Election 2018 is finally here, as months and months of partisan battling will unfold in front of the nation on Tuesday evening. When should you start looking for meaningful returns? What races should you be watching? What states are important, and when? This viewer’s guide will give you thumbnails on what seats might flip in the House and Senate, what time you should look for results, and as you will notice – some story lines will be repeated again and again in the race for control of Congress.
First, let’s start with the basics:
Republicans cannot lose more than 22 seats in the House. If Democrats have a net gain of 23 or more, they take charge of the House in January 2019.
In the Senate, Republicans can lose one seat, and keep control in a 50-50 split. Democrats need a net gain of two seats to take over the Senate in 2019.
What time should you eat? What time should you park yourself in front of the TV, radio or computer? Let’s get right to it.
ELECTION NIGHT 2018 – HOUR BY HOUR
6:00 pm ET – The first returns will start coming in soon, as polls close in the Eastern Time zone portions of both Indiana and Kentucky at 6 pm ET (polls fully close in those states at 7 pm ET).
RACES TO WATCH:
Indiana Senate – Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) vs ex-state Rep. Mike Braun (R). President Trump has been to Indiana several times in recent weeks. Democrats have no margin for error in the Senate and can’t afford to lose races like this if they hope to have any chance to take the Senate.
KY6 – This is the first contested House race of the night to monitor for results. Rep. Andy Barr (R) has been out-raised by Democrat Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot. Barr brought in President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan to help him. This is not a ‘must-win’ for Democrats, but it would certainly not be a good sign if Republicans lose this House seat early in the night.
7:00 pm ET
Florida – The Eastern Time zone polls are closed in the Sunshine State. While the Panhandle polls don’t close until 7 pm CT/8 pm ET, vote results will start coming in from ET zone counties during the 7 pm hour. (Interesting note – the Florida state board of elections refuses to report any numbers until 8 pm ET, but individual counties will post returns on their websites, and results are available via AP and other news organizations as well.)
SENATE: Sen. Bill Nelson vs Gov. Rick Scott. Democratic strategist James Carville says if Nelson loses, Democrats should just turn off the TV, ‘throw up,’ and go to bed, because it won’t be a good night for them nationally. This Senate race has been close from the start, with Nelson holding the edge in most polls. In the end, it’s going to be all about turnout, and who wins the independents.
FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION: 16 R, 11 D – 4 OPEN seats (no incumbent)
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
FL26 Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) – Curbelo’s district went for Hillary Clinton with 57% of the vote, and the more moderate GOP lawmaker has been making clear to voters that he is no fan of the President on certain issues like immigration policy. Curbelo has worked this district very hard, but if there is a true Democratic wave, he may not be able to hang on.
FL27 OPEN (Ros-Lehtinen) (R) – This district went easily Clinton with 58.5% in 2016, but Bill Clinton cabinet member Donna Shalala has been a weak candidate from the start, after she prevailed in a multi-candidate primary. Her inability to speak Spanish in a Miami-area district that is heavily Cuban is not an asset, and I wonder if her ties to the Clintons are also a negative for voters. Some Dems worry Shalala might blow this race.
FL15 OPEN (Ross) (R) – This is a Trump +10 district centered on Lakeland which runs from west of Orlando to the edge of Tampa. This should be a Republican district, but with no incumbent in this environment, that raises some questions. Democrat Kristen Carlson raised a lot more money than Republican Ross Spano, who at first wanted to run for Attorney General.
FL6 OPEN (DeSantis) (R) – This Trump +17 district which stretches south of St. Augustine and past Daytona Beach should not be close. This was Ron DeSantis’ district before he resigned from Congress to run for Governor. If Republicans lose this seat, it’s a very bad night for the GOP. Democrat Nancy Soderberg has raised $1 million than Republican Mike Walz. It will be interesting to see how these kind of races track – or don’t track the races for Governor and Senate in Florida.
FL16 Rep. Vern Buchanan (R) – Trump +10 in Sarasota/St. Pete. Buchanan always seems to be a target, and yet he wins easy election after election. “Buchanan primed to survive unprecedented negative assault,” was one recent headline about the race. It should be a repeat for Buchanan, but a loss – or a very close race – would signal bigger troubles for the GOP in Florida.
FL18 Rep. Brian Mast R – This Trump +9 district stretches from Boca Raton through West Palm Beach and north of Port St. Lucie along the coast. Months ago, it was assumed that Mast, a freshman, would win easily, but in recent weeks this has become a GOP election emergency. Both parties have been making big spending plays on TV ads, but Mast has raised more money.
GOVERNOR – If elected, Andrew Gillum would be the first black Governor of Florida.
Georgia (7pm) – *WILD CARD* Georgia has General Election runoffs for state and federal offices, if the winner doesn’t get 50 percent plus 1. Governor’s runoff would be December 4. Congressional runoffs would be January 8, *AFTER* the new Congress has already convened.
GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION: 10 R, 4 D
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
GA6 Rep. Karen Handel (R) – In this district in the immediate northern suburbs of Atlanta, Handel has been badly out-raised by Lucy McBath, a gun control activist whose son Jordan Davis was shot and killed at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida. Trump won this district by just 1.5 percent, and Handel barely won the special in 2017 to replace Tom Price. Now she must navigate an election with a big race for Governor driving turnout. The polls seem to have turned against Handel in recent days.
