Friday, September 18, 2020


I'm feeling fairly good about the Trump-Biden polls, and about the Senate races -- the New York Times/Siena College polls has more good numbers today from Maine, Arizona, and North Carolina.

But I'm concerned about the House. Right now FiveThirtyEight says Democrats have a 6.4% generic-ballot lead; on September 21, 2018, Democrats had a lead of 8.8%, and their final lead was 8.7%. (I chose September 21 because Election Day was three days later in 2018 than it will be in 2020.) At Real Clear Politics, the Democrats' generic-ballot lead is now 5.7%. On September 21, 2018, it was 8.0%, and the final number was 7.3%.

Because of the way Republican state legislators have gerrymandered many House districts -- packing large numbers of Democrats in some districts and distributing large but non-majority concentrations of Democrats acrossd multiple districts, both of which dilute the Democratic vote -- Democrats usually need far more than a simple majority of the overall House vote to retain the House. In 2018, there were a number of estimates of the margin Democrats need to win the House:

... a report from the Brennan Center for Justice reignited the debate over exactly how much Democrats would need to win by, in order to retake control of the House. “To attain a bare majority,” Brennan’s Laura Royden, Michael Li, and Yurij Rudensky wrote, “Democrats would likely have to win the national popular vote by nearly 11 points.”

... there have been quibbles about the actual numbers. [Alan] Abramowitz [of Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball] thinks the Democrats will need to win by at least 4 points, Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report thinks that Democrats will need to win by 7.

The Federal Election Commission says that Democrats beat Republicans 52.55% to 43.93%, an 8.62% margin. Democrats won 54% of the vote that went to major-party candidates, and they won 54% of the seats (235 out of 435) -- they appear to have overcome the GOP's gerrymandering advantage by winning a lot of close races.

But if their overall advantage is smaller this year, they'll probably lose some seats. They'll still hold the House by a comfortable margin, but there'll be slippage.

Why is this happening? I think the Democratic wave election in 2018 happened because voting for a Democratic House member seemed like a way to stick it to Donald Trump. This year, however, the best way to stick it to Trump is to vote against Trump. There's less focus on the House.

But I also think the Democratic Party isn't selling its brand very well. The Biden campaign continues to direct our attention to Republicans who are defecting to Biden, as if Democrats aren't worthy of a vote unless they have a Republican imprimatur.

In addition, I'm sure that Trump fans are more engaged than they were prior to the 2018 election. Also, Republicans are denouncing the Democratic Party even more vigorously than usual (a high standard).

If Democrats won't praise their own party in the midst of a "Democrats will destroy America!" propaganda onslaught, they probably will lose a few seats in the House. Biden has managed to individualize his race, and Democratic Senate candidates in competitive contests seem to have individualized theirs, but what's shaping up to be a good election overall for the party's candidates might not be nearly as good for the party in the House, or for the party's reputation.

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