Swing State Pres

Sunday, August 24, 2014

House 2014 Election Update: The Dems Sure Are in Trouble...They May Even Lose a Seat or Two

The Democrats are going to be crushed in the House midterm elections this fall, right?  After all; the sitting president’s party always loses seats in the midterms, on average 26 lost seats since Truman’s time.  What’s more, this president is Barack Obama, stuck with an approval rating in the low 40’s.  Looks pretty bad, right?

Actually, no.  Barring a meteoric event between now and Election Day in roughly 10 weeks (look at the counter on the right hand side of this page if you want it down to the second), the GOP may pick up a few seats, less than 10 and perhaps none at all.  Granted, the Democrats will not pick up any seats, and thus will remain firmly in the minority, but there will be no bloodbath.

I’ve used three different methodologies to arrive at this prediction and they all are yielding similar results, that Republicans will pick up anywhere from one to four seats.  For those of you who, like me, prefer point estimates to ranges or probabilities, as of now I believe the GOP will pick up only one net House seat, to hold a 235 - 200 advantage in the 114th Congress.

Why is Obama going to avoid the fate of his second-term predecessors?  Only Bill Clinton in 1998 was able to add seats, and his gain was a measly +5.  The rest suffered losses, usually major ones: -30 for Bush in 2006, -5 for Reagan, -48 for Ford/(if you count his one term as a continuation of Nixon’s second term) in 1974, -48 for LBJ/(JFK) in 1966, another -48 for Ike in 1958 and -28 for Truman/(FDR) in 1950.

There are at least three reasons why the GOP is not going to make this kind of hay:

1.       The Democrats hold only 201 seats (including two vacancies from Democrats who won in 2012 and have since resigned).  That’s a low number.  They lost 63 seats in 2010, so the odds of losing another pile are far lower given the low base.

2.       The gerrymandered house no longer will allow for major swings.  There were only 60 elections decided by less than 10 percentage points in 2012 (versus 111 in 1992) and only 31 of them were by less than 5 points.  Neither party is going to win or lose a boatload for the foreseeable future.

3.       The Republicans are a mighty unpopular party right now.  In four separate polls since May 1, the GOP approval rating averages 32%.  The Democrats are at 41%.  And the “generic” poll is tending to favorite the Democrats recently, albeit marginally

On to the predictions!  My first methodology is a regression equation that uses data from midterms back to 1950 and predicts the outcomes based on five variables:  the party of the president, which term the president is in, which party is in control of the House, how many seats they have, and the status of the “generic ballot,” which is a survey that asks people what party they will vote for in the congressional election with naming a specific candidate.  (Surprisingly, the president’s approval rating is not a strong enough variable to have made the final equation.)  You will note that the only one of those variables that can change before the election is the generic ballot.

For you stat buffs, I’ve put the equation at the end of this post (kudos to my daughter, Allie, who created it; she is pursuing a Masters in statistics en route to a Ph.D. in entomology).  Suffice to say that the equation has an R-squared of 98% (a measure of how strong the equation is), which is excellent, and here is the track record when applied to past elections.  As you can see, it is astonishingly accurate, predicting the change of seats in the President’s party since 1970 correctly within two seats 8 of 11 times, and within six seats every time.

                 President's Party Seat Change
Year
Prediction
Actual
Diff
2010
-64
-63
-1
2006
-29
-30
1
2002
6
8
-2
1998
6
5
1
1994
-57
-54
-3
1990
-6
-8
2
1986
-11
-5
-6
1982
-24
-26
2
1978
-13
-15
2
1974
-44
-48
4
1970
-10
-12
2
1966
-16
-48
32
1962
1
-4
5
1958
-6
-48
42
1954
-5
-18
13
1950
0
-28
28

By this method, as of today, the GOP will pick up a whopping 4 seats in the House, up to 238.  There have been eight “generic ballot” polls in the last month and the Democrats are just ahead on average, 40.5% to 40.1%.  It sort of makes sense that with this close split, little change should  be expected.

The second methodology is to aggregate the projections of the five services that predict house elections district-by-district:  Cook Report, Crystal Ball, Daily Kos, Real Clear Politics and Rothenburg/Roll Call.  That scorecard shows the GOP coming away from the elections with 235 total seats, a pickup of one.

