Despite the recent chatter about Republicans’ narrowing the enthusiasm gap, Democrats have huge advantages heading into the 2018 midterms. The fracas surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination has only increased their electoral advantages. Democrats have an eight point lead over Republicans in polls asking which party they support heading into the election; FiveThirtyEight gives them a 7 in 9 chance of retaking the House of Representatives.
Despite these structural advantages, the 2018 Senate map is a nightmare for Democrats. Ten Democrats running for reelection represent states won by Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Of the 35 Senate seats up for grabs in November, only nine are held by Republicans. Trump’s broad unpopularity and historic Democratic turnout have fed speculation that the party could effectively shoot the moon—holding all of the seats that it currently has and flipping a couple of Republican seats to gain control of the Senate. But recent polling has suggested that might be a pipe dream.
North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp’s vote against Brett Kavanaugh may have been a recognition that her seat is already lost: Republican polling shows her losing by double-digits, while public polls show her losing by a slightly smaller margin. Democrat Phil Bredeson, who is challenging Republican Martha Blackburn in Tennessee, also is trailing by as many as eight points. He’s had a roller-coaster week. While an endorsement from Taylor Swift may bolster his chances, his stated support for Kavanaugh has upset the party’s base and caused campaign volunteers to quit. Missouri’s Claire McCaskill is struggling to hold onto her seat, while in Texas, it’s becoming clear that Congressman Beto O’Rourke is even more of a long shot than initially thought. A poll released on Wednesday shows him trailing Senator Ted Cruz by nine points. Even the bright spots aren’t particularly bright. Joe Manchin, the only Democrat to vote to confirm Kavanaugh, is likely to hold onto his West Virginia seat, though a recent internal GOP poll did show a tightening race.
It isn’t all bad news for Democrats. Winning the House, which they are expected to do, would give them the power to investigate Trump’s abuses of power. But with a month to go until the election, it’s nearly all bad news for the party’s hopes of retaking the Senate—and thus, of stopping Republicans from putting another Kavanaugh on the court over the next two years.