Issues, News and Views
ELECTION OUTLOOK: THE SENATE: WAVE, OR SAVE?
2018/10/16 - With the Election Day just a few week away let's take a look at how things look right now, make a few guesses as to what might happen, and next month assess how badly wrong every prediction was. Our first, overall prediction, is that things will not go nearly so bad for Republicans at Trump’s first midterm as they went for Democrats at Obama's first mid-term.
The House is of course volatile, and we do expect the Democrats to wrest control from the GOP. But not by much. Through the last two election cycles the Republican standing in the House has been at historic highs with almost no chances for a pick up anywhere, so some drawdown should be expected - they have nowhere to go but down.
But the GOP still has enough of a buffer that they could endure substantial losses and still have a chance to hold the House. Currently the standings are 240-195 including vacancies. With 218 seats needed for a majority, the Democrats need a net pick-up of 23 seats, and that’s pretty close to what they will probably achieve.
Still, we are inclined to be less generous to the Democrats then we were a month ago. In October we were looking at a 10-ish seat majority for the Democrats, now we think it could be closer, perhaps in the 5-seat range: a 220 (D) to 215 (R) Democrat-controlled House.
Things have been looking better for the GOP in the Senate, and there seems to be a continued advance in their prospects. A few months ago a Democrat takeover seemed remotely possible but that seems highly unlikely at this point. The Kavanaugh nomination process for the Supreme Court seems to have moved the needle in favor of Republicans. Currently the Republicans hold a slim 51-49 margin but a net gain seems most likely. Let’s look at the competitive Senate races more closely.
DEMS HOPES DASHED – ND, TN, TX
North Dakota (D)
TOSS-UPS IN ORDER OF LIKELIHOOD OF A FLIP – MO, NV, AZ, FL, IN, MT
OUTLYERS – NJ, MI, MN, WV
New Jersey (D)
West Virginia (D)
Probably the most overused word on election night is... "Shocked! - Shocked to find that" some unsuspecting politician was summarily dispensed with. One thing about election night, is that there are always shockers. That shouldn't have to be repeated, but, just in case you have been in a coma the past 2 years and the last thing you remember is Nate Silver at Fivethirtyeight telling us that Hillary Clinton had an 85% chance of winning... well, she didn't. So don't be shocked by "shockers", you should only be shocked if nothing shocking happens. So, here are a couple of potential election night shockers-in-waiting: Phil Hugin upsets Bob Menendez in New Jersey; and John James stuns Debbie Stabenow in Michigan. Not saying it will happen, just don't be "shocked" if it does.
ChalPrem's prediction is... drum roll please... Plus+Three for the GOP. And more likely +4 than +2 since there just aren't that many targets for the Democrats. Count on 54-46 when the night is through.
ELECTION OUTLOOK: HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: WAVE OR SAVE?
2018/09/21 - As we head into the elections of 2018 the big question in electionland is a 2-parter: Will the Democrats take control of the House, and if so, by how much? Our best guess is “Probably / Not by much.”
Historically, the odds are in the Dem's favor. The last President to hold the House after a mid-term was Bush 43 in 2002, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Obama lost the House in his first mid-term and never recaptured it. Bush lost the House in his second mid-term. Clinton, like Obama lost the House in his first mid-term and never got it back. Bush 41 and Reagan were never blessed to have the House at all in their twelve year stretch, and neither did Nixon/Ford during their eight-year run. Jimmy Carter held the House in 1978, as did Johnson in '66 and Kennedy in '62. Add Eisenhower to the list with Obama and Clinton of two-term Presidents who lost the House in their first mid-term and never got it back.
You get the idea. Trump would hardly be the first President to find his party in the Out House, so to speak, after the mid-terms. The current streak is 0 for 3, 1 for 9, and 2 for 12.
It probably isn't possible for either party to win more than about 250 seats, but after the 2016 elections the GOP stood at 245, pretty close to the High Water mark for either party. They have already picked all the low-hanging fruit and just about all the high hanging fruit too, so realistically, they have nowhere to go but down, and add the anti-President mid-term pattern to the mix, it is only to be expected that losses will occur.
