Thursday Reads: The Battle for the Senate

us-senate

Good Morning!!

On Tuesday, I wrote about the epic battle between political poll analysts Nate Silver and Sam Wang to predict which party will control the Senate after the Midterm elections in November. Actually, it’s a fairly one-sided battle. Silver’s statistical model predicts that Republicans will take over the Senate, and Wang thinks Democrats will hold onto their narrow majority. As Daniel Altman pointed out at The Daily Beast, Silver has much more to lose if Wang turns out to be right.

[Silver has] been attacking Wang relentlessly, calling his methodology  “wrong” and Wang himself “deceptive.” Silver could simply wait for the election results to come in and compare his forecasts’ accuracy with Wang’s across all the Senate races. Instead, he’s doing everything possible to discredit Wang before Election Day.

Here’s my guess at the reasons why. First, Silver fears Wang. In 2012, Wang’s model did a better job predicting the presidential election. Wang called not only Obama’s electoral college total of 332 votes, which Silver matched, but he also nailed the popular vote almost perfectly. Wang’s model also picked the winner in every single Senate race in 2012. It’s not good for business if Silver keeps coming up second-best.

But more importantly, Wang is the only one predicting Democrats will win. This represents a huge risk for Silver. If every forecaster had Republicans taking the Senate, then they’d all be either right or wrong in November; no one would have a better headline the next morning than Silver….If the Democrats hold the Senate, then Wang will stand alone; Silver will just be another one of the many who got it wrong.

It goes without saying that I am rooting for underdog Sam Wang.

On Tuesday, I also discussed the two close races that I’m most familiar with–Louisiana, because of Dakinikat’s reports, and New Hampshire, where former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is carpetbagging in hopes of getting his job back. Today, I want to take a look at the latest “expert” prognostications about which races are the most likely to decide whether Democrats or Republicans will be in the majority in 2015.

fox-news-wallpaper

The most recent poll results come from {gag} Fox News.

Fox News Polls: Senate battleground races trending GOP, Roberts up in Kansas.

New Fox News battleground polls show a Republican trend in the fight for the U.S. Senate.The GOP candidates — helped by anti-Barack Obama sentiment and strong support from male voters — lead in all five states: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas and Kentucky.

The races, however, are still far from settled. None of the Senate candidates has a lead outside the poll’s margin of sampling error. And none of the front-runners hit the important marker of 50 percent support from their electorate.

Read the results for specific races at the link. But here’s an interesting reaction to the Fox poll results from analyst Harry Enten at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog, Senate Update: Don’t Go Crazy.

At about 6 p.m. Wednesday, a collective Democratic spit-take splattered computer screens around the country (at least that’s what I imagined happened). Fox News released new polls showing Republican candidates ahead by 4 percentage points in Alaska, 6 percentage points in Colorado, 5 percentage points in Kansas and 4 percentage points in Kentucky.

The polls look like a disaster for Democrats.

They’re not.

FiveThirtyEight’s Senate forecast has Republican chances of taking back the Senate at 56.4 percent — basically unchanged from the 56.5 percent we showed Tuesday.

Enten explains how the FiveThirtyEight model adjusts the Fox results for Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, and Kentucky. On Kansas, Enten says he needs more data. It looks like Pat Roberts is gaining on challenger Greg Orman, but he can’t be sure yet. And here’s some possible good news for Democrats:

Democrats got good news in Georgia, where Michelle Nunn’s chances of winning rose from 26 percent to 30 percent. Nunn’s odds inched up because she was down only 1 percentage point to Republican David Perdue (46 percent to 45 percent) in a new SurveyUSA poll. For the first time, the FiveThirtyEight model forecasts Perdue to capture less than 50 percent of the vote (49.9 percent).

As in Louisiana, if neither candidate gets more than 50%, there will have to be a runoff election.

