Sunday, November 06, 2016

Election Night Guide, Part 6: Utah-Wyoming

(I am checking through every state and my political predictions for Election Night 2016: If you have missed any of the other pieces, please click here: Pt. 1: Alabama-ArkansasPt. 2: California-Georgia, Pt. 3: Hawaii-Louisiana, Pt. 4: Maine-North Carolina, Pt. 5: North Dakota-Texas)


President: Despite what initially seemed like a golden opportunity for Evan McMullin, an independent favorite son, to insert himself randomly into the presidential conversation, I suspect that it will end up being a “might have been” situation for him, as Republicans have returned home to Trump at a bright enough clip that both he and Clinton are unlikely to benefit from a three-way split.  Still, his presence on the ballot probably helps the GOP from having a huge slump in turnout (impacting down-ballot contests)
Governor: I literally forgot Utah had a governor’s race this year until I went back and edited.  So, you know, congrats to Gary Herbert on winning reelection.
House: No one is happier about Evan McMullin coming to the rescue with Mormon voters than Rep. Mia Love.  Love, who has had an underwhelming presence in this district (losing it four years ago, and nearly losing it two years ago in the landslide), was struggling until McMullin came in and offered her a boost in turnout.  That should be enough for her to win this district in a rematch from 2014, and as a result probably hold it indefinitely.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT)

President: I suspect a few true believers will write-in Bernie Sanders name, but it won’t be enough to move the needle.  Easy victory for Hillary Clinton.
Governor: Republicans, look alive-I’m about to finally give you some good news.  With unpopular Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) retiring, the Republicans have their single best pickup opportunity in the country with popular Lt. Govenor Phil Scott (R) currently leading State Treasurer Sue Minter (D) by a robust margin.  The natural propensity of this state to vote left leaves room for Minter to win, but this is a state that hasn’t always been kind to female politicians (it’s one of only four that’s never sent a woman to Congress), and Scott has done a better job than any GOP politician running in 2016 of distancing himself from the Trump campaign.  Unless the polls are crazy wrong, this is Republicans +1
Senate: Sen. Pat Leahy is probably less concerned with his inevitable reelection and more concerned about being President Pro Tempore of the Senate again.


President: Some people thought at the time that Hillary Clinton was doubling-down in the wrong swing state with Tim Kaine, perhaps thinking she should have gone with someone like Tom Perez or Iowa-native Tom Vilsack.  In hindsight, though, this will likely be a major reason she was elected president-picking Kaine took Virginia from Slight to Lean Democratic, and gave Clinton a much larger base from which to win the White House.  Clinton will take the Old Dominion, and with it be much, much closer to achieving her lifelong dream.
House: First off, there’s the easy win, which is in the 4th congressional district-thanks to mid-decade redistricting, the Democrats get a pickup free-and-clear here.  Secondly, though, the Virginia turnout could be crucial to winning over the 10th district-we’re seeing an increase in Democratic turnout in this district in early voting, which could be the difference for Rep. Barbara Comstock, who may be on borrowed time in an area that’s been trending Democratic faster than any other in the country the past few years (the DC suburbs).  Comstock was a major anti-Clinton researcher during Bill’s second term, so were she to lose (and I suspect she will, to LuAnn Bennett), the Clinton family will probably be thrilled not to have to deal with her during an HRC presidency in her elevated role as a congresswoman.  There’s the possibility that the Democrats could win a third, as a late-breaking surge from Jane Dittmar in the open 5th (another one of those “if they want the majority” districts), appears to be a real thing, but that would only happen if turnout craters, which doesn’t appear to be happening based on early voting (Democrats are up, but Republicans aren’t tracking that far behind 2012).  Democrats +2


President: Democrats in Washington consistently paint the state blue, and this year will be no exception.  Expect an early call for Clinton/Kaine, perhaps at the same time as California (if the ticket doesn’t hit 270 during this moment, Democrats should be very worried).
Governor: No Republican has been elected governor of the Evergreen State since 1980, and that will continue this year, even if incumbent Jay Inslee isn’t wildly popular.
Senate: Sen. Patty Murray doesn’t have to deal with Dino Rossi (I’m assuming…yes, I’m right), so she’s fine, and could well be the Majority Whip in the next congress if she follows through with threats that she’ll challenge Dick Durbin.

West Virginia

President: I’m guessing that the Mountain State will deliver Donald Trump his biggest victory of the night-it could be Oklahoma or perhaps Tennessee, but I’m betting on West Virginia, a state that actually went for Bill Clinton if you can believe it (my how the times have changed).
Governor: What makes that margin all the more mysterious is that the Democrats are likely to hold the governor’s mansion, albeit with a man who resembles the policies of Mitch McConnell more than Joe Biden.  Coal magnate Jim Justice has refused to endorse Hillary Clinton, but carries the Democratic banner anyway and will probably best State Senate President Bill Cole (R).  As a result, I believe he’ll be the richest governor in the country, as he’s also the richest person in West Virginia.


