Election Analysis

Final 2016 Predictions: Clinton Wins, GOP Keeps House, Senate Barely Flips to Dems

I’m getting in under the wire before the polls close. My final predictions are as follows:

Hillary Clinton will become the first woman president, taking the Electoral College vote 322-215, with one elector in Washington state pledging not to vote for her. I ultimately called Ohio and Arizona for Donald Trump, but if I am wrong, I suspect it will be in one or both of these states. I predict Clinton will win the remaining swing states except for Iowa, where Trump has a clear lead.

I see the Democrats picking up a net of 14 seats in the House of Representatives, but Republicans will still hold a commanding 233-202 advantage.

And I see the Democrats picking up a net of four Senate seats to tie the chamber 50-50. Vice President-Elect Tim Kaine will have the tiebreaking vote once he is sworn in on January 20, 2017. Kaine’s vacant Senate seat will be filled by a Democrat, as Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, has the authority to appoint his replacement until the 2017 off-year elections in Virginia. Watch for that seat to flip to the GOP, giving Republicans a 51-49 advantage heading into the 2018 midterms.

In elections dating back to 2006, I have come within 3.8 seats in the House and 1.4 in the Senate, and in 2014, I missed the House by two seats and the Senate by one. We’ll see how it goes this year. I could see the Senate going 51-49 in either direction, but it is very difficult to see either party getting to 52 seats. At any rate, a 50-50 or 51-49 Senate is going to be essentially paralyzed due to the filibuster rules, so the final tally is of little significance except as to which party’s leaders get the better titles. Congress’s accomplishments for the next two years will be limited largely to naming post offices.

Congressional Race Ratings (October 2, 2016)

This week’s Congressional Race Ratings have five changes, four of which favor the Republican Party. It is becoming clear that no Democratic wave is developing and that the party’s gains are likely to be modest at best.

In the House, I am making three changes, all of which move “Lean Democratic” seats to “Lean Republican.” In two Iowa districts (1 and 3), recent polling, and the surprising strength of Donald Trump in the Hawkeye State, have moved those races in the direction of incumbent GOP Congressmen Rod Blum and David Young, respectively. And in New York 19, centered on suburban Westchester County, Republican John Faso recently took a very slim lead over Democrat Zephyr Teachout in an open-seat race. In this district, currently held by a Republican, Trump is +5, so he is clearly not creating a drag on Faso.

The latest round of projections leaves expected net gains for the Democrats at +9, which would leave the GOP with a comfortable 238-197 advantage. A nine-seat gain would not even erase the Democrats’ net losses from 2014, which totaled 13 seats.

In the Senate, I am making two changes. Most recent polling in New Hampshire now shows incumbent GOP Senator Kelly Ayotte moving narrowly ahead of Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, despite Trump’s poor numbers in the Granite State. This race now moves from “Leans Democratic” to “Leans Republican.”

In the one change favoring the Democrats this week, I am taking a bit of a gamble and moving the North Carolina Senate race from “Leans Republican” to “Leans Democratic.” Recent polling gives Democrat Deborah Ross a slight lead over incumbent GOP Senator Richard Burr. North Carolina Democrats are extremely motivated this year after some high-profile controversies by the state’s Republican governor and legislature, especially the “bathroom bill” that has caused numerous bodies (including the NBA and the collegiate Athletic Coast Conference) to pull their events from the state. This one is a gamble, but it does seem that Democrats are highly motivated in the Tar Heel State this year.

These two changes leave my current Senate projection at Democrats +4, gaining seats in Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and losing a seat in Nevada. This would mean an even 50-50 split, with Democrats poised to gain procedural control of the chamber on the tiebreaking vote of the vice president. As I continue to expect that Hillary Clinton will win the presidency, this tiebreaker vote would fall to her running mate Tim Kaine.

For my full, updated listings in competitive House and Senate races, please click here.

Congressional Race Ratings (Aug. 31, 2016)

Tonight, I am publishing my initial forecast in what I consider to be the competitive U.S. House of Representatives and Senate races for 2016. Starting September 11, I will publish updated ratings every Sunday between now and the election.

There are few real surprises. At this time, I am forecasting a net Democratic gain of five seats in the Senate, which would flip the chamber to Democratic control, 51-49. I also forecast a Democratic gain of 13 seats in the House, which would recover the ground the party lost in 2014 and narrow the Republican advantage to 234-201.

Two ratings that stand out include the Senate race in Nevada and a House race in the 49th District of California. At this point in time, I am rating Catherine Cortez-Masto a slight favorite to hold outgoing Democratic leader Harry Reid‘s Senate seat in Nevada. Republican Joe Heck appears to have a slight polling lead, on average, but I continue to expect we will see high Latino turnout, and that the vaunted Reid political machine will pull out a close victory for the longtime Senator’s preferred successor.

I also am rating Democrat Douglas Applegate as a slight favorite to upset Congressman Darrell Issa in what has long been a Republican district in Southern California, centered in south Orange County, the epicenter of GOP politics in the state. Applegate has been polling very well in this race against the controversial Issa, and also performed well in the open primary pitting all candidates against each other in June. With higher turnout to be expected in November, the signs at this time point to an upset. Stay tuned.

