A Guide To The 2018 Midterm Elections – Part One

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Image source: The Wall Street Journal

Often viewed as a “referendum” on the party of the sitting President, the midterm elections will be taking on added importance in 2018, due to the alleged unpopularity of President Trump. This has led the mainstream media to promote the expectation of a “blue wave” that will sweep control of Congress away from Republicans, neutering Trump’s agenda even more than his own party already is.

However, the readers know by now to take mainstream media reports with several grains of salt.  To this end, FMShooter is preparing its very own guide to the 2018 elections, complete with odds analysis and wagers we will be placing on the results.  In part one, we will be examining the House, and giving a brief primer on expected results in the Senate.

We will start by examining the House’s current makeup, courtesy of 270 To Win:

While all 435 house seats are up for re-election every two years, the vast majority of these are in districts that are deemed non-competitive and all but assured to be retained by the party in control.  This can be attributed to many factors (including gerrymandering), and the body’s overall low turnover has led to an ever-falling Congressional approval rate.

With that said, we will compare the above map to 270 To Win’s default map for the 2018 elections:

Viewing the map makes it painfully obvious that incumbency rules in the House of Representatives.  While the public disapproves of Congress as a whole, they seem to love their own representatives, which in at least some cases can be attributed to stupidity and/or gullibility.  When only 32 races across the country are deemed to be “competitive” by 270 To Win’s standards, partisan turnover in the house is near an all-time low.  Also, it is important to note that many of these “grey” races deemed to be competitive by 270 To Win are in districts and states that voted heavily for Trump, and are historically (and currently) held by Republicans. 

With the Democrats needing to turn Trump districts to take a majority, combined with incumbency and the Democrats campaigning on impeachment of Trump, we consider it likely that many more of these “close” races stay red than is expected.  While we fully expect the Democrats to gain seats in the House, we predict that Trump narrowly maintains a majority, with about 220-225 seats.  

When the closeness of the race is considered, the odds don’t exactly measure up – Betfair has the odds at 65% the Democrats’ way, and Predictit has the odds at close to 70%:

Screenshot taken 9/11/2018 12:53PM ET
Screenshot taken 9/11/2018 12:53PM ET

With a payout of approximately 2-1 on a relatively low wagered total (Betfair shows just under 500k, with Predictit’s market being fragmented across several wagers), it seems mainstream media hype has gotten to gamblers’ heads.  With odds we presume to be 50-50 at absolute worst, possibly favoring Trump by more than that, we have wagered accordingly on what we expect to be a narrow Republican margin in the House.

While the aforementioned incumbency problem also exists in the Senate, the 2018 election heavily favors Republicans in that arm of the legislature – 42 Senate Republicans are not running for re-election, compared to just 23 Democrats:

Map courtesy of 270 To Win

Many of these races are likely not even worth running, with the outcome almost certain to yield the following Senate wins:

  • Dianne Feinstein (CA)
  • Maria Cantwell (WA)
  • Martin Heinrich (NM)
  • Amy Klobuchar (MN)
  • Tim Kaine (VA)
  • Ben Cardin (MD)
  • Tom Carper (DE)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)
  • Chris Murphy (CT)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
  • Elizabeth Warren (MA)
  • Angus King (ME)
  • Bernie Sanders (VT)
  • Mitt Romney (UT)
  • John Barrasso (WY)
  • Roger Wicker (MS)

In addition, several of the races and special elections “leaning” one way are more than likely to fall that way – while the DNC/RNC may need to throw some money at these races in order to defend the seat, we fully expect the following to win:

  • Bob Menendez (NJ) (courtroom)
  • Bob Casey (PA)
  • Sherrod Brown (OH)
  • Debbie Stabenow (MI)
  • Tammy Baldwin (WI)
  • Tina Smith (MN)
  • Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS)
  • Ted Cruz (TX)

Any loss in any of these seats by the underdog should be considered no less than a major defeat by the favorite and his/her party, and would more than likely be a major indicator on which way the House and other close Senate races might fall.  

In conclusion, the makeup of the “contested” districts in conjunction with a legislature that would push for a Trump impeachment in the house will likely lead the House to remain in Republican control for the 116th Congress.  We believe the prospect of replacing Speaker Paul Ryan with Nancy Pelosi instead of Steve Scalise or Kevin McCarthy will likely drive more Republican voters to the polls than “analysts” are predicting.


In part two of this series, we will explore some close Senate races, considering the likely outcome of the Senate’s makeup after the midterms.