2016 Election Preview & Predictions: Part Two – Congressional Elections

current-congressional-makeup
Current Congressional makeup (114th Congress)

The Battle for the US Senate

As it stands right now:

47 GOP – 47 Dem/Independent Caucusing Dem – 6 Toss Up


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Easy Dem pick-ups in WI and IL, and a hold in CO.

The Balance in the Senate will be decided by these six states:

NH  Incumbent Republican Senate Kelly Ayotte has benefitted from the last week and widened her lead but it is still within the margin of error. (Republican hold)

PA  Katie McGinty has surged the last few weeks in what looked like another missed opportunity for a Democratic pick-up, now looks like a win that should be just outside the margin of error. (Democratic pick-up, now up to 49 seats).

NC – A tough call. Polls show a neck and neck race between incumbent Richard Burr and challenger Deborah Ross, who has ran a good race. I’ll split the difference here with the Presidential neck and neck race in NC and say it’s a hold. (Republican hold)

IN  Another retread candidate because Democratic boomers must hold onto power until the end of time and younger folks are only needed for a vote every 4 years (but not every 2) and to be foot soldiers in #ForeverWars, but I digress. Evan Bayh is boring and if he runs for President in 2024 he should be ignored because 1.) the Democratic Party and the United States should reject political dynasties of every form, and 2.) he won’t win. That being said, while Bayh is a poor fit for the country that actually exists now, he is a great fit for the state of Indiana as it exists right now. He will win, but not by as much as he used to. (Democratic pick-up, now up to 50 seats).

MO – Jason Kander is exactly the type of candidate the Dems should be running in every state, from safe to toss-up. Younger. A veteran. But he has received little help from the Clinton campaign, despite all their talk of “party-building.” He needed the resources, and did not get enough from the national party. What he did get will be too little, too late. Furthermore, he was not helped at the top of the ticket in Missouri. The Clinton camp could have targeted it and expanded their map but they did not, but would that have even helped? More likely, it could have hurt. Clinton is not popular in Missouri and Kander, currently MO Secretary of State, is running ahead of Clinton in polls by double digit margins. So perhaps a smart strategic play by the Clinton campaign but still… where are the resources? Where is the party-building? (Republican hold, but just barely)

NV – Al Franken 2.0 but eventually decided in favor of Joe Heck (R) to give the GOP 51 seats and a narrow Senate majority. Nevada is notoriously difficult to poll and if demographics that favor Hillary strongly show up down-ballot, then Catherine Mastro will win and with the Presidency itself give the Democrats a slim VP tie-breaking majority. However, polls have been trending the way of Joe Heck in the past week and the top of the ticket may not be as much help as previously thought. (Republican pick-up, back down to 49 seats).

The Democrats end up gaining 3 seats in the Senate but come up short. I guess this means Chuck Schumer could be permanent Senate Minority Leader after all. The driving reason I do not think the Democrats will pick up the Senate on Tuesday is the same reason Hillary Clinton will win: there are just too many close races that need to break the Democrats way and too many upsets or slight upsets for me to predict with any sort of confidence, that the Senate will change hands. If the Democrats do pick up the Senate, it will be by the slimmest of margins. I think they’ll come up painfully short, just like Cleveland did last night.

This gives us a final Senate Map of:


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Opportunities for a pick-up left on the table:

  1. Florida (the GOP owes Rubio now that he agreed to run for re-election when he wanted to be done and out of the Senate, and it increases the likelihood that they clear the field in 2020 for him to run again.)
  2. Ohio (Another retread candidate of the Democrats, who have been running way too many of them which underscores that the Democrats have no bench or farm system, and that Boomer control of the party leadership and most positions could very well eventually doom this party that supposedly is demographically assured the future.)

 

The Difficult 2018 midterm Senate Map ahead:

The Democrats will be defending seats in North Dakota, Montana, Missouri, West Virginia, and Indiana all while facing the prospect of a third consecutive midterm backlash to a historic Democratic President.

The Light Skirmish for the US House

GOP – 238

DEM – 197 (9 seats gained by the Democrats)

US House Races to watch: 

Key DEM pickups:

NY-19 (Zephyr Teachout), a model for what needs to happen the next few cycles down-ballot. Teachout is an academic in the Paul Wellstone-mold, she ran statewide and challenged incumbent Democratic Governor Cuomo from the left, with the endorsement of the Working Families Party (who normally cross-endorse with the state Democratic Party). She did very well in that primary against Cuomo by New York statewide election standards, especially upstate, and her victory by a few points in the 19th represents the ideal Democrat team lefty should be electing in reliably blue states like New York and California.

MN-2 (Angie Craig), the only major difference between what I generally predicted at the end of 2015 for the 2016 political year is in the Minnesota 2nd. Where Jason Lewis has ran a despicable Junior Donald Trump-style campaign and Angie Lewis and her campaign team has had everything break their way. Unlike Clinton, Craig has had a blank slate to define herself and continue to define Lewis as a candidate. While outside money has started to pour in and negative attack ads have started against Craig, she has impressed me with her personal brand of retail politics and is exactly the sort of candidate the state and national Democratic Party should continue recruiting for the purple suburban and exurban districts. This will be a Democratic pick-up in the House but will be a tough one to hold onto during the 2018 midterms.

