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Jan 01 2017
by Anna DiGiacomo

Key States to Watch in the 2018 Midterms

By Anna DiGiacomo - Jan 01 2017

Every new year brings along new changes, and 2017 is no different. With Trump in the presidential driver's seat and a Republican Congress potentially backing him, 2017 has already declared itself a red year. Yet, despite their reeling defeat in the presidential election, there simply isn’t time for the Democrats to nurse their wounds. For in only two years time, the Democrats will face the daunting task of the 2018 Senate Race.

In total, 33 seats will be up for grabs in 2018. 25 are occupied by either Democrats or Independents, while the other 8 are currently held by Republicans. This places the midterm elections strongly in Republican favor as they only need to defend a paltry 8 seats instead of 25. This, coupled with the fact that most of these Democratic states flipped to support Trump in the election, has placed the Democrats in a precarious position.

Yet, not all hope is lost for the blue party. Fortunately for the Democrats, midterm elections have always proven difficult for sitting presidents and Trump will certainly not be exempt from this trend. So with this new year underway, it’s time to start tracking this new election. To help get you started, below are some of the key states to keep your eyes on.


In another historically red state, Jon Tester (D) is up for reelection. No stranger to tough races, Tester was in charge of the 2016 Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and has plenty of experience. However, it’s unclear how well his experience will hold up in a state the voted Trump by a 21-point margin.


Having impressively held office since 1972, Bill Nelson (D) is up for reelection in the Sunshine State. However, this may not be the same Florida Nelson is used to running in. Not only did the state swing in Trump’s favor, but it also strongly supported incumbent Senator Marco Rubio (R). This will be an interesting race for sure.

West Virginia:

Having voted for Trump with a 42-point margin with all counties red, this former blue stronghold is now leaning strongly red. Yet, even with their legislature and the majority of their House bright red, it may yet prove difficult to weed Senator Joe Manchin (D) out. Even though the state voted Trump, Virginians nevertheless elected Jim Justice (D) as governor with a strong lead. The future election is certainly unclear with this state, but it’s definitely worth watching.  


Although another red state, the state GOP has struggled in Missouri, and a Senate seat is occupied by a Democratic senator. Yet, the 2018 election may prove difficult, if not impossible, for Claire McCaskill (D), assuming the state GOP finally manages to perform. After all, the state not only voted Trump in the election, they also re-elected Senator Roy Blunt (R) and elected Eric Greitens (R) as governor.


Joe Donnely (D) is up for reelection in this historically red state. In addition to leaning to Trump in the 2016 presidential election, this state also just voted former Representative Todd Young (R) into the Senate by a ten-point lead. While it’s uncertain as to who will be running against Donnely, be prepared for a narrow race in this state.


One of the biggest shockers of the presidential election, Wisconsin hadn't voted for a Republican president since the Reagan-Bush ticket in 1984. Now Democrat Tammy Baldwin is up for re-election, and it will definitely be interesting. Recently, Ron Johnson (R) stole the election from Russ Feingold (D) by a narrow 3 points. However, the 2018 election is clearly anyone’s game.


Although Sherrod Brown (D), managing to hold office or over 20 years, has done well in this state, this election may prove to be his last. Ohio strongly supported Trump in the election with the biggest margin of the past five elections. Furthermore, Senator Rob Portman (R) also won his race by a 21-point margin. All in all, it’s bad news for Brown.

North Dakota:

North Dakota is steadily returning to its red past, and it’s frankly unclear how Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D) ever won office to begin with in the state. Yet, this election may prove to be her last with the partisan swing. Nevermind that North Dakota strongly supported Trump but Senator Hoeven (R) was re-elected by an unbelievable 68-point lead.

While the upcoming midterms will be critical for both parties, it seems the Democrats will be the ones in the hotseat come 2018. Of course, many things can change between now and Election Day, and this list is hardly written in stone. However, with the political map of the United States redrawn by Trump's election, it’s never too early to start following this new race.

Lead Image: Stephen Melkisethian via Flickr Creative Commons

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Anna DiGiacomo - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Anna is a freshman Strategic Communications major at UNC Chapel Hill. She played varsity soccer in high school and besieged the student body with libertarianism. She now spends her time annoying her roommate, catching Bruce Springsteen concerts and getting lost while pretending to camp. Follow her on Instagram @digiacomoa

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