House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appeared on Stephen Colbert’s show and was very excited about what she believes will be a certain victory in the House for Democrats.
Nancy Pelosi: Let me say this: Up until today, I would have said if the election were held today, we will win. Now I’m saying is, we will win, we will win, we will win.
Stephen Colbert: Please don’t say that. Do you want to say that on Hillary’s fireworks barge that she canceled? (After making the sign of the cross on his chest, he continued.) I feel like I should sacrifice a goat or something to take the hex off of what you just said.
Pelosi: The Democrats will carry the House, if we have a bigger victory, the Senate, governorships. It’s going to be a great night for America.
Rush Limbaugh: Hasn’t this woman ever heard of karma?
As if on cue, an email from Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball popped up just as I began writing this post. The caption: “Five Days to Go: How Republicans Could Hold the House.”
Now, wait a minute Larry. First, you told us we were going to see a blue tsunami, which you then downgraded to a blue wave and now you’re reporting a possible path for Republicans to hold onto the House?
Although most political analysts have now discounted the once inevitable blue wave theory, nearly all are sure that the Democrats will retake the House next Tuesday. They all tell us that Democrats will pick up between 10 and 40 seats in the House. That’s quite a range. They’ll be right if Democrats win 12 seats, 25 seats or 40 seats.
During his radio show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh discussed the folly of listening to all of these so-called political experts because the truth is that “nobody knows what will happen on Tuesday.”
To make his point, Rush walked his listeners through an article by Real Clear Politics’ Sean Trende, a highly respected political data analyst.
He went through Trende’s article paragraph by paragraph. (Here is the link.) The point of the exercise was to illustrate that even the pros don’t know what is going to happen.
The consensus view is that Democrats are favored to take the lower chamber. Analysts disagree on just how large a majority they are likely to win, and how likely that majority is. If you split the RealClearPolitics tossups in half, it results in Democrats gaining about 25 seats, for a narrow 220-215 majority. I tend to think that the tossups will break disproportionately toward Democrats, and see something more on the order of a 225-210 Democratic majority, but this is hair-splitting to a certain degree.”
At the same time, this isn’t the only way to read the data. The Democratic pickups could be larger, but they could also be substantially smaller.Here are some things that should bother any sober-minded elections analyst in the final week of the election…
Will there be a late break? As we learned in 2016, and in a less dramatic fashion in 2014, a late break in the races can alter the landscape substantially. This year, there are a lot of undecided voters remaining.Look at the most recent House polling from the New York Times/Siena: In some races…This adds up to a situation where a slight break in the undecideds toward one party or the other could be the difference between a healthy Democratic majority and a slim Republican one.
So what is Trende actually telling us?
“Democrats are favored to win.” We know that.
“The Democratic pickups could be larger, but they could also be substantially smaller.” That goes without saying.
“This adds up to a situation where a slight break in the undecideds toward one party or the other could be the difference between a healthy Democratic majority and a slim Republican one.” No matter what happens, he will be right. Basically, he has no idea what the outcome will be.
I have listed below the 20 House races ranked as toss-ups by Real Clear Politics just before the 2016 election.
Very few pre-election poll results were available, but a look at the final election results shows that only six of the 20 toss ups actually wound up to be close races with margins of victory of 0.6, 1.2, 1.7, 2.0, 2.1 and 3.3. The remaining fourteen were actually quite decisive with margins ranging from 5.8 to 15, most falling in the 8 to 10 point range. If the polls had been more accurate, these races would not have fallen into the toss-up category.
As I mentioned, I was only able to find polling data for six races. The results for IA-1 and IL-10 came within 2 points of the polls and UT-4 came within 3.
The others were off by significant amounts. In the NY-19 district, the polls predicted a Democrat win by 3. The final victory went to the Republican by a 9.4 margin, a swing of 12.4 points. Similarly for ME-2, the final poll average showed the Democrat ahead by 2, but the actual result had the Republican winning by 10. Finally in MN-8, the polls forecast the Republican would prevail by 4 points. Instead, the Democrat won the race by 0.6.
Also below, I’ve listed the fourteen top senate races (as per RCP).
Republicans outperformed the poll numbers in 11 out of the 14 races (in one of those, the Democrat won with a smaller margin than the polls had indicated, the rest were Republican victories). In the remaining 3, the Democrat outperformed the polls by 0.6, 1.7 and 1.8.
The point of all this is to say that no one really knows what Tuesday’s results will be. If history is any guide, however, I think it’s safe to say that Republicans tend to outperform expectations.