US mid-terms minus zero days

One last overview of the US mid-terms situation, and a thread for discussion of events as they unfold.

As the big day dawns (if that’s the right way to put it, taking time differences into account), here is a thread for discussion of the US mid-terms – and a piece I wrote for Crikey yesterday that proved surplus to their requirements. I will possibly supplement this post with live coverage tomorrow, depending on how I go. Also find at the bottom of the post a guide to when polls close, repasted from Adrian Beaumont’s previous post.

On the eve of America’s mid-term elections, all signs point to a dramatic upsurge in turnout compared with four years ago – something that would ordinarily be seen as a sign of robust democratic good health. However, the last few years of American politics have made a mockery of the word “ordinarily”, and this circumstance is no exception.

The high pitch of interest can instead be seen as a symptom of the dangerous polarisation that increasingly defines American society – one effect of which has been to raise the stakes as Republicans and Democrats vie for control of Congress. Unhappily for liberal America, the dice are loaded against the Democrats tomorrow, for reasons fair and foul.

Continue reading “US mid-terms minus zero days”

US mid-terms minus four days

Democrats remain likely to win the House, while Republicans are likely to hold the Senate at US mid-term elections on Wednesday (Australian time). 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.

The US mid-term elections will be held on November 6, with results coming in on Wednesday from 10am, Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT). In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Democrats lead by 8.3 points in the race for Congress, slightly up from 8.2 points last week. In the FiveThirtyEight Classic Model, Democrats have an 85% chance to win the House, unchanged on last week, but down from 86% on October 30. Strong fundraising for Democrats has affected the classic model’s fundamentals calculation, and the polls-only “Lite” Model gives Democrats a 77% chance to win the House, unchanged since last week.

Continue reading “US mid-terms minus four days”

US mid-terms minus 11 days

Democrats continue to perform well in the House, but the Senate looks increasingly difficult for them. Guest post by Adrian Beaumount.

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.

The US mid-term elections will be held on November 6. In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Democrats lead by 8.2% in the race for Congress, slightly down from 8.4% last week. In the FiveThirtyEight Classic Model, Democrats have an 85% chance to win the House, up from 84% last week, but down from 87% on October 22. Strong fundraising for Democrats has affected the classic model’s fundamentals calculation, and the polls-only “Lite” Model gives Democrats a 77% chance to win the House, unchanged since last week.

Democrats are rated just a 17% chance to win the Senate in the FiveThirtyEight Classic Model, down from a 19% chance last week. They have gained ground in Florida, West Virginia and Montana in the last week, but lost ground in Indiana and North Dakota. Trump won North Dakota by 36 points in 2016, and it is likely Democrats will lose it. If they lose North Dakota, Democrats will need to win all the currently close states – Florida, Missouri, Indiana, Arizona and Nevada – to win the Senate. They would also need one of either Texas or Tennessee, where FiveThirtyEight rates Republicans over a 75% chance.

The best chance for Democrats to win the Senate, or Republicans to win the House, is either a late surge in the final days, or a party overperforming the polls across the board on election day. Turnout patterns could be crucial here: if turnout is very high with Democrat-aligned voters, and more moderate with Trump-aligned voters, Democrats probably overperform the polls. Another crucial issue is how the remaining undecided voters in polls break. If Democrats overperform in the House, they will probably win a far bigger majority than the current 234-201 estimated outcome, owing to a long “tail” of Republican-held seats they could win.

Trump’s ratings in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are currently 42.4% approve, 52.5% disapprove, for a net approval of -10.1%, down from -9.5% last week. On October 23, Trump was at 43.1% approve, his highest approval rating since March 2017. Trump has probably benefited from an increase in inflation-adjusted wages. However, the recent slump in the Dow Jones, which has been partly blamed on Trump’s tariffs, could undermine his economic credentials, as people worry that the stock market falls signal worse economic conditions to come.

US mid-terms minus twenty days

Poor polling for the Democrats continues in the Senate as Trump’s ratings improve. The House appears better for Democrats, but are fundraising totals deceiving the models? 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.

US mid-term elections will be held on November 6. In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Democrats lead by 8.4 points in the race for Congress, the same lead they had last week, but down from an 8.7 point lead for Democrats on October 14. In the FiveThirtyEight Classic House model, there has been a boost for Democrats, with their win probability up to 84%, from 79% last week. This boost reflects the impact of strong fundraising for Democrats in the “fundamentals” calculation; ninety-two Democratic challengers outraised Republican incumbents in the September quarter.

