Thursday, October 09, 2014

Final Midterm Election Preview

I promise this will be the last pre-election post; and I aim to keep it short. For more commentary I refer you to the ones I did last month, my extended one in March (on the three-ring circus), in July (on the deluge of campaign emails asking for money), and a brief one in May.

Of the many, many predictions I have seen so far, the best I have seen so far is from Taegan Goddard, that the battle for control of the Senate may not be determined Election Night (he used "may", not "will", but I will give him credit for making the call, as he supported it with a short, accurate list of arguments).  There are too many close races, plus a strong possibility of subsequent run-off elections in Louisiana, and now in Georgia, the uncertainty about which party Independent Greg Orman in Kansas may choose (if he wins, which is quite likely), and the possibility of indeterminate outcomes (requiring re-counts, or at least days of counting before final results are determined) in several more races.  So, even if you are keen on knowing the outcome, don't resolve to stay up until the question is determined

I have received numerous emails that present the prospect of "victory" in various forms.  As for me, I will consider the election outcome a modest victory for our democracy if the most hated targets go down, something which will help achieve the greater result of devaluing the idea that infinite amounts of big money contributions will buy our elections. To put a score on it, I will be happy if I get a result score of 100 or more points, with the following scoring:
 1) Republicans don't end up with clear control of the Senate, 51 committed seats in their caucus (40 points);
 2) Rick Scott loses--Gov. FL ( 30);
 3) Scott Walker loses--Gov. WI (30);
 4) Mitch McConnell loses--Sen. KY (40);
 5) Greg Abbott loses--Gov. TX (50);
 6) Rep. Steve King loses--IA (20);
 7) Thom Tillis loses - Sen. NC (20);
 8) Cory Gardner loses - Sen. CO (20);
 9) David Perdue loses - Sen. GA (20); and
10) Joni Ernst loses - Sen. IA (20).

As you can see, for me it's more about the bad guys losing the elections than the "good ones" winning them.  I don't have much hope that the Republicans' margin in the House will decrease.  There is also a correlation effect, in that numbers 4, and 7-10 all contribute to 1), so that it would be hard, though not impossible, for the Democrats to hold onto a majority unless a couple of those happen.  5) and 6) are considered long-shots by most of the pundits (but not, to read their emails, by those candidates' opponents, who are Wendy Davis and Jim Mowrer, respectively).   My over-under (median) prediction is 110 points, and a slightly more specific prediction is that the night will finish (when Alaska is called for the Republican candidate) with a 49-49 result, with two races (or party alignments) yet to be determined.

Moving On
As soon as the news value of the 2014 elections is played out (it may happen sooner than Election Day: One last prediction is that 2014 will set an all-time low for voter turnout, which is a victory of sorts for the Republicans, I suppose), attention will turn to 2016. I think the most likely outcome of 2016 will be a significant wave in the Democrats' favor, due partly to the weakness of the Republican candidates likely to run, and partly to Hillary Clinton's candidacy and probable election landslide.   Especially if she takes my advice and announces herself early on for "The Polk Option", promising she will serve only a single term.

The nature of the Clinton landslide, however, is far from clear.  The Republican primary should boil down to a three-man contest:  an Establishment candidate (I'm thinking Jeb Bush, probably not Mitt Romney or Chris Christie), the Tea Party loyalists' candidate (someone from the South, maybe Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio, if he "rehabilitates" himself by sufficiently condemning "amnesty"), and Rand Paul.  Rand is by far the most interesting potential major candidate the Republicans can field, because he dares to challenge orthodox Republican beliefs, both Tea Party and Establishment, so I think he can carve out a large enough voting bloc within his party to last through the first rounds of primaries.  As for Hillary, unless something happens to her health or she commits a fatal error of some kind, she will have an easy time winning the nomination; I don't think either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren will run against her.

I do think there is the danger of party splits--for both parties--if it ends up being Clinton vs. Bush again.  (I say "again", though the only Clinton-Bush race so far was '92, Bill vs. George Herbert Walker Bush. The Bush family is aching still for revenge for that one, which is one reason I think Jeb will decide to run.)  That potential for splitting could manifest itself in a true 4-way race (the only real precedents are, 1948, to some extent, and 1860), or more likely, a major third candidate, someone who can place himself/herself in a position to attract the disaffected of both parties and Independents.  That's a tricky objective--both Clinton and Bush would have to be defined as middle-of-the-road, on the phony Liberal-Conservative spectrum, and that would tend to marginalize a rebel from the extremes of both parties--so it would probably be a hugely rich populist of some kind, someone who doesn't get along with either party but can be credibly portrayed as a friend of the downcast middle class, something like a native-born Arnold Schwarzenegger or a sane Ross Perot.   That person would be identified (or self-identified) in the spring of 2016 if it appears inevitable to be Hillary vs. Jeb.

