The 2018 Midterms Game Day Thread of Angst, Worry, (and maybe some hope?)


#1

As I type this on a Saturday morning, somewhere between 33 and 35 million Americans will have already cast ballots in the 2018 midterm elections. In the 2014 midterms – the last time we did this – about 83 million total votes were cast. To say that interest in voting in 2018 is high almost feels like underselling it. Here’s another way to frame it. According to a report prepared by NonProfit Vote, in 2010, 25% of all votes cast were “early vote” or in-person absentee ballots. In 2014, the early vote percentage was 29%. Even if 2018 follows a trendline to 33%, the chances that 110-120 million votes will be cast for Tuesday’s election is incredible!

But that’s nerdy stuff. What you’re here for is the red meat. Will Democrats wrest control of at least one house of Congress? Will a presidential closing argument geared around nativism and exclusion carry the day? Well, we’ll get to that shortly. But here are the numbers that matter.

As of now, Republicans basically control 240 seats, with 5 of those sitting vacant due to retirements or resignations.

Democrats control 195, with 2 of that number sitting vacant due to resignation or death.

The number here is simple. Republicans maintain control by keeping the Democrats from flipping control of seats. Democrats win control if they can flip 23 or more.

23. That’s the first number. It’s an important one, and not one to take for granted on either side heading to Tuesday.

On the Senate side, The Republican Party currently controls 51 seats. 49 senators (including two independents) caucus with the Democrats. To keep control of the Senate, for Republicans they simply need to prevent Democrats from gaining more than a single seat on them. Democrats have to get a net gain of 2 seats. 2 seats….and that’s not a number to take for granted on either side of the aisle, either.

So. Who’s gonna win? How’s this all going to shake out?

As we sit here 72 hours before people are voting on Election Day, here’s my best answer: I haven’t a clue. No one does.

What we can do is look at history, polling, and actual hard data to offer some clues, perhaps.

For one thing, we know that it can be brutally hard for the party holding the White House to not start shedding seats in the midterm elections. That does happen from time to time (2002 and 1998, for instance) but it doesn’t happen too often.

And we can look at polling, too. As Nate Silver noted on Friday, for the last two weeks the generic congressional ballot (in which respondents are simply asked which party they would prefer as the majority) has held at a steady 8-10 point lead for Democrats. That’s a good indicator that Democrats could gain a significant number of seats. And in other polling news, the Siena/Upshot polls that have run in hotly contested districts have been fascinating. They started out blue…ish. Then for a week the blue trend really seemed to level off. In the past 10 days, the blue trend has been growing, and heading into the final weekend, it’s looking like one of those things at the beach, where the water comes in and breaks onshore? Forget what they call that.

BUT…the other thing that the live polling by Siena/Upshot illustrated dramatically is just how tough it is to poll congressional races. In one Florida district, they had to make 50,000 calls to get to the sample they were trying for of 500 voters. That’s insane!

And that also means that when you see a margin of error of 5 points or 7 points either way on a congressional poll, take that seriously. They’re not kidding. These district-level polls are incredibly noisy! And a bunch of polls of districts will be pretty close after the smoke clears and the votes are counted. But…there are also going to be a number of surprises. There just are. Democrats are going to lose districts they didn’t expect to. So are Republicans. Polling by phone may not be a viable thing for much longer.

There’s one other data point worth discussing here, though, that may provide some evidence as to what might happen on Tuesday. Fundraising numbers are not perfectly correlated to election-day performance by any means. But fundraising totals, especially by small donors and especially especially by small donors within the constituency of a candidate (be that precinct, district, or state) might be a decent indicator of voter enthusiasm.

This year, that indicator points to Tuesday being pretty good for Democrats. Q3 2018 fundraising numbers for Democrats in the House and Senate were absurd. Record-breaking. And yes, I’m as disturbed by the money in politics as anyone. But this is the system we’ve got (for now), so play it as it lays.

It’s not just federal elections for the House and some Senate seats going on Tuesday, either. A bunch of Governorships are up for grabs. Polling and fundraising seems to indicate that Democrats might have a good night on that front, too. And control of statehouses that are up for voting will also be worth watching…

…because we’ve got a 2020 census coming up, and redistricting may be on the menu – either by court order or census indications – in a number of states. How important is that? Let’s put it this way: this would be a 50/50 fight for Democrats at best for House control, were it not for court-ordered redistricting in Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina.

So. That’s my left-leaning commentary to lead off this thread. Full disclosure, in case you’ve been living under a QT3 rock: I grew up in a house that had framed portraits of Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy on the walls…and I cast my first vote ever in the 1984 presidential election (a month after my 18th birthday!) for Walter Mondale. So yeah, you know where my viewpoint is skewed.

But hey. Let’s fill this thread up! Let’s talk about election specific stuff here now. If you voted early, and especially early, in-person, tell us about it here! And when you vote Tuesday (because you haven’t voted yet, and OBVIOUSLY if you’re eligible to vote in this country YOU ARE GOING TO VOTE…) tell us about that, too!

And then finally on Election night, let’s all hang out here together and wring our hands and see what happens!


