Will Democrats win back Congress in 2018?
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Will Democrats win back Congress in 2018?

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As more and more Republicans announce their plans to retire from Congress and condemn President Trump in the process, the prospect of a 2018 victory for Democrats seems increasingly likely. Some experts believe Democrats will dominate the midterms given Trump's dismal approval ratings and a divided Republican Party. But others warn Democrats are unlikely to take back Congress in 2018 due to gerrymandering and the party's ongoing struggle to find a clear, uniting message. What do you think? 

The Votes Are In!

While gerrymandering still poses a serious threat to Democrats across the country, party architects Bruce Reed and Rahm Emanuel argue in The Atlantic that Democrats have a good chance of winning in 2018 given the history of midterm elections.

Trump and his party have particular reason to fear a reckoning in 2018. No first-term president has gone into a midterm this unpopular since Harry Truman lost 55 seats in the House and 12 in the Senate in 1946. Like Democrats in 1994 and 2010, Republicans in 2018 face a firestorm over health care. If Hurricane Katrina, Iraq, and the Jack Abramoff scandal dogged congressional Republicans in 2006, Trump is already torturing them with incompetence and corruption of unprecedented scale.

Reed and Emanuel argue Trump's abhorrent behavior and the Republican Party's plans to strip millions of their healthcare will act as a get-out-the-vote machine for Democrats.

Democrats don’t need to spend the next year navel-gazing over how to motivate their base. In 2018, Trump will provide the greatest fundraising and get-out-the-vote machine the party has ever had. Wave elections are a chance to build on that base by winning back voters disappointed in the other side. Democrats will have plenty of disappointments to bring to their attention, including Republican health-care and tax-cut plans that betray the working-class voters who put Trump in the White House.

Lastly, Reed and Emanuel argue Democrats need to choose the right candidates if they want to win in 2018. A one-size-fits-all approach to Democratic politics will be sure to lose in purple districts. 

Democrats don’t just need to choose the right battles, they also need to choose credible candidates who can win them. Candidate quality may not make the difference in a place like Montana’s at-large district, where Greg Gianforte won handily just hours after assaulting a reporter. Winning hotly contested swing seats, however, requires candidates who closely match their districts—even if they don’t perfectly align with the national party’s activist base.

But critics maintain that while Trump main pose a unique opportunity for Democrats, it will still not be enough for them to retake Congress in 2018. Dan Balz argues in The Washington Post that the numbers are just not in the Democrats' favor―from gerrymandered districts to continued division between the left wing and the more moderate wing of the party.

Democrats see evidence in polls and focus groups of an electorate receptive to moving in their direction [...] But there are other factors that could frustrate the Democrats, from the state of the economy to obstacles created by structural aspects of a polarized electorate to the peculiar ways in which the president defies or at least confounds some traditional measures of public opinion.
Part of this was through redistricting and the success of Republicans in the states to draw lines most favorable to them. Part of it has come through the sorting out of the population. Democrats are now heavily clustered in urban areas; Republicans are spread more evenly elsewhere. That makes it more difficult for Democrats to compete in some congressional districts.

In order for Democrats to flip the House in 2018, they would need a net gain of 24 seats, and as David Wasserman suggests in FiveThirtyEight, the congressional map is extremely bias against them.

Democrats have been cursed by a terrible Senate map in 2018: They must defend 25 of their 48 seats1 while Republicans must defend just eight of their 52.

Beyond that, there are currently 12 Democrats fighting to hold their seats in districts that voted for Trump in 2016. The numerical reality of 2018 poses a major problem to Democrats, but so do divisions within the party. Nearly a year after the 2016 election, the far-left contingent of the party is still hell-bent on pushing extremely progressive candidates and shunning any politician they deem too "corporate."


But according to FiveThirtyEight, Democrats currently have a 10.4 point advantage over Republicans.


And Democrats continue to be enthusiastic at the prospect of defeating Republicans in the era of Trump.

But others still think the Democrats are doomed for 2018.

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