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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his latest update on the midterm elections, Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight: “In fact, Democrats had a string of excellent special election and ballot referendum results in which they met or exceeded their polling. If you’d held the midterms in late August, I’d have bet heavily on Democrats to win the Senate. It sure would be nice to have another special election or two now, and to see how these polling shifts translate into real results. Polls can sometimes change for reasons that don’t reflect the underlying reality of the race, such as because of partisan nonresponse bias or pollster herding….And certainly, Democrats have plenty of paths to retain the Senate. Republicans don’t have any sure-fire pickups; Nevada is the most likely, and even there, GOP chances are only 53 percent, according to our forecast. Meanwhile, Democrat John Fetterman is still ahead in polls of Pennsylvania, although his margin over Republican Mehmet Oz has narrowed. The model is likely to be quite sensitive to new polling in Pennsylvania going forward. If Democrats gain a seat there, meaning that the GOP would need to flip two Democratic-held seats to take the chamber, that starts to become a tall order. Nevada, sure, but I’m not sure Republicans would want to count on Herschel Walker in Georgia or Blake Masters in Arizona….But the bottom line is this: If you’d asked me a month ago — or really even a week ago — which party’s position I’d rather be in, I would have said the Democrats. Now, I honestly don’t know.”

At The Nation, Joan Walsh gives a proper bashing to that New York Times/Siena poll that has pundits mumbling about a Republican surge in the closing weeks the midterm elections: “The decisive “tell” that the poll was flawed was its finding that women are splitting their votes evenly between Republicans and Democrats. “Do you really believe just months after losing a fundamental right, women will split their votes [between Republicans and Democrats]?” Bonier asks. “Have we ever since the ’90s had a situation where women didn’t vote more Democratic than men did?” pollster Anna Greenberg asked rhetoricallyin The New Republic….Lake was more scathing: “There isn’t another poll in America that shows that,” she says. “If I did an outlier poll like that for a candidate, I’d have to do it over again at my own expense.” The Times should have tossed its October findings and started over, she says….The best “polls” are of course actual elections, and Democrats have outperformed expectations in most of them this summer, thanks largely to increased turnout among women and young voters. In the special election for New York’s 19th Congressional District in August, there was a seven-point gender gap favoring Democrat Pat Ryan; Joe Biden’s edge among women in 2020 was only four and a half points. “I’m not aware of a single poll in that race that predicted a seven-point gender gap,” Bonier says. Voter registration is surging among women and young voters, he adds. That doesn’t translate to turnout, however, pollsters are quick to admit. Without targeted intervention, many newly registered voters may not show up in November….The biggest flaw in the poll, which was sadly the fact most hyped by mainstream journalists, was that alleged 32-point swing among “independent women” to Republicans. It’s based on 95 women, and its margin of error is at least 10 points.”

Louis Jacobsen shares a bit of good news for Democrats in “The (Updated) Battle for the Statehouses” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and notes “In what we expect to be our final pre-election look at the nation’s legislatures, we are shifting our ratings for 7 chambers. We are moving 5 chambers in the Democrats’ direction, while 2 move in the Republicans’ direction….It’s important not to read too much into the imbalance in these shifts favoring the Democrats. The shifts reflect 2 major changes in the political environment since our last handicapping, which was published in May: the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and GOP primaries that anointed polarizing candidates aligned with former President Donald Trump for key top-of-the-ballot contests….Overall, the landscape for competitive state legislative chambers this year is fairly neutral, with Republicans playing defense in 7 of the 15 chambers we see as competitive and Democrats playing defense in 8. The Toss-up category includes 7 chambers, 3 currently held by Republicans and 4 held by Democrats….Several of the key battleground states with high-profile statewide races also have competitive legislative chambers, such as Arizona, Michigan, and Nevada.” Jacobsen provides detailed info on legislative races in nine key states.

“There are new tea leaves to read: now we have initial early voting data — what people are actually doing, rather than what they say they will do and what political observers think they will do,” Psychbob writes at Daily Kos. “A good review of early numbers, particularly in Georgia, can be found here.  The short version for Georgia is that total early voting (in-person and mail-in) is well ahead of where it was in 2018, the last midterm, but well behind 2020. Of course 2020 was a presidential election year, which always brings a higher turnout, but in addition 2020 had a huge mail-in vote and this election does not (the mail-in vote has dropped an eye-popping 90%+). So bad news for Democrats? Well, no. The 2018 midterms were quite successful for Democrats, and the total early vote in GA is running nearly 200,000 ahead of that election. The % of vote attributable to Black voters is running ahead of 2018 (good for Democrats) and the female vote is outnumbering the male vote (also good for Democrats). Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania (where there still is a lot of voting by mail) ballots from registered Democrats are outpacing those from Republicans 73.1% to 19.4%. This is exactly what Fetterman and PA Democrats need — a very large advantage in early votes banked. In another summary across PA and 4 additional states, the Democratic share of the early vote is outpacing 2020, by margins ranging from 1 pt (in Ohio) to 11 pts (in Michigan). From last week, also check out this summary of why 2022 could turn out to be another record-setting year for midterm turnout. There is no certainty that early voting/mail-in advantages will remain as strong or that they will be enough to overcome the expected GOP advantage on election day, but there is nothing in this early data that should alarm Democrats, and some room for optimism.”

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