Monday, November 7, 2022

Political Predictions: Senate Control Goes to Runoff, Again; Republicans Gain 20 seats in the House; Kari Lake New MAGA Star

Election Day is just a few hours away. Not sure that we can can call it "Election Day" any longer as people started voting weeks ago in most states.  This election though is like none other in my lifetime.  As I write this, there are 10 Senate races and 8 Governor races fully within the polling margins of error.  To further complicate things, it appears that turnout will be at record highs.  Because there will be people casting ballots in the mid-terms who don't often vote in those races, those infrequent voters can greatly skew the typical turnout model.  Predictions are a crapshoot at this point.  But I'm taking the plunge and making my predictions anyway.  It should be noted that I am only predicting the races that are currently polling as close or semi-close.  So I'm not going to pad my numbers with easy predictions.  My hope is to get 70% of my predictions correct, but even that may be overly optimistic at this point.

Republicans started this election cycle with a large advantage in the polls.  Then the Democrats overtook the Republicans over the summer.  But as the leaves began to fall, Republican candidates across the board started to do dramatically better.  As we turn the page on another election, talk again is of a Red Wave.  Indeed that might have happened in the Senate races, but Republicans chose historically weak candidates that limited their ability to win a majority.  Indeed, I'm predicting that when the counting is done, Republicans have a 50-49 edge in the Senate, pending the outcome of a December runoff in Georgia.

Before jumping into predicting all those super close races, let's look at some which are just outside the margin of error:

Alaska Senate race:  Although the race won't affect partisan control of the Senate chamber, I predict that Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski will win re-election despite Trump's endorsement of her Republican opponent.  Murkowski can thank the state's ranked choice voting system.  Murkowski will likely be the second choice on many Democrats' ballot and those votes will go to her once the Democrat is knocked out of the three person race.  This may take weeks to sort out.

Florida Senate and Governor race:  Sen. Marco Rubio and Ron DeSantis win re-election.  DeSantis win margin will be just under 10 points.  Rubio's victory will be by a few less points.  Election results in Florida will make Democrats wonder whether they should write it off for 2024.  In 2018, Florida had probably the closest governor and U.S. Senate race in the country.  Now those races are not in the top 10.   Shows you how much more Republican Florida has become.

Georgia Governor's Race:  In a rematch, Republican Governor Brian Kemp defeats Democrat Stacey Abrams, by a margin greater than 2018.  Unlike 2018, Abrams will not, falsely, say the election was stolen.

Iowa Senate:  Republican Charles Grassley will win re-election, but it will be by the closest margin of any race he's had in decades.

Pennsylvania Governor's Race:  Democratic Attorney General Joel Shapiro wins the governor's mansion.

Texas Governor's Race:  Republican Greg Abbott easily wins re-election.  Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke joins Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in the "What Was I Thinking" Club.  Both have seriously damaged their political careers by running against strong candidates in what from the outset looked like a bad year for Democrats. What were they thinking?

Utah Senate:  I so wish I could pick independent Evan McMullin to pull off an upset against the pro-insurrectionist incumbent Senator Mike Lee, but alas I cannot.  Lee will win by 10 to 15 points.

Now a few Indiana/Indianapolis races:

U.S. Senate:  Republican Todd Young wins re-election with nearly 60% of the vote.

Indiana 1st Congressional District: Democrat Frank Mrvan wins re-election by 5 to 10 points.

Indiana Secretary of State:  Really bright spot of the night for Indiana Democrats is that their candidate Destiny Wells defeats scandal plagued Diego Morales.  This is my upset special.

Indiana Legislature:  Democrats gain a few seats in the House and Senate.  Even though Republicans drew the new maps, the GOP had already pretty much maxed out the districts they could win in a state in which over 40% of the electorate regularly vote Democrat.

Marion County (Indianapolis) Prosecutor:  Democrat Ryan Mears easily wins re-election as Marion County confirms its new role as the bluest county in Indiana.

