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Predictions for the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections
2018.11.05  Monday
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Jee-Kwang Park

Predictions for the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections

 

No. 2018-44 (November 5, 2018)

Dr. Park Jee-Kwang

Director, Center for American Studies

The Sejong Institute

jkpark@sejong.org

 

It seems apparent that the Republican Party will retain the majority in the Senate at this midterm elections. Accordingly, the public is more interested in predicting the outcome of the House of Representative elections. Currently, a number of polling agencies have issued their forecast on the midterm elections. The CBS News/YouGov house model projected that the Democrats will take 225 seats, 15 seats more than the Republicans—210 seats. According to the October 29 version of the website ‘FiveThirtyEight’ managed by statistician Nate Silver who gained fame through his accurate predictions in the 2012 U.S. presidential elections, the Democrats and the Republicans are expected to obtain 234 seats and 201 seats, respectively. The political website RealClearPolitics viewed that 203 districts lean toward the Blue, 194 districts incline toward the Red, and the remaining 38 districts are swing seats. However, The Hill, which covers the news about the Congress, reported that the GOP may hold a House majority as Trump supporters galvanize. In fact, the CBS News/YouGov polls indicated that while the people who responded that the Democrats should hold the house majority to balance President Trump decreased from 60% to 54%, the replies that the Republicans should retain the House majority to support President Trump rose from 34% to 41%. This survey denoted that Trump’s support base have consolidated their support as the elections are right around the corner. Democrat Senate Bernie Sanders also expressed that it remains unclear whether the Democrats will win the House elections. As the Election Day draws closer, more experts have predicted victory for the GOP in both Houses.

These predictions and analyses contrast with the estimates a few months ago based on the special elections and President Trump’s low approval rating and demonstrate the tightly-contested nature of this midterm elections. As a matter of fact, the U.S. mainstream media’s assertion of a ‘big blue wave’ were weakly corroborated. (Refer to Sejong Commentary 2018-40)

The outcome of this neck-and-neck midterm elections will be determined by the voter turnout among the supporters of the two parties. Because the average voter turnout for the midterm elections remains at around 40 percent, the people with the intention to vote are rather more crucial than the general public opinion. It seems that more Democrat supporters will appear at the ballot box in this elections. According to the survey conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News on October 14, 76 percent responded that they are ‘absolutely certain to vote’ among registered voters — an increase compared to the 70 percent in 2010 and 65 percent in 2014. Among the Democrat supporters, those with active intent to vote jumped from 63% to 81%. On the contrary, the same poll for Republicans ended with 4% increase, from 75% to 79%. Moreover, the so-called ‘shy Trump’ phenomenon will not occur this time. Unlike the last presidential elections, Trump supporters do not have to conceal their support for the Republican candidate for the House.

Provided that these polls are accurate, it seems likely that the Democrats will take control of the House with 223-228 seats — even though the U.S. public evenly support the Republicans and the Democrats — in accordance to the voter participation of Democrat supporters.

Another point of attention in this election is how many Republican candidates that Trump endorsed and are new to politics land in the House. If most of these candidates successfully take the seats in their respective constituency, it will elevate President Trump’s administrative management. President Trump took office with a scarce political and human resources within the Republican Party as an ‘outsider.’ Many Republican lawmakers were opposed to President Trump and key legislations such as the ‘Obama Care’ (officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) met with the backlash from some Republicans. President Trump’s active campaign support enabled these candidates to win primaries within the party and replace party members with his proponents. If they are able to win seats in the House, they will serve as the ‘protection squad’ for Trump’s policies.

In South Korea, some analysts asserted that the South Korean government should assist the second DPRK-U.S. summit to take place before the midterm elections as they predicted the Trump administration will attenuate after the midterm elections, and thus, the DPRK-U.S. talks lose its drive. However, the midterm elections will hardly affect the talks with North Korea. Conventionally, foreign policy has been within the presidential domain and especially, the House of Representatives are prone to concentrate on the domestic issue while avoiding to interfere deeply in foreign policy. Hence, even if the Democrats win the majority in the House, it is unlikely that the Blues will largely obstruct Trump’s foreign policy. Besides, the House, led by the Republicans for the last two years, have not been helpful in Trump’s policy regarding North Korea.

Still, the Democrats demand a more cautious approach to the North Korean nuclear issue. However, such Democrats’ stance does not seem to be a decisive factor. President Trump himself already proclaimed that there is ‘no time limit’ for the North Korean nuclear issue taking time to resolve the issue does not differ with the Democrats’ views. Unless North Korea opts for a dramatic change of attitude, the DPRK-U.S. denuclearization talks will linger on for a long time. This will be a result of Trump administration’s policy shift rather than the midterm elections.