Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In the Immortal Words of Jim Morrison, "The Midwest Is the Best"

Well, actually it was "the west is the best", but I'm sure Mr. Morrison wouldn't mind this slight alteration. Anyway, evidence continues to accumulate that Democrats will do exceptionally well in the midwest this year. From an excellent Perry Bacon Jr. article on 538:
"During the Obama years, Republicans won total control of the state government in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Then, on Election Day in 2016, Hillary Clinton narrowly lost in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — states Democrats had won at the presidential level for more than two decades. She was easily defeated in Iowa and Ohio, which had tended to be close.2 Clinton barely won in Minnesota, another state where Democrats are usually strong. Post-election, there was a lot of doom and gloom about the Democratic Party’s prospects in the Midwest, with both nonpartisan analysts and even some party strategists suggesting the party needed a dramatic overhaul or risk losing in this region, which will be packed with white, working-class voters, for the foreseeable future.
Never mind all that now. Democrats are looking strong in the Midwest — it is by some measures the region where they are likely to make their biggest gains this November."
Why the comeback? Bacon lists several reasons but surely this is one of them most important and one to which Democrats should be paying close attention:
"[N[ational polls suggest that white voters without college degrees favor Republicans in 2018, but the margin between the two parties is likely to narrow compared to 2016, when Clinton lost that bloc by more than 30 percentage points. That shift has outsized influence in the Midwest, which has higher populations of white voters without college degrees than many other parts of the country. So the Democrats’ problem with white working-class voters may not be as severe as it looked on Election Day 2016 — which perhaps had more to do with the conditions in that election than the party overall. What we are seeing in 2018 suggests that working-class whites are not a single national bloc, but still vote much differently by state and region. Working-class whites in Southern states like Georgia and Texas are overwhelmingly opposed to Democratic candidates in key races this year, but they are less GOP-leaning in Midwest states like Ohio and Wisconsin."
Also, women voters are likely to play a huge role in Democratic breakthroughs, if they come. Jim Grossfeld has an excellent, detailed article up on The American Prospect site about women candidates and voters in Michigan. It is indeed a heartening tale.
"[W]omen make up two-thirds of the Democratic challengers in races for the Republican dominated Michigan House, where Republicans currently outnumber Democrats 110 to 63, and women hold only 33 seats. Women also won just under half of the Democratic nominations for the state Senate, where Republicans now hold a 27-to-11 super-majority. There, men outnumber women by a staggering 34 to four. More than half of the Democrats running for Michigan’s U.S. House seats are women, too.
And at the top of the ticket, the Democratic nominees for the four principal statewide offices are all women: Gretchen Whitmer for governor, Dana Nessel for attorney general, Jocelyn Benson for secretary of state, and incumbent U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow."
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During the Obama years, Republicans won total control of the state government in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Then, on Election Day in 2016, Hillary C…

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Young Voters in 2018

If you haven't taken a look yet at the Harvard Institute of Politics poll of 18-29 year-olds, it's worth checking out. The finding that has gotten the most attention is the relatively high level of enthusiasm expressed for voting this cycle by young voters. But there's a lot of other interesting stuff besides, including some for you democratic socialism fans:
"Young Americans are significantly more likely to vote in the upcoming midterm elections compared to 2010 and 2014. Overall, 40 percent report that they will "definitely vote" in the midterms, with 54 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of Independents considered likely voters. As young Republicans have become more engaged, the preference among likely voters for Democrats to control Congress has decreased from a 41-point advantage in the IOP April 2018 poll to a 34-point lead today (66%-32%).
President Trump's job approval among young Americans stands at 26 percent, with no statistical difference between all Americans under 30 and likely voters. Eleven percent (11%) reported that they are "sure to" re-elect the President in 2020 if he is on the ballot, eight percent (8%) indicate that there is "a good chance," nine percent (9%) say that it is "possible," nine percent (9%) say it is "unlikely," and 59 percent say they "will never" vote for him.
The IOP poll, the 36th release in a series dating back to 2000, also indicates strong levels of support among young Americans under 30 for a federal jobs guarantee (56% support, 63% among likely voters), eliminating tuition and fees at public colleges and universities for students from families that make up to $125,000 (56% support, 62% among likely voters), and for Single Payer Health Care (55% support, 67% among likely voters)....
When only likely voters are polled, we find slightly more support for democratic socialism (53%) than capitalism (48%); socialism trails both by a significant margin (39%)."
My, my, now I would not have predicted that last finding. But before we conclude that today's youth are ready to socialize the means of production, I think we should more reasonably interpret this as indicating there is a phrase--"democratic socialism"--that currently sounds good to lots of young people, even if they don't have a clear idea of what it really means. And if they do, it's probably a lot closer to standard social democratic ideas than more radical notions that are sometimes associated with democratic socialism.
Still--it's pretty amazing that there is this level of positive response. Clearly, considering an alternative to today's model of capitalism has become a quite legitimate view among those under 30. And that's basically a very good thing.
The other thing I'll say about this poll is that I looked at the age breakdown on various questions in the poll, which allow you to compare the responses of 18-24 year olds and 25-29 year olds. On key questions like party identification, midterm voting preference and views of Trump there's very little difference between the older and younger group. This is important since it indicates that the youngest Millennials plus the first batch of Post-Millennials (half of the 18-24 group) are no less liberal politically than the older Millennials who have exhibited such distinctly progressive tendencies. That in turn means that there will be no let-up for the Republicans as younger generations continue to replace older ones in the electorate.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Antidotes to Campaign Nervousness

