As 2018 looms, GOP faces challenges in House, governors’ races

As 2018 looms, GOP faces challenges in House, governors’ races

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Despite strong showings by the Democrats in state races on Election Day, the Republican Party did some things right over the past year to avoid losing ground in the U.S. House of Representatives. But the GOP is facing big challenges as it gears up for 2018, according to Rowan University political scientist Larry Butler.

“In the Congressional races, the GOP has been able to counter mobilize and stave off defeat. Protecting their majority in Congress is the only thing that is motivating them,” says Butler, who also serves as associate dean of the College of Communication & Creative Arts.

“The biggest risk in 2018 isn’t so much the Senate,” continues Butler. “Rather, it’s those House races and—even moreso--the governors’ races. That’s where I think the GOP is in big, big trouble. The Democrats have the possibility for the biggest gains there.”

The funding strategy of Democratic activists—targeting large amounts of money to key candidates—worked well on Election Day, especially in states like Virginia, where Democrats gained at least 15 seats in the House of Delegates and stand on the brink of taking control of that chamber, Butler notes.

“Democrats poured a lot of money into a small number of races,” says Butler, adding that the “people first” approach was “a smart strategy.”

“Donors are not giving to the parties. They’re giving to the campaigns and supporters of specific candidates,” he continues. “As we move into 2018, it will be interesting to see whether the Democratic funding strategy will be as effective when there are so many contests on the same day. They’ll have to pick their races well.”

On both sides of the aisle, enthusiasm will be an issue, notes Butler.

“Republicans have two big challenges: the enthusiasm on the Democratic side and, on their own side, trying to remain enthusiastic themselves. Having had to put out so many fires, there is a risk that they run out of energy,” says Butler.

And the Democratic Party is emboldened by its performance on Election Day, Butler adds.

“The Democrats have been losing, losing, losing races. This gives them higher confidence to take back the House,” Butler says.

Reach Butler at butlerl@rowan.edu or 856-256-4009.