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Now the margins of error races.  These races are all legitimate tossups and can go in any direction.  What I'm guessing (and it's little more than a guess) is that candidate quality will tip the balance in most of these races.   Republicans would be slam dunks to win Senate races in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, and possibly even New Hampshire this time if the GOP would have nominated better candidates.  But the Democrats also blew an easy win against Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson by nominating a far left candidate.  Likewise, the Democrats deeply hurt their chances to win the Arizona Governor's race by nominating a candidate who decided the best strategy was to not take on her opponent.  

Note: After the state's name, I am listing who is currently in the lead in the polls, based on Real Clear Politics' average of polls.  The Oklahoma governor's race does not have a RCP polling average, so I have used FiveThirtyEight's instead for that contest.

Inside Margin of Error Races (Senate)

Arizona (+0.6 Kelly) - This is a carbon copy of the New Hampshire race.  Democratic Senator Mark Kelly is struggling to hold on to his seat.  Fortunately, as with Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire, the Republicans, thanks to former President Donald Trump, nominated a weak candidate in the person of Blake Masters.  Fortunately for Masters, the Libertarian candidate dropped out and endorsed him.  Still, that may not be enough.  I give the edge to Kelly to hold onto the seat.

Colorado (+5.7 Bennet)  Republican challenger and businessman Joe O'Dea has presented himself to Colorado voters as an independent-minded Republican, which earned him the ire of Donald Trump.  While Bennett chose the right path to possibly upset the incumbent Senator Michael Bennet, himself a moderate Democrat, his effort is likely to fall a few percent short.  Give the edge to Bennet.

Georgia: (+0.4 Walker) - Republican Herschel Walker has moved very slightly ahead of the incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock.  On election night, I believe Warnock will have a slight lead but below the 50% required for a December run-off.

Nevada (+2.7 Laxalt) - Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt is a slight favorite to upset Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. 

New Hampshire (+1.0 Hassan) - Republican Don Bolduc has drawn nearly even with Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan in the polling.  I still have to give the edge to Hassan though, who I expect will squeak out a victory.

North Carolina (+6.0 Budd)  -  I know some polls show Democrat Cheri Beasley on the heels of Republican Rep. Ted Budd.  I'm not buying them.  I think Budd wins this by about 5 points on Election Day.

Ohio (+8.0 Vance) - It appears that Republican JD Vance is starting to pull away from his opponent Rep. Tim Ryan.  Ohio is a tough nut for Democrats to crack.  Edge goes to JD Vance  Ryan was attempting to run as a more moderate Democrat who appealed to blue collar workers.  The hope of many Democrats was that Ryan's approach would provide a blueprint for Democrats in future elections. But I'm fearful the margin is going to be so great that Democratic progressives will say the problem was that Ryan was not liberal enough.  Like that would have worked.

Pennsylvania (+0.1 Oz) - Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz has closed and overtaken his Democratic opponent Lt. Governor John Fetterman.  But at 0.1% difference, it could barely be more of a tossup.  I'm going to give the edge to Fetterman.  Do voters prefer a candidate who is suffering the effects of a debilitating stroke or someone who comes across as a jerk who doesn't even live in Pennsylvania.  I'm guessing the former.  Since this was a seat held by a retiring Republican, Pat Toomey, it would be a Democratic pickup.  

Washington (+3.0 Murray)  I just can't believe that incumbent Senator Patty Murray is in trouble of losing her re-election bid.  Republicans haven't won a Senate election in the state in almost 30 years.  But Tiffany Smiley has run a good race and is giving the Republicans a chance to win. But she will fall a few points short.

Wisconsin (+3.3 Johnson) - Ron Johnson is the most unpopular Republican Senator in the country.  So what do the Democrats do?  They nominate a Bernie Sanders acolyte, Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes against him instead of a moderate Democrat.  Brilliant!  Give the edge to Johnson to win another term.

