At today’s Congressional GOP retreat in West Virginia, Vice President Mike Pence predicted that the Republican party will “make history again” and hold on to their majorities in both houses of Congress.
Pence made the remarks while speaking to members from both chambers, whose trip to the retreat was delayed by a tragic collision with a garbage truck, which left at least one person dead and another seriously injured. At the retreat, Pence struck a defiant tone, saying, “Conventional wisdom holds that the upcoming midterms are going to be a challenge, right? Well I think you all know what President Trump thinks about conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom said in 2016 that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected President of the United States of America.”
Pence’s prediction comes as generic congressional vote polling and an unprecedented spate of retirements have suggested that a Democratic wave might occur in 2018. However, there is some reason for Pence’s optimism.
In the Senate, Democrats still face an uphill battle to gain the majority. Other than the seats currently held by Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and the retiring Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Democrats have no obvious pickup opportunities, although strong recruiting efforts have given them an outside hope in states like Tennessee. Meanwhile, Democrats will be defending ten seats currently held in states that were won by Donald Trump in the 2016 elections — losing a single one of those seats would likely doom their chances to retake the Senate.
The situation in the House is much dicier for the GOP, where Republicans have already faced an unprecedented number of retirements. Rep. Trey Gowdy’s surprise retirement announcement today made him the 41st Republican to announce that he would not seek re-election in 2018, which is already the most Republican House retirements in the modern era. On average, the party controlling Congress sees 22 House retirements in the entire election cycle. Additionally, the generic congressional ballot polling suggests that Democrats may be poised to take advantage of the unusually large number of open seats. However, aggressive redistricting efforts by state legislatures have reduced the number of “swing” House seats entirely, making an exceptionally large wave harder than ever to achieve in the House.