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ATSSA’s 2018 Election Day outlook

Written by ATSSA Vice President of Government Relations Nate Smith

It’s three weeks until Election Day – the end of TV and radio political campaign ads is almost upon us! With 21 days to go, I wanted to give a snapshot as to where the elections seem to be heading as of today. Caveat – three weeks for a political campaign equals a lifetime.

House of Representatives
If the elections were held today, it is more likely than not that Democrats would take control of the House of Representatives. According to RealClearPolitics.com, there are 206 seats that are considered Safe, Likely, or Lean Democratic. Additionally, there are 199 seats that are considered Safe, Likely, or Lean Republican. Those numbers are about as evenly split as you can get. However, the reason for the Democratic Party’s optimism on a change in power is this: there are 30 seats that are rated Tossups. Of those 30 seats, 29 are currently held by Republicans. Republicans are playing defense for the next three weeks while Democrats are able to expand the political map and play offense in congressional districts that they normally wouldn’t be paying attention to. Even if they fall short in many of those seats, it will have forced national Republicans to spend money on races that they usually could have taken for granted.

U.S. Senate
The story changes on the other side of the Capitol, in the U.S. Senate. At this point, it’s more likely than not that Republicans will retain their control of the Senate and may even pick up a seat or two. This odd confluence is due to the 2012 election. Voters in traditionally red or reddish-purple states voted for moderate Democratic senators – think sitting Democratic senators in North Dakota, Indiana, Montana, Missouri, Florida, etc. – when they went to the polls and voted for Barack Obama’s second presidential term. Fast forward six years to today, and it’s a non-presidential election year which means the composition of voters will be very different.

Democrats would have to protect all of their endangered incumbent senators plus pick up two additional seats in order to take control. Is it possible? Yes. Is it likely at this point? No. For Democrats, pickup opportunities do exist: Tennessee’s open seat, Arizona’s open seat, Nevada’s seat, and maybe Texas’ seat. However, like national Republicans are being forced to spend money and staff resources protecting vulnerable incumbents, like Democrats are busy protecting their sitting senators while at the same time looking for offensive opportunities.

2019 Outlook
If Democrats take control of the House and Republicans retain control of the Senate, infrastructure seems to be one of the few items that might be given attention in the 116th Congress next year. It’s something that both parties claim to want to work; additionally, President Donald Trump has indicated a strong interest in producing a big infrastructure package.

However, in the words of Cuba Gooding, Jr and Tom Cruise, “Show me the money!” Generally speaking, a Democratic controlled House would be more willing than Republicans to raise the necessary funds – through user fees – to shore up the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and ensure that there is adequate funding for roadway safety infrastructure projects for the foreseeable future. Additionally, would-be Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) is laser-focused on ensuring the solvency of the HTF. It’s harder to imagine a user-fee increase scenario occurring under a Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) or Speaker Steve Scalise (R-LA).

If you have a question on a specific House or Senate race, feel free to reach out to ATSSA’s Government Relations team at govrelations@atssa.com.

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