Monday, November 5, 2018

Last Call For Final Prognostications

On the eve of Election Day, let's check in with the final numbers for the big voting prediction sites.  First up, Larry Sabato and his Crystal Ball crew.

Our ratings changes leave 229 seats at least leaning to the Democrats and 206 at least leaning to the Republicans, so we are expecting the Democrats to pick up more than 30 seats (our precise ratings now show Democrats netting 34 seats in the House, 11 more than the 23 they need). We have long cautioned against assuming the House was a done deal for the Democrats, and we don’t think readers should be stunned if things go haywire for Democrats tomorrow night. That said, it may be just as likely — or even more likely — that we’re understating the Democrats in the House. Many of our sources on both sides seemed to think the Democratic tally would be more like +35 to 40 (or potentially even higher) when we checked in with them over the weekend.

On the Senate side, it's plus one for the GOP.

Because of the bad map Democrats faced this year, the GOP picking up seats always seemed like a possibility, even a strong possibility. Our final ratings reaffirm this potential; we have 52 Senate seats at least leaning to the Republicans, and 48 at least leaning to the Democrats. If that happened, the GOP would net a seat.
Politico likewise has the Dems retaking the House, but losing the Senate.

Democrats have pulled ahead in nearly enough races to claim a majority of the 435 seats up for grabs in the first national election of Donald Trump’s presidency, with POLITICO’s final race ratings showing 216 seats in the Democratic column — those are either solidly Democratic, likely Democratic or at least leaning Democratic.

That’s a significantly stronger position than Republicans, who have 197 seats leaning or solidly in their camp, but still just shy of the 218 needed to control the House next year. Republicans would need to win at least 21 of the 22 toss-ups — races that are currently considered too close to call — to get to 218 seats.

The Senate is a darker prospect depending on Heitkamp, Ted Cruz, and the open seat in Tennessee.

If Democrats can win one of those three races, they’ll still need to sweep the five toss-up contests on Tuesday to win back the majority. Three of the five are in states that Trump carried and where Democrats are defending seats: Florida, Indiana and Missouri.

Republicans are convinced they have the advantage in both Missouri and Indiana. Of those, the Missouri seat — currently held by Sen. Claire McCaskill — is the most endangered. But public polls in recent days have McCaskill neck-and-neck with state Attorney General Josh Hawley, who had been ahead in some other surveys in October. And Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly led his GOP challenger, former state Rep. Mike Braun, in two public polls last week.

Harry Enten gets right to the point at CNN.

House forecast: Democrats will win 226 seats (and the House majority) while Republicans will win just 209 seats. A Democratic win of 203 seats and 262 seats is within the margin of error. 
Senate forecast: Republicans will hold 52 seats (and maintain control of the Senate) next Congress while Democrats will hold just 48. Anything between Republicans holding 48 seats and 56 seats is within the margin of error.

Nate Cohn at the NY Times sees dozens of true toss-ups in the House, but the Dems would only need a few of them to take the lower chamber.

After more than 10,000 interviews, the result, in the aggregate, is that Democrats and Republicans are essentially tied in the 30 districts rated as tossups by the Cook Political Report, with Democrats leading by around half a percentage point.

Democrats need to win only a handful of these tossup districts — perhaps as few as six — to gain the net 23 seats needed to take control, which is why they’re considered favorites. But Democrats haven’t put them away. Instead, those races remain startlingly close. Each of the final 28 poll results in the tossup districts was within the margin of error, and 20 of the 28 were within two percentage points, a margin that pales in comparison with the typical measurement error in a poll.

With so many close contests, even modest late shifts among undecided voters or a slightly unexpected turnout could yield significantly different results, with very different consequences for the government and the future of the Trump presidency.

Over all, the polls comport with the growing consensus among operatives from both parties that Democrats are poised to gain around 35 seats in the House. If the Times/Siena polls were exactly right (they will not be), Democrats would gain 32 seats, assuming the two parties held the seats that were not polled.