So without even looking at individual races, you can expect Republican losses of at least twenty seats. That would still give the GOP a slim 220-215 lead. Note that the Pubs have lost a net of 5 seats to the Dems since 2016, so the current standing is 240-195. That means the Democrats will need a net pick-up of at least 23 seats to give them a minimal but potentially ungovernable 218-217 edge and take over the House. Obviously, a 1-seat win for the Democrats would be tenuous at best, given the five seats the current House ruling party has lost since the last election.
At this point our guess is that the Democrats will pick up a net of 27 seats to take a 222-213 lead into 2019's Congress. It's far too early to get into the weeds of individual races - we know which races to watch, but trying to pick actual winners and losers six weeks out is getting a bit ahead of our skis. So our guess - and that is all anybody can do at this point - is based on the probability and the law of large numbers.
There are about 65 close races this year that could go either way. That number includes five that are so far gone in the opposite direction that they are almost certainly lost. Pennsylvania's Democrat-controlled Supreme Court has ordered a re-redistricting that takes 2 seats from the GOP and hands them to the Dems, while taking 1 seat from the Dems and handing it to the GOP. New Jersey's 2nd District seems lost to the GOP, while the retirement of Rick Nolan (D-MN08) seems certain to hand the district to former NHL player Pete Stauber (R).
So take the 60 remaining close races, subtract the four of which are Democrat against the 56 of which are Republican, split the net 52 GOP seats down the middle and count 26 pick-ups for the Dems. Add the net +1 of certain pickups for the Democrats and you get your Democrat gain of 27 seats.
Don't try to get more complicated than that. There are so many close races, in different parts of the country with different nuances, and we can't honestly know how each one is going to turn out. It's a crap-shoot, but, a very exciting, competitive and important election-night crap-shoot that will influence the future course of our nation. Like a game 7 of the World Series that goes about 30 innings. And unlike the Super Bowl or Stanley Cup, exciting suspenseful television, that's actually meaningful. Very meaningful!
Ah, television, you ask? Television? How do you make sense of all the action? Well, fortunately, we have created an election night TV Guide for the House races (Senate guide to come next month). What we've done is listed all the closest races, and ordered them by poll closing, so you know what to watch as the results initially trickle in and spool up into a raging torrent.
The first thing to know is that the earliest poll closings are in Indiana and Kentucky, 6pm local. Note that both of these states are split between Eastern and Central time, so the polls in the smaller western ends of the states close at 7pm Eastern time .
The most important House race in these states - Kentucky's 6th District comprised of Lexington and its surrounds - is wholly contained within the Eastern time zone. This district is widely seen as the first clue of how the whole night could go - a Democrat pick up could point to a wave election in favor of the Democrats capturing the House, while a GOP hold in KY06 could indicate a save by the Republicans.
Two other races to watch early are Indiana's 2nd and 9th Districts. These districts are marginally competitive and we fully expect the Republican incumbents (Walorski and Hollingsworth) to hold them. A hyper-competitive Senate race ensures voter engagement on both sides, so there shouldn't be any flukes in Indiana where one side or another forgets to show up. Margins outside of the 10-15% range for Walorski or 5-10% for Hollingsworth should indicate a good night for the GOP (above the range) or a good night for the Democrats (below the range).
At 7pm the polls close in five more states (FL, VA, GA, as well as VT and SC) bringing the total to seven states reporting. We don't expect surprises in Vermont or South Carolina, and the only marginally competitive seats we see in Georgia are GA07 and GA06. If the GOP loses GA07 it will be a long night; if they lose GA06 it will seem like an eternity.
Florida has two incredibly tantalizing races in the southernmost part of the state, the 26th (the Keys) and 27th (South Beach and South Miami) districts.
You would think that the Keys would be easy for the Republicans, but don't forget “the Keys” includes the end of the line, the Mecca of the Misfits, Key West. If you figuratively pick up America and give it a good shake, those without a firm grip would break free, fall to the bottom, and finally come to a rest in Key West. These aren't your prototypical GOP voters, but overall the Pubs should hold FL26.
The 27th is a different story. Home to liberals from South Beach and “The U” (University of Miami), it should be a layup for the Dems, though it was held forever by the retiring Cuban Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL27). The Democrats nominated tired low-energy 77-year-old Clinton HHS Secretary and later U of M President Donna Shalala, but the Republicans have countered with the energetic telegenic Telemundo TV anchor Maria Elvira Salazar. Keep an eye on this one, but some advice first - turn down the brightness on your device before pulling up an image of Salazar, she's that brilliant; and don't even bother bringing up a mug of Shalala, your screen might crack.