GA7 Rep. Rob Woodall (R) – This is a Trump +6 district in suburban Atlanta to the northeast of the city. Woodall has seemingly been quiet, and he has been out-raised by Carolyn Bourdeaux, a college professor from Suwanee. I’ve heard from listeners who say they see lots of ads from Bourdeaux and none from Woodall, who seemed unworried when I talked with him this fall about his re-election. Woodall in recent days just put his first TV ad on the air – EVER – in the eight years that he’s been in office. Is it too little, too late?
GOVERNOR: If elected, Stacey Abrams would be the first woman Governor in Georgia, and the first black Governor of the state.
South Carolina – This was not a state that Republicans thought they would have to worry about in 2018.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
SC1 OPEN (R) – Trump +13. Joe Cunningham D vs state Rep. Katie Arrington R. Arrington defeated Rep. Mark Sanford R-SC in the primary; Sanford refused to endorse her, and Cunningham has had some momentum in late stages of this race. An upset is not out of the realm of possibility. Cunningham has raised over $2.3 million – none from PACs, as he is one of many Democrats bringing in more money than their Republican opponent, forcing the GOP to sink money into a district that wasn’t really on the radar a few months ago.
Virginia – This is a key state to watch in the fight for control of Congress. Democrats could flip as many as four seats in the U.S. House, something the GOP hopes to avoid. Making things more difficult for Republicans is that their Senate candidate, Corey Stewart, has been an election year disaster for the party, and is not helping those down the ballot on the Republican side at all.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
VA2 Rep. Scott Taylor (R) – Trump +3. Taylor should win easy re-election in this Virginia Beach/Norfolk district – but he might not, as four of his campaign workers were found to have forged signatures in an effort to get an independent on the ballot to siphon votes away from Taylor’s Democratic challenger Elaine Luria, who is also a veteran. This is a race to watch.
VA5 Open (R) – Trump +11. This is the “Bigfoot” race. GOP nominee Denver Riggleman is a devotee of Bigfoot. His opponent Leslie Cockburn was seen as a long shot, but has closed in the polls in this district in the more rural areas between the DC suburbs and Charlottesville. Outside GOP groups started spending here in recent weeks, as former Sen. John Warner R-VA endorsed Cockburn. There are lots of “Kaine-Cockburn” signs out on the roads, as Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) tries to pull Democrats across the finish line.
VA7 Rep. Dave Brat (R) – Trump +6.5. Brat rose to fame when he knocked off House Majority Leader Eric Cantor four years ago in a GOP primary. Now he is desperately fighting to survive. He faces former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger. Brat’s strategy at a recent debate was simple: say the words “Pelosi” and “Obama” as often as possible. It might not work. Watch the results Tuesday night especially from Chesterfield County in the suburbs of Richmond, as suburban voters there weren’t thrilled with Trump in 2016.
VA10 Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) – Clinton +10. Many believe Comstock is already a dead lawmaker walking. Her suburban DC district went easily to Hillary Clinton, and is also filled with exactly the type of voters who might have voted for President Trump, but now want to boot him out. If the Democrats can’t win this seat, then they won’t win the House.
7:30 pm ET
North Carolina – Congressional races are the biggest thing on the ballot in the Tar Heel State. President Trump held a rally in Charlotte on October 26, and Republicans have been pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars in for advertising to help GOP candidates for Congress. This is not supposed to be happening to Republicans here, and is a big warning flag about 2018. Over $22 million has been spent on ads by outside political groups in the Tar Heel State.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
NC2 Rep. George Holding (R) – Trump +10. This shouldn’t be close, but the GOP put in late ad money, and sent top Republicans to help Holding, who has a giant money advantage over ex-state Rep. Linda Coleman. But clearly, the GOP is worried about this district which runs SE/E/NE of Raleigh (near Rocky Mount/Wilson/Fayetteville).
NC9 Open (R) – Trump +12. This is the seat of Rep. Robert Pittenger (R) who was defeated in a primary by Mark Harris. The district should be an easy win for the GOP, stretching from the SE side of Charlotte over to Fayetteville. But Dan McCready, a Marine vet from Charlotte has out-raised Harris by a huge amount of money, forcing Republicans to plunge close to a million dollars in late ad money into this race.
NC13 Ted Budd (R) – Trump +9. This is another seat that has no business being in play. In a district that stretches from Greensboro to Hickory, it should be fertile ground for Republicans, but the GOP poured $600,000 in for late ads to help Budd, who has been out-raised by UNC Greensboro trustee Kathy Manning. Donald Trump Jr. came here for a last minute stop on Monday.
Ohio – Everything is on the ballot in Ohio, which helps explain the strong early vote in the races for Governor/US Senate/US House. President Trump held a rally outside Cincinnati in mid-October, and a rally on November 5 in Cleveland. While the race for Governor is very close, polls show there will be a lot of Ohio voters splitting tickets, as Republicans have struggled to contest the Senate seat held by Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
OH1 Rep. Steve Chabot (R) – Trump +7. This district in the northern suburbs of Cincinnati/southern suburbs of Dayton was an early target of Democrats. For a while, it looked like Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval had a good shot at Chabot, almost doubling the amount of money raised by the incumbent. If Chabot loses, Democrats are having a big night.