 Charlie Cook at Cook Political Report has this breakdown:

Topline: The current House breakdown is 237 Republicans and 193 Democrats with five vacancies (three Republican and two Democratic). Democrats would need a net gain of 23 seats in November to retake the majority. President Trump's low approval ratings and Democratic voters' heightened enthusiasm are threatening Republicans' structural advantages in the House, including incumbency and favorably drawn districts. A record number of Republican open seats and a new court-ordered congressional map in Pennsylvania have further weakened the GOP's position. Republicans' ability to keep their majority now depends on their ability to define individual Democrats as unacceptable alternatives on a race-by-race basis. At the moment, Democrats are substantial favorites for House control and could pick up anywhere from 20 to 40 seats. 

The Senate is not in play for the Dems according to Cook, however.

Topline: Both parties have advantages this cycle. For Republicans, the numbers are on their side. There are 34 races, including the special election in Alabama, and Democrats must defend 25 of those seats, compared to nine for Republicans. They also benefit from a friendly map in that Democrats are defending 10 seats in states that President Trump won in 2016. By contrast, there is only one GOP seat – U.S. Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada – up in a state that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton carried. Democrats are banking on the mid-term election curse in which the party in power tends to lose seats in the Senate and/or the House in mid-term elections, as well as Trump’s unpopularity and an energized base to help keep their losses to a minimum. An early read of the cycle suggests that there might not be much change in the make up of the Senate after Election Day. At this point, the range is +/- one seat for Democrats, which would have to be considered a victory. A bad night for Democrats would be the loss of three or four seats. At this point, the one certainty is that the majority is not in play. 

Finally, Nate Silver's numbers at Five Thirty Eight.

Not much has changed in our forecast since early October: Republicans are still favorites to keep control of the Senate, with a 5 in 6 (83 percent) shot.1What’s more, as we close in on Election Day, all signs point to the House and Senate moving in opposite directions this year. (As I’ve written before, this is weird but not unprecedented.) Republicans’ odds in the House are nearly the reverse of where they stand in the Senate: The GOP has a 1 in 8 (13 percent) chance of retaining a House majority.
Republicans have a 50 percent chance of adding at least one senator to their tally. Meanwhile, Democrats have a 32 percent shot of picking up at least one seat. But there is also nearly an 18 percent chance that there will be no net change — in other words, the status quo will be preserved and the GOP will hold on to its current 51-to-49 majority.

We'll see who's right and who's not.  I'm working on a special treat for you guys later this week, and I'll let you know how it goes.

Trump Trades Blows, Con't

The Trump regime's trade war with China over crops like soybeans has now reached the point where American farmers have harvested silos full of product rotting away because their biggest buyers in Beijing are looking elsewhere for supply, and there's no reason to believe that Midwest farmers aren't going to continue to be squeezed right out of business.

This is harvest season in the rich farmlands of the eastern Dakotas, the time of year Kevin Karel checks his computer first thing in the morning to see how many of his soybeans Chinese companies have purchased while he was sleeping.

Farmers here in Cass County have prospered over the last two decades by growing more soybeans than any other county in the United States, and by shipping most of those beans across the Pacific Ocean to feed Chinese pigs and chickens.

But this year, the Chinese have all but stopped buying. The largest market for one of America’s largest exports has shut its doors. The Chinese government imposed a tariff on American soybeans in response to the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods. The latest federal data, through mid-October, shows American soybean sales to China have declined by 94 percent from last year’s harvest.

Mr. Karel, the general manager of the Arthur Companies, which operates six grain elevators in eastern North Dakota, has started to pile one million bushels of soybeans on a clear patch of ground behind some of his grain silos. The big mound of yellowish-white beans, already one of the taller hills in this flat part of the world, will then be covered with tarps.

The hope is that prices will rise before the beans rot.

