Swing State Pres

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

BTRTN: And They’re Off! Labor Day Snapshot of the Presidential, Senate and House Races

Tom with the latest update on the state of all the national races.

It sure seems like a lifetime since the myriad of presidential contenders began announcing their candidacies, full of promise.  Indeed, it was on July 28, 2017 that John Delaney – remember him? – was the first to declare.   But, finally, here we are, at the traditional Labor Day kick-off of the stretch drive of the election season.  The end is in sight.

Of course, so much is strange, new and different this year, with COVID-19 looming over the election, and, indeed, over every risk-considered move we make.  Even the political calendar is altered, as states expand early voting to allow for more time for safer voting methods, which in turn will almost certainly result in a multi-day if not multi-week counting period beyond Election Day.

In a little over a week, on September 18, early voting will begin in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming.  Five more states start early voting in late September, and 30 more throughout October.  Mail-in voting is expected to more than double in 2020 versus 2016, from 33 million to perhaps up to 80 million ballots.  And nobody knows which party will benefit more from that dynamic, despite what Donald Trump says.

And so, as we start what will surely be the oddest endgame of them all, let’s take stock of where all the national elections stand in a Labor Day BTRTN “snapshot” – remember, not a prediction, just a look at where things stand today.  There is still plenty of time for much to change -- a thousand micro-news cycles to go in these final 55 days.


THE LEAD

As of this moment, the Democrats have a very good chance of pulling off a “trifecta” – Joe Biden winning the presidency, the Democrats both flipping the Senate and maintaining control of the House (the latter is almost a certainty).

Election Odds of Democrats' Winning/Controlling
President
Senate
House
79%
65%
99%
Electoral Votes
Composition/(Dem Change)
Composition/(Dem Change)
333 Biden/205 Trump
50 Dem*/50 GOP (Dems +3)
251 Dems/184 GOP (Dems +18)
*Including Independents who caucus with the Democrats.  Also assumes Biden wins the presidency, which would require the Democrats to get to 50 seats to control the Senate.

Given that, this would be a very good time to reintroduce our “warning label,” which should be the mantra for Democrats.

WARNING:  No matter how good the numbers look at any given time, the Democrats will not win any election unless they work hard to earn it – registering voters, calling, texting, donating – throughout the summer and fall, up to and including Election Day.


THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE

For all of the hubbub around the two conventions, and the outrage, protests and violence sparked by the Kenosha shooting of Jacob Blake, not much has changed with respect to the presidential race.  The national polls are unambiguously unmoved.

National Polls (number of them)
Biden
Trump
Diff
Post-Convention Polls (12)
50
43
7
August Pre-Convention Polls (15)
50
42
8

Keep in mind when you look at national polls that, given the inherent GOP advantage in the Electoral College make-up, Biden has to be up +4 to be considered truly “ahead.”  Yes, the GOP advantage is that pronounced, as Hillary Clinton discovered in 2016, when she won the national vote by 2.1 percentage points but lost the electoral vote.

The swing state polling is more difficult to break down as finely for many reasons: there are fewer polls per state, those polls are less timely, and the quality of the state polls, by most reports, has not improved markedly since 2016.  But the fact remains that Biden leads in the preponderance of swing state polls (62 out of 86 polls since July 1, while Trump has led in only 21, with 3 ties).

At this stage, our models show Biden with a 79% chance of winning the presidency, down very slightly from the 81% we calculated last month.  That modest dip is mostly accounted for by a tightening of the race in Florida, which we have changed from “Lean” to Biden to “Toss Up” (still in Biden’s camp).

Biden is thus ahead in states that total 333 electoral votes to 205 for Trump.  At this point, Biden could lose ALL NINE toss-up states and still win the election.  Key to that is flipping Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, each of which he leads by 5-6 points.  (Note:  Wisconsin polls post-Kenosha show Biden maintaining that lead.)

BTRTN PRESIDENT SNAPSHOT
BTRTN Rating
Entities
Electoral Votes
DEM TOTAL
28
333
Dem Solid
18
210
Dem Likely
2
6
Dem Lean
5
62
Dem Toss-up
3
55
GOP Toss-up
6
80
GOP Lean
0
0
GOP Likely
0
0
GOP Solid
22
125
GOP TOTAL
28
205

Here is the state-by-state look.

