Political parties battle for key swing states

Political parties battle for key swing states

Madison White

As Nov. 6 draws closer, everyone, from pundits to random Facebook users, is making election day predictions. Currently, both the House of Representatives and the Senate are controlled by a Republican majority, though that may change. As of Sept. 2018, Congress has a 19 percent approval rating, according to Gallup. The rating is low, but not unprecedented — in 2014 (the last midterm election year), Congress had a nine percent approval of how it was handling its job. Whether or not the disapproval is enough to flip Congress will be determined by the midterm elections on Nov. 6. Until then, the Quaker Campus has decided to take a closer look at key races that could swing the majority one way or the other. 

Swing State Map.jpg

Nevada: Incumbent Republican Dean Heller is fighting to retain his seat against first-term Representative and Democrat Jacky Rosen. Fivethirtyeight has this race labelled “a toss up,” and has gone back and forth in its predictions. As of Oct. 21, Fivethirtyeight predicted a 55 percent chance Heller will keep his seat, though other public opinion polls have predicted a much narrower margin. Hillary Clinton carried Nevada by a two-point margin, though the state tends to be more conservative with its own representatives than it is in presidential races. Fivethirtyeight rates Nevada’s election as the most significant race for tipping the Senate in favor of the Democratic party.

North Dakota: At this time, The Cook Political Report has the Senate race in North Dakota labelled a “lean Republican” state, in favor of U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer over incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. However, this is unsurprising, as The Cook Political Report also has North Dakota ranked the fourth most Republican state in the country. Heitkamp’s incumbent status will help her some at the polls, but her choice to vote against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has set her back about eight points in the polls, according to RealClearPolitics. If Heitkamp loses, the Democrats will have to flip three additional seats in the Senate — and not lose more of their own. While the seat is leaning toward Cramer, Fivethirtyeight lists North Dakota as number one in voter index power, meaning that each individual vote carries more potential to determine the outcome than in any other state.

California: A few miles away from Whittier, the thirty-ninth House of Representatives district leans towards Democrat Gil Cisneros. The thirty-ninth is an open district, meaning that the incumbent, Ed Royce, is not seeking re-election, so neither candidate has the advantage of incumbency. Royce is a Republican, so initial predictions favored the Republican challenger Young Kim. A poll by Monmouth University in September had Kim leading Cisneros by eight points. Fivethirtyeight currently gives Cisneros a 61.4 percent chance at winning, though Kim has him out-fundraised by six percent. 

Florida: Florida’s twenty-sixth Congressional district was a battleground district in 2014 and is once again the center of a heated House of Representatives race. Incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo is defending his seat from Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. The incumbent effect is curbed substantially this election cycle because of Congress’ low popularity, and Mucarsel-Powell has out-fundraised Curbelo by 18 percent according to RealClearPolitics. In 2016, Trump carried the state, but Clinton won this particular district, and Fivethirtyeight rates it 9.8 percent more Democratic leaning than the nation as a whole. Currently, Mucarsel-Powell has a 54 percent chance of flipping the twenty-sixth. 

Texas: Texas is rated a “lean Republican” state by 270toWin for the Senate race between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. However, the race has consistently been considered a swing district over the last few months. Cruz has the incumbency effect on his side, as well as name recognition from his presidential campaign in the 2016 primary election. These two factors, coupled with the fact that Texas has voted Republican for both federal and state elections the last two cycles, make it incredibly unusual for someone like O’Rourke to have performed as well as he has. O’Rourke has out-fundraised Cruz by 50 percent and has served as a Representative in the House, giving him experience as an elected official. A poll conducted by Tulchin Research in early Oct. leaned in Cruz’s favor by a slim margin of four points. Currently, Fivethirtyeight only gives O’Rourke a 22  percent chance at victory, but it will surely be a closer margin than the 15.8 percentage point lead Cruz held over his Democratic challenger in the 2012 open race. 

These, and other races, will determine whether or not the Democrats flip both houses of Congress on Nov. 6. Continue reading the Quaker Campus’ elections issue to find out more about local candidates, ballot initiatives, and how to vote in Los Angeles County.