I get it. You're nervous. Nothing's for certain. It could all go wrong, Etc, etc, etc.
On one level of course you're perfectly right. Taking back the House and other Democratic gains aren't for certain. It could indeed go wrong. But.....the stubborn fact remains that the situation continues to look good and there's no obvious reason to be pessimistic at this point. Read this excellent Josh Marshall piece to help you calm down.
And then read the long Jonathan Martin/Alexander Burns piece in the Times about the ever-expanding House playing field and how stretched the GOP is trying to defend more and more seats.
Nothing's for certain but some outcomes are far more likely than others.
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Pilots know that in a storm or in any instruments-only flying situation you watch your instruments rather than your perceptions...

Friday, October 26, 2018

House Control Check-In

Well, there's been a spate of stories about nervous Democrats fearing a 2018 surprise, just like the 2016 surprise, along with reports of some races tightening, making Democrats even more nervous. These are stories that have to be written I suppose but it's still hard to see how the situation is changing in a big way at this point. The overall playing field is not contracting, it's expanding as the GOP rushes in to try to defend seats they didn't even think they'd have to worry about.
And we have this from Charlie Cook, as experienced and astute an observer of elections, particularly House elections, as we have. Cook observes in his latest column:
"With 12 days to go before the midterm elections, there are plenty of reasons to believe that we know the general directions that the House, Senate, gubernatorial, and state legislative elections will go, just not the degrees....
In the House, will the Democratic gain be above or below the 30-35 seat range? In the contests for governorships, will Democratic gains be closer to five seats or to eight or 10? In terms of state legislative seats gained, is it closer to 400 or to 700? And in chambers controlled, will it be closer to a half-dozen chambers flipping from red to blue or is it closer to a dozen?
For once, it is the fight for control of the House that is getting more attention than for the Senate, and a national survey conducted for The Cook Political Report and Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications, in conjunction with Manship School Fellow James Carville, underscores that movement in favor of Democrats in the House. While among registered voters nationally, Democrats have a 7-point lead over the GOP in terms of the generic-congressional-ballot test, 45 to 38 percent, among voters in the 72 districts considered most competitive by The Cook Political Report, Democrats had an 11-point lead, 43 to 32 percent. When those who were undecided but leaning toward a party were included, Democrats were still ahead by 11 points, 45 to 34 percent. An Oct. 15-21 Washington Post-Shar School poll in 69 competitive districts released this week put Democrats ahead for Congress as well, though by a 3-point margin, 50 to 47 percent....
A generally accepted rule of thumb is that Democrats need a lead of at least seven points in the national popular vote for the House, matching the generic ballot number in the CPR/Manship School poll. The RealClearPolitics average of national polls is 7.5 percent, while Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight average is 8.3 percent. But when you look exclusively at the most competitive districts, not at the slam-dunk seats where parties waste votes by running up the score, and keeping in mind that only a handful of the competitive seats are held by Democrats, a generic lead for Democrats of 3 points, as the Washington Post/Schar School poll shows, or of 11 points, as the CPR/Manship School polls indicates, would both indicate Democrats having an advantage in terms of control of the House.
This top-down, macro-political view of the House matches a more race-by-race, micro-political analysis, starting with Alabama’s 1st District and going through Wyoming’s at-large seat, suggesting that Democratic gains in the 30- to 35-seat range, more than the 23 needed to tip control, are likely to occur."
OK, now you can get back to worrying.
A new survey shows Democrats particularly well-positioned in the nation's most competitive districts.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Latinos and the 2018 Election

