It is true that Democrats theoretically have enough votes in the Senate — 48 when including the two independents who caucus with them — to block measures that require 60 votes. However, there are more filibuster-proof items than ever due to rule changes made by the Democrats in 2013 when they still controlled the upper chamber, meaning that Cabinet-level appointees and most federal judicial nominees (but not for the Supreme Court) only need 51 votes to be confirmed. In addition, 10 Democratic senators are up for reelection in 2018 in states carried by Trump, and some of the most endangered ones cannot be counted on to vote with their caucus in all circumstances. Maybe a few Republicans will defect in the other direction from time to time, as early declarations about the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election indicate.
The Democratic Party, which fully expected to control the White House and the Senate going forward, is still in shock from the stunning November outcome — and in its worst governing position nationally and in the states in modern times. You have to reach back to the 1920s to find a comparable period of Democratic impotence.
As we have pointed out many times, President Obama’s tenure has been a disaster for his party at other levels. Over his two terms, Democrats have set the post-World War II record for losses by the White House party. Taking governorships, state legislators, and members of the U.S. House and Senate together, Democrats have suffered a net loss of over 1,000 posts from Obama’s initial victory in 2008 to the loss of Hillary Clinton under his watch. The Democratic bench is almost empty in many critical states, another reason why political analysts have a hard time coming up with an expansive list of potential presidential nominees for 2020. Given the potential for GOP gains in the Senate come 2018, Democratic hopes for fresh blood may depend heavily on their performance in big-state gubernatorial elections at the midterm.
All 435 House seats will also be contested in 22 months, but despite the Republicans’ substantial 241-194 majority in the new Congress, Crystal Ball Managing Editor Kyle Kondik found that only 23 House Republicans occupy seats won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race (it is possible that this number will change slightly but not substantially). Compare that to the 2010 midterm, when Democrats were defending 48 seats won by John McCain in 2008 — major Democratic overexposure that significantly contributed to the GOP’s massive 63-seat net gain. Democrats also hold 12 districts won by Trump in 2016, including a few he won by double digits. Republicans may mount credible challenges in many of these seats. Simply put, the Republicans do not appear to be all that overextended in the House at the starting gate of the 2018 campaign, although much will depend on the national mood heading into the midterm...