Wed | Nov 21, 2018

Senate slipping away as Dems fight to preserve blue wave

Published:Wednesday | October 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM

NEW YORK (AP):

In the closing stretch of the 2018 campaign, the question is no longer the size of the Democratic wave. It's whether there will be a wave at all.

Top operatives in both political parties concede that Democrats' narrow path to the Senate majority has essentially disappeared, a casualty of surging Republican enthusiasm across GOP strongholds. At the same time, leading Democrats now fear the battle for the House majority will be decided by just a handful of seats.

"It's always been an inside straight, and it still is," Democratic pollster Paul Maslin said of Democrats' outlook in the Senate, where they need to pick up two seats while holding on to several others in Republican-leaning states to seize the majority. "If it had been a different year, with a different map, we might have had a terrific sweep. That would be a long shot."

While the trend may be troubling for Democrats, the evolving political landscape remains unsettled two weeks before Election Day, even with millions of votes already cast across 20 states.

There are signs that the Democrats' position in the expanding House battlefield may actually be improving. Yet Republican candidates locked in tight races from New York to Nevada find themselves in stronger-than-expected positions because of a bump in President Donald Trump's popularity, the aftermath of a divisive Supreme Court fight and the sudden focus on a caravan of Latin American immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border.

Democrats say they never assumed it would be easy.

"It's still much closer than people think, with a surprise or two in the wings," New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, told The Associated Press.

The midterm elections will decide whether Republicans maintain control of Congress for the final two years of Trump's first term. Even if Democrats lose the Senate and win the House, they could block much of Trump's agenda and use subpoena power to investigate his many scandals. Some in the party's far-left wing have also vowed to impeach the president, while others promise to roll back the Republican tax overhaul and expand health care coverage for all Americans.

Democrats have enjoyed an overwhelming enthusiasm advantage for much of the Trump era. They hope an explosion of early voting across states like Florida, Texas and Nevada is further proof of their enthusiasm gap.