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Analyst breaks down midterm election outlook

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Democrats have a better-than-even chance of gaining a majority in the U.S. House, but face an uphill battle in retaking the Senate.

That was the prognosis for the 2018 midterm elections from Charlie Cook, the noted political analyst, who spoke Monday night to a gathering of hospital executives from around Pennsylvania. He based his forecast on the latest polling data.

The chief question for the election this fall is whether Democrats can maintain their intensity, and whether Republicans can match it, said Cook, editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report, based in Washington, D.C.

Midterm elections often result in a loss of Congressional seats for the political party that holds the White House, said Cook, who appeared at the Hilton Harrisburg for a meeting of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.

True to form, most polls are giving a slight edge to Democrats in this fall's elections, said Cook. "These are flashing lights, warning signs, that something may be happening."

Democrats need to gain about 25 seats nationwide to secure a majority in the U.S. House, and two seats to secure a Senate majority.

But a change in control in the U.S. Congress is not a certainty.

Cook gave Democrats a 60 percent to 65 percent chance of winning a majority in the House, but a 25 percent to 30 percent chance of gaining the upper hand in the Senate.

The hurdle is higher in the Senate, Cook said, because Democrats have more seats to defend in November (26) than do Republicans (9). The Democratic seats include several in states that Trump won handily in 2016, such as Missouri, Montana and West Virginia.

In Pennsylvania, Cook expected Democrats to pick up two House seats in the Philadelphia suburbs that are held by Republicans.

And he gave Rep. Conor Lamb, a Democrat, a 50-50 chance to keep his seat in western Pennsylvania, which he won in a special election earlier this year in a Republican-leaning district.

Republicans could improve their own odds if they and President Donald Trump begin getting more credit for the healthy economy; if a vacancy opens up on the U.S. Supreme Court; or if Democrats raise the specter of impeachment.

Democrats have tamped down talk of impeachment, Cook said. But Republicans are beginning to use the threat to energize conservative voters.

The general election is scheduled for Nov. 6.

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Joel Berg

Joel Berg

Joel Berg is editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. Born in Philadelphia, raised in Northern Virginia and now living in York, he's a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and the University of Maryland. Have a question or story idea? Email him at jberg@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JoelBYorkPa.

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