Geeky Prof. John Sides, George Washington University

Geeky Prof. John Sides, George Washington University

At The Washington Post, Dana Millbank touts the Post’s Election Lab (headed by John Sides of George Washington University) and weighs in on the Silver-Wang controversy, Predicting the Senate election down to the decimal point. Here’s Millbank’s summary of Side’s current predictions:

We know, for example, with 98 percent certainty that Sen. Kay Hagan, an embattled Democrat, will win reelection in North Carolina next month. We are even more certain — 99 percent — that Sen. Mitch McConnell, a vulnerable Republican, will keep his seat in Kentucky. And we are darn near sure — 91 percent, to be specific — that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) will lose.

Throw all of these into our election model, add eye of newt and toe of frog, stir counterclockwise and — voila! — we can project with 84 percent confidence that Republicans will control the Senate next year.

Really? Millbank also summarizes competing predictions:

As of Tuesday afternoon, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, which turned the academic discipline of computer models into a media game, gives Republicans a 57.6 percent chance of taking the Senate. (Decimal points are particularly compelling.) The New York Times’s model goes with 61 percent, DailyKos 66 percent, Huffington Post 54 percent and PredictWise 73 percent. The Princeton Election Consortium gives a 54 percent advantage to Democrats.

Millbank seems gobsmacked that Sam Wang has the gall to predict a Democratic victory in the Senate. But he also appears to favor old-timey political prognosticators like Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg. Let’s take a look at what they are saying.

Charlie Cook: Senate’s Future Likely Hinges on These Three Races: The Senate most plausibly turns on the survival of Alaska’s Begich, Colorado’s Udall, and the outcome of the open contest in Iowa between Braley and Ernst.

The number of seats in play is either 11 or 12, depending on whether or not you believe that the contest in Minnesota between Democratic incumbent Al Franken and GOP challenger Mike McFadden has tightened up. We have begun to see some polls that show the race now in mid-to-high single digits; it could just be that Republicans are coming home, thus producing the normal closure you often see, or it could be that it is in fact growing more competitive.

Three Democratic open seats are goners: Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Democrats’ three most endangered incumbents still are in extremely challenging races. However, all of them—Mark Begich in Alaska, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, and Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu—are still absolutely alive and in the hunt for victory. The hope and prayer for Democrats is that one of these incumbents will survive, which would mean that Republicans would have to then win at least one seat in a “purple” or “light blue” state. Of these three races, Pryor’s challenge looks to be the toughest and least promising for Democrats. Landrieu’s is far from hopeless, but it would grow much more difficult if, as expected, the race moves to a Dec. 6 runoff with GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy. If there is a survivor in this trio, it is most likely to be Begich, though his race is extremely close and his chances of winning at this point are no better than a coin flip. The analogy for these three is that even Olympic swimmers have a tough time if the undertow is too bad, and that might well be the case here.

Read more of Cook’s analysis at the National Journal link above.

Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg

Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg

Stuart Rothenberg: What If I’m Wrong About GOP Flipping at Least 7 Seats?

A few weeks ago I wrote Senate Republicans would gain at least seven seats, even though the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call race ratings showed a likely Republican gain of five to eight seats.

That expectation was based on national survey results that showed the president extremely is unpopular and voters are unhappy with the direction of the country, as well as state polling that showed Democratic incumbents well below the critical 50 percent threshold in ballot tests against their GOP opponents.

Is Rothenberg ready to start hedging his bets on a Republication takeover?

Democrats still may be able to localize elections in a few states — the most likely prospects are North Carolina and Alaska, which were carried by Romney, and two swing states won by Obama, Iowa and Colorado. Doing so would inoculate the Democratic nominees (three incumbents and one open seat hopeful) from Obama’s near-toxic political standing.

Democrats certainly have lowered the boom on North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Colorado’s Cory Gardner, and it isn’t unreasonable to believe they can hold all four seats by discrediting the GOP nominees.