The third methodology is my own projection, which looks at the same factors, presumably, as the services but arrives at slightly different conclusions.  These factors include past elections, 2012 presidential margins, the candidates themselves and recent polling, where it exists.  My projection happens, not surprisingly, to coincide with the experts with a GOP pickup of 1 seat, to 235 total seats, although the make-up of “solid,” “likely/lean” and “tossup” varies by a bit.

Here are the three methods laid out in a chart:


Current
BTRTN
Services
BTRTN

House
Model
Aggregated
Forecast
Democrats Total
201
197
200
200
Dem Solid
n/a
n/a
165
170
Dem Likely/Lean
n/a
n/a
25
19
Dem Tossup
n/a
n/a
10
11
Rep Tossup
n/a
n/a
3
6
Rep Likely/Lean
n/a
n/a
28
18
Rep Solid
n/a
n/a
204
211
Republicans Total
234
238
235
235
Note:  Current Democrats’ total includes two vacancies (NJ1 and NC 12)

There are, in my view, 54 seats “in play,” meaning they are competitive races that each side has a chance to win (not “solid” either way per the above chart).  And among them, 13 are toss-ups, too close to call, but some of the experts (including myself) have put them into one camp or the other.

Below are the 51 races to watch, ranked in order of Democratic likelihood to win.  I’ve put the margin of the Democrats’ 2012 victory (or defeat) in a column, as well as President Obama’s 2012 margin.  In addition, I created an average of the experts’ picks and have sorted the races in order of Democrats’ likelihood to win them.



