November 2, 2014 My election predictions
Big picture: This seems to be a Republican year, but somewhat less Republican than 2010. In that year, the Republicans won the national popular vote by 7 points (slightly less than most polls predicted). By contrast, the national polling average is Republican +3.
The House: Conventional wisdom seems to be a 3-12 seat Republican gain. I’ll guess a bit at the high end (+9R)- 245-190 R.
The Senate: There are a lot of races that aren’t particularly close. I think the Republicans can count on a four seat gain (the open seat races Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota- and Sen. Pryor’s last hurrah in Arkansas, once a tossup, is pretty safe for Republican Tom Cotton now). So I’ll only talk about the close races. As Nate Silver has pointed out, about 80 percent of close races ultimately break to one party- which means that even if the Republicans win the overwhelming majority of the eight or ten closest races, the Dems will hold one or two of them. (see http://cookpolitical.com/story/8004 )
If you do not count the races discussed below, the Republicans will have a 46-45 lead. So they only need to win five of the nine tossups to take the Senate, far fewer than I expect them to win.
New Hampshire- Jeanne Shaheen initially had a strong lead over Republican Scott Brown (from Massachusetts until a few months ago when he moved to New Hampshire to run for the Senate). A week ago, I thought Brown could win an upset here. Of the three most recent polls, one shows a tie, but the other two show Shaheen ahead by wide margins (7-8 pts). The RCP (realclearpolitics.com) poll of polls show a 3 pt Shaheen lead on the average. And in the last debate, Brown showed some ignorance of New Hampshire geography that probably didn’t help. So I think the Dems hold this one. (46-46)
Kentucky- Mitch McConnell has led in every single poll for awhile. That’s good enough for me- Republican hold. (47-46 R)
North Carolina- A few months ago, if you had suggested to me that the Democrats could lose the Senate and yet keep North Carolina, I would have suggested psychiatric help. But in all three polls conducted in the last week, Sen. Kay Hagan has clung to a one or two point lead. My guess is she pulls it out, but I am less certain about this prediction than about any other Senate prediction. (47-47)
Iowa- The last Des Moines Register poll (which apparently has an unusually good reputation in Iowa) shows Republican Joni Ernst blowing this race wide open, and three of the other four most recent polls show a slim Ernst lead. I So I think this is a solid Republican pickup (bringing them to +5) (48-47 R)
Kansas- This race is between Pat Roberts and independent Greg Orman, who has promised to caucus with the winning party. Roberts has made a lot of mistakes and the polls show this race as basically a tie; the four most recent polls show a one or two point lead for one candidate or the other, and aren’t even in agreement as to which candidate is winning. In a more neutral year or state, I’d say he loses. But my gut instinct for 2010 in a state as Republican as Kansas is: tie goes to the Republican, so Roberts holds the seat. (Even if he doesn’t, I think the Republicans will ultimately pick up enough seats that Orman won’t hold the balance of power, which means that if he is true to his pledge he will caucus with the Rs anyhow). (49-47 R)
Colorado- This race was once close, but Cory Gardner seems to have a lead in every poll (sometimes slim, sometimes not), and early voters were heavily Republican here, which means another Republican pickup. (50-47 R)
Alaska- The polls are all over the lot on this one, and Alaska is hard to poll because a lot of people live in pretty isolated places. But my gut instinct is: Alaska is a Republican state in a Republican year, so this state goes Republican, and Dan Sullivan beats Sen. Mark Begich. On the other hand, of the eight GOP pickups I expect, this is the one I am least certain about (kind of like NC and NH in the “Dem hold” category).
So at some point Wed. (if no elections are close enough to justify a recount) we will have 51 Republican Senators and 47 Democrats if I am right. In addition, two elections may not be decided next week.
And finally, the two that won’t be decided Tuesday-
Louisiana: Every poll shows Mary Landrieu losing to Republican Bill Cassidy. But every poll also shows her leading the current three-way race, which means that she won’t get a majority. But in Louisiana, if one candidate does not get a majority there is a runoff in December. So I think there will be a runoff (which I think she will lose barring some unexpected developments, since the third candidate is also a Republican- but you never know what might happen in a runoff).
Georgia- This is another runoff state. The Perdue/Nunn election is close enough that I think the presence of a Libertarian on the ballot will force a runoff. (As in Louisiana, I think it is more likely than not that the Republican will win the runoff if nothing changes.)
