THE PUBLIC EYE: Forecasting the Midterm Elections in the South

Bob Burnett
Friday March 02, 2018 - 12:01:00 PM

The 2018 midterm elections will occur on November 6th. Democrats need to win 24 seats to take back the house and 2 seats to gain control of the Senate. This week we look at the 11 southern states where there are a handful of opportunities for the Democrats. 

A February 4th ABC News/Washington Post poll suggests why Democrats look forward to November 6th: "Democrats lead by 14 points among likely voters... But that reflects a vast 38-point Democratic lead in districts already held by Democratic members of Congress. In districts the [GOP] holds, by contrast, it’s a tight 45-51 percent Democratic vs. Republican contest." Democrats also lead in enthusiasm: "They lead very widely among those who say it’s especially important to vote this year." 

A "blue wave" is predicted because experts believe that Democrats are more motivated to vote than are Republicans. Because most Democrats deplore Trump and his Republican Party, Dems are eager to curtail Trump by taking back the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. 

Intensity of feeling should play a critical role in the November 6th elections. In the latest Quinnipiac Poll 57 percent of respondents disapproved of the job Trump is doing (38 percent approved). 49 percent of the poll respondents disapproved strongly (29 percent approved strongly). 

Notably, Trump is losing the support of women. The most recent Washington Post poll indicates that 65 percent of women disapprove of the job Trump is doing. 

What is clear from the polls is that there is a big difference in how Trump is viewed in Red and Blue congressional districts. Red district voters support Trump: they feel he is doing a good job, ignore his lies, and believe the investigation into possible collusion with Russia is a hoax. Blue district voters have radically different feelings. This suggests that the 2018 outcome is going to be decided by swing districts. The balance of this article examines the swing districts in the South -- ignoring states like Arkansas where there do not appear to be Democratic opportunities. 

Florida: The Senate race pits the incumbent, Bill Nelson (D), against a yet-to-be-determined Republican; the Cook Report rates this as "Lean Democrat." There's also an open Governor slot as the incumbent, Scott (R) is leaving because of term limits; Cook rates this as a "toss up." There are 5 House seats of interest: 

FL 7 Murphy (D) -- lean Democrat
FL 13 Crist (D) -- likely Democrat
Fl 18 Most (R) -- likely Republican
FL 26 Curbelo (R) -- toss up
FL 27 Ros-Lehtinen (R) -- lean Democrat; as Ros-Lehtinen is retiring 

Georgia: The Republican Governor (Deal) is term-limited out. Cook rates this as a safe Republican seat but Dems are very high on their leading candidate, Stacey Abrams. There are two House seats of interest: 

GA 6 Handel (R) -- lean Republican
GA 7 Woodall (R) -- likely Republican 

Kentucky: There is one House seat of interest: KY 6 Barr (R) -- lean Republican. 

North Carolina: There are three House seats of interest:
NC 2 Holding (R) -- likely Republican
NC 9 Pittenger (R) -- likely Republican
NC 13 Budd (R) -- likely Republican 

Tennessee: This Senate seat is in play because the incumbent, Corker (R), is retiring; Cook rates this as a tossup because the Democrats are running a strong candidate, former governor Phil Bredesen. The Republican Governor (Haslam) is term-limited out; Cook rates this a likely Republian. 

Texas: Every election, Democrats claim that, because of demographic shifts, big changes are coming in Texas. We'll see. Republican Senator Ted Cruz is up for reelection; Cook rates this as likely Republican. There are 3 House seat in play:
TX 7 Culberson (R) -- toss up
TX 23 Hurd (R) -- lean Republican
TX 32 Sessions (R) -- lean Republican 

In summary, in the South Democrats have the opportunity to pick up at least one Senate seat, a Governorship, and five House seats. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and activist. He can be reached at