Monday, November 03, 2014

2014 U.S. Senate Election Predictions: 50/50 split; Orman caucuses w/ Democrats.

     Usually, I start these predictions by admitting that I completely rely on a combination of Fivethirtyeight.com's (Nate Silver's) and other poll aggregate sites' predictions. While I've definitely kept up with those sources this cycle, I believe that the polling is too close to rely on the polls as much as I normally would. If a Democratic candidate is down by more than 3-5 points going into Election Day, they're typically toast; however, when the race is closer, a good GOTV operation can make all of the difference. Another thing I am relying on is that the polls (in certain states...especially CO) are off slightly (though they could be off slightly in the other direction, which would mean I'm way off, and the Republicans will probably get to 52-53 seats, which is more likely than the Democrats keeping a 51 seat majority):

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/are-the-state-polls-skewed/

     Sadly, I'll admit that my 50/50 split prediction is being optimistic for the Dems. The experts claim there is just as much of a chance that Republicans will gain a 53 seat majority as there is a chance that Democrats will retain a majority at all:

http://fivethirtyeight.com/interactives/senate-forecast/

     This means the odds are with the Republicans getting a majority. I will admit that it is very disappointing to see Democrats behind, even with this being a midterm cycle, since the economy has been steadily improving and so many other indicators, which matter during Presidential years, don't seem to be offering Democrats the boost they need right now (for some reason economic indicators do not affect midterm elections like they affect presidential elections).

     In order to take control of the U.S. Senate, Republicans need a 6 seat gain (meaning they make 6 pickups without losing any seats). No threat of these states flipping for either side: AL, DE, HI, ID, IL, MA, ME, MI, MN, MS, NE, NJ, NM, OK, OR, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WY.

Let's start with the races I'm already willing to call:

Here are the 6 seats that I believe Republicans will pickup tomorrow:

Alaska: While the polling has been all over the place here, AK's polls traditionally favor Democrats by 7 more points than they should. The only positive factor that could benefit Sen. Begich is the fact that the youth vote should have a higher turnout due to the marijuana legalization ballot initiative. Likely voter models in polls try to guess who will vote in an election. A high voter turnout could make this race more interesting (though this would apply to any close race in a midterm). This is one of the states I could be wrong about, and it probably should be in the competitive state bracket. If it weren't for the fact that polling typically favors Democrats (erroneously), I probably wouldn't put this state here and would call it more competitive. I'd love to be wrong here.

Arkansas: While this race appeared to be very close and even favor Sen. Pryor at first, I don't see it happening.

Louisiana: The best chance that Sen. Landrieu has is if she can pull herself above 50% tomorrow. In Louisiana, no candidate achieves a majority, then there's a runoff in Dec. Right now, there are multiple candidates, which helps Sen. Landrieu; however, the chances of her pulling over 50% are slim. Most likely, there will be a runoff here, and she will lose.

Montana: We pretty much lost this seat from the get-go. This would've been a battleground state if former Gov. Schweitzer had entered the race.

South Dakota: This race looked like it would be extremely interesting since former Republican U.S. Senator Larry Pressler jumped in the race as an independent. Interesting fact about him is that he endorsed President Obama in both '08 and '12. At one point, the race was looking like ~ a three way statistical tie; however, former Republican Governor Mike Rounds appears to be running away with it now.

West Virginia: Republican Rep. Capito will win this one.
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Here are the seats Republicans would like to pick up, but I say they won't:

North Carolina: This race has been very close, but early voting has been looking good in NC and Sen. Hagan has been polling ahead consistently (though not by much). This seat is staying blue. If it doesn't, it is going to be a wave night for the GOP.

New Hampshire: Scott Brown moved to NH to run for this seat. He isn't going to get it.
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Here are the seats the Democrats would like to pick up, but probably won't:

Kentucky: We have an amazing candidate in this state, and one of my best fellow campaign workers is out there fighting the good fight right now. The polling was close and even had Grimes ahead for a bit; however, they have not been looking nearly as good for her this last week. Most states have some form of early voting, which typically helps Democrats. In KY, there is no early voting. All of the votes take place on Election Day, and, with her current polling numbers, I just don't see her winning. Its too bad because I would've loved to see her take Minority Leader Mitch McConnell down.