OH12 Rep. Trey Balderson (R) – Trump +11. This is the district that was the subject of a special election back in August, when Balderson won a very narrow win over Democrat Danny O’Connor. Now we are having the rematch, as Democrats have poured all kinds of money into this district. Experts see it as a toss up, but it’s not clear how much trouble Balderson is in right now. Vice President Pence came to help Balderson last week.
OH14 Rep. David Joyce (R) – Trump +12. This district in the far northeast corner of Ohio to the east of Cleveland is a very rural, exurban district, which should play very well for the President. But it is notable that just across the border in the Erie, Pennsylvania area, a GOP Congressman is locked in a tough fight of his own. That could be a warning flag for Joyce. Watch the returns from this district – just in case things get tricky for the GOP.
West Virginia – President Trump has gone to West Virginia multiple times in an effort to defeat Sen. Joe Manchin D-WV; the latest was a campaign rally on November 2. Manchin remains the favorite despite all of the efforts by the President. One House race is of note in West Virginia, as WV3 is an Open seat held by the GOP. If Democrats pick off that Congressional seat, that is a canary in the coal mine for the Republicans nationally. And in that district, the Democrat with almost no political experience has raised 33% more money than the GOP candidate.
8:00 pm ET – FOUR BIG STATES at this hour – Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Texas
New Jersey – If the Republicans are going to defend their House majority, they need to start here in the Garden State. Democrats hope to pick up as many as four GOP seats in New Jersey. The President’s tax cut is very unpopular in New Jersey because of the limits on deductions for state and local taxes. In a worst-case scenario for the GOP, the NJ delegation could go from 7D 5R to 11D 1R (Rep. Chris Smith R-NJ being the only survivor).
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
NJ2 OPEN (LoBiondo) (R) – This district in southern New Jersey went for Trump by 5% in 2016. But with the incumbent not running again, it’s been on the scoreboard for Democrats for months already. The Democrat in this race has raised over five times the amount of money as the Republican. Those numbers are being repeated in many races across the country.
NJ3 Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) – This Trump +6 district cuts across the middle of the state from the outer suburbs of Philadelphia to the summer havens of the Jersey Shore. MacArthur was seen as a squishy moderate by some in the GOP (which is just fine in New Jersey), but he is in trouble this year, and has relentlessly attacked his Democratic opponent, Andy Kim, a former National Security Council official for President Obama, calling Kim a liar, and accusing him of having links to people with terrorist ties. It may not work for MacArthur.
NJ7 Rep. Leonard Lance (R) – This district to the west of New York City went for Hillary Clinton by just over 1 percent in 2016. It is home to one of the President’s golf clubs. But Lance’s Democratic opponent has a huge fundraising advantage, and while Lance is seen as a GOP moderate – which is a good thing in New Jersey – he’s in trouble. This is a good district to watch on Election night to gauge how Republicans are doing..
NJ11 OPEN (Frelinghuysen) (R) – The Frelinghuysen name has been involved in politics since the Continental Congress; but this district that went for Clinton by 1% in 2016 is filled with suburban Republican voters who are uneasy with President Trump. The Democrat in this race has raised almost 6 times as much money as the GOP candidate. You read that right. Lots of money doesn’t always mean victory, but you should be sensing a trend by now, as Republicans are being swamped by Democratic cash.
Pennsylvania – Why are there so many seats in play from Pennsylvania? It’s because the courts ordered the gerrymandered Congressional district map authored by Republicans to be redrawn, and that opened the door for Democrats to pick up seats. Currently, Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation is 12R 6D. It could be a lot different after Tuesday.
The top of the Republican ticket is very weak in the Keystone State, as the GOP candidates for Governor and US Senate have trailed badly in the polls. If that plays out on Election Day, it will also cause problems for Republicans down the ballot. On the bright side for Republicans, they should pick up one Democratic House seat in the newly drawn PA14.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
PA1 Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R) – There might be no better example of the 2018 troubles for Republicans than this district to the northeast of Philadelphia, anchored by Bucks County, as Democrat Scott Wallace has raised $10 million more than Fitzpatrick. $10 million more. This part of the state voted narrowly for Clinton. It could be fertile ground for Democrats in 2018, but getting rid of an incumbent is never easy.
PA4 (OPEN)(R) – This newly drawn district is based on Montgomery County in the suburbs to the northwest of Philadelphia, prime territory for more affluent Republican voters who are turned off by President Trump. This is the first of several districts where Democrats have women running for the House (in PA4, PA5, and PA6). All of them are dwarfing their GOP opponents in terms of fundraising. Madeleine Dean is the favorite in PA4.
PA5 (OPEN) (R) – This new district is based on Delaware County to the south and west of Philadelphia, which went for Clinton by over 20 points. The Democrat has raised more than three times as much money as the GOP candidate. This should be an easy pick up for the Democrats, as Mary Gay Scanlon looks to add another victory for female Democrats running for the Congress.
PA6 (OPEN) Costello (R) – This new district goes west along the Main Line from Philadelphia into Chester County, which voted for Clinton by over 9 percent. Again, this is another area filled with more wealthy suburban voters who are moving away from Trump, not toward the GOP. This one should be almost a lock for the Democrats along with PA5, as candidate Chrissy Houlahan has raised almost $3.5 million more than her GOP opponent.