Also of interest in Florida are FL15 and FL16 - these two districts wind from the gulf around the south end of Tampa Bay up the I-4 corridor most of the way toward Orlando. These should be safe for the GOP, but if they flip, that again would presage a disaster with the Dems picking up 50 seats or even more.
And then there's Virginia. Virginia has four districts that together will provide some indicator of where the night is going.
The 10th District in the furthest northern reaches of the state, and its incumbent Barbara Comstock (R-VA10), is considered probably lost, one of those affluent districts dominated by materialistic superficial white people of the sort that loathe Donald Trump. A loss here means little, but even a close race (closer than, say, 55-45) could brighten the moods of Republicans.
The 7th District that includes Richmond is too close to call. This is the district that former Minority Leader Eric Cantor lost in a primary to Professor David Brat. Brat won by 15 pts in 2016, but is seen to be at risk of defeat by Abigail Spanberger. A loss of this district should be worrisome to the Republicans.
Finally, VA02 and VA05. The 2nd District is the easternmost district in the state and it includes the state's entire Atlantic coast, while the 5th runs right down the middle. VA02 Incumbent Scott Taylor won by 20pts in 2016, while VA05's retiring Thomas Garrett won by 15. A defeat served to either one would be devastating for Republicans. Even a close victory would be a bad omen.
AT 7:30 EST the polls close in North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia (bringing the total to ten), and all three states contribute competitive races that will add even more excitement as the suspense builds through the night - and hey, these are just the House races. But don't take your eyes off KY06, FL27/26, or VA07!
In North Carolina the Republican “must-win” district is NC13, a district encompassing Greensboro and most of the territory heading southwest towards Charlotte. NC09, running east from Charlotte along the South Carolina state line to I-95, is considered the GOP's most vulnerable district in the state but they could lose it and still end up holding the House at the end of the night. Two less likely pickup opportunities for the Democrats are offered with NC02 and NC08. The Democrats need at least one pickup in North Carolina to get them close, but to win a workable majority they need to think in terms of two pickups.
Republicans need to hold the status quo in Ohio. No seat is in particular danger at this time, but there are six that are in a position of at least some risk: OH01 (Steve Chabot, Cincinnati suburbs), OH07 (Bob Gibbs, central/northeast rural), OH10 (Michael Turner, Dayton urban-suburban-rural), OH12 (Troy Balderson, northeast Columbus suburban-rural), OH14 (David Joyce, northeast suburban-rural), and OH15 (Steve Stivers, south Columbus suburban-rural). Ideally Republicans should hope to run the table in these six districts; a loss of one would be a survivable wound, but a loss of two or more would be indicative of a greater disaster looming and probably fatal.
Democrats have an outside chance of winning West Virginia's 3rd District. WV03 is presently vacant, the outgoing Congressman Evan Jenkins having been appointed to a judgeship on his state's Supreme Court of Appeals. Polls have been erratic, with Richard Ojeda (D) leading in some with statistically significant margins, while Carrol Miller (R) has lead by even larger margins but in fewer polls. This is a coal country district the Republicans can ill-afford to lose.
At 8:00 pm EST the polls close in 12 state/timezones bringing the total to 22. This is when things get busy for election watchers, and this is when the Democrats are poised to bring the pain. Republicans face serious threats in 4 New Jersey districts (NJ02, NJ03, NJ07, NJ11) and a potential net loss of six Pennsylvania districts.
New Jersey, as we mentioned earlier, NJ02 is as good as lost already, but NJ11 is also on the brink of defeat as well. Keep an eye on the 3rd and 7th districts, if either party claims both races they will be well positioned to take or hold the House. But don't let the Senate race of former biotech CEO Bob Hugin (R-NJ) escape your gaze, if he surges against the very corrupt incumbent Bob Menendez (D-NJ) it may rally GOP turnout and stifle GOP losses in the House.
Pennsylvania has been almost completely re-redistricted by the Democrat controlled Supreme Court, so, not surprisingly, the revised map helps the Dems. A lot! While the new map hands PA14 to The Party of Jobs, it also hands PA05 and PA06 to The Party of Mobs. Dems +1. PA17 is a probable flip (Dems +2), and the mobs can lay a credible claim to PA07 as well (Dems +3). The GOP must hold the line and stem their losses at PA01 or it's Dems +4. But PA10 (Dems +5) is at risk as well and to a lesser extent PA16 (Dems +6). Six flips in one state. The entire evening could all come down to just Pennsylvania.