How important are Latinos to Democratic prospects in the 2018 election? On one level, this seems like an easy question to answer. They are a fast-growing group and are now America’s largest minority group, surpassing blacks as a percentage of the population. They tend to vote Democratic, on average at about a 2:1 rate. Therefore, it seems logical to assume that they will play a big role in in an expected “blue wave” of Democratic victories this fall, especially given Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric toward Latino immigrants.
But all is not as it seems. The reality is that, while Latinos will certainly be helpful to the Democrats in this election, they may not play as big a role as many Democrats hope.
Start with the question of turnout. Some articles report anecdotal evidence of a lack of excitement among Hispanic voters, despite the presumed threat posed by President Trump and his allies. And a nationwide tracking poll of Latinos by the Latino Decisions polling firm reports that well over half (55 percent) of Hispanic registered voters have not been contacted in any way about the upcoming election.
However, traditional indicators of campaign interest paint a different picture. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 73 percent of Latinos now expressing very high interest in the midterms—a higher level than among all registered voters—and up from just 49 percent a month ago.
Thus it is quite possible that Hispanic turnout will be relatively high this election—as indeed it could be for the electorate as a whole looking across various indicators of interest and enthusiasm. But it should be kept in mind the Hispanic turnout starts from a low base (just 27 percent in 2014, the last midterm election) so that, even it goes up, it is still likely to be substantially below that of whites and blacks.
As for Democratic support, average levels among Latinos appear strong and consistent with historical patterns. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll put national Hispanic support for Democratic Congressional candidates at 66-26, while the Latino Decisions tracking poll has it a bit higher at 69-24.
But we also see considerable variation in Latino support when we look at specific races around the country. Looking across a range of competitive Congressional races that the New York Times is polling, Democratic candidates generally have solid leads among Hispanic voters, but in some key races fall short of the 2:1 lead that Democrats would ideally like to see. Even allowing for the notorious difficulties of polling Hispanics and relatively small sample sizes, these are concerning figures.
In key statewide races, we also see some strong but not overwhelming leads for Democrats among Latinos. For example, in Texas, where Democrat Beto O’Rourke is hoping to unseat the very conservative GOP Senator Ted Cruz, Democrats had hoped for crushing margins among Latino voters. Recent polls, however, have Cruz pulling 37 percent of the Hispanic vote and keeping Democratic margins in the 20-25 point range. This is very good of course but does not suggest the tsunami of Latino support Democrats probably need to counter their weakness among white, particularly noncollege, voters in Texas.
Thus, while Democrats will clearly benefit this cycle from the Hispanic vote—and the higher the turnout of this group, the better for them—available data indicate that these voters, by themselves, are not some sort of magic elixir for the party. They are a part, but only a part, of the political puzzle Democrats seek to solve.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Election 2018 FAQs