2012
2012








D - R
O - R


Dem.
Rep.
BRTTN
Expert
State
Dist.
Margin
Margin
Incumb.
Party
Candidate
Candidate
Projection
Avg.
Connecticut
5
3%
8%
Esty
D
Esty
Greenberg
DEM L
1.8
Nevada
4
8%
11%
Horsford
D
Horsford
Hardy
DEM L
1.8
Iowa
1
15%
13%
Braley
D
Murphy
Blum
DEM L
2.0
New York
24
5%
16%
Maffei
D
Maffei
Maffei
DEM L
2.0
Minnesota
7
26%
-10%
Peterson
D
Peterson
Westrom
DEM L
2.6
Arizona
9
3%
5%
Sinema
D
Sinema
TBD
DEM L
2.8
California
31
-100%
17%
Miller
R
Aguilar
Chabot
DEM L
2.8
Illinois
17
7%
17%
Bustos
D
Bustos
Schilling
DEM L
2.8
New Hamp.
2
5%
8%
Kuster
D
Kuster
Garcia
DEM L
2.8
Texas
23
5%
-3%
Gallego
D
Gallego
Canseco
DEM L
2.8
Maine
2
16%
20%
Michaud
D
Cain
Polinquin
DEM L
2.9
California
26
4%
10%
Brownley
D
Brownley
Gorell
DEM L
3.0
Georgia
12
7%
-11%
Barrow
D
Barrow
Allen
DEM L
3.0
Florida
18
1%
-4%
Murphy
D
Murphy
TBD
DEM L
3.1
New York
11
-7%
4%
Grimm
R
Recchia
Grimm
DEM L
3.3
California
36
4%
3%
Ruiz
D
Ruiz
Nestande
DEM L
3.4
Minnesota
8
9%
6%
Nolan
D
Nolan
Mills
DEM L
3.4
California
7
1%
4%
Bera
D
Bera
Ose
DEM L
3.5
New York
1
4%
1%
Bishop
D
Bishop
Zeldin
DEM L
3.6
New York
18
3%
4%
Maloney
D
Maloney
Heyworth
DEM TU
2.6
Illinois
12
9%
2%
Enyart
D
Enyart
Bost
DEM TU
3.2
Mass.
6
1%
11%
Tierney
D
Tierney
Tisei
DEM TU
3.2
Arizona
1
3%
-3%
Kirkpatrick
D
Kirkpatrick
TBD
DEM TU
4.0
Florida
26
11%
7%
Garcia
D
Garcia
TBD
DEM TU
4.0
New Hamp.
1
4%
2%
Shea-Porter
D
Shea-Porter
Guinta
DEM TU
4.0
Arizona
2
0%
-2%
Barber
D
Barber
McSally
DEM TU
4.3
California
52
1%
6%
Peters
D
Peters
DeMaio
DEM TU
4.3
Illinois
10
1%
16%
Schneider
D
Schneider
Dold
DEM TU
4.3
New York
21
2%
6%
Owens
D
Woolf
Stefanik
DEM TU
4.3
West Virginia
3
8%
-32%
Rahall
D
Rahall
Jenkins
DEM TU
4.3
Colorado
6
-4%
5%
Coffman
R
Romanoff
Coffman
REP TU
4.7
Iowa
3
-9%
4%
Latham
R
Appel
TBD
REP TU
4.7
Florida
2
-5%
-6%
Southerland
R
TBD
Southerland
REP TU
5.6
Illinois
13
0%
-0.3%
Davis
R
Callis
Davis
REP TU
5.7
Nebraska
2
-2%
-7%
Terry
R
Ashford
Terry
REP TU
5.7
Arkansas
2
-16%
-12%
Griffin
R
Hays
Hill
REP TU
6.0
New Jersey
3
-9%
5%
Runyan
R
Belgard
MacArthur
REP L
6.0
Virginia
10
-20%
-1%
Wolf
R
Foust
Comstock
REP L
6.0
California
21
-20%
11%
Valadao
R
Renteria
Valadao
REP L
6.2
Michigan
1
-1%
-8%
Benishek
R
Cannon
Benishek
REP L
6.2
Michigan
8
-21%
-3%
Rogers
R
Schertzing
Bishop
REP L
6.2
New York
23
-4%
-1%
Reed
R
Robertson
Reed
REP L
6.2
West Virginia
2
-40%
-22%
Capito
R
Casey
Mooney
REP L
6.2
Penn.
6
-14%
-3%
Gerlach
R
Trivedi
Costello
REP L
6.4
Michigan
7
-10%
-3%
Walberg
R
Byrnes
Walberg
REP L
6.6
Nevada
3
-8%
-42%
Heck
R
Bilbray-Cohn
Heck
REP L
6.6
Ohio
14
-16%
-3%
Joyce
R
Wager
Joyce
REP L
6.8
Penn.
8
-13%
-0.1%
Fitzpatrick
R
Strouse
Fitzpatrick
REP L
6.8
Indiana
2
-1%
-14%
Walorski
R
Bock
Walorski
REP L
7.0
Montana
AL
-10%
-13%
Daines
R
Lewis
Zynke
REP L
7.0
Ohio
6
-7%
-12%
Johnson
R
Garrison
Johnson
REP L
7.0
Wisconsin
6
-24%
-7%
Petri
R
Harris
TBD
REP L
7.0
California
10
-6%
4%
Denham
R
Eggman
Denham
REP L
7.2
Michigan
11
-6%
-2%
Bentivolio
R
McKenzie
Trott
REP L
7.2

So no bloodbath for Obama in 2014.  He will be stuck with a cranky GOP majority in the House – as will John Boehner.  Whether there will be any break in the gridlock remains to be seen, but I am not optimistic in the least.  A Tea Party-driven House and a lame-duck president who barely works with his own party is not a formula for the breakthroughs we need on immigration reform, gun control and many other key issues crying out for bold action.

**********************************

For the stat heads out there, here are the relevant statistics encompassing the regression equation:

Variable
Parameter
Standard
Type II SS
F Value
Pr > F
Estimate
Error
Intercept
66.57315
15.74877
396.35903
17.87
0.0134
party
-14.40944
4.69733
208.72598
9.41
0.0374
pres_term
15.41379
4.18056
301.53172
13.59
0.0211
pres_seats
-0.43989
0.06192
1119.5085
50.47
0.0021
gen_ballot
3.50275
0.29246
3181.782
143.45
0.0003
majority
13.29661
5.07375
152.33774
6.87
0.0588
  




1 comment:

  1. ok smartypants, why not use those numbers for something good? how about telling us exactly how many votes it would take per district to flip it blue? not many I bet. they need encouragement.

    ReplyDelete

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