In other states that close at 8pm Eastern, look for…
Illinois: Dem pick up in IL06, but GOP Holds in IL12, IL13 and IL14.
Kansas: (Really? Kansas?) Coin flip in KS02, a GOP must-win; KS03 is a probable Dem pick up. KS03 is an affluent Kansas City suburb on the west side of the state line, with too many gullible white materialist superficial semi-rich people with less character than money who are perfect targets for the propaganda of Democrat Trump-hating. Like VA10 discussed earlier.
Maine: The wilderness aka the rest of the state (ME02) is up for grabs.
Michigan: If it's a good night for the GOP they hold MI08; on a great night they hold MI11. Tip: the underdog Senate campaign of John James (R) could produce just such a great night in Michigan for the Republicans, 2016 all over again.
Texas: TX07 (west Houston suburbs) and TX32 (northwest Dallas suburbs) are potential Democrat pickups, and to a lesser extent perhaps TX23 (most of the Mexico border).
At 8:30 pm EST the polls close in Arkansas. The Democrats have a slim chance for a pickup in the 2nd District.
At 9:00 pm EST the polls close in 14 state/timezones, most notably Minnesota and New York.
Minnesota: Minnesota is an interesting place, practically the last state where Republicans have not been able - heretofore - to wrest control of rural/farm country from the Democrats, or more correctly, the DFL (aka Democratic-Farmer-Labor). The last two cycles have seen Wisconsin and Iowa fall, and now the Republicans have a chance to pick up MN01 (incumbent Walz is running for governor) and MN08 (incumbent Nolan is retiring), leaving only the ageing Collin Peterson (D-MN07) as the lone relic of a bygone era. Still the Republicans are in danger of simultaneously losing the Minneapolis suburbs of MN02 (south and east) and MN03 (west and northwest).
New York: The GOP holds 9 of New York's 27 districts. While no district is a probable Democrat pick-up, only two of the nine are actually safe for the incumbents, Peter Kings's NY02 (Long Island) and Elise Stefanik's NY21 (the Adirondacks). Most at risk are NY19 (Hudson Valley and the Catskills) and NY22 (Mohawk Valley and the east side of I-81). On a good night for the Dems they pick up at least 2 seats, the GOP will be content if they lose no more than 1 seat
Arizona: The Jobs Party is likely to lose Senate candidate Marth McSally's Tucson area AZ02 to the Mobs Party.
Colorado: Ever see the South Park SoDoSoPa episode? Add the Whole Foods junkies of CO06 to the gullible pathetic materialistic superficial semi-wealthy character-deprived white people of VA10 and KS02 and MN03 who have bought in to the propaganda of the Trump-hating fake news media.
New Mexico: With the retirement of Steve Pearce who is running for Governor, NM02 (southern half of the state) is up for grabs.
At 10:00 EST eight states have poll closings, the most significant of which is Iowa. The Democrats have a better than even shot at picking off Rod Blum's IA01 (northeast including Dubuque and Cedar Rapids), an even shot at David Young's IA03 (southwest including Des Moines), and a longshot at Steven King's IA04 (the northwest including… well… mostly nothing).
At 11:00 EST the polls close in eight states, most notably California. The Democrats have a chance for as many as nine pickups. If they haven't sealed the deal already, it may well be in California where the last remaining hopes of the good ship GOP are dashed upon the rocks. Or for the Dems it might be too late. It's hard to anticipate what might or might not matter at this point, depending on what's already happened.
The districts most vulnerable to a flip are CA39 (Yorba Linda west of LA), CA45 (Orange County) and CA49 (coast from San Clemente and SD). If the Dems are still short by the time the polls close in California, and they don't capture any of those three districts then the GOP may well hold on. The next tier of close races consists of CA10 (Modesto central), CA25 (mountains/interior north of LA), and CA48 (coast between LA and San Clemente). And if the Dems are still short then perhaps CA04 (Yosemite and the Sierra's), CA22 (Visalia central valley) and CA50 (really great cycling) can offer some opportunity but don't bet on it, if it gets to this point for the Democrats then it's too late.
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