BTRTN 2020 PRESIDENTIAL SNAPSHOT
States
2020 Electoral Votes
2016 Margin
Swing State Poll Avg
BTRTN Rating
Solid Dem (18 states or districts, 210 electoral votes): California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine 1st District, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington





Maine
2
Clinton +3
Biden +12
D Likely
New Hamsphire
4
Clinton +0.3
Biden +8
D Likely
Minnesota
10
Clinton +2
Biden +6
D Lean
Nevada
6
Clinton +2
Biden +4
D Lean
Pennsylvania
20
Trump +1
Biden +6
D Lean
Wisconsin
10
Trump +1
Biden +6
D Lean
Michigan
16
Trump +0.2
Biden +5
D Lean
Florida
29
Trump +1
Biden +3
D TU
Arizona
11
Trump +4
Biden +3
D TU
North Carolina
15
Trump +4
Biden +1
D TU
Maine 2nd District
1
Trump +10
Tie
R TU
Texas
38
Trump +9
Trump +1
R TU
Nebraska 2nd District
1
Trump +2
n/a
R TU
Ohio
18
Trump +11
Trump +2
R TU
Georgia
16
Trump +5
Trump +2
R TU
Iowa
6
Trump +9
Trump +2
R TU





Solid GOP (22 states or districts, 125 electoral votes):  Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nebraska 1st and 3rd Districts, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming

Other recent campaign tidbits are of significance.  The Biden campaign raised $365 million in August, a record shattering figure.  The previous high for a single month was when Barack Obama raised $193 million in September, 2008.  Trump has yet to announce his August haul, but is rumored to be in a cash crunch, having spent $800 million of the $1.1 billion he has raised thus far.  The significance of the Biden sum is hard to understate – it gives Biden the wherewithal to press Trump in many states, forcing him on “defense” in places such as Texas.  And it neutralizes Trump’s “free media” advantage that the incumbent naturally enjoys, and Trump plays to the max through his Twitter feed and press conferences (though not always successfully, to be sure).

Trump, for his part, nonsensically suggested that North Carolina voters “vote twice,” once by mail and once in person.  This lunacy ignores the fact that people tend to vote by mail when they are unable to vote in person, or don’t want to (due to COVID-19).  And, of course, it is fraudulent, and a crime. 

Perhaps more importantly – and not to minimize the import of cajoling supporters into breaking the law -- Trump is digging himself out of a major kerfuffle involving an Atlantic magazine report that Trump disparaged dead soldiers from World War I on a trip to Paris, refusing to visit soldiers he called “losers” and “suckers.”  He has also attacked his own military leaders for being too eager for war, with the motivation of lining the pockets of defense contractors.  Trump cannot afford marginal defections in any segment right now, and military families are a particularly significant group.


THE SENATE

The fate of control of the Senate seems likely to come down to four states:  Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina.  The Dems seem likely to lose their incumbent seat in Alabama, and thus will need to flip four seats to get to 50, the magic number required to gain control of the Senate assuming Biden wins.  (We cannot envision a scenario in which Trump wins and the Democrats manage to get to 51 seats.)

But at this juncture, the net +3 flip (with a Biden win) seems more likely than not.  The Dems lead by material margins in each of those four GOP-held seats in those states and, just to make it even more likely, are battling neck-and-neck with GOP-held seats in Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina.  And they are also putting pressure on Republican Senators in Alaska and Kentucky (yes, Mitch McConnell is in a real race.)

The polling is a bit stronger for the Democrats than in our last look, so the odds of the Democrats taking control of the Senate have risen from 62% to 65%.

BTRTN SENATE SNAPSHOT
BTRTN Rating
Seats
Flips
DEM TOTAL
50
4
Dem Holdover
35
0
Dem Solid
9
0
Dem Likely
2
2
Dem Lean
4
2
Dem Toss-up
0
0
GOP Toss-up
3
0
GOP Lean
3
0
GOP Likely
3
1
GOP Solid
11
0
GOP Holdover
30
0
GOP TOTAL
50
1

Here is how each race “in play” is shaping up, in a nutshell.