#2

So…what’s worth looking at early to try to catch the timbre of the night? That’s a good question. You can look at this map of poll closing times, and decide for yourself to an extent. I can tell you what I’ll be looking at early though. ;) Oh, and I’m done even trying to pretend impartiality at this point…

A quick note though: states and different jurisdictions handle things like early voting very differently. In a lot of states and counties, early vote ballots are sorted and ready to count and they even begin the process before the polls close by a little. And then the first votes you see posted are from early and early mail-in ballots in a lot of cases. BUT….sometimes counties prefer to lump their early vote totals in with their running precinct totals, and if they’re holding and reporting by precinct when the precinct is FULLY counted, yeah. Bleah. But that happens in places. But, let’s sort of assume that in most cases, we’ll see those early vote numbers revealed first.

At 7:00 pm ET, polls will close across Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont and kiiiinda New Hampshire. So what’s worth watching?

Starting in Kentucky, watch the 6th Congressional District (to alleviate my carpal tunnel, we’ll call Congressional Districts CDs from here on out). That’s where retired Lt. Col Amy McGrath – a former marine fighter pilot – is taking on incumbent Andy Barr. Her initial ad got her lots of exposure, but Barr and the NRCC have been pouring cash into this district to hold it. This is a red district, but if McGrath is running into the mid-40s or higher by 8 pm ET, that’s maybe a good sign for Democrats.

Indiana and Georgia are the next two I’ll be looking at. Can Joe Donnelly hold that Democratic senate seat in the Hoosier State? I dunno. Remember here that Indianapolis (Marion County) and Gary (Lake County) tend to report later than rural areas. If Donnelly keeps it close, that’s a good sign as late-reporting Democratic strongholds come in. Indiana has in-person early absentee voting. Vote totals in the state right now are at over 500,000 thousand, more than double where they were in 2014, and approaching 2016 levels. Hopefully we see those early votes right off the jump, and we’ll get at least a vague idea for hot takes on this senate race.

And speaking of hot takes, Georgia’s early vote has been off the charts. They close at 7pm ET too, and we’ve seen vote totals come in fast from the early votes in the past. Obviously the gubernatorial race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp is the marquee draw here….but don’t sleep on the Georgia 6th, either. When we last visited that district, a guy named Jon Ossoff was running his ass off but falling short to Karen Handel. This time around a new challenger, Lucy McBath, is giving Handel all she wants and then some and more.

Finally, the Old Dominion will be fascinating to watch. Statewide, Tim Kaine should mop the floor with Confederate apologist and white supremacist Corey Stewart…but it’s worth noting that Stewart may look stronger early because Northern Virginia reports slooooooooooooowly. But there are a bunch of congressional districts in play, thanks to some redistricting. The biggie is the VA-10, where Republican darling Barbara Comstock SHOULD lose to Jennifer Wexton. If that vote looks like Comstock, yikes. Further south, Abigail Spanberger is giving Tea Party doofus David Brat (he’s the guy who unseated Eric Cantor) all he wants in the VA-7. In the tidewater VA-02, Elaine Luria may have a shot at unseating Scott Taylor. Surprisingly, in the VA-05 – very red – Leslie Cockburn is giving Republican Denver Riggleman (he of the erotic Bigfoof fanfic) more of a race than anyone expected.

At 7:30, Ohio, West Virginia, and North Carolina enter the fray. There are a couple of interesting CD’s in North Carolina, but the real interest I guess will be for the Ohio governor’s race between Democrat Richard Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine. This is a biggie because Ohio may be headed for a radical un-gerrymandering after 2020, and having a Democrat in the governor’s mansion in Columbus would be a good thing.

At 8pm things get super-interesting. Lots of states close the polls, and man is it going to be fascinating to watch Pennsylvania, which had its districts not just adjusted, but completely redrawn. There are some great congressional races in New Jersey too. And if shady Bob Menendez isn’t doing at least decently there for Senate, that’s kinda scary for Democrats.

Here’s where the action will be coming fast and furious:

Senate races in FL, NJ, MI, TN, MO, and good ol Texas. There’s apparently some senate race there that folks are following.

Competitive Governor’s races in: FL, OH, ME, IL, CT. If you want something to fret about, fret and hand-wring that damp squib Ned Lamont (remember him?) may somehow figure out a way to lose the Connecticut governor’s race in a wave election year. Can we just have Ned Lamont not ever run for anything again, ever?

Obviously here my focus may be on Florida a lot. Tons of early voting there, so we’ll at least see how Gillum is doing early on, and whether he really will help Nelson and down-ticket Democrats. There are a couple of CDs here that Democrats desperately need to flip.

Another thing to watch is Republicans getting hurt by non-competitive gubernatorial races. Michigan maybe, and Illinois definitely loom large on that front, perhaps. There are three flappable Republican seats in Illinois where an incumbent may be badly damaged by Rauner getting trounced by Pritzker.

Keep an eye on Mo-Senate, though McCaskill will trail by a ton early on until St. Louis County, City, and the Kansas City areas come in.

Finally, there are two Republican-held districts in eastern Kansas/Johnson County/KCK where Democrats could turn flips. They are likely to turn at least one.