Inside Margin of Error Races (Governor)

I'm not as familiar with the Governor's races, so I will keep these predictions brief:

Arizona (+2.4 Lake) -  Republican Kari Lake will win the Arizona Governor's race.  It's too bad the Democrats didn't bother to field a candidate.   Okay, I know Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is her opponent, but her decision to not debate Lake was as stupid as stupid gets.  Lake will be the new MAGA star.  One thing that worked against Donald Trump's attempt to undermine American democracy is that, well, Trump is frankly very stupid.  Lake is what Trump would be like if he had a brain.  Be afraid, very afraid.

Michigan (+4.2 Whitmer)  - Gretchen Whitmer wins re-election by several points against her opponent, Republican Tudor Dixon.

Minnesota (+4.3) Walz - Governor Tim Walz easily wins re-election.

Nevada (+2.3 Lombardo) - Don't know much about this race, but I do believe Nevada is going Republican on Election Day.  That means Republican Joe Lombardo beats Democrat Steve Sisolak.

New Mexico (+4.0 Lujan Grisham) -  Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham wins re-election.

New York:  (+7.0 Hochul):  No, Republicans are not going to elect a governor in the Empire State.  Incumbent Kathy Hochul will win re-election by nearly double digits over Trump-backed Lee Zeldin.  I'm not sure what all the fuss about this race was about.  It was never really close.

Oklahoma: (+2.5 Stitt - FiveThirtyEight):  Democrat Joy Hofmeister has been polling ahead of Republican Governor Kevin Stitt for much of the year.  Who would have thought a Democrat could win Oklahoma.  But Hofmeister, a former Republican, picked a bad year to run.  As unpopular as Stitt is, timing is everything in politics and that includes being on the ballot in the right year.  I have to give the edge to Stitt.

Oregon (Tie) -  Like the State of Washington, I refuse to believe Republicans are going to win neighboring Oregon.  The state is too blue.  I give a small edge to the Democratic candidate Tina Kotek.

Wisconsin (+0.6 Michels) - Probably hardest governor's race to predict.  But I'm going with Republican businessman Tim Michels to unseat Governor Tony Evers.

OOP's Observations/Thoughts:  

  • Will someone please explain to me why it takes so long to figure out who wins a ranked voting contest?  I get the concept.  You rank your favorite candidates and if your first pick finishes last your second pick becomes your first choice.  This process continues until one of the candidate gets a majority.  Can't someone design a software program which can figure out who wins these ranked choice contests in a manner of seconds?   Why does it take weeks?   Ranked choice is never going to catch on if a fortnight passes before we know who won.
  • Every election I hear people in the media and some political pundit types urging American voters to be patient in waiting on the results.   The admonition is that it may take days to count the votes. Why?  With modern technology, why can't we count the votes so we know the winner on Election night?   I know part of the problem is with states like Pennsylvania which bar the counting of mail-in ballots until the polls close.  Well, those states need to change their damn rules.  And those states which allow write-in ballots to arrive a week after Election Day (California, you hear me), well that just needs to end.  If ballots don't arrive by Election Day, they shouldn't be counted.  Period. 
  • We need to stop expecting that, with the proper education about what is going on, the American public will eventually become accepting of these long counts that stretch out over days.  That is never going to happen. Worse yet, you are going to see politicians increasingly use the long counts to claim voter fraud.  In Pennsylvania, we have an explosive situation set up this time. Oz will no doubt lead early in the count.  But as the mail-in ballots are counted, Fetterman will be closing in on Oz and may pass him.  I can just hear the howls now about voter fraud. 
  • Speaking of Pennsylvania, don't be surprised if you see violence in that state as Oz's lead starts to collapse.  Violence will almost certainly happen somewhere on Election Day. My bet is on the Keystone State.
  • I can't believe I'm saying this after the 2000 Bush-Gore fiasco, but if you want an example of how to count votes, look at Florida.  Florida has a lot of votes to count, including tons of mail-in votes (which option is emphasized by the state's GOP organization), yet they manage to get all the votes counted on Election Night.
  • In 2020, I predicted that there would be armed people, members of groups like the Proud Boys, outside of polls intimidating voters.  It didn't really happen.  Well, I think my prediction may have been just a bit early.  I am renewing it for this election.

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