The Election: Today is the mid-term election for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives with elections for Governors and other state officials all over the country as well as local elections for mayors, sheriffs, county officials, city councils, judges, and a deluge of special voting districts on the local level. In my state of KY, there’s an election for county Judge-Executive, Mayor, County Attorney, Commonwealth’s Attorney and Sheriff. There are no elections for state office, but there are two constitutional amendments on the ballots, one Senate seat (held by Rand Paul) and the member of the House of Representatives from our Congressional District (KY-05). That office is currently held by the worst public speaker I’ve ever heard and one of the most obscure members of the House, long-time Kentucky Republican Hal Rogers.
National Overview: The big question in American politics is whether President Biden and the Democratic Party maintain their very slim advantage in Congress where the tie-breaking vote of VP Kamala Harris gives the Democrats a slight edge in the Senate where seats are evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. In the 435 member House of Representatives, Democrats only have to lose five seats to lose their majority.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, there is a deeply ingrained historical pattern of the president’s party losing seats in mid-term elections and the Democrats are predicted by most observers to lose anywhere from 10 to 43 seats in the House in today’s election. Therefore, the Republicans are expected to have a majority in the House of Representatives and California Republican Kevin McCarthy is expected to succeed Democrat Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.
The Senate is perceived to be more up in the air but the Republicans are widely seen as favored to take control of the Senate as well. The reputable FiveThirtyEight site views the Republicans as “slight favorites” to take control of the Senate with a one vote margin based on their view that Herschel Walker will defeat Rev. Rafael Warner in Georgia. The Cook Political Report also sees the Republicans as gaining one seat and regaining control over the Senate. So does long-time University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato. Republican observers see the Republicans as having big enough wins that the election looks like a Republican or “red wave.” The right-leaning web site RealClearPolitics predicts that the Republicans will gain three seats and views Democratic Senate candidates in states like Ohio reached the limits of Democratic support but were unable to push through in largely Republican states. Former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich is even more optimistic about a “red wave” and predicts that Republicans will gain five seats in the Senate.
But there has been pushback from Democratic consultants and observer. Christopher Bouzy who is known mostly for his “Bot Sentinel” web site believes that it is the Democrats who “will gain at least two seats in the Senate and hold the House with 2 – 6 seats.” Christopher Bouzy justifies his prediction by citing registration and early voting data which focuses on young voters (18-29), women, and minorities. The idea is that early voting among Democrats is outpacing the high early voting rates in the “blue wave” election which say big Democratic gains in 2018. From Bouzy’s point of view, the increase in early voting means that numbers among Democratic voters compared to Republican voters and the polls thus are underestimating the Democratic vote.
The other argument made by Democratic optimists focuses on the thesis that the polls are over-estimating the Republican vote. Democratic consultant Simon Rosenberg is arguing that GOP polling firms have been “flooding the zone” with polls that are biased toward Republicans and that this has influenced poll aggregators like FiveThirtyEight.com and analysts like Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato to over-estimate support for Republican candidates. A couple days ago, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com admitted that the rush of GOP polls had affected his site’s poll average in favor of Republicans although he saw that more as correcting for the anti-GOP bias that had surfaced in 2016 and 2020 presidential polling. It makes a significant difference as can be seen in a Rosenberg tweet on the Senate race in George where the Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock is trying to hold onto his seat vs former NFL star and Republican Herschel Walker
That’s a 7 point difference that’s not balanced out by “Democratic-leaning polls.” Rosenberg thinks the data supports Democrats but does not venture the same of prediction as Bouzy. Seeing this kind of discrepancy and observing the high rates of early voting among Democratic voters Savvy political observers like Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo and Never Trumper Republican and former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele largely accept both that the rush of GOP polls has biased the poll average and that there’s been a late surge toward the Democrats. As a result, Marshall sees a fairly wide range of possibilities for the Senate elections with the Democrats possibly gaining 2 seats and holding the majority the Republicans possibly gaining 4 seats and thus gaining the majority. For his part, Michael Steele foresees a tight election that has a great deal of variability and think there will be a lot of surprises some of which will be favorable to the Democrats and some to the Republicans.
My own sense is somewhat the same as Steele’s. My suspicions is that this won’t be either a Republican “red wave” or a Democratic “blue wave” election and that there will be a number of surprises going both ways. In relation to national politics, I see three possibilities.
- GOP takes the House, Dems keep the Senate. House Republicans are a real threat to default on the national debt, will probably impeach President Biden, and will also keep a lot of Democrats off committees. But it’s likely that the government will remain functional.
- GOP takes House, GOP takes Senate. The situation would depend on the extent to which Establishment and MAGA Republicans can work together in the Senate. But the tendency of the national government toward chaos would increase with GOP control over both.
- Dems Take House, Keep Senate. This is the Christopher Bouzy scenario that’s still not taken very seriously. But if the Dems keep control over Congress despite mid-term trends, inflation, and higher crime rates, that would allow the Biden administration to keep functioning in its current way and create a great deal of consternation among Republicans. If they can’t win now, when will they ever win?