US mid-terms minus five-and-a-half weeks

Republicans slightly improved their position in the House and Senate last fortnight, while there was intense focus on sexual assault allegations against proposed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian’s work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

All 435 seats in the US House of Representatives are up for election on November 6.  Owing to natural clustering of Democratic voters and Republican gerrymandering, Democrats probably need a six to seven point popular vote margin to win the House.  Democrats currently lead in FiveThirtyEight’s poll aggregate of the race for Congress by 8.7 points, down slightly from 9.1 points last fortnight.  However, individual seat polling, such as from the New York Times’ live polls, suggests Democrats are in a better position than the overall generic ballot implies.  FiveThirtyEight’s Classic House model gives Democrats an 80.5% chance to win the House, down from 83% last fortnight.

Thirty-five of the 100 Senators are up for election on November 6, including two by-elections.  Democrats hold twenty-six of the seats up for election, and Republicans just nine.  In the FiveThirtyEight Classic Senate model, Democrats currently have leads in fifty-one seats, but have much less margin for error than Republicans.  Since last fortnight, Democrats have pulled ahead in Florida, with not much other change.  The classic model uses “fundamentals” to predict what the polls are likely to do as election day approaches.  In North Dakota and Tennessee, the fundamentals are reversing the current poll leads.  In the classic model, Democrats have a 32% chance to win the Senate, down from 33% last fortnight.

Trump’s ratings are currently 41.5% approve and 52.8% disapprove, for a net approval of -11.3%. This is a recovery from a net -13.8% approval last fortnight.  This recovery may be due to the Hurricane Florence natural disaster, the strong US economy or a “rally round the flag” effect from conservative voters in the early stages of the Brett Kavanaugh allegations.  If Trump’s ratings recovery persists, it is good news for Republicans in the House and Senate.

On July 9, Trump nominated hard-right judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retiring centre-right judge Anthony Kennedy.  The right currently has a 5-4 Supreme Court majority, but Kennedy and John Roberts have occasionally voted with the left.  If Kavanaugh is confirmed by the Senate, it will give the right a clearer Supreme Court majority.  Supreme Court judges are lifetime appointments.  Although Kavanaugh is a polarising figure, he looked very likely to be confirmed by the narrow 51-49 Republican majority Senate until recent sexual assault allegations occurred.

The first sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh was made on September 16, four days before the Senate Judiciary Committee was to hold a vote to favourably report Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate.  There have since been two more sexual assault allegations on September 23 and 26 that you can read about on Wikipedia.  In the most serious case, Kavanaugh, when a high school student, is alleged to have participated in spiking teenage girls’ drinks at parties to enable them to be gang raped.

The gang rape allegations against Kavanaugh were made on September 26.  On September 27, both Kavanaugh and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  On September 28, without calling additional accusers, the Committee favourably reported Kavanaugh by an 11-10 majority, with all eleven Republicans – all men – voting “aye”.  However, after pressure from two Republican senators, the full Senate confirmation vote was delayed for a week to allow an FBI investigation.  These recent developments have not yet been factored into the polls.

Despite the allegations, Republicans and Trump are so far standing behind Kavanaugh.  If Kavanaugh were to withdraw, or be defeated in a Senate confirmation vote, Trump would nominate another hard-right judge.  But if Democrats win control of the Senate at the mid-term elections, there may not be enough time to process the new nominee before the new Senate takes its place in early January 2019.  A new nominee could still be confirmed in the “lame-duck session” in December even if Democrats win the Senate in November.

At least forty-eight of the fifty-one Republican Senators were willing to confirm Kavanaugh without even an FBI investigation into the allegations.  Republicans have become extremely right-wing since Obama’s election in 2008, and have not paid for this extremism electorally — they won the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and the Presidency in 2016.  Trump’s ratings are well below where they should be given the strong US economy, but the economy, gerrymandering and the tough Senate map for Democrats are all helping the Republicans avoid massive losses at these mid-term elections.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

25 comments on “US mid-terms minus five-and-a-half weeks”

  1. Good on Senator Flake for insisting on an investigation, even if it is only a week.

    I don’t see what the goddamn hurry is. It is only urgent if you are worried about the Republicans losing control of the Senate. If you are, then you must admit that is partisan. And partisanship shouldn’t determine what is right in a SCOTUS appointment.

  2. I will be in DC for work the week after the FBI’s designated finishing date for their investigation. I know a few people there who associate with each side of the aisle so it may be a very interesting experience if the Senate has not voted on the nomination yet, or even if they have.

    It may be a case of “Don’t mention the war!”

    Which reminds me of a famous cartoon about the Dreyfuss Case in France in the 1890s.
    Panel one caption says “Above all, let us not discuss the Dreyfuss Affair”.
    Panel two caption says “They have discussed it!”