The big question is whether these great fundraising totals for Democrats can be converted into greater support at the polls by more advertising and field operations. The FiveThirtyEight “Lite” model, which just takes the polls into account, gives Democrats a 77% chance to win the House, little changed from their position last week.

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US mid-terms minus twenty-five days

Bad polling in Tennessee and North Dakota reduces the Democrats’ chances in the Senate, while they improve slightly in the House. And how state elections impact federal electoral boundaries. 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.

Last fortnight, I discussed Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the US Supreme Court. On October 6, following a one-week FBI investigation of sexual assault allegations that was criticised as a whitewash by Democrats, the US Senate confirmed Kavanaugh by a 50-48 margin. One Democrat, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, voted for Kavanaugh, and one Republican, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, voted “present”, though she was opposed, to cancel out the absence of another Republican. Maine’s Susan Collins, who is up for election in 2020, was the critical vote to confirm Kavanaugh, as a tie would have been broken by Vice President Mike Pence.

As of last week, the fight over Kavanaugh appeared to help Republicans – see my Conversation article. While Kavanaugh was unpopular, he was more popular than Trump and Republicans, and lifted their ratings. The Democrats’ lead in FiveThirtyEight’s aggregate of the race for Congress was 8.7 points last fortnight, 7.7 points last week, and is back to 8.4 points now. Democrats probably need to win the House popular vote by six to seven points to win the House. The FiveThirtyEight Classic model currently gives Democrats a 79% chance of winning the House (80% last fortnight, 74% last week).

In the Senate, there have been bad recent polls for Democrats in North Dakota and Tennessee, with Republicans leading in those states by double digit margins. Trump won North Dakota by 36 points in 2016, and Tennessee by 26 points. Democrats also trail in Texas and Nevada. If the Democrats lose North Dakota, they will need to run the table in all the close states and win Texas to gain control of the Senate.

The FiveThirtyEight Classic Senate model currently gives the Democrats just a 19% chance to win the Senate, down from 22% last week and 32% last fortnight. The hope for the Democrats is that most Senate polls were taken when the Kavanaugh fight was at its peak, and that they regain ground as it fades as an issue for most voters.

Trump’s ratings are currently 41.8% approve, 52.5% disapprove, for a net approval of -10.7 points. His approval rating is well up from 40% in mid-September, but down from its peak of 42.5% on October 8, two days after Kavanaugh was confirmed. The strong US economy continues to assist Trump and Republicans, though Trump should be doing much better given economic conditions. A key risk for Trump and Republicans is the stock market: US shares had large falls on Wednesday and Thursday, though they recovered some ground on Friday. Stock market falls are likely to be partly blamed on Trump’s tariffs, and could undermine his economic credentials.

As well as US House and Senate elections, 36 of the 50 states hold gubernatorial elections on November 6, and there are also elections for state legislative chambers. Republicans are defending 26 governors, Democrats just nine, and Alaska has an independent governor. The Senate map is tough for the Democrats, as they had a great year in 2012, the last time those seats were up. The governors’ map is tough for Republicans, as they had a great year in 2014.

State elections are important not just for state politics, but because they affect federal boundaries. Every ten years a Census is carried out, and Congressional Districts are required to have roughly equal numbers of people. However, in most states politicians draw the boundaries. If a party has complete control of a state (governor and both chambers of the state legislature), that party can gerrymander that state’s federal districts to its advantage.

The last Census was conducted in 2010, and that was a great year for Republicans. Partly due to gerrymandering, Republicans retained control of the US House in 2012 by a 234-201 margin despite losing the popular vote by more than 1% – see my 2012 election report for The Green Papers. If Democrats have a great year this November, and again in 2020, they could do their own gerrymandering after the 2020 Census, or at least force neutral maps.

Far-right Bolsonaro likely to win October 28 Brazilian Presidential runoff election

I previewed the Brazilian presidential election on my personal website. At the October 7 first round election, the far-right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, won 46.0% of the vote, while the left-wing Workers’ Party candidate, Fernando Haddad, had 29.3%. Another left-wing candidate won 12.5%, and a centre-right candidate won 4.8%. As Bolsonaro did not win over 50% in the first round, a run-off will be held on October 28 between Bolsonaro and Haddad. The three runoff polls taken so far give Bolsonaro a seven to fifteen point lead over Haddad. Bolsonaro has made comments sympathetic to the 1964-85 Brazilian military dictatorship.

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.