The lone GOP pickup: FL-2

 

Update on the Presidential Campaign and the News of the Last Week:

For the last year I have said margin of error on the ALC2C and MoE (ha!) podcasts, then decided to be influenced too much be current polling. I’ll stick with it though and lay in my bed because of the Clinton ground campaign being vastly superior. As a reminder of what I said would happen:


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Yes, the last week was brutal, but anyone who doesn’t think this is fake scandal wasn’t going to vote for Hillary anyway. These numbers are more likely being driven by three other factors:

  1. Bad news coming out about premiums rising on the state exchanges and low approvals for the ACA
  2. Gary Johnson supporters who are Republicans coming home to their party, as I predicted they would in the last week (the day I put that up Hillary was up by 7-8 points in aggregate polling, by the time FBI email narrative emerged, that lead was already down to 5 points)
  3. The Media desires the “surge” narrative because of their long-standing bias favoring not the left or right, but rather sensationalism and conflict.

That being said, here is where I am most nervous:

  1. Florida
  2. North Carolina
  3. Utah (this was always a stretch though, based more off of something I wanted to see happen)

I already thought Iowa and Ohio were losses. If she loses FL and NC (along with Trump holding Utah against Evan McMullin) there is still a firewall (seen below).


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

That is if polling trends continue (worst case scenario for the Clinton camp, I stick with my initial predictions that FL and NC hold). The Clinton firewall then becomes Virginia and Colorado, where polling has Clinton up just outside the margin of error. It’s hard to see those states tightening further, but if they do. If EITHER of them do, then the unthinkable has happened and Donald Trump will narrowly become President via the electoral college, likely while losing the popular vote. I do not bring up Nevada even though polls are tightening there because if Nevada votes for Trump, Clinton still wins. Furthermore, if New Hampshire closes dramatically (a moot point because if it does then both Colorado and Virginia are likely in play anyway and it’s a long night) AND Nevada goes for Trump you have the rare 269-269 tie with Clinton popular vote victory, Prime Minister (yes that is a deliberate typo) Paul Ryan oversees voting Trump in as President, and we have a constitional crisis on our hands. None of that will happen but I thought I’d point it out.

Here is what you really need to watch for.

Trump needs either Colorado or Virginia. Those are the tipping point states in the United States right now. They are also states that used to reliably vote Republican that have voted Democratic since the 2006 midterms (for the most part).

I also bring up Virginia because it is one of the first states to report results.

Here is what to look for right off the bat next week:

Virginia will have GOP-heavy precincts reporting before the D.C. suburbs. It will show Trump up. Do not freak out Democrats. This is normal. Obama was down by 5 early on in Virginia in 2008 and ended up easily carrying the state. If Hillary is down early by these margins that is normal. If she is down by more than 5 early on, you have cause to panic a bit. If her support lags with African-Americans and millennials like many indicators are showing, that will depress Northern Virginia turnout and could make that state uncomfortably close. What is most important is taking a blue-trending state and observing that it is under-performing and distilling from that one of the major points I wanted to drive home last week — turnout will be down and early voting indications are that Black and Millennial early voting is down in key battleground states. Those were the two vital parts to the Obama coalition in 2008 and 2012. While one could counter that Hispanic early voting numbers are strong for Clinton, half of the nations Hispanic population lives in California and Texas. Two states that have not been in play in a long time. Remember low turnout is what doomed the Democrats in the 2014 midterms.


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

If Virginia goes that way, look to Colorado. Colorado is another symbol of the Obama coalition. If Colorado is too close to call all night, Hillary is going to lose, because if everything trends relatively equally, New Hampshire and the Maine CD will be in play. This is very symbolic what just about the only thing that has changed in this nation. Back in 2004, we knew if President Bush did not carry Colorado that John Kerry won. In 2016, we know that if Secretary Clinton does not carry Colorado that Donald Trump has won. Same hopelessly divided and politically gridlocked country, slightly different state outcomes – with the Upper Midwest and Appalachia trending Republican against the swing, and the Mountain Southwest and East Coast trending Democratic.

Simply put, don’t worry too much.

Hillary has the advantage even if polls keep tightening for the same reasons President Obama had the advantage over Mitt Romney. HRC has many paths to 270 and Trump has one or two, which as you can tell from what I wrote above, take some mental gymnastics to pull off. Those two paths are winning NH (which has tightened as well) to get to a 269-269 tie, and having Prime Minister Paul Ryan and the House Republicans break the tie in the favor of Trump. Or he can win NH and pick up one of the Maine Congressional Districts. Both of these paths would likely involve losing the popular vote by a larger margin than Bush lost it to Gore in 2000.

Which brings me back to the only thing that matters. Turnout. I said last week this will be the lowest turnout since the 2000 election. Since that article, the last round of the email scandal has push Hillary Clinton’s favorable rating to -12, while Trump is at -18. It is incredibly hard to imagine a scenario where more people vote for either Clinton or Trump than voted for President Obama.

And on a personal note I very much wanted to use this space to talk about the Congressional elections, and only half of it has been about that. The 2016 Presidential Election has been a corrosive and insidious force on our body politic. It will end (hopefully) on Tuesday, but the forces that set it in motion will continue.

Keep calm and carry on. 

-TMO

 

 

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