Brexit minus eight weeks: is it election time?

What’s next in the Brexit gridlock, plus updates from Italy and the Democratic race in the US. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

To try to ensure Boris Johnson follows Parliament’s laws, it needs to be sitting in late October, and not be dissolved for an election.

On September 3, the Commons changed the order of business to allow legislation opposing a no-deal Brexit to be debated by 328 votes to 301. As a result, the 21 Conservative MPs who opposed the government were kicked out of the Conservative party and will not be able to stand as Conservative candidates at the next election.

On September 4, the legislation passed the Commons comfortably, and has gone to the House of Lords, where it will pass easily. Boris Johnson attempted to call an early election, but won far fewer votes than the two-thirds majority needed to dissolve parliament.

Once this legislation clears Parliament and receives royal assent (expected on Monday), the question is whether Labour should support an early election. No other party can give Johnson the two-thirds majority he needs. Although a simple majority could pass legislation setting the election date, that legislation would also have to go through the Lords before prorogation. According to The Guardian, Jeremy Corbyn is poised to reject Johnson’s October 15 election.

Once Parliament is dissolved, Johnson could call the election for November 1 – the day after Brexit – and refuse to implement Parliament’s legislation attempting to force him to request a Brexit extension. The right-wing British newspapers and a large share of the public would applaud Johnson if he blatantly broke the law in this way. This applause would be very different from most cases where politicians flagrantly break laws. Johnson said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than extend Brexit.

If Johnson honours the October 15 election, his message would be simple: Vote Conservative to stop all the Brexit talk after October 31. Corbyn would have a more complex message on Brexit that would probably not appeal. At the 2017 election, Brexit was a comparatively minor issue. Asked which would be worse in a poll, 43% selected Corbyn becoming PM, while 35% chose a no-deal Brexit.

On October 14, the Queen reopens Parliament. On October 17-18, there is a European Union summit – the last chance to make a deal before Brexit day. If Johnson does not make a deal with the EU, or request an extension, and Parliament is still sitting, it is likely he would face a successful no-confidence vote. If the Commons did not vote for confidence in a new government by October 31, Britain would crash out.

In this scenario, an election would take place several weeks after a no-deal Brexit. My view is that people will not turn against Brexit until they are personally inconvenienced. A no-deal Brexit is likely to cause significant inconvenience. An election held several weeks after a no-deal Brexit will probably result in a Labour landslide and PM Corbyn.

Another scenario is that the Commons elects Corbyn or someone else to be PM, request an extension and hold an election. Corbyn is unlikely to allow someone else to be PM so close to an election, and many Conservative rebel MPs would still prefer no-deal to Corbyn. If, despite these problems, Corbyn became PM before an election, he could enact some of his popular policies by executive order, and use these policies as an election platform. Labour would never have done so well in 2017 if Corbyn did not have popular policies.

Trump trails leading Democrats by record margins; far-right Salvini loses power in Italy

I wrote for The Conversation on September 5 that Donald Trump trails the leading Democrats in a Quinnipiac poll by far bigger margins than any previous incumbent president at this point – sourced from CNN analyst Harry Enten. Joe Biden still leads the Democratic primary despite one outlier poll.

In Italy, there was a coalition between the far-right League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. I wrote for my personal website on September 4 that League leader Matteo Salvini broke this coalition to force early elections, but the Five Stars allied with the centre-left Democrats to form a new government. Also covered: Israeli polls ahead of the September 17 election, and the far-right surges in two German state elections.

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.

Continue reading “US mid-terms minus twenty days”

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.