for the win.
  • Matthew Brown – Roger Barris in House District 2 in Colorado has been quite entertaining.
    Doesn’t get invited to debates, shows up anyways, self-funded (retired entrepreneur), is fairly thoughtful in responses. Not sure how he’s polling, but he is making noise locally
  • Ryan Graham for Georgia Public Service Commission
  • Rick Brown – Madison County Indiana Treasurer
  • Jamie Jo Owens is running unopposed in Henry County, Indiana’s Liberty Township for a trustee position. So there is one win already. Terry Coffman will also be elected to the Liberty Township board in Henry County.

Interesting Libertarian Party Storylines

Boston Globe Endorses Libertarian Nominee for Massachusetts Auditor

On October 29, the Boston Globe, the biggest newspaper in New England, endorsed Dan Fishman for Massachusetts Auditor. He is the Libertarian nominee. He is in a four-candidate race, with nominees from the Democratic, Republican and Green Party also running. Thanks to Independent Political Report for this news. Here is a link to the editorial.

See the Tennessee Ballot, with the Largest Number of Candidates for a Statewide Office in a Regularly-Scheduled Election in U.S. History

This year the Tennessee November ballot has 28 candidates for Governor. There is one Republican, one Democrat, and 26 with the label “independent.” This is the largest number of candidates ever printed on a U.S. general election ballot for a statewide office, in a regularly-scheduled election. See the ballot here. The first page, the second page, and the third page, have nothing but gubernatorial candidates.

The chief reason there are so many is that the Tennessee Libertarian Party wanted to publicize how silly the state’s ballot access laws are. The state only requires 25 signatures for an independent candidate, but 33,844 signatures for a newly-qualifying party. So the party qualified 15 Libertarians to run as independents for Governor. There is also a Green Party candidate who qualified as an independent, and the remaining 10 are actual independents.

LP.org: ‘Washington Times: Libertarians poll high enough to tip key races’

LP.org: ‘Washington Times: Libertarians poll high enough to tip key races’

Trump Accuses Donnelly of Buying Facebook Ads to Siphon Votes from GOP Foewww.rollcall.com/news/politics/joe-donnelly-braun-facebook-libertarian?fbclid=IwAR16VCDvfK0smQ8i0XPy3CJmcUOT3ZhlvUW9EoohEDGV0gpm7xQWZBZZRGQ

The House

Key for the Democrats:

  • Hit 225
  • Motivate young, independent voters to break their way.
  • Can Obamacare and anti-Trump sentiment motivate enough of the base?

Keys for Republicans:

  • Can Immigration motivate voters?
  • Issues of Identity are motivating the base.

From ballotpedia.org/U.S._House_battlegrounds,_2018

Ballotpedia has identified 80 U.S. House battleground races: 71 Republican seats and nine Democratic seats. Heading into the elections, Republicans have a 235-193 majority with seven vacancies. To win a majority, Democrats need to have a net gain of 23 Republican seats.

The Democratic Party is well-positioned to gain seats, according to a 100-year historical analysis of House elections conducted by Ballotpedia and political scientist Jacob Smith. From 1918 to 2016, the president’s party lost an average of 29 seats in midterm elections. In the 20 percent of elections where the president lost the most seats—which Ballotpedia defined as wave elections—his party lost at least 48 seats.

The party of a newly elected president gained seats in the House in the following midterm only twice. Democrats gained nine seats in 1934 following Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (D) first presidential election in 1932, and Republicans gained eight seats in 2002 following George W. Bush’s (R) election to the presidency in 2000.

What are the polling sites predicting?

Five Thirty Eight predicts a 6 in 7 chance that the D’s win control (84.6%) with a predicted gain of 37. So it would be 232 to 202.



From https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_Senate_elections,_2018

Thirty-five U.S. Senate seats, including two in special elections, are up for election on November 6, 2018.

Heading into the election, the Republican Party holds a 51-seat majority in the chamber. Democrats hold 47 seats, and the remaining two seats are held by independents who caucus with the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party faces greater partisan risk in 2018, as they are defending 26 seats while Republicans are only defending nine. Additionally, the Democratic Party must defend seats in 10 states that supported Donald Trump (R) over Hillary Clinton (D) in the 2016 presidential election. Republicans are defending just one Senate seat in a state won by Clinton—Nevada.

Three incumbent senators, all Republicans, are not seeking re-election in 2018: Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), and Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah).

Those elected to the U.S. Senate in the 33 regular elections on November 6, 2018, will begin their six-year terms on January 3, 2019.

There are 24 Democratic seats, nine Republican seats, and two seats held by independents up for election in 2018. The Democratic Party will need to pick up two seats in the Senate in 2018 to regain the majority they lost in 2014. This is unlikely as there are so few Republican seats up for election.

The 2018 midterms: Here are key Senate races we’re covering – www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2018/aug/29/2018-midterms-here-are-key-races-were-watching/


“Not” :30 — Joe Donnelly – youtu.be/6sFdX5QXny8

Obama to rally for Indiana senator who backs Trump policies – www.yahoo.com/news/obama-rally-indiana-senator-backs-trump-policies-033151140–election.html?fbclid=IwAR1jjqKvltznalQ-HrZC_r_39JBcZoBMe-fqHIQpmnH4yzvXcAn8wrbixac





What are the polling sites predicting?

