2018 Midterms- The Upper Midwest About a Year Out

shutterstock election battle (1)

Today, I look at Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin which includes three states that helped Trump win the Presidency.


  • 18 districts- 11 Democrats/ 7 Republicans
  • Incumbents facing primary challengers- 5 (4 Democrats/ 1 Republican)
  • Incumbents facing opposition party challengers-  11
  • Senate race- none in 2018

 By  the looks of it, Democrats will be coming hard after incumbent Republicans in Illinois who hold 7 of that state’s 18 seats.  As for the 11 Democratic seats, none are on the GOP radar.  If there is any drama on their side, it will be in the primaries where four incumbent Democrats face a primary challenge.

In 6 of the 7 GOP-held districts,  an array of Democrats are lining up with at least three Democratic candidates declared in all these districts.  Only the 18th is spared so far.

Realistically, the Democrats have a decent chance in three of the six districts- the 6th, 12th (Mike Bost) and 13th (Rodney Davis).  However, the 6th is represented by Pete Roskam who usually wins easily.  In the 2014 midterm, he got 67% of the vote.  The Democrats, who have 7 declared candidates here, may be barking up the wrong tree in the 6th.

The southern Illinois-based 12th District is rated +5 GOP by Cook and has attracted 6 potential Democrats to the mix.  The neighboring 13th to the north and including Springfield is rated +3 GOP and has attracted 5 Democrats to enter their primary.  These are the two most vulnerable districts in the state and this writer would not be totally surprised if they both fall, although one of the two is a more realistic assessment.  Of course it always possible the other three districts that have attracted attention- the 14th, 15th, and 16th- could also come into play for the Democrats.  If there is to be a killing fields in 2018, Illinois may be the state to watch.



  • 9 districts- 7 Republicans/ 2 Democrats
  • 2 open races- Todd Rokita (R-4th) running for Senate and Luke Messer (R-6th) also running for the Senate
  • Candidates in open races- 4th district: 1 Republican and 4 Democrats/ 6th district: 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat
  • Incumbents facing primary challenge- 2- 1 GOP and 1 Democrat
  • Incumbents facing opposition party challenge- 5
  • Senate race- Joe Donnelly (D)- no primary challengers/ 6 declared Republicans

All the Republican incumbents, and the two Democrats, are basically safe.

Democratic incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly is up for reelection in 2018. So far, six Republicans have declared their candidacy while Donnelly faces, currently, no primary challenger.  Donnelly enjoys a 46% approval rating (against 26% disapproval) in a state that approves of Trump at the rate of 47%.  That approval rating is below Trump’s margin of victory in Indiana in 2016.  With the recent introduction of Luke Messer’s name and Todd Rokita also in the race, Donnelly will get a foe with gravitas.  This will be a good race to watch as it is basically a toss up at this point.


  • 14 districts- 9 Republicans/ 5 Democrats
  • Incumbents facing a primary challenge- none
  • Incumbents facing opposition party challenge- 8
  • Senate race-  Debbie Stabenow (D)- 1 primary challenger/ 4 declared Republican challengers

 There seems to be keen interest on the 1st (because it has a freshman Republican- Jack Bergman) and the 6th (probably because Cook rates it +1 GOP).  However, this is the district of Fred Upton and he usually has easy wins.


Instead, the more vulnerable GOP districts are the 7th (Tim Wahlberg), 8th (Mike Bishop) and 11th (Dave Trott).  If the GOP holds 2 out of 3, it can be considered a victory.  At this point, I am leaning that way.

Democratic incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow faces reelection and has drawn a primary challenger while four Republicans have stepped forward and declared their candidacy, including Kid Rock who was a Trump supporter.  Problem is…Trump’s 2016 Michigan state co-chair is also a candidate in a state where Trump has a 42% approval rating.  As it stands, Bob Young- a former state supreme court chief justice- may just let the Trumpsters fight it out and sneak away with a victory.  It may make for an entertaining GOP primary.  Stabenow has a decent 47% approval rating, but what should be troubling for her is her high 38% disapproval rating.  This is a race that may take on added significance for the GOP as Election Day 2018 nears.


  • 8 districts- 5 Democrats/ 2 Republicans
  • Open race- 1- Tim Walz (D) in 1st District running for Governor in 2018
  • Candidates in open race- 7 Democrats and 1 Republican
  • Incumbents facing primary challenge- 1 (Rick Nolan-D in the 8th)
  • Incumbents facing opposition party challenge- 6
  • Senate race- Amy Klobuchar (D)- no primary challenger, 1 declared Republican

Tim Walz (D) vacating the 1st District creates a rare opportunity for a legitimate GOP pick up especially since at least 5 Democrats are battling it out in their primary.  So far, there is only one declared Republican- Jim Hagedorn, no stranger to Minnesota politics.    The 7th District- a Cook-rated GOP district- is held by a Democrat and three from the GOP have entered the primary.  Hence, there are two real legitimate targets here.


  It would appear the Democrats are going after the 2nd and 3rd with the 2nd District being the most likely to fall.  If the GOP loses this seat but picks up one or two others, then no harm-no foul.

Amy Klobuchar, the Democratic incumbent Senator, so far faces no primary challenger and a Tea Party activist on the Republican side.  She has a very high 63% approval rating in the state with visions of a possible Presidential run dancing in her head.  At this point, she appears safe.


  • 16 Districts- 11 Republicans/ 5 Democrats
  • Open races- 1 in the 16th District being vacated by Jim Renacci (R) who is running for Governor in 2018
  • Candidates in open race- 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat
  • Incumbents facing primary challenge- 3, all GOP
  • Incumbents facing opposition party challenge- 9
  • Senate race- Sherrod Brown (D)- no primary challenger, 2 declared Republican candidates

  The 1st (Steve Chabot) and 2nd (Brad Wenstrup) seem the most targeted by the Democrats, however, the 10th (Mike Turner) and 14th (Dave Joyce), according to Cook, are the weakest Republican districts.  However, in 2014 these very same incumbents won with 65% and 63% of the vote respectively.  In sum, if the Democrats have any chance of gaining a seat out of Ohio, it is the open 16th District.

Democratic incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown faces no primary challenger yet and two Republicans have declared their candidacies with state treasurer Josh Mandel the most well known.  The problem for any GOP opponent is the fact that although Trump delivered Ohio, his approval rating in the state is at 42%.  Meanwhile, Brown’s approval rating is 52% (with 32% disapproval).  Depending on how things play out over the year, this could be a good one to watch, or a dud for the GOP.  At this point… Brown has to be the favorite as Mandel flamed out in 2012.  But in today’s strange political environment, don’t count out the GOP just yet.



  • 8 districts- 5 Republican and 3 Democrats
  • Incumbents facing primary challenge- 2 (with Paul Nehlen back for another run against Paul Ryan in the 1st)
  • Incumbents facing opposition party challenge- 3 (all Republicans)
  • Senate race- Tammy Baldwin (D)- one primary challenger and 2 declared Republican candidates

In the real world, expect no changes in the House delegation from Wisconsin despite Trump booster Paul Nehlen back again to challenge Paul Ryan in the 1st District.  He easily dispatched Nehlen in 2016 and should again this year.

 The Democratic incumbent Senator, Tammy Baldwin, faces a “progressive activist” primary challenger and so far two Republicans with at least four considering a run.  Baldwin’s and Trump’s approval ratings run about equal (44% and 43%, respectively).  If the Republicans can field a good candidate, Baldwin’s tenure in the Senate can be put in jeopardy.  Still, after Johnson’s 2016 victory, it might be asking too much to expect two Republican Senators out of Wisconsin.

Next, and finally, the South.


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