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.

US mid-term elections minus seven-and-a-half weeks

Two years after Donald Trump’s shocking upset in November 2016, the Democrats are likely to win the House at November 6 mid-term elections – but the Senate is tougher. 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.

Seats in the United States House of Representatives are assigned to states on the basis of population. All 435 House seats are up for election on November 6. Owing to natural clustering of Democratic voters and Republican gerrymandering, FiveThirtyEight’s House models say Democrats probably need to win the popular vote by six to seven points to take control. Polls show the Democrats currently lead in the race for Congress by 9.1 points.  In 2016, Republicans won the House by 241 seats to 194, on a vote margin of just 1.1% (49.1% to 48.0%).  FiveThirtyEight’s default “Classic” model gives Democrats an 83% chance of winning the House.

One-third of the 100 Senators are up for election every two years.  Each state has two Senators, elected for six-year terms. Thirty-five of the 100 Senate seats are up for election on November 6, including two Senate by-elections in Mississippi and Minnesota. Twenty-six of these seats are currently held by Democrats and just nine by Republicans. Democrats will be defending five states that voted for Trump by at least 18 points. Republicans currently hold the Senate by a 51-49 margin, including two independents who caucus with Democrats.

Continue reading “US mid-term elections minus seven-and-a-half weeks”

Carry me back to old Virginny

A quick look at the most significant electoral contest in the United States since the election of Donald Trump, being held today in Virginia.

A thread for discussion of today’s mini-mid-term elections in the United States, the most important of which is the gubernatorial election in Virginia, a crucial presidential swing state where the Democrats have their first opportunity for a meaningful win in the age of Trump. With Democratic incumbent Terry McAuliffe out of the picture, thanks to a particularly severe term limits regime that prohibits consecutive terms, the contest pits Democratic candidate Ralph Norman against Republican Ed Gillespie. Gillespie stands to benefit from the usual assemblage of voter suppression laws brought in after Republicans swept the field in the 2010 mid-terms. This also enabled aggressively gerrymandered new electoral boundaries that will make it very difficult for the Democrats to win control of the lower house of the state’s legislature, which is also up for election today (the Republican-controlled upper house is not). The RealClearPolitics poll average has Northam leading 47.7% to 44.4%, although the gap has narrowed late in the campaign.

Voters in New Jersey will also choose a successor to Republican Governor Chris Christie, with Democratic candidate Phil Murphy looking a shoo-in against Christie’s designated Republican successor, Kim Guandagno. RealClearPoliics has Murphy leading 49.5% to 35.1%.

Presidential election wash-up

Scattered observations on the state of polling and forecast models following the rude shock of the presidential election result.

Donald Trump’s victory was a close-run thing, achieved by the grace of winning margins of 1.2% in Pennsylvania, 1.0% in Wisconsin and 0.3% in Michigan. The New York Times is still projecting that Hillary Clinton 0.2% lead on the raw popular vote will resolve at 1.2%, which presumably has something to do with an incomplete vote in Washington state. Nate Silver has offered a penetrating counter-factual to illustrate how different the result and its implications would look if things had played out just a little bit more happily for Clinton.

Assuming the New York Times projection is right, the crude average of national poll results conducted by RealClearPolitics will prove to have exaggerated her margin by 2.0%, which is quite a bit less bad than the news media consensus would have you believe. Not a few individual pollsters have questions to answer, but the shellacking the industry as a whole is copping is out of proportion to its failure. A similar error in the context of a landslide result would barely have attracted notice, but in this instance it had the effect of encouraging a misapprehension about the likely result.

Of the aggregators, Nate Silver emerged with the most dignity intact because it was his model that had the highest uncertainty factored in. So far as the predicted electoral map, Silver’s model was identical to that of Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium, which fatally estimated Clinton’s chances of winning at 98%. All it took to make a mockery of this was a regional failure of polling in the rust belt states, where the fierce enthusiasm for Trump among normally disengaged white working-class voters was under-reported. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin produced 62 polls of presidential voting intention between the start of October and polling day, and only two had Trump in the lead (both conducted on the eve of the election by the Republican-aligned Trafalgar Group).

My own poll aggregate did no better or worse than the others, having won brownie points by tipping Florida correctly, but lost them again by giving Nevada to the Republicans (by insignificant margins in each case). Its findings are of use in ascertaining where the state polls did best and worst, as detailed in the list below showing the size of the error in favour of Trump (so negative results mean the polls were biased to Clinton). This is limited to states where three or more polls were published in October and November. Two patterns emerge: the noted under-measurement of the Trump earthquake in the industrial mid-west, and a tendency for both sides’ winning margins to be underestimated in their strongest states.

Crikey subscribers can enjoy more of my thoughts on these matters here.