For the full chart of competitive races and their ratings, click here.

Fundamentals Still Favor Clinton, But Sanders Needs To Do His Part

After decades as a both a participant in, and observer of, the political process, I understand all too well the propensity of perpetually nervous Democrats to panic at every turn. Because I recognize this unfortunate tendency, I am going to try to offer a level-headed analysis.


Despite the recent flood of polling showing Donald Trump moving slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton (after a Republican convention that most of the smart-money people in the Beltway and its outer boroughs deemed a disaster), I still think the fundamentals of this election favor Clinton. Conventions tend to move polling numbers, and we should not put too much weight on what happened in the top of the inning without seeing what happens in the bottom of the inning.


I will note, however, that in my tweets following Trump’s speech I said he had nailed it and that he perfectly channeled, in his remarks, the audience he wanted to get: blue-collar whites. What we have seen in the polling numbers since Thursday demonstrates that my analysis was correct.


In reporting its latest polling numbers showing Trump ahead by 3% in a two-way matchup and 5% when including the Libertarian and Green candidates, CNN noted that Trump had lost ground with college-educated whites, but had boosted his margin among whites without degrees from 20% to 39%. The CNN poll gave him a 62%-23% edge among this demographic.


It is important to note that Mitt Romney received 62% of the white, blue-collar vote in 2012 but still lost the election, and this despite handily winning the votes of college-educated whites by a significant margin as well.


In short, at this point, Trump is winning the voters one would expect him to win. The key question is whether he has hit his ceiling. If he has, then he still doesn’t have the support he needs to win, and with his numbers among non-white voters likely to be abysmal, where he stands right now is not enough to get him over the top in November.


On the flip side, Clinton still has to close the sale with the voters who she has a realistic chance to persuade. She will have an opportunity to start making progress in that direction this week.


Tonight, Bernie Sanders will address the nation, and the onus will be on him to get his more level-headed supporters fully on board, while perhaps converting some of the die-hards. Among the holdouts still unreconciled to Clinton, Sanders needs to press the case that yes, he has certain disagreements with Clinton, but he and his supporters will get much more of what they want from her than from Trump.


For Sanders to paper over the differences or give a full-throated endorsement will not fly with these supporters, who would see such a speech as dishonest or a “sellout.” He needs to acknowledge the differences briefly, then focus like a laser beam on the similarities, and also on the victories that he and his supporters have won in the party platform. This will give his supporters a reason to feel that they made a difference and that it wasn’t all in vain.


One key thing to keep in mind going forward is that Clinton cannot win this election by simply making it about Trump’s many deficiencies. The people who support him do so even though many of them find him obnoxious and unpresidential. She is going to have to find a way to boost her own electability. Her biggest problem right now is that, as CNN’s article noted today, more than two-thirds of those surveyed find her dishonest and untrustworthy. To close the deal and nail down an election that the demographic fundamentals suggest she should win, she’s going to have to change that narrative.


It’s actually a very unfair narrative, and one that has taken root over a quarter century of bad blood between her and the nation’s political media. The long, bitter primary campaign, in which Sanders and his surrogates irresponsibly and divisively stoked intense anger on the far left against Clinton (and the Democratic Party in general), exacerbated that problem and made this election much more difficult than it needed to be. Sanders needs to start making up for that tonight, and he has an opportunity to do so. Let’s see what he does with it.

Don’t Take Ryan’s Pledge At Face Value

Much has been made of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s pledge that he will not accept the Republican presidential nomination if an open convention chooses him this July. We are expected to believe that this mere statement has definitively settled the issue and that there are no circumstances under which the Wisconsin Republican will be the party’s nominee.

Hogwash. Ryan’s statement settled nothing. In fact, his recent behavior — making a highly publicized speech and cutting a web video in which he went out of his way to be statesmanlike — indicates the opposite. These moves give every appearance of Ryan making himself available as an alternative. Even his protestations of disinterest are part of the silly dance expected of candidates.

History shows us that declarative statements are not binding. In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt released an open letter in which he said that if he were a delegate to that year’s Democratic convention, he would vote to renominate his vice president, the ultra-liberal Henry Wallace. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Roosevelt was actively working with Wallace’s detractors to ensure the nod would go to Senator Harry Truman, who succeeded Roosevelt as president when FDR died months later.

Politicians lie about their intentions all the time, so why should we automatically believe Ryan?

Oh, but we are told that this pledge is so ironclad that if he broke it, he’d be finished in politics.

Nonsense. There are all kinds of ways to wiggle out of a pledge. Imagine we’re going on the third or fourth ballot at a chaotic GOP convention, and Ryan says this:

“As I have repeatedly said, I did not want the nomination. But many leaders in our party who I respect greatly have told me that I am the only person who can unite our party and lead us to victory in the fall. I cannot in good conscience refuse this call, and so it is with great personal reluctance that I have decided to accept my party’s nomination for president of the United States.”