President: Word is that Democrats are pouring money into Wisconsin, though it seems that’s more to do with nervousness around the Senate contest than here.  It’s worth noting that while the Democrats can win without Wisconsin (the White House, at least), it’s a state that’s pretty key to their plans so it’s a place that Clinton definitely wants to win, and a state I’m guessing she takes-it’s sort of a strange case (similar to a lot of states) where the metropolitan areas will go for her while the rest of the state will likely be deep red, but that should be enough to transform the Badger State.
Senate: In a rematch of the 2010 race, former Sen. Russ Feingold has seen his fortunes go up and down throughout the cycle, and the race against incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) has closed a bit as the days have gone by, but it’s worth noting that Feingold has led in virtually every poll and never been behind in aggregate polling.  A late surge for Johnson could be in the cards, but is it enough?  I’m not counting on it. Democrats +1
House: Early on in the cycle, I thought that we might see a Democratic pickup in the 8th district, left open by Rep. Reid Ribble, but while County Executive Tom Nelson appears to be a good candidate, his district will almost certainly go for Trump, which is something that Nelson can’t overcome, leaving Mike Gallagher with a Republican hold.


President: Republicans win.  End of story.
House: It’s a blowout, but it’s worth noting that Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Cheney, will be in Congress come January.  It’s notable not only because of her lineage, but also because of her heinously botched Senate primary two years ago that threatened to end her political career.  This comeback likely means that the next open Senate seat in the state is hers for the taking.

Sec. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
And now, the numbers:

Closest Races: I’m never 100% on these things, and there are a few races that standout in particular to me as being super competitive (17 in fact): CA-49, CO-6, FL-President, FL-7, IN Senate, IA President, IA-1, MN-8, MO Senate, NE-2 (for President), NH President, NH Senate, NY-19, NY-22, NC-Senate, and PA-16.  These are all of the races where I’m genuinely stumped and could buy either direction, not to be confused with places like PA-President where I’m terrified I’m wrong but feeling comfortable with my prediction.  Any of these 17 flip, I wouldn’t bat an eye-I ended up splitting them nearly down the middle, with 9 going to the D’s and 8 going to the R’s.
Popular Vote: My gut is saying Clinton wins the national popular vote by 5-points, not quite as good as Obama in 2008 but much better than in 2012.  She will be buoyed by blowout wins in places like California, New York, and Washington, along with better-than-average returns in Texas, Georgia, and Arizona.  She will not, however, hit 50% as she might have coming out of the third debate (if the Comey announcement cost her anywhere, it was probably there).
Electoral College: For the past week, almost every Democrat I know has asked me the same question, “could Trump actually win?”  The closing polls show that there is momentum on his side, and that is always a powerful thing to have headed into the election night.  And the answer is “yes, but probably not.”  Trump’s path-of-least-resistance is to win all of the Romney states, plus NH, FL, OH, IA, NV, and ME-2.  While I do think that he has an advantage in Ohio and Iowa, it’s not a strong advantage (it’s less than what I’d consider Clinton’s advantage in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, which feel out of reach for him), and not all Romney states are in the bag, as North Carolina and NE-2 are both tossups, while Arizona and Georgia are still somewhat on the table.  Trump could win if Democratic turnout is slumped or if polls are wrong, but that’s a weak position to be in since it’s essentially “hoping for an upset.”  Clinton is more likely to get over 300 electoral votes, in my opinion, than Trump is to hit 270.  I have the race at 295-243, which I think is probably right, if maybe a little bit friendlier for Trump than I would be if she was ahead by this much against a traditional nominee (Florida, in particular, feels like a state I could get wrong).  If Clinton starts to lose a “wall” state like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, or Virginia early on, she’s in trouble, and if at least one of those path-of-least-resistance states hasn’t clearly broken for her by the time the Mountain States have opened up, she’s in trouble (not necessarily called for her, but the writing’s on the wall).  But right now, if you’re placing a bet it should be that the Democrats win the White House on Tuesday.
Governors: I have the Democrats netting one seat (winning IN/NC, losing VT).  I don’t consider any of these to be “extremely close,” though all three of these races are within the margin of error.  Overall, this will mean that the Democrats will still be down pretty far compared to the GOP, as the makeup I’m projecting is 30R-19D-1I (Alaska has an independent governor), but it means that the Republicans will have more offense to play in 2020 when these governors up for reelection (right before redistricting).
Senate: I have the Democrats picking up five seats in PA, NC, NH, WI, and IL, and not losing any seats.  I’m confident on Illinois, Pennsylvania, and though polls have brought about a bit of doubt on Wisconsin, I’d be stunned if Feingold couldn’t pull this off; I’m also looking more and more optimistic on Nevada, though Joe Heck hasn’t totally taken himself out of the running.  Therefore, it’s really NC/IN/MO/NH that will decide the Senate-if Democrats can win one of these, based on my predictions, they’ll take it with a tie-breaking vote from Tim Kaine.  These are all genuine coin toss races, though, so anyone saying they have strong confidence one way or another on the Senate is fooling themselves, but the laws of probability favor the Democrats.
House: I have the Democrats picking up a net gain of 15 seats, and this feels like a pretty sturdy number.  Anything below this can be counted as a missed opportunity for the Democrats, though it’s better than they were two months ago-anything more than this, and provided that Clinton and Senate Democrats emerged victorious, and you can call this a wave.

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