1. Could the polls be wrong?
Of course, they could. But they're probably not. Jonathan Bernstein identifies 3 risk factors for this year's polls:
"A late surge. That’s what happened in 2016: Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump fell sharply in the last two weeks of the campaign. Although the polls picked this up, or at least most of it, it’s a good reminder that even mid-October surveys can miss late change. Could it happen again? It probably won’t, but it could – in either direction. Watch what’s in the news in the final days before the election.
Luck. All polls are subject to sampling error and other biases. Even when there are enough surveys to produce a mostly reliable average, it’s possible that random chance won’t even out and the average will end up being off. In House elections, there’s also the question of distribution. Even if surveys get the overall vote for the House correct, the distribution of those votes could wind up favoring one party or the other. That could be because of targeting, demographics or some other substantive reason. But it could also simply be luck of the draw. Just as pollsters misread the distribution of Trump’s vote, partly because there were fewer quality state polls than national ones, it’s possible that they’ll misjudge House contests this year because there are few reliable polls in most districts. Good forecasters can extrapolate from national surveys and other districts to project what will happen in under-polled races. But there’s always the chance it won’t work.
Missing the electorate. Both late surges and bad luck are risks to polling in every cycle. What’s especially tricky about 2018 is that so many unusual things are happening at once. Money raised is off the scale. Early voting is off the scale. The president’s unpopularity is off the scale. Trump has actually rallied a bit lately, but at 43.1 percent approval (as calculated by FiveThirtyEight), he still ranks third-lowest of any president in the polling era though 641 days, and his disapproval number is dead last. There’s never been a president who spent virtually all of his first two years having more than half the nation disapprove of him."
So, even if the polls are probably right, there are certainly mechanisms that could throw them off this year. A point to keep in mind.
2. If Trump's popularity is going up, does that make all the polls and forecasts (which are going in the opposite direction) suspect.?
Not really. Trump's modest improvement in his popularity ratings does not, at this point in the cycle, mean all that much. Nate Silver examined this question exhaustively and concluded:
'[W]hile it might seem a bit weird that presidential approval ratings and the generic ballot have moved in opposite directions, the data isn’t that hard to explain. The president’s party usually does poorly at the midterms even with a popular president, and Trump isn’t popular. His numbers are improved, but only marginally. Moreover, the relationship between presidential approval and midterm performance is rough enough that you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to move in lockstep. And Republicans aren’t doing any worse (or better) than you’d expect from historical trends. Maybe the Republican outlook in the House would be even worse without the recent uptick in Trump’s approval rating. But that outlook isn’t good, and while Trump is probably still a net liability for the GOP, Republicans have plenty of problems of their own making too.'
3. So is it really all about turnout?
No, persuasion is still very important. Swing voters are diminished from historical levels but the magnitude of Democratic gains will depend significantly on their ability to reach and convince such voters. David Hopkins points out:
"With Democrats and Republicans both invested in this year's election, a potential nationwide blue wave will require a non-trivial proportion of voters to shift from the GOP (or third parties) in 2016 to Democratic candidates in 2018. There are 25 Republican-held House seats that were carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, barely more than the minimum net gain (23) needed by the Democrats to take control of the chamber, and it seems unlikely that Democrats could win enough of these seats alone to gain an overall majority. But there are also 16 Republican-held seats that Trump carried with less than 50 percent of the total popular vote, 23 additional Republican seats where Trump received between 50 and 52 percent of the total vote, and another 24 seats where Trump received 53 or 54 percent of the vote. These are the pivotal districts that hold the partisan balance of power in the House. Democrats don't need to peel off a large share of voters who previously preferred Republican candidates in order to capture majority control, but merely energizing their own habitual partisan supporters is probably insufficient to flip enough seats their way absent a modicum of successful persuasion as well."
So there you have it! Keep those cards and letters coming.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Turnout Indicators Still Favor Democrats

Quite a lot has been written about the rise in Republican interest in voting this election. That is true, but it remains the case that turnout indicators for Democrats this cycle are still stronger than for Republicans. That is significant, breaking recent patterns and the underlying tendency of key Democratic constituencies toward low midterm turnout.
For example, the recent NBC/WSJ poll lists the top 5 groups by expressed interest in voting this election. They are seniors (+9 Democratic on the generic Congressional ballot), Democrats (+88 D), Latinos (+40 D), white college graduates (+19 D) and blacks (+70 D). The figures on seniors and white college graduates are especially worthy of note, since, as Nate Cohn has reported for the New York Times/Sienna polls, these voters appear poised to once again have a very disproportionate influence on the midterm electorate. Recall also that seniors have in recent cycles been quite a poor group for Democrats so the return of this high turnout group to the Democratic coalition is welcome news indeed (though oddly under-reported).

Sunday, October 21, 2018

House Forecasting Check-In: Just Two Weeks To Go!