There. It almost sounds noble, doesn’t it?

Never take any politician at face value if he or she disclaims any interest whatsoever in being president. If the nomination is gift-wrapped and handed to Ryan on a platter, he’ll take it, just the same way he took the speakership he said he had absolutely no interest whatsoever in taking. Don’t be naive. Ryan’s past pledge meant nothing, so why is this one guaranteed to be for real?

The Democrats’ Diversity Divide Is Saving Clinton, Sinking Sanders

If anything became crystal clear tonight, it’s the stark diversity divide between Bernie Sanders‘ supporters and Hillary Clinton‘s supporters. Her big wins in the South tonight demonstrated that her shellacking of Sanders among black voters in South Carolina on Saturday was no fluke.

The one constant throughout the Democratic primaries and caucuses so far has been that the fewer black voters a state or portion of a state has, the more Clinton struggles. She barely won Iowa, got clobbered in New Hampshire, and got clobbered tonight in MinnesotaColoradoOklahoma and Vermont, but absolutely destroyed Sanders in TexasGeorgiaVirginiaAlabamaSouth CarolinaTennessee and Arkansas. And while Massachusetts is pretty white, it’s more diverse than Iowa or New Hampshire; the small percentage of Massachusetts voters who are black very well could have been the difference for her in that state tonight. Clinton won the cities; Sanders won the lily-white rural areas.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Any candidate who cannot win a significant number of votes in diverse communities cannot win the Democratic nomination. There is no way to put together a coalition in the Democratic Party that doesn’t include voters of color. If Sanders can’t start making serious inroads into communities of color very soon, he has no chance of reversing his fortunes.

Super Tuesday: No Changes In Either Race; GOP Establishment Takes It On The Chin

The Republican establishment took it on the chin once again tonight, as the big winners were Donald Trump and Ted CruzMarco Rubio finally got his first victory in Minnesota, but he desperately needed a win in Virginia and couldn’t get it. John Kasich might eke out a win in Vermont (still not called as of 11:25 Eastern), but with only 16 delegates, it won’t count for much.
Trump remains in very solid shape to win the GOP nomination, and Cruz has reestablished himself as Trump’s chief competition. Rubio comes out of tonight looking weaker than ever. Both Rubio and Kasich will come out of Super Tuesday with, at most, one win apiece. That’s enough to keep them alive for their own home state primaries in Florida and Ohio, respectively, two weeks from tonight, but they’re going to have to start winning in some other places to be viable contenders.
One potential YUUUUGE weakness for Trump that emerged tonight: look at his numbers in Minnesota, where he is running a distant third. He also lost Iowa. The results thus far during the primary season indicate that Trump is not particularly strong in the Midwest. This might not cost him the nomination, but it certainly could lose him the general election in November; of all the nation’s different regions, the Midwest is the “swing” region that determines elections.
But that’s down the road. Right now, there’s no reason at all to think that Trump is not still the favorite on the Republican side.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton did herself a huge favor by winning Massachusetts. If Bernie Sanders had won Massachusetts, he would have gotten out of tonight winning all five of his target states and fighting Clinton to a near draw in the number of states won. Even considering the fact that she’ll come out of tonight with a huge delegate lead (by virtue of her crushing victories in the South), if Sanders had won five of 11 states, it would have been a big hit to Clinton in terms of perception. Winning a key state right in Sanders’s backyard was a big win for Clinton.
In short, nothing changed tonight. Trump and Clinton are still well ahead in their respective races, and there is going to have to be a major change in the trajectory of either race to change that fact.

Forecasting Nevada GOP Caucuses, South Carolina Democratic Primary

There seems to be no doubt that Donald Trump will win Tuesday’s Republican caucuses in Nevada. Jon Ralston, the foremost political analyst in Nevada, knows the political pulse of the state inside and out. When he says Trump is sure to win in the Silver State, I know I can take it to the bank. So I’m predicting Trump wins.

There has been a lot of talk that Marco Rubio has worked hard to build an organization in Nevada. What little polling there is shows he’s in a tight battle with Ted Cruz for second place. I’m going to take Rubio to place and Cruz to show, with John Kasich beating out Ben Carson for a distant fourth.

The key question here is whether anybody but Trump will get any delegates. Despite placing second in South Carolina on Saturday, Rubio (and the rest of the field besides Trump) claimed no delegates; all 50 went to Trump. According to TheGreenPapers.com, Nevada awards 30 Republican delegates: 10 to the statewide winner, four to the winner of each Congressional district, five “bonus” delegates and three party delegates. If Trump wins by a large margin, he may well sweep Nevada’s delegates as well, a fact which will render the remaining order of finish essentially irrelevant.

Barring one of the most stunning collapses in the history of U.S. politics, Hillary Clinton is a shoo-in to win the Democratic primary in South Carolina on Saturday. Her polling leads in the Palmetto State have consistently been massive, and Bernie Sanders has not come within 20 points in a week’s time. For Sanders, anything less than a 20-point loss would be a positive result.