With less than two weeks until the election, all eyes are on the Senate. Will Democrats upset the odds and take back control, or will we have a divided government with Republicans in charge of the White House and the Senate, while Democrats take back the House? I know that many of my friends who are life-long Democrats still fret about the House but take it from a life-long Republican who is now an Independent – stick a fork in it, it’s done. Nothing illustrates this better than the Cook Political Report’s House Ratings Chart, which shows 29 Republicans and only one Democrat with races rated as “toss-ups.” Twelve more Republican seats lean Democrat while only one Democrat seat leans Republican. The House is going blue and no one knows it as well as my former colleagues in Republican offices who have resumes ready to go. It’s bad form to send them out now, but if you are in D.C. and have a staff of any size, you’ll be hearing from your GOP friends on the Hill come Nov. 7.
The Senate, however, now that’s a very different story. If Democrats take the Senate, it will be an election night miracle. That’s not because they don’t have good candidates, or a good message, it’s because they have a horrible “map.” With 35 of 100 seats up for grabs, 26 are currently held by Democrats and only nine by Republicans. That means that nearly three times as many Democrats have to defend their seats as Republicans, and the vast majority of Republicans don’t have to run at all. If that sounds unfair, it isn’t. In the next two elections (2020 and 2022) the tables will be turned in favor of the Democrats. The reason is because a third of the Senate runs for a six-year term every two years. As a coincidence of time, and the fact the batting order for reelection is set when a state joins the union, more bluish states are clumped together in one of the three groups. That also means if the Dems actually pull off a victory, they will have a huge advantage for the next six years.
Most of this year’s seats are easy to call. They are either solid or likely for the incumbent. States that lean blue, like Minnesota and New Jersey are likely to go blue. But New Jersey could be an upset given Democrat Senator Robert Menendez’s recent legal problems. Leaning red, North Dakota’s Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D) was barely holding her own until she voted against Justice Kavanaugh. She’s now running 16 points behind in a state Trump won by 36 points. Heitkamp won her last Senate election with only 50.2 percent of the vote and is polling 10 points behind her opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R).
It’s the toss-ups, however, that will captivate our attention on Nov. 6, and half of them are held by Democrats (Florida, Indiana, Missouri and Montana). To change control of the Senate, every one of them must win. The Democrats must also take both the open seats in Arizona and Tennessee, formerly held by retiring Republicans, and defeat Senator Dean Heller (R) in Nevada. If either Menendez or Heitkamp lose, Senator Ted Cruz in Texas would also have to lose. If they both do, you can count on the numbers staying the same – 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats. Democrats must net three seats to control the Senate, since the vice president votes to break ties. It’s hard to see a path to victory for them, but if Cruz or Cramer lose, that will be a good indication that the tsunami will wash over the Senate as well.
When the dust settles on Nov. 7, one thing will still be true: NHC’s party is housing. NHC has a long history of working with all political sides to address the growing housing needs of Americans. We are committed to upholding that same reputation, no matter the outcome of the midterms. We will work to maintain or expand HUD’s budget, pass the bipartisan Cantwell-Hatch bill on LIHTC and build support for the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act. We will continue our productive engagement on Opportunity Zones, housing finance reform and flood insurance. In other words, NHC’s commitment to bringing people together to advocate for safe and affordable housing for all will not change. One example of this is our Solutions for Affordable Housing convening. This year’s convening will take place on Nov. 27-28 in D.C. Early Bird registration has been extended to Friday, Oct. 26. I hope to see you there.