Missouri -10%
Utah -9.7%
Indiana -9.3%
Iowa -6.8%
Minnesota -6.1%
Wisconsin -6.1%
Ohio -5.6%
Michigan -5.4%
Pennsylvania -5.2%
Louisiana -4.7%
Maine -3.8%
North Carolina -3.8%
New Hampshire -2.2%
Arizona -1.5%
Florida -1.2%
Colorado -0.8%
Georgia -0.5%
Virginia -0.4%
Texas -0.1%
Massachusetts +0.4%
New Jersey +1.3%
New York +2.3%
Illinois +2.4%
Nevada +2.5%
New Mexico +3.2%
Oregon +4%
Washington +4.8%
California +6.4%

United States elections live

Live coverage of the count for the US presidential election, and the rest.

12.52pm ET. Clinton grimly hanging on in New Hampshire on the NYT projection, with Trump having a slight edge on the vote. It also has also all but called it for him in Pennsylvania.

12.20pm ET. A tightening has been evident in Pennsylvania and Michigan, but the big shock of Wisconsin looks all but sure to win it for Trump. However, Clinton looks no less sure of winning the popular vote, by a margin currently projected at a bit over 1%.

11.54pm ET. The NYT at least has Clinton back ahead in Minnesota now.

11.46pm ET. A point of interest for Australians: Maine is holding a ballot initiative for “ranked choice voting”, what we would call preferential voting. Yes leads narrowly on 52.8%.

11.40pm ET. Also a big night for people who were pushing Brexit parallels. Decaying industrial areas have performed the same role as their English counterparts in Sunderland.

11.33pm ET. NYT now has Minnesota slipping over the line to Trump, holding steady in Pennsylvania and Michigan, home and hosed in Wisconsin.

11.27pm ET. If Clinton does win Michigan and Pennsylvania, it starts to come down to Maine CD-2 and Nebraska CD-2, and FiveThirtyEight has Trump the favourite in both.

11.26pm ET. Dan Rosenheck of The Economist: “I think HRC still has a prayer in MI and PA, though the Upshot is very bearish. But WI, which polls had as safer, looks like her Waterloo.”

11.12pm ET. NYT effectively calling the election for Trump; the always more cautious FiveThirtyEight has him at 61%. Former says Trump is a 72% chance in Michigan and 63% in Pennsylvania, but I gather the ladder is essentially treating any “too close to call” state as 50-50, where NYT is mostly projecting Trump as favourite.

11.01pm ET. So anyway, the big shock is that the industrial rust belt states have responded heavily to Donald Trump. It makes perfect sense when you say it like that, but the polls missed it. Whatever the final result, losers of the night include polls and forecasters, with a qualified exception for Nate Silver, whose cautious projection has been vindicated (and left Wired and Huffington Post looking silly).

10.58pm ET. Some rare PB brickbats for the ABC. Out driving just now, I have five ABC stations on offer, and not a hint of election news from any of them. Had to listen to commercial talk radio. And ABC News 24 has underused Antony Green and been taking upwards of half an hour to notice what’s going on.

10.26pm ET. You can probably read the NYT projection as well as I can, but it says there’s nothing at all in it in Pennsylvania, and Trump can get there anyway with Michigan and Wisconsin, both of which are looking good for him. FiveThirtyEight now has Trump at a 55% probability. The Senate will stay Republican: they are all but sure to hold Missouri, home and hosed in New Hampshire, Indiana and North Carolina.

10.16pm ET. Trump keeps moving to victory on the NYT projection amid an unexpectedly strong performance in the rust belt, now being credited with narrow leads in Wisconsin as well as Michigan. FiveThirtyEight still has Clinton at 60%, but I gather that’s based on an arbitrary 50-50 probability split in Michigan.

9.56pm ET. The latest update from Michigan has nudged the count from 21% to 23%, and increased Trump’s projected lead at NYT from 1.1% to 1.2%.

9.48pm ET. Looks like everything hinges on Michigan. New York Times projects a 55% Republican win probability.

9.41pm ET. The New York Times projection is increasingly tipping to Trump, and now has him leading in Michigan, with Clinton grimly hanging on in Pennsylvania. Its Electoral College projection is Trump 275, Clinton 263.

9.37pm ET. Richard Burr (R) home in North Carolina; Kelly Ayotte (R) with her nose in front in New Hampshire; too early to tell in Missouri, but overall the Senate is looking difficult for the Democrats.

9.26pm ET. Time to close the door on Florida, I gather.

9.21pm ET. Michigan though is close for comfort. New York Times has Clinton at only a 58% probability, owing to the fragility of her leads in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

9.20pm ET. However, Colorado is looking good with 25% counted, suggesting it will join Virginia as a Trump roadblock.

9.18pm ET. Numbers coming in for Michigan and Pennsylvania, both showing with Clinton with moderate leads.

9.16pm ET. About 70,000 votes have been added in Broward, and they’ve perhaps been less favourable for Clinton than required, going 55.0% to 40.0% her way.

9.14pm ET. Virginia still looks like Clinton’s firewall: the New York Times projects her for a 91% probability and a margin of 3.2%.