PA7 (OPEN) Meehan (R) – This race is in an area that’s more evenly split between the two parties up toward Allentown and over to the New Jersey border. But the fundraising is not evenly split, as the Democrat has raised three times as much money as the GOP candidate. If the margins here are comfortable for the Democrats, it may show us where things are going, as another Democratic woman, Susan Wild, tries to win a seat in Congress.
PA8 Rep. Matt Cartwright (D) – This district in far northeast Pennsylvania is one of the few where Republicans have a chance to knock off a Democrat in Congress in the mid-terms. President Trump has repeatedly expressed his support for Republican John Chrin, who has raised about as much money as Cartwright. Still, Cartwright is seen as the favorite, but I want to see the numbers come in from what is a Trump-leaning area.
PA10 Rep. Scott Perry (R) – A more conservative Republican, Perry’s new district includes the state capital of Harrisburg, which is Democratic territory, and then moves more into the interior of Pennsylvania, which is much more receptive to President Trump. Perry is facing a Democratic challenger who has raised more money than him, which could be a red flag. Perry is the favorite, but a Blue Wave might put him in trouble.
PA14 (OPEN) – Because the districts were re-drawn in Pennsylvania, this new 14th in the southwestern corner of the state seems like easy pickings for the GOP, and will insure that they take back at least one seat from Democrats in these mid-terms elections. This is the old John Murtha territory, but I’m not sure the ex-Democratic Congressman could win this seat in 2018.
PA16 Rep. Mike Kelly (R) – This district in northwest Pennsylvania should not be in limbo for the GOP. This is Trump country. But a poll out in recent days showed Kelly trailing. “Democrats shouldn’t be winning here,” one elections expert said – and I would agree with him wholeheartedly. But if Kelly does lose this seat, then Democrats are having a big night, and the GOP lawmaker across the border in northeastern Ohio might lose as well.
PA17 One lawmaker will have to lose in this district on Election Day, as Rep. Keith Rothfus (R) faces Rep. Conor Lamb (D). Polls have shown Rothfus getting little in the way of traction against Lamb, who won a special election in March to get to Congress. President Trump has made no secret of his support for Rothfus, but it has not generated any obvious momentum.
Illinois – Like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Illinois offers a series of key House races.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
IL6 Rep. Peter Roskam (R) – Roskam’s district is the challenge for Republicans in a nutshell. His suburban district in the western suburbs of Chicago is highly educated, with a median income of $100,000. It voted for Hillary Clinton by 7% in 2016. But unlike other GOP lawmakers, Roskam has raised more money than his opponent. One note – Roskam won his seat in 2006, which was when Democrats took over the Congress. Don’t count him out.
IL12 Rep. Mike Bost (R) – This rural district in southern Illinois was prime Trump territory, voting for him by almost 15% in 2016. But it also includes a big chunk of suburbia in the eastern suburbs of St. Louis. Democrat Brendan Kelly has out-raised Bost, who had a fly-in by President Trump in late October. One problem for Democrats is a Green Party candidate who is on the ballot.
IL13 Rep. Rodney Davis (R) – This district stretches from northeast of St. Louis to Springfield and into the interior of Illinois, giving Trump a 5% win. Davis has been slightly out-raised by Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, who has a familiar middle name, but is not related to the former Illinois GOP Senator. Polls have shown Davis holding on, but there are a lot of undecideds.
IL14 Rep. Randy Hultgren R – In terms of money, Hultgren is in the most danger in Illinois of any sitting GOP lawmaker, out-raised 2-to-1 by his Democratic opponent. This district is the exurbs of Chicago, stretching to the Wisconsin border and south, but voted for Trump only by 4 percent. Speaker Paul Ryan stopped here in the final days of the campaign. It might not help.
Texas – Most polls are closing at 8 pm ET in Texas, except for the small area around El Paso in the Mountain Time Zone area of the state. The headline race is the bid for re-election by Sen. Ted Cruz – I have long thought that Cruz is the favorite. But if he loses tonight to Rep. Beto O’Rourke, I would say that means the Democrats are winning big not just in Texas, but all around the nation.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
TX7 Rep. John Culberson (R) – The suburban Houston district went for Hillary Clinton by 1.4% in 2016. The Democrat here has out-raised Culberson by over $2 million. This is another of suburban districts where President Trump may not be helping a GOP incumbent. Culberson is a soft spoken conservative, but he may be overwhelmed by a Trump backlash among what used to be reliable GOP moderates.
TX21 OPEN-L. Smith (R) – A gerrymandered seat that takes in some suburban areas of Austin and San Antonio, and then a big stretch to the west. The seat is open, and the Democrat has raised more money. But Republican Chip Roy, a Tea Party type, is the favorite in a district that voted for President Trump by 10 percent.
TX32 Rep. Pete Sessions (R) – This is much like Culberson’s district, except it’s in Dallas. Sessions has been slightly out-raised in a very expensive race. There is also a Libertarian on the ballot who could take votes away from Sessions, who was first elected in 2002. This race is all about turnout, and Sessions could still have the better infrastructure. But the tilt of the election is definitely not in his favor.
Maine – One race in Maine for the U.S. House is in play, as Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) tries to keep his seat in the Congress. Currently, Poliquin is the only Republican in the U.S. House from New England (Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and New Hampshire). There is also only one GOP Senator from New England, and that’s in Maine as well – Sen. Susan Collins.
