2018 is beginning to look like a very good year for Democrats

Could 2018 be a wave election for Dems?
Could 2018 be a wave election for Dems?

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Could 2018 be a wave election for Dems? 01:12

Story highlights

  • The key to Democrats winning back the House is expanding the playing field of competitive races
  • The current pro-Democratic -- or, more accurately, anti-Trump -- environment helps on that front

Washington (CNN)Conditions are right for a major Democratic wave to sweep out the House Republican majority next fall, according to Nathan Gonzales, who runs the "Inside Elections" campaign tipsheet.

"The midterm elections are still nearly a year and a half away, and the political dynamics could yet change, but we shouldn't ignore the fact that history and the current environment are merging together for a potentially great set of elections for Democrats in November 2018," writes Gonzales in a piece published Wednesday morning.
To that end, Gonzales is adding nine Republican seats to his list of potentially competitive races and moving the ratings on 10 more GOP-held districts in favor of Democrats. That brings his list of competitive contests to 39 for Republicans as compared to just 14 for Democrats.
    As Gonzales notes, two factors argue for a wave election: History and polls.
    First, history. In the last 20 midterm elections, the president's party has lost seats in 18. In those 18 elections, the average seat loss is 33. Democrats need 24 seats to re-take the House majority in 2018.
    Second, polls. President Donald Trump's job approval rating is at 39% in the Gallup daily tracking poll.
    "That's not good news for GOP candidates, considering that midterms are often a referendum on the President's performance and Trump's name won't appear on the ballot," concludes Gonzalez.
    He's right. As Gallup's Jeffrey Jones has noted: "Since 1946, when presidents are above 50% approval, their party loses an average of 14 seats in the US House in the midterm elections, compared with an average loss of 36 seats when presidents are below that mark." Per Gallup, Trump's approval ratings have never been at 50% since he took office on January 20; the highest he got was 46% on January 24.
    Gonzalez isn't alone in seeing the possible formation of a Democratic wave out in the ocean. Earlier this month, Charlie Cook, the best known of the political handicappers (and my former boss!) wrote this of the coming election: "Obviously, no one knows what is going to happen in next year's midterm elections, but analysts who have watched congressional elections for a long time are seeing signs that 2018 could be a wave election that flips control of the House to Democrats."
    The key to Democrats winning back the House is expanding the playing field of competitive races between now and next November, giving themselves some margin for error.
    The current pro-Democratic -- or, more accurately, anti-Trump -- environment helps on that front in two ways. It convinces top-tier Democratic recruits that 2018 might be the year for them to run for Congress. And it serves as the tipping point for Republicans teetering on the edge of retirement. Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's retirement in Florida is one example; she leaves behind an open seat race where Democrats are favored.
    The critical question, of course, is what the political environment looks like next November. And, as Gonzales and Cook note, that's impossible to say today. But, as Gonzales rightly adds: "Time should not be an excuse to ignore the fact that history and the current political dynamic favors Democrats and are good reasons to watch the fight for the House."
    He's 100% right. The wave looks to be forming. Could it fizzle out before it ever comes close to swamping Republicans? Of course! But that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep a very close eye on it. We should.