These are both Republican states and low turnout runoffs tend to favor Republicans, so I think ultimately the new Senate will have 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats (and if I am wrong I suspect I am underestimating the number of Republicans by one or two, since I am not real certain about NC or NH).
What about governors? If you don’t count the tossups there will be 22 Republicans and 16 Democrats. The non tossups include one Republican pickup (Arkansas) and one Democratic pickup (Pennsylvania). But I’ll just talk about the twelve tossups. Going by region:
Maine: Paul LePage, a Tea Party Republican elected in the 2010 wave, has been running neck and neck all year- and last week I thought he was starting to pull away. But independent Elliot Cutler has kinda-sorta pulled out of the race, and I think most of his votes will go to Democrat Mike Michaud (22-17) (D PICKUP)
Massachusetts: this race may have been a tossup a month ago, but Republican Charlie Baker has opened up a pretty solid lead over perennial candidate Martha Coakley (23-17). (R PICKUP)
Connecticut: This race (between Gov. Malloy and businessman Tom Foley) is one of the closest races. The most recent poll shows Malloy up by 3 but is from a Democratic polling firm. The second most recent poll shows Foley up by 1. Going with the “tie goes to the Republican” principle I’m going to guess Foley wins (24-17 R). (R PICKUP)
Rhode Island: Treasurer Gina Raimondo is a blue-ribbon candidate and moderate Democrat, famous for taking on unions. She leads Republican Allen Fung in every poll, though by narrow margins. I think she takes this one for the Dems (24-18 R).
(A note on Maryland: Realclearpolitics doesn’t list Maryland as a tossup, but the Republican candidate Larry Hogan has a poll showing him lead. A partisan poll I don’t take so seriously though, so I still doubt the Dems will blow this one).
Georgia: Nathan Deal has had more trouble with Democrat Jason Carter than a Democrat should expect in Georgia. No recent poll shows Deal at over 50 percent. On the other hand, every recent poll shows him ahead, and even if you assume undecideds split evenly (an unlikely result in ruby-red Georgia) some of the polls would show him clearing 50 percent. I say Deal wins without a runoff, but just barely. 25-18 R.
Florida: One of the most exciting and big-spending elections involves Gov. Rick Scott (who once pleaded the Fifth Amendment 75 times) against former Gov. Charlie Crist (who is also not that popular, especially after switching parties). Two of the last three polls show a tie (the third shows a slim Crist lead). Based on the “tie goes to the Republican” principle I would guess that this year, as in 2010, Scott pulls out a second narrow victory, showing that if you wear the Republican jersey and run in a nonpresidential year you can pretty much get away with anything in most states. 26-18 R.
Illinois: Unpopular Gov. Pat Quinn (D) is in a close race with businessman Bruce Rauner. The most recent polls are all over the lot. It seems to me that if people hate the governor, and it’s a Republican year, undecideds will break against him. So I think this will be a R pickup. 27-18 R. (R PICKUP)
Wisconsin- Incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R) has a slim lead in most polls- but its still a lead. The polling average shows him ahead by 2 points, which seems like enough for me to call him a likely winner in this Republican year. 28-18 R.
Michigan- Gov. Rick Snyder ® is in the same position as Walker, and will thus also win. 29-18 R.
Kansas- Gov. Sam Brownback ® faces state legislator Paul Davis. Of the three most recent polls, two favor Davis and one favors Brownback. But the average poll has Davis by 3 because his leads are bigger. This race, like North Carolina’s Senate race, involves a disagreement between my political instincts and the polls. If Davis had a poll consensus I’d be inclined to say he wins. But here there’s enough division to say: tie goes to the Republican. 30-18 R.
Colorado- This fight between Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper and Republican Bob Beauprez is too close to call. But early voters have been predominantly Republican, so that’s a good reason to apply my “tie goes to the Republican” rule (31-18 R). (R PICKUP)
Alaska- Here independent Bill Walker is the leading opponent to Republican incumbent Sean Parnell ®. The polls are rare and all over the lot. But Sarah Palin just endorsed Walker, a former Republican who is running to the right of Parnell on some issues. So I think the “tie goes to the Republican” rule doesn’t cut it here, and I think Walker knocks off Parnell. (31-18-1).
So on balance the Democrats lose three governorships and the Republicans gain two (though one also goes independent).