Missouri – The Show Me State is home to yet another tough Senate seat for Democrats to protect, as Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO) tries to win re-election, facing off with state Attorney General Josh Hawley. President Trump made two stops in the state in the last week in hopes of defeating McCaskill, who always seems to skate on the edge of electoral demise.
HOUSE RACE TO WATCH –
MO2 Rep. Ann Wagner R – Wagner has raised more money than her Democratic opponent by $1 million. Maybe if there is a big blue wave, this district could be in trouble. But with a high-profile Senate race that’s competitive, Wagner may be in a good spot to hold on. If she’s losing on Tuesday night, that means a lot of other Republicans are most likely losing as well.
Oklahoma – Democrats have a chance in the race for Governor with former Attorney General Drew Edmondson. In Congress, the only seat that is raising eyebrows is OK5, held by Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK). Russell has been hit by the fundraising of Democrat Kendra Horn, who brought in a 2-to-1 edge in contributions – and late negative ads were being run against Horn. Is this a case of an incumbent realizing too late that he’s in trouble? It’s hard to tell if this might be a race to watch. But, remember that I told you about it, if Russell loses.
Tennessee – This state has a key U.S. Senate race. If Democrats have any chance to win the Senate, they might have to win this race between Rep. Marsha Blackburn R-TN and former Gov. Phil Bredesen D-TN. One interesting note from the polls is that a lot of people seem to be splitting their tickets, voting Republican for Governor, and Democratic for Senate. There are no House seats thought to be in play in the Volunteer State, which is a reminder that the House and Senate battlegrounds are not really happening in the same states.
8:30 PM ET
Arkansas – The seat of Rep. French Hill (R) has been talked about as being in trouble, but that seems like a long shot, as Arkansas should continue to be a very red state. If you see the Democrats winning this seat in Arkansas, then that should tell you all you need to know about the 2018 elections.
9:00 PM ET
Arizona – The polls are now closed in Arizona, home to a key race for U.S. Senate. In the House, Democrats are expected to pick up the House seat being vacated by Rep. Martha McSally (R), who is running for US Senate against Rep. Kirsten Sinema (D). This Senate race has been a bitter one to replace the retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). President Trump did not go to Arizona in the final days of the campaign.
AZ2 OPEN (McSally) (R) – With McSally gone, this district that voted for Hillary Clinton by almost 5 percent seems to be one that could flip from the GOP to the Democrats. Ex-Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) has a strong fundraising advantage in a district that touches Tuscon and covers the southeast of Arizona. Democrats are the strong favorites to win back this district.
Colorado – There is one big House race in the Denver area, with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO). This should be a good example of whether Democrats can win what was long considered a reliable Republican suburban seat, shaped like a backwards “E” on the east side of Denver. A win here for the GOP would mean they’re holding on nationally. But Coffman has been out-raised by more than $1 million – a familiar theme of this year’s Congressional races.
Kansas – The polls are all now closed in Kansas, which has a competitive race for Governor, as Democrats try to make a comeback in the state and win over at least one GOP House seat.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
KS2 OPEN (Jenkins) (R) – Democrats hope the former state House minority leader, Paul Davis, can defeat Republican Steve Watkins, an Army veteran in this open seat fight. This is yet another district that went big for Trump – by 18 percent in 2016 – but it now has a Democrat with a huge fundraising edge of 3-to-1. There is also a Libertarian on the ballot as well.
KS3 Rep. Kevin Yoder (R) – A local newspaper put it this way: “Voters were angry when they sent Kevin Yoder to Washington. Now, their anger might send him home.” Yoder’s district in the immediate western suburbs of Kansas City is one of the typical races that Republicans may lose as suburban Republicans move away from President Trump; Hillary Clinton won here by 1 percent. The Democrats think this will be a win for them.
Michigan – The polls are all closed now in Michigan, where Democrats are hoping for a dramatic turnaround from 2016, when President Trump won the state.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
MI8 Rep. Mike Bishop (R) – This district stretches from Lansing east towards Warren, and should be prime Trump territory, as he won it by 4% in 2016. In both MI8 and MI11, Democrats have a female candidate – and Elissa Slotkin has a fundraising edge over Bishop by a 2-to-1 margin. I will say this again – it’s a story that is repeated in race after race in this election.
MI11 OPEN (Trott) (R) – This is an open seat in a suburban district outside Detroit which backed Trump by 4.4%. The lack of a GOP incumbent makes it much more in play. Democrat Haley Stevens has a $1 million fundraising edge, and there’s a Libertarian on the ballot as well, which could siphon votes away from the Republican.
SENATE – Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) has led comfortably in the polls, and Democrats are also favored in the race for Governor. This would be a stark change from the GOP success with President Trump on the ballot in 2016.
Minnesota – This is a dynamic state in 2018. This state could actually become a firewall of sorts for Republicans, as they try to pick up a pair of open House seats from the Democrats, and defend two other GOP seats. There are also two Senate races, one to fill the unexpired term of ex-Sen. Al Franken D-MN.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
MN1 (Open-Walz) D – With Walz running for Governor, this open seat is much more difficult for Democrats to win, in a district that runs along the southern border of Minnesota. Polls show a very tight race, though the Democrat has a 2-to-1 fundraising advantage. If Republicans are going to hold on to the House, this would be a good seat for them to flip.
