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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Election Eve Forecasts and Assessments: Democratic Prospects Still Look Very Good

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Democratic supporters are as nervous as a long-tailed cat in room full of rocking chairs! (I’m sure some of you saw the hilarious SNL skit on Democrats’ lack of confidence.) Besides the intrinsic uncertainty of the day before an election, no doubt nerves are fraying due to some prominent media stories suggesting Democratic chances may be slipping.

These stories mostly seem to be based on the idea that a lot of races are still close and, if an unexpected number don’t go the Democrats’ way, it might be a disappointing evening for the party. Well, true enough. But I think the preponderance of evidence still points to a very good night for the Democrats. (FWIW, 538 now has the Democrats’ House-flipping probability at 88 percent.)

Here are three excellent forecasts/assessments that support this view and provide a lot of very useful information.

1. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball released their final 2018 picks. They see Democrats taking the House with an estimated 34 seat pickup (interestingly, this is exactly the average of the quantitative model-based estimates I previously covered). They also see the Democrats doing very well in governors’ races.

House: “Our ratings changes leave 229 seats at least leaning to the Democrats and 206 at least leaning to the Republicans, so we are expecting the Democrats to pick up more than 30 seats (our precise ratings now show Democrats netting 34 seats in the House, 11 more than the 23 they need). We have long cautioned against assuming the House was a done deal for the Democrats, and we don’t think readers should be stunned if things go haywire for Democrats tomorrow night. That said, it may be just as likely — or even more likely — that we’re understating the Democrats in the House. Many of our sources on both sides seemed to think the Democratic tally would be more like +35 to 40 (or potentially even higher) when we checked in with them over the weekend.”

Senate: “Because of the bad map Democrats faced this year, the GOP picking up seats always seemed like a possibility, even a strong possibility. Our final ratings reaffirm this potential; we have 52 Senate seats at least leaning to the Republicans, and 48 at least leaning to the Democrats. If that happened, the GOP would net a seat.

The potential GOP gain would come from places that make sense: We have them favored in three of the five strongly Republican states that have Democratic senators running for reelection: Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota. Meanwhile the two Republican-held seats where we now favor Democrats, Arizona and Nevada, are much more competitive states at the presidential level and thus are susceptible to Democratic takeovers in a challenging environment for Republicans.

The reasonable range of outcomes in the Senate still seems fairly wide, with a bigger GOP gain possible, or no gain at all or even a Democratic gain. The Democrats still essentially have no path to the majority without winning one of these three states: North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas, and the Republicans retain what appear to be edges in all three.”

Governors: “Right now, the Republicans hold 33 governorships, the Democrats just 16, and an independent, Bill Walker holds Alaska. Our ratings suggest the Democrats could net 10 governorships, while the GOP could lose nine (we favor Republicans to pick up Alaska, which throws off the net change statistic a little bit). That does not include Georgia, where we are maintaining a unique “Toss-up/Leans Runoff” rating in anticipation of a possible runoff on Dec. 4 if neither major party candidate gets a majority. If the runoff happens, just think about how much money former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) might raise from the Democrats’ hyper-active small donor network. This is something that concerns Republicans if there’s a runoff.

More than half of the Democratic pickups could come in the Midwest. While we think the GOP could claw back one or two of these states — Iowa, Kansas, and Wisconsin are the picks we’re the least confident in – we thought the data and the year’s overall trends pointed to the Democrats in each of these states individually. Besides the national environment, there may just be a fatigue with eight years of conservative GOP rule in places like Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, particularly in a time of conservative governance in Washington. The public is idiosyncratic and often wants what it doesn’t have; the same dynamic helped Trump win many states in the Midwest after eight years of a liberal Democratic president.”

2. Analyst Henry Olsen published his midterm memo on the National Review site. Olsen is one of the most astute handicappers on the conservative side and he does not see a good might ahead for his side. Worth reading in its entirety though YMMV on his encomium to Ronald Reagan at the end.

“Tomorrow the RINOs will take their revenge and Republicans are going to take a beating in the House and the governorships.

Conservatives love animals, but there is one species they have long wanted to make extinct: the RINO. Not the horned African rhino, mind you, but rather the hoity-toity political RINO — Republicans in Name Only. Movement types have long been enraged by RINOs’ cool attitude toward tax cutting and social conservatism and their willingness to cooperate with, and occasionally vote for, Democrats. Hunting RINO officeholders during primary season has been the Club for Growth’s primary mission for years, and together with activist muscle, the group has successfully pushed the party to the right….

Tuesday…is going to be the RINOs’ revenge. Romney-loving RINOs are coming out of their preserves with fire in their hearts and a gleam in their eyes. They are decked out in hunting gear of their own, and their prey is the Trump-backing, change-seeking GOP. They might not be able to win primaries anymore, but in league with their new friends, the Democrats, they are eager to take down some big game of their own. And they will.

The new Democrat–RINO alliance is going to retake the House, sweep the GOP out of governor’s mansions in most purple states, and end the careers of hundreds of suburban state legislators. In the Senate, it will most likely hold Republicans to a one- or two-seat gain despite an incredibly favorable map — and may even win the Democrats a seat. Come Wednesday, the RINOs will mount their trophies on their walls and resolve to continue the hunt until the big game is caught: the orange-plumed woodpecker from Queens.

Senate Breakdown

• 52 Republicans, 48 Democrats (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats).

• States switching to the Democrats: NV, AZ.

• States switching to the Republicans: ND, MO, IN.

House Breakdown

• 209 Republicans, 226 Democrats. This is a gain of 32 seats for the Democrats; a plausible range is that they will gain 25 to 40. Anywhere in that range, Republicans will lose control of the chamber…..

Governors Breakdown

• 25 Republicans, 25 Democrats. This is a gain of nine governorships for the Democrats.

• States switching to the Democrats: FL, OH, NV, MI, NM, ME, IL, WI, IA.

• State switching to the Republicans (from an independent): AK.”

3. Perry Bacon, Jr. has an very detailed rundown on all the competitive governors’ races on 538. A lot of great data and tables in this article. Again, this analyst sees big gains for the Democrats in governorships.

“The big story about the 36 governors races this year is that Democrats are very likely to win control of several governorships from Republicans — and the GOP may not pick up any from Democrats. Indeed, it’s almost certain that more Americans will have a Democratic governor than a Republican governor in 2019. According to FiveThirtyEight’s “Classic” forecast,1 195 million Americans will have a Democratic governor after the 2018 elections, compared to 134 million with a Republican one. Democrats are forecasted to control 24 states, on average; Republicans to control 26. (Currently, 33 states have Republican governors, 16 states have Democratic governors and one (Alaska) an independent.)

If the election goes as expected, the GOP’s grip on policy at the state level is likely to be severely weakened. According to Ballotpedia, about 48 percent of Americans currently live in states where Republicans have total control of the state government,2 compared to 21 percent where Democrats have full control. (The rest live under divided government at the state level.) If things go according to our governors’ forecast, the Republican number will decline to about 32 percent and the Democratic number will increase to about 26 percent — and that’s not even considering expected gains by Democrats in state legislatures.”

All for now. Next stop: analysis of actual results!

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