Finally, I've got a couple more small donations to give--my last one was an impulse contribution for Michelle Nunn in Georgia, as David Perdue's incredible "I'm proud of my career in outsourcing" statement looks like it could be a self-inflicted mortal wound--and then I'm done.  The DCCC is getting my House money now--it's too hard to decide among the many money claimants--and I will probably finally give something to Wendy Davis in her quixotic struggle to redeem Texas' soul, as a reward for fighting this long and still having a puncher's chance at a knockout victory.


Chin Shih Tang said...

Still Oct. 9: I did a Google search for "The Polk Option", and I found this excellent article on a blog called House of Marathon. The author called it "The Polk Precedent". Maybe my name for it will catch on better?

Here's a link:

Chin Shih Tang said...

I have neglected to mention in any of my posts the South Dakota Senate race. It has emerged as an unpredictable one in the last weeks, a true three-way race. The Democratic candidate, Rick Weiland, is running an interesting race that has attracted the attention of the progressive wing of the party, though he seems stuck at around 30%. What has moved is the level of the Independent, Larry Pressler, a former two-term Republican Senator who says he voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, and he takes votes basically from the Republican candidate, Rounds. Rounds is still favored, but the dynamics of the race, unlike most of them, are still in flux, so anything is possible. This is a seat being vacated by a Democrat that had long been given up as lost.

Chin Shih Tang said...

Final Senate prediction:
I wanted to do something to build up the final numbers from the beginning, but got there first (just now)--go to and click on the "Math" tab.
There you will see that the numbers are 45-45 without the 10 close races allocated. Here's how I think they will go:
Close race, but incumbent wins by 3-4 points: NC, NH, and KY (alas!) D47, R46.
Mushy Democrat incumbent fails to hold seat in Red state: AR, AK, LA. Arkansas won't be too close; AK will be late, and close, but Begich's "perfect campaign" won't convince enough young voters to show; LA may not be decided election night (it could go to a runoff), but winning that one will be a longshot, now or then. D47, R49
That leaves KS, GA, CO, and IA. All are very close. I see KS as a likely loss for the Republicans; it is the kind of "longtime too much in DC" argument that does defeat incumbents. But don't put Chad Orman in the Democratic column--he will wait and see.
IA polls extremely close, but my feeling is it will go against Bruce Braley--in this case he may not be middle-of-the-road enough for moderate Dems. D47, R50 (1 on fence)
I am very hopeful about GA, though I expect it will be too close to be decided on Election Night--it will go to a runoff.
To me, CO is the one Democrats must win to have some hope (through the GA runoff, and getting Orman's support). I do feel positive about the chances for a mild upset here. D48, R50 (2 on fence)
That's my prediction for Election Night (or early the next day, when they call Alaska). The one real change in my prediction is to concede IA to the Republicans.
That result will mean still more campaign and spending--for the hopeless race in LA and the high-intensity battle in GA--but I think in the end Orman will go with the Republicans in 2015 and switch back in 2017 when the Democrats take the majority back. Both parties will accept him.

Chin Shih Tang said...

I should clarify one thing: LA may not be called for the Republicans on Election Night--it will be very close as to whether the Republican gets to 50%--so it could end up being officially 49-48 R when Alaska is called (or maybe even 48-48 for a couple of days). Most will know the eventual probable outcome of that one, though that won't prevent a frantic round of fund-raising for the runoff.

Chin Shih Tang said...

For the other two rings of the three-ring circus (see my first preview in March at

House: Expect the worst. The Democratic House campaign has been faulty in its strategy, its tactics, and its platform. Some good candidates will go down as a result. There are only about 25-30 seats that are seriously being contested, and those are having millions spent--on both sides--in each, while most of the other 400 will go quietly to the designated party and incumbent. The only question is whether the Republicans will have the largest majority in the House since the Fifties or the Twenties.

Governor: I identified three races as being critically important to me personally:
1) Defeating Rick Scott in FL - it is not certain, but likely, this will happen.
2) Defeating Scott Walker in WI - I think it's 50-50, but the experts give him a 60-70% chance of surviving.
3) The hope that Wendy Davis could beat Greg "3T" Abbott - (Typical Texas Tool). That has gone from highly unlikely to impossible, with the only question whether he will win in double digits (probably yes).
There are other close Governors' races--I have some interest in whether Pat Quinn can survive in IL (I say yes), whether Rick Snyder will lose in MI (probably not, unfortunately), whether Sam Brownback will lose in KS (probably yes), whether Martha Coakley can lose another statewide race handed to her in MA (unfortunately, yes), and it would be great to see Susana martinez lose in NM (unfortunately, no).
The most interest race is probably the one in Maine, in which the 3rd party candidate, with some 15% of the vote in polls, dropped out. Much of this vote will go to the Democratic candidate, who now has a good chance to defeat extreme Tea-Bagger Paul LePage.
I see the Democrats picking up a net of 1-3 governorships--they were down to 21, I believe.

Other stuff: Legalized marijuana: I think it will win in Oregon, win in DC (and create major Federal/local enforcement headaches in our nation's capital), and lose in Florida (needs 60%). Alaska looks to be very close (as is the state's races in Senate and Governor--maybe turnout there will end up "high", after all!)