“We’re sitting on the edge of our seat,” Mr. Karel said

President Trump sees tariffs as a tool to force changes in America’s economic relationships with China and other major trading partners. His tough approach, he says, will revive American industries like steel and auto manufacturing that have lost ground to foreign rivals. But that is coming at a steep cost for some industries, like farming, that have thrived in the era of globalization by exporting goods to foreign markets.

China and other trading partners hit with the tariffs, including the European Union, have sought to maximize the political impact of their reprisals. The European Union imposed tariffs on bourbon, produced in Kentucky, the home state of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, from Wisconsin, the home state of House Speaker Paul Ryan. China's decision to impose tariffs on soybeans squeezes some of Mr. Trump's staunchest supporters across the Midwestern farm belt.

Like most successful American exports, soybeans are produced at high efficiency by a small number of workers using cutting-edge technologies, like tractors connected to satellites so the optimal mix of fertilizers can be spread on each square foot of farmland. The United States exported $26 billion in soybeans last year, and more than half went to China.

Some farmers in North Dakota say they trust Mr. Trump to negotiate in the nation’s interest. Mr. Karel said many of his customers wear red “Make American Great Again” caps and insist that the pain of lost business and lower profits is worthwhile. They say they’ll suffer now so their children benefit later — echoing the argument Mr. Trump has made.

Others are less enthused. Greg Gebeke, who farms 5,000 acres outside Arthur with two of his brothers, said he struggled to understand the administration’s goals.

“I’m trying to follow and figure out who the winners are in this tariff war,” Mr. Gebeke said. “I know who one of the losers are and that’s us. And that’s painful

I've got news for farmers like the Gebekes.  You're only going to continue to lose.  Chinese buyers aren't going to come back.  They're going to buy from Brazil, Australia and the EU. Meanwhile, your equipment is only going to become more expensive as steel prices go up. Trump isn't going to win any trade war.

And the rest of us are going to lose too as prices for Chinese imported goods, TVs and microwave ovens and clothes and electronics, well those are going up too, just in time for the holiday shopping season.  Our little cold war with Iran will make gas more expensive.  And it won't take much to push our consumer economy over the edge into recession again.

If these farmers think it's bad now, give it a year.

Basically Nobody Likes You, Ted

A strange piece from Politico's Tim Alberta today on Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke as voters head to the polls tomorrow to see if he can beat GOP Sen. Ted Cruz tells me two things:  One, nobody likes Ted Cruz in the state at all, period, and two, Texas Republican voters are wondering out loud now why Beto ignored them in favor of getting more non-voting Democrats to the polls.

In selling a symbolic candidacy, the Hurd roadshow was foundationally essential. But it wasn’t enough. To score the biggest upset of 2018, O’Rourke would need a brand that reinforced his rejection of status quo politics. So he created one—a campaign that rejects corporate money, that avoids negative attacks, that refuses to employ pollsters or consultants. And it worked. By offering a cause rather than a candidacy, O’Rourke convinced America that a Texas Democrat could win statewide for the first time since 1994. A staggering $70 million flooded into his campaign. Celebrities came calling on a first-name basis. LeBron James made the black-and-white “Beto” signage famous. National reporters took turns deifying the skateboarding, punk-rocking congressman. And all the while, O’Rourke was flatlining. When Quinnipiac polled the race in April, after he clinched the Democratic nomination, he registered at 44 percent; in July, the same poll pegged him at 43 percent; it was 45 percent in September; and 46 percent in late October. Whenever the race has tightened, it’s due to Cruz dropping below 50 percent. In dozens of public and private surveys this cycle, O’Rourke has never broken 47 percent.

Somewhere along the line, the rock-concert crowds and record-setting fundraising and JFK comparisons obscured a basic contradiction between Beto O’Rourke the national heartthrob and Beto O’Rourke the Texas heretic. While the coastal media’s narrative emphasized his appeals to common ground, framing him as an Obamaesque post-partisan figure, the candidate himself tacked unapologetically leftward. He endorsed Bernie Sanders’ "Medicare for all" plan. He called repeatedly for President Donald Trump’s impeachment—a position rejected by Nancy Pelosi, and nearly every other prominent Democrat in America, as futile and counterproductive. He flirted with the idea of abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He took these positions, and others, with a brash fearlessness that reinforced his superstardom in the eyes of the Democratic base nationwide. But it likely stunted his growth among a more important demographic: Texans.