A little more than two weeks 'til election day. Time for another check-in on the various House forecasting models.
As some may recall, the last time I did this was about a month ago. That was a few days before the Ford/Kavanaugh hearing and about two weeks before the Republicans hit their relative high point after that hearing.
The current reading of the forecasts is about two weeks after that high point and it is interesting to note that, at least in terms of House takeover chances and seat gains, the current forecasts have reverted to very close to where they were a month ago right before the Ford/Kavanaugh hearing took place. 538 and CBS Battleground are actually stronger on the Democrats' chances, while the Economist and Crosstab predictions have slightly weakened.
So, here are the current forecasts (readings from a month ago in parentheses, except for CNN which had not yet released a forecast at that time)
probability Democrats take House: 85 percent (80)
predicted Democratic seat gain: 39 (37)
predicted Democratic popular vote margin: 8.9 (8.5)
probability Democrats take House: 71 percent (71)
predicted Democratic seat gain: 28 (29)
predicted Democratic popular vote margin: 8.4 (8.6)
Crosstab/G. Elliot Morris:
probability Democrats take House: 75 percent (78)
predicted Democratic seat gain: 35 (38)
predicted Democratic popular vote margin: 8.9 (9.2)
CBS Battleground:
probability Democrats take House: no estimate
predicted Democratic seat gain: 31 (29)
predicted Democratic popular vote margin: no prediction
probability Democrats take House: no estimate
predicted Democratic seat gain: 31
predicted Democratic popular vote margin: no prediction
Given these data, what are we to make the of the spate of stories downgrading Democrats' chances for a "blue wave"? It depends on the story but one of the most common points made is that Democrats' chances to take the Senate have eroded. That appears to be true but of course that was never very probable anyway; only the very highest of blue waves could possibly have got that done.
The most interesting point made is that Democrats' chances of really big gains in the House may have eroded. That is, even if the Democrats' chances of gaining enough seats to take the House aren't much changed, their chances of gaining, say, 40-60 seats have dropped.
Those who make this assessment base their view on the perception that more reddish, rural districts have had their Republican bases engaged by the Kavanaugh fight and Trump's grandstanding--as well as perhaps the sheer proximity of the election--and are now much less susceptible to Democratic insurgents.
That could be true though there are some countervailing factors that push the House calculus in the opposite direction. These include the Democrats' massive fundraising advantage--identified by Nate Silver as a factor that could result in greater Democratic than expected--and the poor performance of GOP Senate and governor candidates in the Midwest which could hurt downballot Congressional candidates.
Perhaps this is why the 538 model still gives the Democrats as much chance of exceeding a 61 seat gain (10 percent) as dropping below a 19 seat gain.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

So, What Could Go Wrong? (II)

The 538 forecast is holding steady at an average 39 seat Democratic gain; other forecasts, while typically lower on seat gains, are also holding steady on a Democratic takeover of the House.
So, what could go wrong? I already covered this a bit in a previous post which dwelt on the inherent uncertainties of probabilistic forecasts and the known unknown of the extent of Republican counter-mobilization in red areas.
But here's another way of looking at it: considering the floor for Democratic gains. That's basically what this latest analysis from Sabato's Crystal Ball does--it enumerates a number of places where the Democrats seem almost certain to pick up a certain number of seats. That number comes to a (net) of 17 seats. That's not enough to take the House--if all the other many, many possibilities the Democrats have don't pan out, a worst case scenario and not at all your "expected value". But it could happen (though 538 puts the chance Democrats gain less than 19 seats at 10 percent). And if it did happen, the distribution of seat gains for the Democrats would probably follow the floor outline in the Crystal Ball piece.
— A race-by-race analysis of Democratic House targets shows the party is close to winning the majority, but they do not have it put away, in our judgment, with Election Day less than three weeks away.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Two Big Strengths, One Big Weakness

