Tuesday, November 06, 2018


On the morning of Election Day two years ago, I wrote a post called "I'm Concerned." I was worried about weak Democratic numbers in early voting, and about a few troubling polls. I pointed out that the Real Clear Politics "no tossups" map, in which every state with a tight race was credited to whichever presidential candidate had even a slight lead, showed Hillary Clinton with barely enough electoral votes to win -- 272. And I took seriously Nate Silver's warning that a slight error in the polling could lead to a Donald Trump win in the Electoral College, even though there wasn't much likelihood that he could win the popular vote.

Am I concerned this year? Not as much. I think it's still possible that Democrats won't take the House. However, their odds are better than Clinton's were two years ago, as Nate Silver wrote last night:
An 86 percent chance might seem like a sure thing, but it isn’t — would you board a plane that had a 14 percent chance of crashing?

But an 86 percent chance (or around 6 in 7) — which is the chance that Democrats have of winning the House, give or take a bit in the various versions of the FiveThirtyEight forecast model — is nonetheless a pretty good chance.

... An 86 percent chance is closer to Barack Obama’s odds of winning in 2012 than Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.
Larry Sabato believes that Democrats will win "34 seats in the House, 11 more than the 23 they need." The Cook Political Report says that "a gain of 30 to 40 seats - and House control - is the most likely outcome." The Wason Center for Public Policy anticipates a 45-seat Democratic pickup. Real Clear Politics has the least optimistic scenario for Democrats -- gains of 8 to 46 seats, with the average being 27 seats.

(If I'm pessimistic this year, it takes the form of believing that Democrats will win the House but underperform -- maybe they'll gain only a few more seats than they need, as RCP predicts. If that happens, they need to act as if they won a blowout, the way Republicans did after they lost the popular vote but won the presidency in 2000 and 2016. Democrats won't be outvoted nationwide no matter what, and they need to hold their heads up high however this turns out.)

This year isn't like 2016 primarily because non-habitual Democratic-leaning voters now understand how bad it can be to have Trump and Republicans in charge and seem eager to turn out, and because electing Democrats is more of a popular crusade this year than electing Hillary Clinton was two years ago. (Electing Clinton was a crusade for some voters, but enthusiasm seems more widespread this year.) Except perhaps in the New Jersey Senate race, there isn't a lot of "hold your nose and vote Democrat" voting this year. The excitement is genuine. Some of Hillary Clinton's support in 2016 wasn't firm enough to withstand the late announcement of a reopened email investigation, but Democratic support this year seems strong enough to withstand "Democrat mob" talk and fearmongering about immigration.

But Republicans seem to be motivated as well (although maybe not much more than usual), and they have gerrymandered districts and vote suppression on their side -- the latter not just in Georgia, North Dakota, and Kansas:

I'm pessimistic about the long shots. I won't be surprised if Democrats lose Senate races in North Dakota, Tennessee, Missouri, and, yes, Texas. I'm worried about Indiana, Montana, and Arizona. In the Georgia governor's race, I think Stacey Abrams could absolutely win a fair election, but she's not in a fair election -- my guess is that she won't be allowed to win. I'm less confident about both statewide races in Florida than most Democrats seem to be, because, well, it's Florida.

(And in the House, I regret to say I don't think Steve King will lose.)

But Democrats should win a lot of governorships (I think Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa are winnable) and state legislative seats as well as (I hope) the House. So it should be a good day.


UPDATE: After it made the news, the Border Patrol demonstration in El Paso was canceled, with no explanation given. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, I guess. (Hat tip: Jon Fleming in comments.)

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