Biggest election winner? Polarization in America

Biggest election winner? Polarization in America
© Getty Images

In looking at all of the polling available, it is clear that, to the extent that there is any momentum in the midterm elections, it is now marginally — and I underscore marginally — to the Republicans, at least certainly where the Senate is concerned. When we began the fall election cycle, we had thought that there was at least some chance that the Democrats would win the Senate. That outcome now seems unlikely. Republicans hold clear leads in Senate races in Texas, Tennessee, and North Dakota, all of which were considered at one point to be in play for the Democrats.

In Texas, Republican Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz2 Republican senators introduce resolution to label antifa as domestic terrorists Ted Cruz: Trump's chances of winning reelection are '50-50' How to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy MORE has expanded his over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke to a comfortable margin after several weeks during which the race was thought to be a potential pickup for the Democrats, especially given the historic fundraising levels that O’Rourke achieved. In Tennessee, where Republican Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnHillicon Valley: Intel chief creates new election security position | Privacy groups want role in new tech task force | Republicans urge Trump not to delay Pentagon cloud contract Advocates urge senators to work with consumer groups on privacy law Hillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections MORE and Democrat Phil Bredesen were virtually in tied in the polls earlier this month, Blackburn now leads Bredesen by just over six points.


In North Dakota, Republican Kevin CramerKevin John CramerTrump puts hopes for Fed revolution on unconventional candidate Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Acosta on shaky ground as GOP support wavers MORE has expanded his lead over Democrat Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments McConnell's Democratic challenger says she likely would have voted for Kavanaugh MORE by 10 points over the last five weeks, with the latest poll putting Kramer at 56 percent and Heitkamp at 40 percent. This seat was considered to be very much in play for Democrats just weeks ago. The two other most likely Democratic targets are races that are now both within the margin of error. In Nevada, Republican Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE is now neck and neck with Democrat Jackie Rosen. In Arizona, Republican Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses MORE is virtually tied with Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

Barring the unforeseen, it appears likely that the Republicans will gain one or two seats in the Senate, and the worst case for them is that they will keep their 51 seats. The House is a different story. It seems unlikely there will be a blue wave, as estimates by Real Clear Politics show a Democratic pickup of about 26 seats, with Five Thirty Eight estimating a pickup of 36 seats. My own sense is that there will be a gain of around 28 seats for Democrats, though there is at least the possibility that Republicans, should there be the red wave which Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE has spoken of, could well narrowly hold the House, but I would tend to doubt that.

Ultimately, the Democratic campaign has been without a positive message, and has been essentially just based on opposition to the president, which was much more effective when his approval rating was close to 40 percent than it is now that his average approval rating is closer to 45 percent and going up in most polls. Similarly, the generic vote for Congress, which had been in some polls as high as double digits, has gotten down to about six or seven points for the Democrats, with some polls estimating this to be even lower single digits.

Indeed, my own sense is that the Democrats, in not having a coherent position on immigration and not having a solid narrative against the Republicans on the economy, have been playing largely defense and running individual campaigns on local issues, and using overarching opposition to Trump to unify the disparate voices in the party.

Still, even with the Democratic victory of a narrow majority in the House, the new session of Congress will begin almost certainly investigations of the president and the possibility of a reinvestigation of Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Lindsey Graham's Faustian bargain Liberal, conservative Supreme Court justices unite in praising Stevens MORE, along with the introduction of legislation for things such as Medicare for all, a guaranteed job for all Americans, and a strengthening of ObamaCare. Put another way, my best expectation is that the polarization we have seen now is just the beginning.

While I have argued in these pages as passionately as a I can for civility, my fear is that we will not achieve it even in the wake of bombings and shootings. After the midterm elections, we will face heightened polarization and division between a narrowly Democratic House and a narrowly Republican Senate that will further lead to gridlock and only will make America even more vulnerable to our mobilized and empowered allies, whether they be Russia or China or North Korea or Iran. I am pessimistic, and my sense is that my pessimism will become even more justified in the aftermath of these historic midterm elections.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is also a Fox News contributor and the author of 11 books, including “Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.”