Ronald Brownstein's new piece on the CNN site has a very good rundown of the very good and not so good signs for the Democrats moving into the 2018 election.
The two big strengths (very interesting data here; note the stuff on white college men and, especially, white noncollege women):
"1. The white-collar suburban discontent with Trump is real and widespread.
The shift away from the GOP among white voters holding at least a four-year college degree is most intense among women, but also apparent among men. And those voters are retreating from the GOP not only along the East Coast (across Republican-held suburban seats in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia) and the West Coast (in a concentration of five GOP-held seats around Los Angeles and another near Seattle) but importantly also through the center of the country. There, Democrats are poised to capture suburban seats outside Minneapolis, Kansas City, Denver, Detroit, Chicago and Tucson; have toss up chances in other seats near Des Moines, Salt Lake City, Detroit and Chicago; and have solid, though more challenging opportunities in Houston and Dallas. (More on that below.)
When the Washington Post/Schar School poll recently surveyed voters in 69 of the most competitive House districts they found that Democrats led among college-educated whites in them by fully 13 percentage points; by comparison, House Republicans carried those voters by nearly 20 point margins in both the 2010 and 2014 mid-terms, according to exit polls. Republicans respectively won control of the House and Senate in those midterms.
2. Democratic Senate and governor candidates in the Midwest are showing renewed competitiveness among blue-collar white voters who keyed Trump's victories in the states that propelled him into the White House.
Democratic Senate incumbents in Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan -- all states won by Trump -- now appear solid favorites for re-election. The party is favored for the governorships in Michigan and Pennsylvania and locked in close races in Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa -- the fifth Midwestern state key to Trump's 2016 victory. And it could pick up as many as four House seats combined in Iowa and Michigan.
In each case, that's at least partly because the Democratic nominees are posting much better numbers than Hillary Clinton among working-class white voters. Some of that may reflect what political professionals call "differential turnout" -- meaning that the non-college whites who dislike Trump are more likely to show up than the working-class whites who surged to the polls for him in 2016, but aren't as enthusiastic about conventional Republican candidates.
But Trump also appears to have suffered genuine erosion among working-class white women, largely because of his attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and a sense among many that the improved national economy hasn't provided them appreciably more security. If that crack in Trump's armor persists to 2020, it would arguably provide the single most important advance for Democrats in the midterm election."
And the big weakness:
"1. Trump 's provocations alone show few signs of improving the subpar turnout patterns among Latinos and millennials, two core Democratic constituencies.
In polls, both groups express preponderant opposition to Trump's posture on cultural and racial issues. But most polls suggest that their turnout next month will plummet compared to 2016, just as it typically has in midterm elections. Compounding the problem, when Latino turnout sags, what's left in the voter pool tends to be older and more Republican.
Democrats received encouraging news from Sunday's ABC/Washington Post poll, which found much higher levels of youth engagement than almost any other recent survey. But that result looks like an outlier compared to most other polls. And even if young people participate in somewhat higher numbers, their share of the vote could fall if they don't keep pace with the greater-than-usual midterm interest evident among other voter groups. By 2020, millennials will significantly exceed baby boomers as a share of eligible voters, but based on their turnout trajectory they will continue to lag them among actual voters. That would be a huge opportunity cost for Democrats given Trump's consistently low marks with the generation (apart from younger non-college whites)."
A caveat on the youth turnout observation. Geoffrey Skelley on 538 has an interesting piece where he makes the case that youth turnout, based on some other indicators, might actually be pretty good this year. He says:
"Looking at the historical trends, there’s no question that youth voter turnout is consistently low in midterms, but exit poll data from competitive statewide elections in 2017 suggests that 2018 could set a record high for young voter participation....Polling from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics also gives us reason to believe we may see high turnout from young voters. The institute conducts a long-running, large-sample poll of young Americans...[I]n the IOP’s spring 2018 poll, 37 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds answered they would “definitely” vote, which was a new record high."
I don't know if this is right or not, since the data he cites are hardly definitive. But it's definitely interesting and suggests Democrats should not give up hope for decent youth turnout this cycle.
About this website
For two years Democrats have raged over Donald Trump's presidency, quarreled among themselves over the best strategy for responding to it, and above all, counted the days until next month's midterm election.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

So, What Could Go Wrong?

Lots! As noted here, the House forecasts are uniformly very good for the Democrats, with average seat gains estimated in the 31-39 range and probability of House takeover estimates in between 70 and 84 percent. At this point, 538 is on the high end of these ranges.
But there are some problems to keep in mind. The first is more accurately thought of as not a problem, but intrinsic to the enterprise. If, say, there's a forecasted 4 in 5 chance the Dems will take the House, this directly implies there's a 1 in 5 chance they won't. So things could go "wrong" in that sense.
Second, there could be a systematic bias in the inputs to these forecasts--something that's not being captured or captured incorrectly. The most likely candidate for that "something" is a mobilization surge in red areas that is currently being underestimated. We've already seen some deterioration in Democrats prospects in red state Senate races; it is possible that in the redder congresssional districts Democrats are contesting that the same dynamic may hold down their gains in such districts.
This is really the point of Nate Cohn's article in the Times today. Note that Cohn still appears to think it's likely the Democrats will take enough seats to capture the House, but he does see the possibility--and some signs--that this mobilization dynamic will hold down the magnitude of Democratic gains. I would not say that polling analysts universally see the signs that Cohn does, or interpret them in quite the same way, but I do believe his caution should be taken seriously.
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Energized voters on the right dim prospects for big Democratic gains in red districts and states.