In the states with pivotal 2016 Senate races—not to mention presidential battleground states—Republicans are fighting in much tougher terrain than they are this midterm election. Getting buried with the Latino vote is nothing less than a prescription for a disaster. In 2012, Mitt Romney garnered only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, and the national Republican vote for Congress managed only 3 points better among Hispanics. As recently as 2004, President George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Latino vote and oh, by the way, got reelected.
It is increasingly likely that Republicans will do well in this year’s midterm elections not because of who they are, but because of who they are not. They are not President Obama’s party; they are not the party that passed the Affordable Care Act. Given that the Senate majority will largely be determined this year in states where association with Obama and his signature legislative achievement are the political kiss of death, it’s both the map and the mood that are giving Democrats a tough time this year. In November, Republicans have the additional advantage of facing a smaller midterm electorate, one that is older, whiter, more conservative, and more Republican than the substantially larger and more diverse electorate that we often see in presidential years.
Republicans can afford to be complacent about the House, which is more compartmentalized into ideological and partisan cul-de-sacs (both Democratic and Republican). This is a result of both redistricting and population-sorting that transformed an electorate that voted 59.2 million Democratic to 57.9 million Republican in the national popular vote for the House into a chamber comprised of 234 Republican seats to 201 Democratic seats.