I have been assuming a 2014 electorate that looks more like the last midterm electorate than either of the past two presidential electorates. The 2010 electorate was much older and whiter than the 2008 and 2012 electorates, and there is no reason to believe that Democrats won’t suffer again from this year’s midterm electorate.

But Democrats are making an effort to register African-American voters in a number of states, mobilize Democratic voters in Alaska’s remote villages, and turn out both younger voters and reliable Democratic voters who in the past sat out midterm elections. If they can change the electorate, they can change their chances of holding on to a handful of states that I am expecting them to lose.

GOTV

As Dakinikat wrote on Monday, getting out the votes for Democrats is all-important!

It’s also interesting that Nate Silver may also be wondering if he could be wrong this time. On Monday, he told Real Clear Politics, “I’m Not Sure My Magic Will Work This Election.”

Election prognosticator Nate Silver seemed unsure of his ability to predict races when he appeared on the Monday broadcast of Fusion TV’s “Midterm Mayhem.”

“I’m not sure my magic will work in this election,” Silver said. “It’s a very close election nationally and in a number of states.”

“We’re certainly not clairvoyant. It’s a close election this year,” he added.

Hmmmmm . . .

And at FiveThirtyEight, Carl Bialik recently wrote: Pollsters Predict Greater Polling Error In Midterm Elections.

We asked pollsters if they expected more or less error in Senate election polls — the difference between what the latest pre-election polls show and actual vote margins — this year than two years ago. Ten said they expected a higher average error, while just five predicted lower error.

No one cited low response rates as a reason to expect poll error. Perhaps that’s because pollsters have managed to maintain strong national-election records despite declining response rates.

Instead, the top reason cited was the difficulty of forecasting turnout in midterm elections, without a presidential race to bring voters to the polls. And the crucial midterms are in states that don’t usually have close races. “The key Senate battlegrounds this year are also places like Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, etc., where most of the public pollsters don’t have a ton of experience,” one pollster said. “It’s not the Ohios and Pennsylvanias and Floridas of the world that we’re all used to polling a lot.”

Some also cited an increase in unproven polling techniques by pollsters. “Many are attempting to use Internet surveys with untested methodologies to determine likely voters,” said Darrel Rowland, the Columbus Dispatch’s public affairs editor, who conducts the newspaper’s Dispatch Poll. “As often happens to pioneers, there could be some grim results.”

Again, Senate control is going to hinge on voter turnout.  And of course there is always the possibility of last-minute surprises.

gotv2014

A few more links to check out:

The Economist, The Battle for the Senate: An Interactive Guide.

U.S. News, Top 10 Senate Races of 2014.

BBC News, US mid-term elections: Six Senate races to watch.

USA Today, Senate control may be undecided for weeks after election.

David Wiegel at Bloomberg Politics, Why the GOP Wants You to Think There’ll Be an Immigration Deal if They Win.

Huffington Post, As South Dakota Race Breaks Open, Bizarre Turn Of Events Could Save Senate For Democrats.

Mark Halperin at Bloomberg Politics, Exclusive: Senate Democrats Flooding South Dakota Airwaves.

Bloomberg Politics, These 10 States Are Getting Slammed With Campaign Ads.

Please share your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have an enjoyable Thursday.


29 Comments on “Thursday Reads: The Battle for the Senate”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Sorry to post this so late. I’m still trying to get over my cold, and my brain is working more slowly than usual.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Oh no!

    Protests erupt in St. Louis after cop kills black teen

    Angry protests erupted Wednesday night in the the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis after an off-duty police officer shot and killed an African-American teenager who, police said, had fired three shots at him.

    Police cordoned off a major street in the largely African-American area as the demonstrators denounced police and smashed windows on several police cars.

    Some in the crowd shouted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” referring to the fatal shooting in August of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in the suburb of Ferguson, about 16 miles away.

    • bostonboomer says:

      WaPo:

      The teenager’s family says he was unarmed and was holding a sandwich, not a gun.