  3. very interesting most likely result dems win the house and repubs retain the senate. But if the stars align right a slight dem majority in the senate as well. It is possible that the repubs can win both houses but extremely unlikely and the margin would be so narrow. The judge Kavanagaugh issue is up in the air very much depends on 2 to 3 more moderate republicans and the fbi inquiry. The repubs want the confirmation before the mid terms as they fear the chance of a democrat win.

  4. re Kavanaugh issue…. it seems obvious that he and his friends drank to excess and bragged about their female conquests. In his testimony he claimed he did not do anything…… but not calling Dr Ford a liar rather it was not him she was in error yes she was assaulted but by some one else. She and he cannot be both telling the truth …. either one is lying or he does not remember due to heavy drinking or supressing such memories.

  5. Mick, I wouldn’t say it’s “extremely unlikely” that the Republicans retain both Houses. A one in five chance of retaining the House isn’t nothing. Election models gave Trump roughly the same chance of winning in 2016.

  6. Fortunately for Senator Flake, his crisis of conscience happened after the critical vote was cast – the vote to refer Kavanaugh out to the full Senate floor. You see, the GOP has only a 13-12 majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so Flake could have stalled the nomination then and there by saying, “No, let’s have the investigation before this goes to the full Senate!”.

    The nomination will be before the full Senate next Friday, and McConnell will ensure Kavanaugh gets the nod, no matter what the (pathetically hamstrung by DJT’s directives) investigation finds, no matter what comes up between now and then. Flake can even vote against the nomination then – McConnell doesn’t especially need his vote on the floor, since Pence can break ties in the GOP’s favour!

    This reminds me of all the hooha over Trump’s tax-cut bill last year: Right after voting to pass it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and onto the full Senate floor (breaking an 11-11 tie on the Committee to do so), Susan Collins (R-ME) started kicking up a fuss about how awful it was. She even said she’d vote against it on the floor of the Senate, and so on and so forth. But of course, the moment when one vote could have made the difference was in the past, so Collins’ “opposition” to the bill didn’t stop it passing!

    Mark my words: By Election Day (6/11/18), Brett Kavanaugh will be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. And in a year’s time, not one in a hundred Americans will remember who he is or why they wanted him blocked, even as he proceeds to vote lockstep to dismantle their whole damn society. Because the voting public are stupid.

  7. Matt very interesting party strengths in senate 51R 49D……seems unlikely that democrats Will vote for confirmation……… if 2 shift becomes 51/49 against. Flake, Collins and Murkowski could possibly vote against. Don’t know what Fbi investigation will prove…… but beyond the substantive matter of the sexual assaults…. there are lies about the extent of Kavanagh’s drinking and the entries in his year book.
    if lies can be established then even if he has left life as the spoiled frat boy behind then he may not be confirmed

  8. It is depressing and frustrating that even at a moment in time when the Republican party is so on the nose with a large majority of Americans, and a Republican President has such a low approval rating, that the extreme gerrymander and apportionment in the US will likely deliver a Republican majority in the Senate.

    Watch this video from 31:00 onwards and you’ll get a clear sense of just how corrupted the electorates are:


  9. @Rocket Rocket: The thing is, America doesn’t have a functional system whereby misbehaving judges are removed. Here, it’s a simple majority of both houses of Parliament. There, you need a 2/3 majority of the Senate to remove someone from office. Which means the Democrats would need to a) win 67 Senate seats; and b) get all 67 of their caucus to sign on to it.

    And no, they won’t get a single Republican vote to remove the hard-right majority on the SCOTUS, no matter what any part of that majority has done.

  10. judges must be removed on occasions of course not at the supreme court level but at any appointed level such as state or national.There remains the question as to when does a judge rescuse him or her self? who can ask them……..if Kavanaugh is to hear a case re a political partisan gerrymander………… what of a fbi investigation that finds lots of loose ends? what of a subsequent further inquiry?

  11. At the moment, the Republicans are doing better due to more unity from conservative voters on Kavanaugh. There have been two recent North Dakota polls with the Republican leading by double digits. If that state goes Republcan, it makes the Senate much harder for Democrats to gain.

    Here’s some more world politics in Brazil.

    Wentworth ReachTEL poll, and left vs far right contest in Brazil

    There are elections in Brazil on Oct 7 (first round) and Oct 28 (runoff). It is very likely the runoff will be between the left-wing Haddad and the far-right Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made comments sympathetic to the former military Brazil dictatorship. Runoff polling has it close between Haddad and Bolsonaro.

    In the Canadian province of Quebec, a conservative party won for the first time since 1966.

  12. Rocket……… maybe his youthful life caught up with him……..what happens next time the democrats have both houses of the parliament and the presidency….does the supreme court need about 15 ?

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