And yeah, finally we’ll all be watching Texas. Imma come out and say it and jinx it: Beto O’Rourke is going to be within 2% of Ted Cruz, one way or another.

That’s the early watch guide for me, anyway. There will be more drama later, as NY, MN, CO, NM, and obviously Arizona close at 9pm. By 9:30 or 10pm we’ll know how much existential dread we’ll be dealing with on Wednesday. Then at 10pm, polls close in NV and UT, and finally at 11pm on the West Coast. It’s incredibly likely that in a few tight California CDs, we won’t know who’s won until the end of the week, if not later. Here’s hoping that’s academic when considering control of the House.


#3

Thanks for all this, trig!

Normally I love the extra hour of late night gaming we get from autumn daylight saving but this year it’s just delaying election day by a whole hour. Argh.

BRING ON TUESDAY! I am leaning toward hope.


#4

Here’s the Cook Political report ratings on “competitive” House races:

Over in the “Whithered Democrats” thread, Orald did his own scorecard, and it’s good:

And for non-Congressional races:

Finally, this is kind of cool: Nate Silver’s “Tipping Point race”

I’ll let Nate explain why Jared Golden in the ME-02 is the tipping point:


#5

Thanks, trigger. I was really hoping the magic number would be 66 and two thirds, that is, the number of Senators needed to convict in the senate for federal impeachment. But the odds of Democrats reaching that number is literally impossible; 538.com and Ziggy only gives a 0.3% chance that Democrats will get 54 Senators after the post-election dust settles. But if 66 and the hacked-up remnants of two senators leaning anti-Trump is impossible, I’d love to at least see Democratic control over the upper house. Treaties! SC nomination advising and consents! Passing versions of bills that the lower house also passed! 538 only gives the chance of 51 Democratic senators as 9.5% this time around. But it’s a tough year. Dem Senators tend to be up for reelection whereas most GOP senators recline on their golden cushions, secure in their positions for at least another two years.


#6

03-17-28-32


#7

Thanks @triggercut for putting all this together.

I was happy living in flyover country. And then 2016 happened, and Chump has now visited this state (Montana) 4 times. 4. Times. Trying to get Senator Tester ousted. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.


#8

Don’t want to kill your enthusiasm, but I’m afraid the Democrats could have a very good night on Tuesday and STILL lose a net 1 or 2 seats. Hopefully not, but the chances of them taking control of the Senate are pretty slim.

But there’s a chance, I guess. :)


#9

We may not know the outcome of this one for weeks. Maine voters adopted ranked choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, and this is our first experience with RCV and federal races. The incumbent, Bruce Poliquin, has stated that if he wins a plurality of votes but loses to Golden after the first round of votes are tallied that he will bring suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of RCV.

“So buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Apropos of nothing, I saw a guy at the bank today wearing an oversize button on his jacket with a scowling image of Trump and the word “Twittler” above.


#10

Great point.

And in the Georgia gubernatorial election, the state constitution requires a run-off if neither Abrams or Kemp can get to 50% on Tuesday. That seems very likely.


#11

Good on Maine. I’m hugely in favor of changes like that.


#12

This is important for Tuesday, btw:


#13

I’m sure everyone here knows this, but just in case.

It is not legal to tweet or text your vote in any state in the Union.

Russian hackers targeted low information voters that were likely Hillary supporters in 2016 with ads like these. This is the new hi tech voter suppression. They photo shopped an image of Aziz Ansari, he had nothing to do with this. They also used an image of Cher.


Don’t be them.

If it ain’t an absentee ballot, an early ballot cast or one cast on Election Day at a polling place it doesn’t count.


#14

We enacted full public financing of elections through a citizen initiated referendum in 1996. I was the campaign director and it was one of my proudest moments doing political work. We were the first state to do so and it has stood up to many legal and political attacks. Our little state has a history of innovative democracy reforms. Once our fever dream of a governor is termed out hopefully we can get on with that work.


#15

4.9 million people in Texas voted early. That’s stunning.

Beto may not beat Ted Cruz in Texas, but if Colin Allred beats Pete Sessions? He can thank Beto’s coattails.


#16

Similarly, Bruce Rauner’s anti-coattails (he’s going to get beaten pretty decisively in the IL-Gov race) are having the opposite effect. There’s no senate race there, so the governor’s race is top of the ticket. And if Rauner getting beaten pretty badly depresses Republican turnout, there are two races in the Chicago exurbs and one in the St. Louis Metro East that could see dangers of three R to D flips.


#17

I still have PTSD from our last big election thread. I’m not even getting my hopes up for this one (but I will be pleasantly surprised if necessary).


#18

I’m sort of amused that the 538 estimate of the Dem’s chances of re-taking the Senate have gone up from a low of 15.1% on Wednesday to 16.6% today. Still highly unlikely, but momentum! At this rate, by election day it’ll be up to 18.1%!


#19

So what’s the deal in Pennsylvania? I know our districts got all redrawn, and given how gerrymandered they were, this must be beneficial to Democrats, but i honestly don’t know what the exact impact is expected to be.


#20

Hope-is-a-dangerous-thing