Georgia: This is definitely one of the more interesting races, and, like LA, there is a chance for a runoff (except this one would take place in January). Nunn began to poll ahead after her Republican opponent made a few gaffes, but she has fallen behind by a few points in the most recent polls. I'm predicting this race will go to a runoff, and I don't think Nunn would win the runoff.
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Here are the truly competitive races, which I believe will decide who controls the U.S. Senate:

Colorado: Some people think I'm wrong for calling this a top tier race. Turnout is not where we want it to be in the early vote; however, the Republicans front loaded a lot of their vote (a lot of Election Day voters voted early). The polling has tightened, and, honestly, I don't think this race would've been even close if messaging had been better on the Democratic side. If Denver turns out tomorrow, I think Sen. Udall still has a shot. I'm optimistically saying that he pulls this one off, even though certain factors I'm seeing would suggest otherwise. Side note: Polling typically underestimates Democratic performance by 3.4% here

Iowa: This is probably the single most important race, in my opinion. Recent polling has been depressingly bad for Braley; however, he's leading the early vote (according to D vs. R numbers). I'm going to say Braley wins this one, but barely.

Kansas: This state should've been a safe red state; however, tea party Republicans took it over and their extreme ideology has wrecked the state (see below). This has caused a left-of-center independent (Orman) to pull ahead in the race (the Democrat dropped out and successfully had his name removed from the ballot). Orman is pulling ahead, and I'm predicting he'll win. He has stated that he will caucus with whichever party wins the majority; however, I say he caucuses with the Democrats if they win 49 seats, which is my overall prediction.

"But Brownback turned out to be even more radical when it came to economic policy. In 2012, he enacted the largest package of tax cuts in Kansas history, essentially transforming his state into a lab experiment for extreme free-market ideology. The results (disastrous) have reduced the governor to making appearances at grim strip malls like this one in a desperate attempt to salvage his re-election bid."

"That word, 'experiment,' has come to haunt Brownback as the data rolls in. The governor promised his 'pro-growth tax policy' would act 'like a shot of adrenaline in the heart of the Kansas economy,' but, instead, state revenues plummeted by nearly $700 million in a single fiscal year, both Moody's and Standard & Poor's downgraded the state's credit rating, and job growth sagged behind all four of Kansas' neighbors. Brownback wound up nixing a planned sales-tax cut to make up for some of the shortfall, but not before he'd enacted what his opponents call the largest cuts in education spending in the history of Kansas."

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-great-kansas-tea-party-disaster-20141023

     To sum up, I'm predicting that the Democrats will lose 6 seats, but that Orman will win KS and caucus with the Democrats, making him one of the most powerful people in Congress. With a 50-50 split in the U.S. Senate, Vice President Joe Biden will be a very busy man.

     Hopefully, I'm right. I'd like to be wrong about AK, GA, and KY, but I don't think I am. I could be wrong about IA or CO, and, if I am wrong about either, then the Republicans will control the U.S. Senate. I'm breaking with tradition on my predictions by not trending them as closely to the polls. According to the polling, it would be very possible for the GOP to win 8 seats + Orman (KS) caucusing with them, since he says he'll go with whoever has the majority.

     Should liberals be upset if we lose the U.S. Senate? Of course, but the Republicans shouldn't cheer too much. We'll still have the veto pen at the White House, and, in 2016, we'd be almost certain to take the Senate back while we're electing the first female U.S. President (presidential turnout numbers against 2010 tea party incumbents would make taking the Senate back much more than just possible). Also, another silver lining is that it appears that we'll be picking off some 2010 tea party governors this year:

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/one-day-left-the-most-competitive-races-for-governor/
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Predictions on the Marijuana ballot initiatives:

AK:
Unfortunately, red state voters (even the more libertarian leaning AK Republicans) don't seem to be ready for legalization. Polling has had it down for awhile now, and I don't see it passing.

D.C.: Legalization will pass here as well, though Republicans in Congress will try to thwart it. Most likely, it won't mirror the experiments in CO and WA because D.C. doesn't have the same amount of rights as a state.

FL: The polling here has substantially worsened, but I'm optimistic and think FL will reach the 60% threshold. If I'm wrong anywhere w/ the initiatives, it will be here though.

OR: Legalization will pass here!

For a more in-depth look into these initiatives, read this:

http://marijuana.com/news/2014/11/my-best-guess-on-outcomes-of-marijuana-initiatives/

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