MN2 Rep. Jason Lewis (R) – This is yet another race where Democrats have a woman challenging an incumbent, this time in a district that went for Trump by only 1.2% in 2016. The district stretches southeast of Minneapolis towards Rochester, and is another example of a seat the Democrats might need to win if they are going to take over the House.
MN3 Rep. Erik Paulsen (R) – In just as much trouble as Lewis is Paulsen, whose district to the north and west of Minneapolis has a host of suburban voters who probably don’t identify as much with President Trump. Clinton won this district by almost 10 points in 2016. Many experts have this one on the scoreboard already for Democrats.
MN7 Rep. Collin Peterson (D) – Peterson has a large fundraising edge on his Republican opponent, but I note this district because it is becoming more Republican – as President Trump won it by 30 points (yes, THIRTY points). Peterson for years has been a more conservative, Blue Dog Democrat, and has survived challenges at home. While few think Peterson can lose, I just wonder what happens when the blue areas get bluer, and the red areas get redder.
MN8 (Open-Nolan) D – This seat in the northeastern “Iron Range” part of the state has the best chance to flip to Democrats, along with PA14. The lack of an incumbent hurts Democrats here, but this district is also moving towards the GOP. Trump won it by almost 16 points, and few would be surprised to see it go for Republicans.
New York – This is another state where Democrats have their eyes on a series of Republican-held seats in the U.S. House, but Republicans could also weather the storm, simply because some of these districts have an extra cushion of GOP voters.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
NY11 Rep. Dan Donovan (R) – This is the only district in play close to New York City, which includes Staten Island and part of Brooklyn. Donovan is running against a Democratic veteran who served in Afghanistan. You would think this district could foster an upset, but it is home to a lot of Trump Democrats, as it went to the President by 10 points in 2016.
NY22 Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) – Tenney has been a Democratic target from the start, but again, the DNA of this district is rooted in the GOP, and it would seem like the wave would have to be very big to knock her out in this district in the north central part of the state, which went for Trump by 15.5%. Then again, state Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D) is favored in many polls.
NY24 Rep. John Katko (R) – Katko is seen by many as an endangered Republican from the Empire State. But most polls have not borne that out, which seems odd in a district that went to Hillary Clinton by 3.6%. This district includes Syracuse and runs over to Rochester and Lake Erie. If things get ugly for the GOP nationally, that could spell doom for Katko.
NY27 Rep. Chris Collins (R) – Collins is still on the ballot, even though he has not been campaigning, after being indicted for insider trading. His Democratic opponent likes to talk about how the GOP Congressman is “out on bail” – but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Collins could win. New York elected a GOP Congressman under indictment just 4 years ago. He copped a plea and went to prison soon after.
New Mexico – Two House members are running against each other for Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and Rep. Steve Pearce (R). Pearce’s seat could switch in the U.S. House.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH: NM2 OPEN (Pearce) R – This is an open seat fight in a district that covers the southern half of New Mexico, but helping Republicans is the fact that this district went to Trump by 10% in 2016. The polls have been very close. It would seem that if the Democrats can win the race for Governor, there could be coattails here.
South Dakota – Republicans have been forced to pump more money into this very red state to help Rep. Kristi Noem (R), who is running for Governor. Experts don’t think the U.S. House seat from this state is in jeopardy, but it is odd that the polls are so tight for Governor, since Noem seemed to be a popular figure as a member of Congress. Vice President Pence stopped here on Monday for some last minute help.
Wisconsin – Speaker Ryan is not running for re-election. While his seat in the U.S. House seems safe, Gov. Scott Walker (R) could be in big trouble as he runs for a third term in the Badger State. In the Senate, Democrats are favored to hold the seat of Sen. Tammy Baldwin. It seems odd that no U.S. House seats are really in play in this state. I wonder if the polls are missing something.
10:00 PM ET
Iowa – Democrats hope to pick up a pair of seats in the Hawkeye State, and possibly the Governor’s seat as well. Democrats enjoy a huge money advantage in all House races.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
IA1 Rep. Rod Blum (R) – Blum has been in trouble for months. State Rep. Abby Finkenauer has out-raised him by over $1 million. There is also a Libertarian on the ballot. This district went for Obama, then swung back for Trump by 3.5%. If Democrats are doing well here on Election Night, then they might be doing well in other states which border this northeast Iowa district.
IA3 David Young (R) – Young’s district in the southwest part of Iowa would seem to be safer for Republicans, but it still went for Trump by only 3.5% in 2016 because of the western suburbs of Des Moines that are part of the map. Young is facing yet another female challenger, Cindy Axne, who has been ahead in a number of polls, and has raised substantially more money (you have heard that story before tonight).
IA4 Rep. Steve King R – In the week before the election, King was rebuked by a top Republican in Congress for his nationalist views. King’s opponent has been on the air with ads for weeks with no answer by King until the final days of the campaign, when he aired an ad from 2014. Yes, you read the correctly. King is still the favorite, but it’s possible that by staying dark, he invited major election night danger.
Montana – President Trump has paid a lot of attention to the Big Sky State, determined to get rid of Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). But Tester – who doesn’t have three fingers on his left hand because of a meat-grinder accident when he was a kid – is the real deal in Montana, while his GOP opponent is a transplant from the Maryland Eastern Shore, whose distinctive accent still pops out on the campaign trail.
