Monday, October 2, 2017

Today's Useful Data: Using Virginia's House of :Delegates Races to Foretell the Democrats' Future

What can the 2017 elections tell us about 2018? To be sure one must be cautious here, but David Wasserman of Cook Political Report proposes an interesting metric to keep track of: who Democrats do in the elections to the Virginia House of Delegates, all of whom are up for election in 2017. Here you have 100 races in a purple state where turnout should be reasonably high due to the governor's race. This avoids the the confounding factor of very low turnout that we've seen in a number of legislative special elections where the Democrats have done well. Wasserman notes:
Democrats aren't likely to pick up the chamber: they currently hold just 34 seats and would need to gain 17 to win control. Hillary Clinton did carry 17 seats held by Republicans last fall, but many of those are located in transient outer suburbs where Democratic-leaning minorities and young voters tend not to vote in off years. Moreover, Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam isn't blowing out Gillespie, so down-ballot Democrats may not be riding long coattails.
Still, if Democrats managed to pick off 10 or more GOP-held seats, it would send a signal that voters are in the mood to punish President Trump and Republicans - a mirror image of the GOP legislative gains in 2009 that foreshadowed Republicans taking back the House in 2010.
More specifically, Wasserman proposes the following metric for the VA House of Delegates results:

  • < 5 seat Democratic gain--GOP rest easy
  • 5-10 seat Democratic gain--Democrats are at least in contention for taking back the House
  • 10-15 seat Democratic gain--Democrats look on track to regain the House majority
  • 15+ seat Democratic gain--wave election time!
Wasserman provides a handy scorecard of the possible pickups to help you keep track on election night. To be honest, I don't really have a clear sense of how predictive these results will actually be in the end, but I certainly think it's worth paying attention to. And probably more so than all the heavy breathing we'll see about the AL Senate and VA governor results.

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