9.10pm ET. The New York Times has Clinton a 69% chance, which tends to suggest this is another presidential election where Nate Silver has ended up looking pretty good.

9.10pm ET. Still slow progress in Broward.

9.08pm ET. The New York Times now has Trump with his nose in front in all the close states, and betting and financial markets are rushing to price in a higher risk of a Trump win.

9.02pm ET. Trickles of votes coming in now for Broward county, which will need to be plentiful to get Clinton over the line in Florida.

9.01pm ET. Clinton continues to firm in Virginia, which closes a lot of pathway for Trump.

8.59pm ET. In North Carolina, Richard Burr has his nose in front to retain the Senate seat for the Republicans, but Clinton retains a slight edge in the presidential vote.

8.48pm ET. Clinton looking good in New Hampshire.

8.43pm ET. New York Times has Clinton maintaining tiny leads in North Carolina and Iowa, but Trump slipping ahead in Ohio and holding firm in Florida. That Virginia is not absolutely nailed down, and a number of important states further west are yet to report, means there is still a theoretical path for Trump.

8.42pm ET. A lot seems to hinge on Broward county in Florida, which has only reported its early voting results to this point.

8.39pm ET. FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans 69% chance of retaining the Senate.

8.38pm ET. Evan Bayh fails to win Indiana Senate for the Democrats.

8.36pm ET. Florida back to Trump +0.6% at New York Times, nothing in it in North Carolina, Clinton still with her nose in front in Ohio.

8.35pm ET. Now I’m hearing less encouraging talk on North Carolina, for both presidency and Senate.

8.34pm ET. NBC News projects Republican House majority.

8.32pm ET. New York Times projection on Florida drifting slightly to Clinton: Trump’s lead down from 0.6% to 0.3%.

8.25pm ET. Wise heads on Twitter sound doubtful that Trump is doing as well as New York Times projections suggest: “Someone tell me how Trump overcomes what’s still out in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach”.

8.21pm ET. And Ohio better than anticipated for Clinton as well.

8.20pm ET. But Clinton appears to be performing well in North Carolina.

8.19pm ET. The New York Times model is projecting a 0.5% lead for Trump, so some mixed signals there.

8.17pm ET. New York Times projects early lead for Clinton in Ohio, which is good news (I won’t pretend to be impartial here).

8.13pm ET. More indications of Clinton outperforming Obama in North Carolina, which Romney won 50.6% to 48.4%.

8.10pm ET. Really good results and projections display from New York Times.

8.09pm ET. Republican Marco Rubio’s anticipated re-election to Florida Senate confirmed.

8.08pm ET. No one’s calling any battleground states, but encouraging indications for Clinton in Florida and North Carolina, and betting markets moving her way.

8.07pm ET. NBC News confirms anticipated Democratic Senate gain in Illinois.

8.03pm ET. Could be wishful thinking, but Daily Kos sounds encouraged about North Carolina Senate race, where persons of good conscience will be hoping Deborah Ross ousts Republican incumbent Richard Burr.

7.56pm ET. Hugely important Miami Dade county in Florida swinging 3% to Clinton compared with Obama’s winning performance in 2016.

7.53pm ET. Clinton just shot to the lead in the raw count in Florida. Probably just goes to show you the limitation of looking at raw results, particularly in such an electorally diverse state.

7.49pm ET. Republican Senator Rob Portman’s re-election in Ohio confirmed. Always looked a disappointing race for the Democrats.

7.45pm ET. Australia’s ABC (i.e. Antony Green) is calling Democrats 182, Republicans 94, but none of the calls are in battleground states.

7.41pm ET. Enjoy footage of Nevada judge dressing down douchebag Trump lawyer over “voter fraud” lawsuit here.

7.36pm ET. Trump camp talking head on ABC News 24 talking tosh about “oversampling” by lying pollsters.

7.35pm ET. Jonathan Swan of The Hill: “In the presidential, Clinton looking strong in Pa., Colo., N.H., Mich., Wis., per exits. Florida she’s a squeak ahead. Ohio tied.” Colorado and New Hampshire would close any path to a Trump victory.

7.31pm ET. More good signs for Clinton in Florida, from Duval county: “Clinton over Trump 49-47 w/ 300K votes in. If that doesn’t change, it’s over. GOP can’t win statewide w/o Duval.”

7.28pm ET. Latino Decisions reports: “Latino vote in Florida now posted: Clinton 67 – Trump 31 (+36) 2012 was Obama 58 – Romney 40 (+18)”. Also talk of particularly strong turnout in Latin areas of Miami.

7.20pm ET. Stephen Bush at the New Statesman notes there is “a swing towards Clinton in Kentucky, though Indiana looks bad for both rural Ohio and Evan Bayh’s chance of taking the Senate seat back for the Democrats”.

7pm ET. Polling stations close in the first of the key states around about now, so here begins live coverage of today’s momentous US elections. See here for my final poll aggregation and Senate review.