      Relatives quoted by local news organizations said the man had only a sandwich, not a weapon.

      “He was unarmed,” Myers’ cousin, Teyonna Myers, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “He had a sandwich in his hand, and they thought it was a gun.”

      Dotson said police were interviewing witnesses to get a firmer picture of what happened.

  3. janicen says:

    We’re doing an all out push this weekend to GOTV and inform voters of the newly passed Voter ID laws here in Virginia. We want to make sure everyone knows that photo ID is required and what types of ID will be allowed.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    I usually don’t care for Mike Lux, but this is a good post on the midterms.

    Strange Things Happening In The Plains States

    http://crooksandliars.com/2014/10/strange-things-happening-plains-states-0

  5. dakinikat says:

    WTF happened to Wisconsin? I thought they were reasonably sane up there.

    http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/10/09/republican-candidate-for-wisconsin-attorney-general-says-he-would-defend-interracial-marriage-ban-video/

    In September, the Republican nominee running for attorney general in Wisconsin told the host of a local television program that he would defend an interracial marriage ban if he were in a state with such a law on the books.

  6. dakinikat says:

    This One $486 Million Blunder In Afghanistan Sums Up The Disaster Of Military Spending

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/a-486-milllion-blunder-in-afghanistan-2014-10#ixzz3FgTecjwA

  7. dakinikat says:

    Report: Pastor Confesses He Had Sex With Congregants After Contracting AIDS

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/pastor-had-aids-slept-with-church-members

    Angry Sky Gawd strikes again.

    • NW Luna says:

      Now that was right Christian of him, to sleep with his congregants and transmit infectious disease.

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Boy, I really managed to drive everyone away today!

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Your post today is very good BB. Some days I read and just don’t comment.

      And I totally agree with this: “Again, Senate control is going to hinge on voter turnout. And of course there is always the possibility of last-minute surprises”

      The polls in the nip-n-tuck races are nerve racking. Let’s just hope that our voter turnout efforts in those states pay off and that the constant barrage of fund raising emails that I’m getting from the DSCC actually helps to turn the tide in those races. All we can do now is keep our fingers crossed.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thanks. I don’t really mind the lack of comments. Sometimes I write things just so I can learn about them.

        • NW Luna says:

          Some days I don’t have enough non-work time to comment, or I don’t want to use a work computer, even though I’m just itching to comment!

          It seems very odd that a pollster would be attacking another pollster to the extend that Silver is doing. I’m looking forward to celebrating that he’s wrong.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Someone is trying to get back at Obama about the Secret Service scandals.

    Aides knew of possible White House link to Cartagena, Colombia, prostitution scandal

  10. bostonboomer says:

    This is surprising:

    Supreme Court blocks Wisconsin’s voter ID law

    And in Texas:

    a district court judge…ruled that state’s voter ID law is racially discriminatory and violates the Voting Rights Act. The state attorney general’s office said it would appeal.

  11. bostonboomer says:

    Business Insider:

    Read The Police Report From Sarah Palin’s Family Brawl

    http://www.businessinsider.com/full-police-report-from-sarah-palin-family-brawl-2014-10#ixzz3FhtQ0AXk

  12. NW Luna says:

    This is so cool!

    For decades, the only evidence of ancient cave art was in Spain and southern France. It led some to believe that the creative explosion that led to the art and science we know today began in Europe.

    But the discovery of paintings of a similar age in Indonesia shatters this view, according to Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London.

    “It is a really important find; it enables us to get away from this Euro-centric view of a creative explosion that was special to Europe and did not develop in other parts of the world until much later,” he said.

    The discovery of 40,000-year-old cave paintings at opposite ends of the globe suggests that the ability to create representational art had its origins further back in time in Africa, before modern humans spread across the rest of the world.

    “That’s kind of my gut feeling,” says Prof Stringer. “The basis for this art was there 60,000 years ago; it may even have been there in Africa before 60,000 years ago and it spread with modern humans”.