SENATE SNAPSHOT
State
Inc. Party
Dem Nominee
GOP Nominee
2014 Margin
2016  Pres Margin
BTRTN Rating
2020 Recent Polls Avg
Dem Seats not up for reelection in 2020 (35)
Solid Dem (9): Delaware (Coons), Illinois (Durbin), Mass (Markey), NH (Shaheen), NM (Lujon), NJ (Booker), Oregon (Merkeley), RI (Reed), VA (Warner)








COL
R
Hickenlooper
Gardner
R + 2
D + 5
D Likely Flip
D + 9
ARI
R
Kelly
McSally
D + 2*
R + 3
D Likely Flip
D + 9
MICH
D
Peters
James
D + 13
R + 0.2
D Lean
D + 5
MINN
D
Smith
Lewis
D + 11*
D + 2
D Lean
D + 6
NC
R
Cunningham
Tillis
R + 2
R + 4
D Lean Flip
D + 5
MAINE
R
Gideon
Collins
R + 37
D + 3
D Lean Flip
D + 5
IOWA
R
Greenfield
Ernst
R + 8
R + 10
R TU
R + 1
KAN
R
Bollier
Marshall
R + 11
R + 21
R TU
Even
SC
R
Harrison
Graham
R + 15
R + 14
R TU
R + 1
MON
R
Bullock
Daines
R + 18
R + 20
R Lean
R + 6
GA (r)
R
Ossoff
Perdue
R + 8
R + 5
R Lean
R + 5
GA (s)
R
open primary 11/3; run off 1/5/21
R + 14*
R + 5
R Lean
n/a
KEN
R
McGrath
McConnell
R + 15
R + 30
R Likely
R + 5
ALSKA
R
Gross
Sullivan
R + 2
R + 15
R Likely
R + 1
ALA
D
Jones
Tuberville
D +2*
R + 28
R Likely Flip
R + 9








Solid GOP (11):  Arkansas (Cotton), Idaho (Risch), Louisiana (Cassidy), Mississippi (Hyde-Smith), Nebraska (Sasse), Oklahoma (Inhofe), South Dakota (Rounds), Tennessee (Hagerty), Texas (Cornyn), West Virginia (Caputo), Wyoming (Lummus)
GOP seats not up for reelection in 2020:  (30)
* Arizona margin from 2018 election (Sinema beat McSally; McSally was appointed after McCain's death); Alabama from 2017 special election; Minnesota from 2018 special election

THE HOUSE

The Democrats already hold a large majority in the House.  The current count is 232 Democrats to 198 Republicans with one Libertarian and four vacancies.  When you take the four vacancies and apportion them back to their original holder, and assign the Libertarian to the GOP (he’s Justin Amish, the former GOP turned Independent turned Libertarian), then the effective current split of the 435 seats up for grabs is 233 to 202.

By far the most important predictor of how many seats will switch parties is the generic ballot.  For years we have come within a few seats of the actual outcome based on our regression models..  For instance, in 2018, BTRTN predicted the Democrats would flip 38 seats from red to blue, and they actually flipped 41 seats.  The most powerful variable in the regression models is the generic ballot.

This year, the generic ballot continues to heavily favor the Democrats.  The most recent set of generic ballot polls, since the GOP convention ended, continue to show the Democrats up by roughly 8 points.  If the Democrats maintain this margin through Election Day, they would be expected to flip 18 more seats, give or take a few, to get to a whopping 251 to 184 margin. 

Also – there is simply no way the GOP can possibly flip the House.  We are being kind to put the odds of the Dems holding the House at 99%; we are simply allowing for the highly unlikely threat of a meteor landing.

HOUSE SNAPSHOT
House
As of 9/7
Generic Ballot
Dem + 8.0


Democrats
251 (+18)
Republicans
184 (-18)

And always remember this:

WARNING:  No matter how good the numbers look at any given time, the Democrats will not win any election unless they work hard to earn it – registering voters, calling, texting, donating – throughout the summer and fall, up to and including Election Day.




2 comments:

  1. Think you have some arithmetic mistakes in the first paragraph of the House discussion.

    ReplyDelete

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