Midterm Elections Preview: What to Watch For

Brace for a wild Tuesday night.


Since around 2 AM on November 9th, 2018, the world of politics has had their sights on the midterms. Top Democrats have portrayed it as a vital opportunity to deliver a rebuke to Trump and regain control of at least one of the bodies of Congress. Republicans paint it as a referendum on Trump’s successes hitherto as they seek a mandate to continue to push for his divisive proposals.


You’ve surely seen countless TV ads and Facebook posts begging you to vote. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by it all, so here’s a quick guide for what to watch for on Tuesday.


Bet on Beto?

Could Texas turn blue? It hasn’t happened since 1993, but Beto O’Rourke has roused a diverse coalition of non-traditional voters that give him a fighting chance to take back the Lone Star State. His celebrity supporters range from ‘Astroworld’ rapper Travis Scott to famously stoic Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke with rapper Travis Scott. // Credit: Beto O’Rourke Campaign

Does he stand a chance, though? Most polls have him narrowly down before election day, but some Democratic strategists point to an sharp increase in youth turnout as an indicator that he could pull it off.

Even if Beto loses, the election could have larger implications for national electoral politics. Donald Trump won Texas by 9 points in 2016, down significantly from Mitt Romney’s 16 point victory in 2012. As the demographics in Texas continue to shift, Beto’s feat of making Texas a toss-up may be a turning point for state politics. Should Beto choose to run in 2020 or 2024, his hometown advantage and name recognition could be deciding factors for Texan voters. A reliably blue Texas would make traditional swing states irrelevant, so be sure to look past the immediate implications of Tuesday’s returns.


Menendez Mayhem

Not even New Jersey’s safe? To the chagrin of half of Georgetown, the answer is yes, but context is important. Menendez, the Democrat, was indicted in 2015 for corruption charges, and though the affair ended in a mistrial, the effects are lasting. Menendez is up in the polls, but an incumbent Democrat in New Jersey should realistically not have to worry about their re-election campaign. A Menendez loss would be embarrassing for New Jersey Democrats, and the damage he has done down ballot is untold. Democratic leadership has largely been quiet about the campaign, but could benefit if he resigns after his election. Keep an eye on this race as Democrats fend off a potentially devastating upset.


West Virginia

A blue dog Democrat in Joe Manchin faces a challenge from the Tea Party right in Patrick Morrisey. Manchin faced strong criticism from the left and right for how he conducted himself in the Brett Kavanaugh proceedings– Democrats were upset that he voted for the alleged assailant, while Republicans attacked him for waiting to announce his decision until Susan Collins clinched the nomination. The party would still be far more pleased with a Democrat, no matter how centrist, over a hardline conservative. Is bipartisanship still possible in a state that overwhelmingly supports Trump? Follow West Virginia to find out.



Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson is facing a strong challenge from former governor Rick Scott, in a race that reflects upon Florida’s changing perceptions of Trump and perhaps offers a preview of the 2020 race in the sunshine state. Running parallel to a hotly contested governor’s race, this contest is vital for the Democrats to take back the Senate. Trump would surely claim a Scott victory as a personal achievement, even if that’s far from the case.

Senate candidate Bill Nelson and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum campaign together in Florida // Credit: Scott McIntyre/The New York Times


Your Local Race!

Finally, be sure to pay attention to your own House election. Whether it’s a safe district or a toss-up, it’s incredibly important to know who your representative will be for the next 2 years. There’s a good chance your election isn’t getting any national attention– not every candidate is an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez– but that’s no excuse not to follow along. Whether it’s FiveThirtyEight, the New York Times, CNN, or Twitter, find a cozy spot, sit back, and watch the future of our country unfold.