Early Races Could Be Bellwethers on Election Night

Virginia, Kentucky, other early states have contests to test whether 'blue wave' is real
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2018 9:06 AM CST
East Coast Races to Watch
Congressional candidate Abigail Spanberger speaks during a rally in Richmond, Va., Monday, Nov. 5, 2018.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

(Newser) – Will a blue wave help Democrats take the House and perhaps the Senate? Or has the support of President Trump once again been underestimated? The answers will finally start rolling in Tuesday night. The first polls close in Kentucky and Indiana at 6pm, and things truly start picking up an hour later when polls start closing in Virginia, Georgia, and Florida. It's possible we won't know big answers for weeks, but some early races on the East Coast could provide a sense of where things are headed. Examples:

  • Bellwether race? At Roll Call, Lindsey McPherson is keeping an eye on the race for an open House seat in Virginia. If Democrat Leslie Cockburn defeats Republican Denver Riggleman in the 5th District, which includes Charlottesville, "the wave election Democrats have hoped for will be in full effect," writes McPherson. Trump won the district by 11 points in 2016.
  • Or maybe this one: Another House race in Virginia, in the 7th District, pits Democrat Abigail Spanberger and against incumbent Dave Brat, the Republican who upset Eric Cantor a few years ago. NBC News reports that the race will test the strength of the "pink wave" of female candidates as well as whether college-educated suburban voters will turn against Trump. "It’s a good early test of how far the 'suburban revolt' will take Democrats," says David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report.

  • Kentucky race: CNN is watching a House race in the Lexington area between Democrat Amy McGrath and GOP Rep. Andy Barr. Trump won the district by 16 points, but McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, is close in the polls. "If Democrats are winning in places like eastern Kentucky, then Republicans could be in for a long night on Tuesday," writes Terence Burlij.
  • Four in Florida: Much attention is on the governor's race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis, and Democrats hope a surge of young voters and minorities will not only boost Gillum but Senate incumbent Bill Nelson, who is in a tight race with outgoing Gov. Rick Scott. But the Wall Street Journal notes that Democrats also hope to pick up four GOP House seats (FL-26 and FL-27 in Miami-Dade, FL-15 near Tampa, and FL-16 in Sarasota County). The fate of those four seats also could be telling.
  • Georgia governor: The contentious governor's race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and the GOP's Brian Kemp is a toss-up. "If Abrams can break through and win the state, it might signal a strong showing for Democrats nationally on Election Day," writes Jeffrey Lazarus of Georgia State at Chicago Defender. "It might also be a bad sign for Republicans in future elections, as one of their more reliable states could be put into play."
  • Fate of Senate: Democrats face long odds in retaking the Senate, and tight races in Nevada, Arizona, Missouri, and Indiana will be crucial, per the New York Times. Polls close first in Indiana, where Joe Donnelly, seen as one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, faces businessman Mike Braun. The GOP hopes to pick off this seat to fend off possible losses elsewhere.
  • Others: Polls close in a slew of states at 8pm, and the Journal has a primer of key races, including two more featuring vulnerable Democratic senators: Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Bob Menendez in New Jersey. Also, Democrats are banking on picking up four House seats in Pennsylvania as part of their path to winning the chamber.
(Read more 2018 midterms stories.)

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