Russian Interference in the 2018 Senate Races?

Last night the Democrats lost seats in the senate despite their overwhelming victory in the house. Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report estimated that Democrats had to minimally beat Republicans by seven percentage points in order to win gerrymandered districts and obtain a bare majority in the House, and the Democrats did just that. So, if Democrats performed so well in the House, winning by insurmountable numbers as to overcome gerrymandering, how did they perform so poorly in the Senate?

Senate Democrats lost in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and will likely lose in Florida where they previously held senators. Jon Tester’s seat is not yet decided, and they lost in Texas where Beto O’Rourke is a strong candidate and is seen as a potential presidential candidate. The obvious explanation for this phenomenon is that Republicans worked harder to win Senate seats, and voters in overwhelming numbers checked their Republican candidate in the Senate, and then on the same ballot voted for the Democratic candidate in the House.

Sometimes voters vote for candidates of different parties on the same ballot because one candidate appears particularly strong or weak. For example, Larry Hogan, the incumbent Republican governor in Maryland is a strong bipartisan governor who is known to attract centrist democratic voters, while Democratic candidate Ben Jealous was seen as an extremist with little experience. Many Maryland voters, which overwhelmingly vote democrat, checked (R) Larry Hogan, and then further down the ballot checked (D) Ben Cardin.

While many voters vote across parties on ballots at times when there are particularly strong or weak candidates, the conformity of this in the 2018 election is very suspect. Nearly all the close races, with the exception of Nevada and Montana, went Republican this election cycle while the House flipped previously-held Republican districts in historic numbers.

On October 29, Bloomberg reported that Trump planned to focus his efforts on winning Senate races. In Trump’s own words, he said, “There are a lot of small races in the House,” and by this he meant that it would be impossible for him to stump for hundreds of House Republicans. It would be far easier for him to pick four or five swing states to stump for in order to win control of one chamber of Congress. We know that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, and that they also attempted to interfere in the 2018 midterms. It seems to me that if I was a Russian hacker, I would find it far easier to follow Trump’s pattern of picking a few Senate races to hack into, leaving the smallest footprint as possible. Without an honest investigation it would be impossible to determine how Russians affected these midterm elections, but I find it dubious that Democrats overperformed in gerrymandered districts while underperforming in state-wide elections. The math does not seem to add up.

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