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AUBG Professor Robert Phillips Explains 2018 Midterm Elections

October 16, 2018

With less than a month until the U.S. midterm elections 2018,
AUBG Professor Robert Phillips explained their significance for the political future of the country. He spoke about it in a presentation in front of Bulgarian journalists Oct. 11 in Sofia and in an interview on Bloomberg TV the following day.  

“The U.S. midterm elections 2018 are important not only for the American domestic politics but also for the future of the American Republic,” Phillips said. In addition to choosing 35 out of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate and each of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, Americans will have “the first opportunity to give a referendum on the existing president” Nov. 6, he said.  

And while Americans will be voting for all 435 seats in the house we already know who will win in all but about 70 of them, Phillips said, explaining there are three main reasons why this paradox exists.

The first reason is a term known as “geographic sorting”, an effect in politics where voters with specific viewpoints tend to live in specific areas. The map of Ohio from the 2016 elections, for example, looks like it is mostly dominated by Republican voters. Upon a closer look, however, we can see that cities— the most densely populated areas on the map— are predominantly blue, making the number of Democrats and Republicans in the state relatively equal in number. The fact that Democrats tend to live in cities creates recognizable voting patterns and a structural disadvantage for them in a system based on geographic districts, Phillips said.

Another reason why we can likely predict who will win seats in the House of Representatives is a practice known as gerrymandering. In most states politicians decide how to draw their own electoral district boundaries because the U.S. Constitution gives most control over elections to the state legislatures. This results in maps that make no geographical sense but give advantage to one or other of the political parties.

“Increasingly people in different states are waking up and deciding they don’t like gerrymandering,” Phillips said. As a result, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah will be holding referendums on whether to stop the practice.

Incumbent advantage is the third major reason behind the predictability of the elections, Phillips said. Politicians who already hold the seats for which they are running have a bigger chance of winning both because they are more recognizable and because they typically raise more funds. The Center for Responsive Politics, Phillips noted, has calculated that on average an incumbent would raise $1,364,000 in campaign funds, while the challenger would only raise $228,000.

An important tendency of the 2018 midterm elections is the record number of women running for candidates in the whole country, especially on the Democrat side, Phillips said. One of the races to watch is the all-female race for New Mexico’s second congressional district, he said. While in theory it should be a relatively safe seat for Republican Yvette Herrell, according to Phillips Democrat Xochitl Torres Small has chances of winning due to her running a strong campaign and a favorable electoral mood among the large number of Latino voters in the state.

For the first time in history, an African-American woman from a major party is running for governor in Georgia. Despite running in a traditionally Republican winning state, Democrat Stacy Abrams might have a chance of winning against Republican Brian Kemp who strongly embraces the Trump agenda, Phillips said. 

The AUBG community will have an opportunity to hear more of Prof. Phillips’ insights into the upcoming midterm elections as part of his lecture during the Alumni Homecoming Oct. 20.  

Story by Dimana Doneva

Photography by Martin Georgiev

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