HOUSE RACE TO WATCH: Rep. Greg Gianforte R (the guy who body slammed a reporter) lent his campaign $1 million in October. That’s an indication that he needed some serious help. There is a Libertarian on the ballot, which could take away some GOP votes as well. A long shot for Democrats, but polls have shown Gianforte in a difficult race.
Nevada – The Silver State could play a big part in both the battle for the House and Senate. President Trump has made several trips here to help incumbent Sen. Dean Heller’s bid for re-election. The early vote showed Democrats getting big turnout around Las Vegas (Clark County), which would be key to them finding a way to win.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
NV3 OPEN Rosen D, NV4 OPEN Kihuen D – Democrats are favored for now to hold on to both of these open seats to help their quest to take back the House, and their candidates have a big money advantage in both of these races in Nevada. The GOP’s Danny Tarkanian (yes, the son of the famous basketball coach) is the biggest Republican hope in NV3.
SENATE: Sen. Dean Heller R vs. Rep. Jacky Rosen D (President Trump calls her “Wacky Jacky).
Utah – Most of the news from Utah will center on the expected win of Mitt Romney, as he prepares to take the seat held now by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). But there is one race to watch in the House, that of Rep. Mia Love (R-UT). Love won by 12% in 2016, and she has out-raised her Democratic opponent, the mayor of Salt Lake County. But the polls have been closing.
11:00 pm ET
California – There are a number of races for the U.S. House which could be important in determining the final outcome of this mid-term election, but REMEMBER – it can take WEEKS for California to finish the vote count, because of mail-in ballots, and a large number of provisionals routinely cast on Election Day. It won’t surprise me if we are still talking about the results of a half dozen California House races on Friday, or even a week later.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
CA10 Rep. Jeff Denham (R) – Denham has seen his opponent out-raise him by $3 million, as Democrat Josh Harder is giving Denham fits in this district northeast of San Jose in the San Joaquin Valley. Denham has broken with GOP leaders on immigration repeatedly, but that more moderate voice might have trouble in a district that went for Hillary Clinton by 3% in 2016.
CA25 Rep. Steve Knight (R) – This is another House race where a female Democrat is challenging a GOP incumbent and raising large amounts of money. Katie Hill has out-raised Knight more than 3-to-1 in a district that went for Hillary Clinton by almost 7 points, as it runs to the north of Los Angeles into the San Fernando Valley. While that seems like a Democratic edge, Knight has stubbornly held on to the lead in most polls. Keep an eye on this one.
CA39 OPEN (Royce) (R) – With Royce retiring, this Inland Empire district that stretches out past Fullerton is a very close race – yet another toss up in southern California. The Democrat has raised over $11 million, almost five times as much as the Republican candidate. This district went for Clinton by almost 9 points. Based on money, I’m not sure it’s really a toss up, but we’ll see.
CA45 Rep. Mimi Walters (R) – Orange County used to be a reliable Republican area, but the demographics are shifting, and that’s causing problems for Republican lawmakers like Walters, who is facing Democrat Katie Porter – yet another challenger who has raised more money than the incumbent. The margin of victory here should be a good indicator as to how well the winning party is doing on Election night.
CA48 Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) – Rohrabacher was given up for dead several months ago by the GOP, but has definitely improved his situation, running close to even with Democratic challenger Harley Rouda, who has raised more than 3 times as much money as the GOP veteran. This is one of those toss-ups that could well determine which party controls the House in 2019.
CA49 OPEN (Issa) (R) – Rep. Darrell Issa retired from Congress instead of running for re-election, as this district went for Hillary Clinton by over 7%. Democrat Mike Levin has an almost 4-to-1 fundraising advantage. If Democrats blow this seat, then they are blowing the election. This should be a safe win for Democrats.
CA50 Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) – Under indictment for personal use of $250,000 in campaign donations, Hunter has attacked his Democratic opponent in ads, darkly accusing him of ties to terrorism. Hunter is the favorite, even though he could well be in big legal trouble soon after the election. His San Diego area district went for Trump by 15 points in 2016. Hunter is one of two indicted Republican lawmakers running for re-election (Collins NY24).
North Dakota: Democrats are desperately hoping for a miracle to save Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), but polls indicate she is trailing badly to Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND). Remember, the Democrats have almost no room for error in the battle for Senate. By this point in the night, we should know how Democrats did in earlier Senate races. If they haven’t lost any, then the Democrats could still survive a loss in North Dakota – but if Republicans have picked off a few, then the fight for the Senate might be over by the time the votes are counted in Bismarck.
Oregon & Washington – Don’t say that the polls close at 11 pm ET in these two states, because they don’t have polls. Everything is mail-in ballot, which must be dropped off by 8 pm local time. The joke is that the busiest day for elections officials in these states is the day after the elections, when all kinds of ballots keep pouring in via the mail.
Washington – If Democrats are having a big night, then there are three seats in the House from the Evergreen State in play. Democrats are hoping to win at least one of them.
HOUSE RACES TO WATCH:
WA3, Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R) – This district in southwest Washington went for Trump by 7% in 2016. It doesn’t have a lot of the suburban voters who might be powering Democrats in other districts. Democrat Cindy Long has a slight fundraising advantage. Republicans have an edge – but if there is a big swing, this is a district that could go out with the tide.