Over the past six months, I spoke with a host of Texas Republicans about the U.S. Senate race. Many of them dislike Cruz. Some of them privately hope he loses. And all of them are baffled by the disconnect between the superior branding of O’Rourke’s candidacy and what they see as the tactical malpractice of his campaign.

In their view, Cruz is uniquely vulnerable, having alienated Texans of all ideological stripes with his first-term antics—and especially those affluent, college-educated suburbanites repelled by Trump. The senator has long lagged 10 to 15 points behind Governor Greg Abbott at the top of the ticket; Cruz’s internal modeling has consistently demonstrated there are several hundred thousand voters committed to Abbott but not to him. This is the paradox of the Texas Senate race: Though it’s clear a significant bloc of soft Republicans and conservative-leaning independents are open to rejecting the incumbent on Tuesday, it’s equally clear the challenger has done little to move them. The Quinnipiac poll in April showed O’Rourke pulling 6 percent of Republicans; by late October that number was 3 percent. And while there are signs to suggest he will win more votes than a traditional Democrat in the metropolitan areas of Dallas and Houston and San Antonio, O’Rourke is almost certain to underperform in the rural and exurban areas of the state.

The campaign is a study in extreme contrasts: Cruz, the cartoonishly unlikeable conservative whose machine-like enterprise is run by a platoon of political gurus, versus O’Rourke, the obnoxiously likeable liberal whose garage-band effort is guided by gut instinct and raw emotion. Nothing is certain in such a volatile political climate, and there have been indications of a tightening race in the campaign’s final days. Cruz learned first-hand in 2016 that an organizational advantage doesn’t guarantee victory; O’Rourke can draw inspiration from Trump, of all people, in proving the pollsters wrong. If O’Rourke wins, he will have revealed a blueprint for animating the base and turning out new voters. But if he loses—as Texas insiders in both parties expect—the autopsies will speak of a strategically imbalanced campaign that did too much mobilizing and not enough persuading.

The conventional wisdom here is that Beto ran too far to the left in Texas, worried too much about his national profile and not enough about winning over suburban white Republicans in the state and is going to find a way to lose to arguably the worst Republican in the Senate, Ted Cruz.

The conventional wisdom is also complete hogwash, because those suburban Texas counties are exactly where record early voter turnout is happening and it's not because people love Ted Cruz.

By the end of 12 days of early voting, 529,521 Dallas County residents had cast their ballots in the midterm elections — more than twice that of the 2014 and 2010 midterms.

The total is about 40 percent of the county's 1.3 million registered voters. It was about 20,000 shy of the early-voting total in 2016, a presidential election year in which turnout is traditionally much stronger.

In 2010, Dallas County had 218,156 early votes, and in 2014 there were 215,147.

On Friday, El Paso Rep. Beto O'Rourke said the voter turnout signifies that he's on the verge of making history as the first Democrat to win a statewide office in Texas since 1994.

"If North Texas continues to turn out in the record numbers that we've seen, shattering every midterm total for as long as we've been looking at them, in some cases rivaling presidential voter turnout, then we're going to win this race," O'Rourke said. "The best thing I can do is continue to be with the people of North Texas, just as we have been for almost the last two years."

If Democrats show up at presidential year turnout levels, and rural Texas remains at midterm turnout levels, Beto wins.  This was the idea from the beginning.  Texas isn't a red state, no matter what the GOP wants to believe.  It's a non-voting stateTexas's turnout percentage is dead last in the country, and it's the second most populous stateOnly 28.4% of Texas voters showed up in 2014.  If we're already seeing that being eclipsed just by early voting, then Beto can win.


Texas, get out there and vote.  I know I have Texas readers.  Make that difference.


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