National issues are having an impact on regional politics. It is believed that a major Republican victory in the midterms would likely lead to the final nail in the coffin of the Affordable Care Act, putting healthcare front and centre in many campaigns across the country. Republican incumbent Senator Ted Cruz is being challenged by a progressive Democratic candidate, Beto O’Rourke who is highlighting Cruz’ prior vow to repeal “every single word” of the ACA. In Wisconsin, the focus is on a lawsuit crafted to invalidate the Affordable Care Act which gained Republican support. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers has gained some mileage in challenging incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker to rescind his support for the lawsuit.
A recent poll published by NPR and Maris found that 62% of women disapprove of President Trump – and half of those “strongly disapprove”. The White House is seen to be attacking reproductive rights, and the recent appointment of a conservative Supreme Court Judge may cast fear over the future of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case regarding the constitutionality of state and federal restrictions on access to abortion. The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has appeared to have galvanised Democrat supporters; the #MeToo movement continues to gather momentum and may help to support the “blue wave”.
Economy and Trade
The US economy is growing, which should be good news for the Republicans. There are some concerns, however, that a large proportion of the Republican supporter base will not have seen many benefits. There is also some debate as to whether the uptick in the economy is thanks to Trump’s tenure or Obama’s policies brought to fruition, but it may not matter who gets the credit. If average workers don’t see improvements in the form of money in their pocket, they’re likely to be unmoved by the statistics. Closely related is the issue of trade, partly because it has caused some price rises. The ongoing trade war with China and its subsequent impact has brought the topic to the fore and Democratic candidates are successfully challenging Republican incumbents on the issue, event in previously dyed-in-the-wool “red” states.
Where to watch for results
Whilst completion is hotting up nationwide, those most affected by the trade war are in the spotlight. In Washington State, the tariff impact on the state’s apple and cherry farmers may be a decider given that producers are facing export tariffs from 5% to 25%. Tennessee’s automotive and bourbon industries as well as hog farmers are also feeling the pinch. Democratic nominee Phil Bredesen is locked in a tight race with Republican Party’s Marsha Blackburn in what otherwise might be a safe seat for the party and the tariffs are right at the centre of his campaign. Similar issues – rising import costs and industries hit by new tariffs - can be seen across the country including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana and even Nebraska, previously considered a safe Republican seat.
It’s impossible to predict how the Midterms will turn out with so many divisive and often emotive issues bringing sometimes surprising results – alongside the outrage at Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment from Democrats, there are some signs it also energised Republican support. Whatever the outcome, there’s a lot at stake. Lawmakers elected in 2018 will still be in office in 2020, when the post-census redrawing of US congressional districts is set to begin. The Democrats are entering these midterms with a considerable mathematical disadvantage due to gerrymandering. They will be keen to avoid being so outnumbered during the next round of redistricting. As well as the fact that whoever controls the House will be able to green-light or obstruct Trump’s policy plans, the 2018 state legislative races, and their impact on redistricting, may determine who controls the US House all the way through to 2030. The fact that so much is at stake, and the outcome still difficult to predict, may put the US dollar under pressure with just two weeks to the elections.