Five Thirty Eight predicts a 1 in 7 chance that the D’s win control (15.3%) and Republicans will regain control with a 6 in 7 chance with an 85% certainty. They predict a one seat gain. It would be 48 to 52. It is currently 51 to 47 with 2 Independents caucusing with the Dems. RealClear Politics agrees with this assessment.


Governors Races

From – ballotpedia.org/Gubernatorial_elections,_2018

In 2018, 36 states will hold elections for governor.

Heading into the election, the majority of governorships are held by Republicans, with 33 governorships to Democrats’ 16. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is an independent. Of the 33 Republican-held seats, 26 are up for election, of which 13 are open. Of the 16 Democratic-held seats, nine are up for election, of which four are open.

Ballotpedia has identified 25 gubernatorial elections as battleground races. Of the 26 Republican-held seats up for election, 16 are battlegrounds, including 10 of the 13 open seats. Of the nine Democratic-held seats up for election, eight—all except Hawaii—are battlegrounds. Alaska’s independent-held seat is also a battleground.

Among the battleground races this year is the Illinois gubernatorial election between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker. Both candidates contributed over $50 million to their own campaigns. Between Election Day 2014 and October 25, 2018, Pritzker contributed $161.5 million to his own campaign while Rauner contributed $67.8 million to his run.[1][2] The overall fundraising in the election—$272.7 million—is higher than any other gubernatorial election in U.S. history, surpassing the 2010 California gubernatorial election’s $251.9 million fundraising total.[3]

In the Georgia race, former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) is vying to become the first black woman to win a governor’s race in U.S. history. She faces Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), who defeated four Republican rivals in the primaries and secured an endorsement from President Donald Trump.[4]

The nation’s only independent governor, Bill Walker of Alaska, suspended his re-election bid on October 19, 2018, after the resignation of his lieutenant governor and running mate Byron Mallott (D). Walker’s withdrawal set the stage for a contest between former Sen. Mark Begich (D) and former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R).

As of November 29, 2017, Ballotpedia had tracked 27 Libertarian gubernatorial candidates in 16 states.

2018 Candidates and State Term Limit Info

Florida: Ron DeSantis vs. Andrew Gillum

Both are 39-year-old.

DeSantis is an Ivy League-educated Navy lawyer who joined the conservative House Freedom Caucus and became one of President Donald Trump’s most vociferous congressional defenders on Fox News.

At 23 years old, Gillum became Tallahassee’s youngest city commissioner before ascending to the mayorship, where he called for Trump’s impeachment and earned the backing of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Frustrated Florida Democrats, who haven’t won a gubernatorial race since 1994, feel like they’ve got nothing left to lose by charting a different course with a candidate who demonstrated his ability in the primary to motivate younger and African-American voters.


The FBI investigation in Andrew Gillum’s city: What we know and don’t know – www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2018/10/25/the-fbi-investigation-into-andrew-gillums-city-government-what-we-know-and-dont-know/

Georgia: Stacey Abrams vs. Brian Kemp

The 44-year-old former state House minority leader’s endeavor appears even tougher than Gillum’s, given that Republicans’ hold on the Peach State is even stronger than it is in Florida.

“Brian Kemp’s spent $2 million of his own defining himself better than we could have,” says Jared Leopold, spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association.

Kemp has said he’d sign religious freedom legislation vetoed by Deal that would’ve allowed faith-based institutions to deny services to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

In Georgia, Democrats see a striking parallel to North Carolina, where backlash over the state’s bathroom bill requiring people use the facility that matches their assigned gender helped cost GOP Gov. Pat McCrory his re-election in 2016.

The campaign against Kemp will be that extreme cultural conservatism is bad for business.

But Abrams remains an underdog, simply because of the uphill math. She’ll need to yield record African-American turnout while also convincing a significant portion of suburban white voters outside of metropolitan Atlanta to abandon their Republican roots.

Georgia law also states that a candidate must get over 50 percent of the vote to win, meaning there’s a chance the race could head into an overtime runoff contest in December.

Georgia, 2018’s most prominent voting rights battleground, explained – www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/10/26/18024468/georgia-voter-suppression-stacey-abrams-brian-kemp-voting-rights


Scott Walker may lose in Wisconsin. Looking for a third term, but this is his fourth time on the ballot after a 2012 recall. Tony Evers is his opponent.

What are the pollsters predicting?

Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Kansas are all too close to call. Florida and Alaska are also very close. Ironically, the most likely Republican Gubernatorial pickup is in Massachusetts. In blue states like Maryland, Vermont, and New Hampsire the GOP is likely to win.

Blue Wave Watch

Pennsylvania 10

West Virginia 03

Carol Miller vs Richard Ojeda D that voted for Trump – ballotpedia.org/West_Virginia%27s_3rd_Congressional_District_election,_2018

Florida 26

Michigan 8

Early tells of how big the wave might be due to polls closing at 6:

Indiana Senate

Kentucky 6 – https://ballotpedia.org/Kentucky%27s_6th_Congressional_District_election,_2018

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