The Slatest

Are You Dreaming of Democrats Taking the Senate in 2018? Time to Wake Up.

The Republicans currently control both chambers of Congress. That’s unlikely to change in 2018.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump is the president-elect, governing alongside a Republican Congress and a soon-to-be conservative Supreme Court. But some, like Bloomberg View columnist Conor Sen, are offering liberals a bit of hope, arguing that Democrats could dominate in the 2018 midterms elections. Then they could limit Trump’s ability to enact his terrifying political agenda, at least in the second half of his term.

It’s a comforting idea, but it’s wrong.

The Republicans currently hold a slim majority in the Senate, with 51 Republicans to 48 Democrats. For the Democrats to win the majority in the 2018 midterms, they would need to maintain the 48 seats they currently have and flip three Republican seats. However, just eight Republicans will be up for re-election in two years, and most represent solidly red states. The exception is Dean Heller from Nevada—the state voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, and it also elected a Democrat, Catherine Cortez Masto, to fill the seat of retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.


And to make matters even bleaker for Senate Dems, some of the seats they do hold belong to states that voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton last week. Of the 25 Democratic senators up for re-election in 2018, 10 come from states where Trump won: solid red states Indiana, West Virginia, Missouri, Montana, and North Dakota, along with traditional swing states Michigan (still recorded as likely Trump until all votes are counted), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wisconsin—which all voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Tim Kaine also faces re-election in Virginia, a battleground state Clinton won only narrowly on Tuesday.

The math is simple: If the electoral map stays the same colors between now and 2018, the Democrats could stand to gain just one Republican seat while losing 10 of their own, leaving them with an even smaller minority than they held when they lost their majority in the 2014 midterms.

And then there’s the House. Currently, Republicans hold a wide majority, with 239 Republican congressmen to just 192 Democrats. And with Republican gerrymandering, the Democrats could face an uphill battle trying to flip that many seats in 2018.

As tempting as it is to look to the 2018 midterm elections as a shining second chance, liberals need to face the facts: The numbers just don’t add up.