WA5, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R) – The fact that McMorris Rodgers is even on this list is a bit of a surprise, given that she is a top-ranking GOP leader in the House, and her district went for President Trump by 13 points. Her Democratic challenger has matched her in fundraising, but the GOP is still favored here. I’m going to say that I’m skeptical this seat goes to the Democrats. But we’ll see what the scoreboard says on Tuesday night.
WA8 OPEN (Dave Reichert) (R) – Democrats have been after Reichert’s seat for a number of years, and have a slight edge in the polls against Dino Rossi, who has run unsuccessfully for state office several times. But Kim Schrier has out-raised Rossi by a 3-to-2 margin in a district that went for Hillary Clinton by 3 points, which has some Seattle/Tacoma suburbs.
HOUSE: In order to take control of the House, Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats. Democrats could certainly get to that point – and even go much higher. But if they fall just short in a series of contests, it’s also still possible for Republicans hold on to a very slim majority.
The current breakdown of the House – 218 needed for a majority.
SENATE: Democrats need a net gain of 2 seats to be in control of the Senate. A one seat gain for a 50-50 tie would still be in favor of the Republicans, with the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President. Republicans are favored to retain control, but everything could happen from Democrats taking charge to Republicans picking up 4-6 seats. I don’t think GOP gains are impossible.
The current breakdown of the Senate – Republicans need 50, Democrats need 51 for a majority.
ELECTION NIGHT – U.S. SENATE
Republicans hold a narrow edge in the Senate of 51-49. The GOP has a built-in advantage in this election because, so many seats held by Democrats are in play in states where President Trump did very well in 2016, as Democrats are fighting just to preserve their seats, let alone flip Republican-held seats and grab the majority.
In order to take charge, Democrats need to hold every one of their seats, AND THEN win a couple from the Republicans. That’s why the edge is to the GOP right now. The possible outcomes range from a status quo, to the Democrats winning control, to slight pick up for the GOP, to a night of big gains for Republicans. You can’t rule anything out right now, but I would rather be the GOP at this point in the fight for the Senate.
Here are the key states to watch, by poll closing times:
6:00 pm ET/CT – INDIANA – Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) is struggling to win re-election. A GOP win in Indiana would be a very bad sign for Democrats in this mid-term election.
7:00 pm ET/CT – FLORIDA – Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has been ahead narrowly in the polls, as he faces Gov. Rick Scott (R). If Scott can win, this would be a giant pick up for Republicans.
7:30 pm – WEST VIRGINIA – Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has drawn strong opposition from President Trump, who made one more stop in the Mountain State in the final days of the campaign. Manchin is still favored.
8:00 pm – NEW JERSEY – The ethics troubles of Sen. Bob Menendez (D) are weighing heavily. One NJ newspaper urged voters to, “Choke it down, and vote for Menendez.”
TEXAS – Sen. Ted Cruz (R) is the favorite over Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D). Again, if O’Rourke is winning in Texas, it signals major problems nationally for Republicans in Congress.
OHIO/PENNSYLVANIA – Trump won both of these states, but the races for Senate are not even close, as Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania are cruising to victory.
MISSOURI – Sen. Clare McCaskill (D) is fighting for her life against state Attorney General Josh Hawley (R). President Trump hit Missouri twice in the last six days. If Democrats want to have any chance for Senate, they probably can’t have McCaskill lose.
TENNESSEE – This is a rare opportunity for Democrats to pick up a Senate seat. Former Gov. Phil Bredesen goes against Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) for the seat of Sen. Bob Corker R-TN, who refused to say if he voted for Blackburn, who is the favorite.
MISSISSIPPI – This is a jungle primary to fill out the term of former Sen. Thad Cochran R-MS. There are two GOP candidates, and Democrat Mike Espy. If no one gets a majority, then there will be a runoff on November 27. In other words, the Senate might still be in play. The best outcome for Democrats would be a runoff between Espy and state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
9:00 pm – ARIZONA – This is a second chance for Democrats to pick up a Senate seat, as Rep. Kirsten Sinema (D) battles Rep. Martha McSally (R). Trump did not go to Arizona in the last week; reports indicated Republicans asked him to stay away, worried about a negative impact.
MICHIGAN/MINNESOTA – Democrats are favored to hold on to these seats. If something goes wrong in these two states, then that’s part of a broader defeat for Democrats nationally.
10:00 pm – MONTANA – President Trump has made it a personal vendetta to try to defeat Sen. Jon Tester (D), going to Montana multiple times for rallies, with visits by Trump Jr. too. It might not work.
NEVADA – The last real chance for Democrats to pick up a Senate seat is here in the Silver State, as Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) tries to knock off Sen. Dean Heller (R). Rosen has picked up in recent polls, and Democrats have turned out more in the early vote.
UTAH – Mitt Romney should be declared the winner quickly in the race to replace Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Romney is certain to be an interesting player in the Senate. I have a feeling that he won’t be your average freshman Senator.
It’s possible that other names not mentioned above will be involved in very close races, like Rep. Don Young R-Alaska, who is the Dean of the House, and finds himself in a tight re-election bid.
Remember – if there is a wave of any sort, some lawmakers could wake up on Tuesday having no earthly idea that they are going to be booted by the voters that night. If turnout is indeed way up, weird things could happen, to both parties.
I will have a “LIVE UPDATES” blog going on Election Night. You can find that on all of our websites. I will also be tweeting out all sorts of vote results @jamiedupree.
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