Friday, October 26, 2018

Election Predictions, with Bob Dylan Goodness

So, will the Republicans find themselves tangled up in blue, or is it all over now, baby blue?

In a September Thanks For Asking! thread, Darryl W. Perry asked:

do you want to make any predictions (can be specific or vague) about the upcoming mid-term elections?

Some high points from my reply, which you can read in its original entirety at the link if you really want to:

  • [I]t is normal for the party that holds the White House to lose seats in the midterms. So I will predict Democratic gains in Congress.
  • I do not, however, predict anything that would amount to a "Blue Wave."
  • I do not expect the Democrats to take the Senate. In fact, there's a real possibility they will lose seats on net.
  • [The Democrats] need to pick up 24 seats to take the House. They might do that (they picked up more than that in 2006 and 2008, and the GOP picked up more than that in 2010). But if they do I think it will be just barely.

The "blue wave" talk in the mainstream political media was just beginning to take a stumble when I wrote that. Why?

Well, it could be the usual "we have to sound desperate to Get Out The Vote" tactic that parties pull even when they know they have it in the bag (for example, the outcome of Clinton v. Dole in 1996 was never in serious doubt, but the Democratic strategy was to pretend that it was so as to get their base alarmed and off its ass; and the Republicans, of course, pretended Dole had a chance for the same reason).

Or it could be that they sobered up and looked at the actual numbers.

As of today, 538 -- which hasn't done nearly as good a job as I do at picking overall outcomes over the last decade or so -- forecasts a one in six chance of the Democrats taking the Senate and a five in six chance of the Republicans keeping control of the Senate, with an 80% chance that the outcome will wall within the range of "Democrats gain two seats" and "Republicans gain four seats."

I think 538 is probably getting it right this time.

Here's the problem for Democrats:

Of the 35 Senate seats up for election (33 normal, two special elections), 26 are currently held by Democrats and only nine by Republicans.

To put it a different way, Republicans only have nine seats to defend, leaving them free to attack those other 26, while Democrats have to defend 26 seats and only have nine places to go on the attack.

The Democrats are almost certainly going to lose a seat in North Dakota, are very likely to lose a seat in Missouri, and are quite possibly going to lose seats in Montana and Indiana. As of the thread above, I also had Florida in play, but at the moment I'm expecting it to stay Democratic. So let's call it four seats that they may lose.

How many currently Republican seats might they gain? 538 has Arizona and Nevada in the toss-up category. I think the GOP will almost certainly hold Arizona and am skeptical that the Democrats can take Nevada. But even if Democrats win both those states, that's a net loss of two seats.

I could be completely wrong here, but you know how I am. I'm going to go ahead and call it and then see if I'm right or wrong. I think it will be a GOP net gain of four seats.

As always, it comes down to "who gets the vote out best."

It was already looking to me like the Republicans were going to win on that metric when I replied to the Thanks For Asking! question. To the degree that the midterms were a referendum on Donald Trump, his base still loved him and was going to go vote because he told them to, while the Democrats still seemed attached to the stump-stupid idea that whining about !Them Russians! beating Hillary Clinton two years ago would get their people out.

The "October surprises" don't seem likely to change the equation. I think that Trump is having better luck scaring the bejebus out of his base with the "caravan" nonsense than the Democrats are having or are going to have with anything they've done or are likely to do.

In fact, I suspect that the likely Democratic strategy for the next two weeks -- screeching that the Trump base is pretty much entirely composed of people who mail pipe bombs to Democratic politicians -- will help the Republicans more than it helps the Democrats on GOTV terms.

I do expect Florida to stay blue at both the US Senate level and for governor, because:

  • For Senate, Floridians just seem far more tired of two-term governor Rick Scott, the GOP nominee, than they are of Bill Nelson, the three-term Democratic incumbent. They both suck, but the suck is especially strong with Scott.
  • For governor, the Democrats nominated a corrupt African-American southern mayor (Andrew Gillum) and the Republicans nominated a nutzoid racist creep (Ron DeSantis). That's a tough call, since southern voters seem to love both corrupt mayors and nutzoid racist creeps. But I'm betting that 1) two terms of Rick Scott has worn out the GOP's welcome in the governor's mansion for a term or two, and 2) the African-American vote will turn out big (not just for Gillum, but also for a ballot measure aiming to restore former felons' voting rights, denial of which has been a tool to suppress the African-American vote since Reconstruction). I also suspect, or at least hope, that the nutzoid racist creep factor will drive a some "moderate Republican" votes away from the GOP and to my friend Darcy Richardson, the Reform Party's nominee.

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