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now gives two graphs, one for just September-October and one for the whole year.
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bottom of the front page.
New Way of Predicting the House Results
The Senate predictions are fluctuating in a narrow band
but House predictions from various experts are all over the map. The base problem is that there have been
only 166 nonpartisan House polls this year
and these cover only 81 congressional districts.
There are 27 districts that could conceivably go either way that have not been polled by a reasonably trustworthy
pollster. These are
AL-02, AZ-05, AZ-08, CA-04, CT-04, FL-22, FL-24, GA-08, IA-02,
IL-14, IL-17, KS-03, LA-04, MI-08, MI-09, MI-11, MN-03,
MS-01, NM-03, OH-12, OR-05, PA-04, PA-06, PA-12, TX-23, VA-11, and WI-08.
How do you make a prediction when there are no data for 27 critical districts?
One approach that some people have used in desperation is to count the polls released by the DCCC, NRCC, and the
candidates themselves. Mark Blumenthal of the Huffington Post and Nate Silver of the NY Times, for
example, count them (in Silver's case, discounted though). A better way might be to take a sheet of paper with the
candidates names on it and let a well-fed cockroach walk over it and see where it poops. At least that would be
random and not biased. The partisan polls are released for one purpose only: to drive the media narrative to help their candidates.
They shouldn't be published or taken seriously at all.
So what's left? The experts divide into two
groups. One group looks at all 435 House contests one at a time and tries to predict the winner, then adds up
the totals. This might be called the microeconomic model. The other group looks at coarse indicators, such as
the national generic party preference and tries to come to the total number of Democratic and Republican
seats, without predicting specific races.
Here is a different way of looking the matter. Although it is also "macroeconomic," to the best of our knowledge,
no one has done this analysis before. The basic idea is that we know that the party controlling the White House
nearly always loses seats in both the Senate and House in the midterms. There is plenty of data on that. The table
on the left below shows the actual numbers for all the midterms since WWII. Negative numbers mean the party in the
White House lost seats; positive ones means it gained seats.
The thought arises that maybe the loss in the Senate and the loss in the House are correlated: the bigger the
Senate loss, the bigger the House loss. The way to see this is to make a scatterplot, with the horizontal
coordinate being the Senate loss and the vertical coordinate being the House loss. So the 1946 data would appear
at x = -12, y = -54. This is the little diamond closest to the lower left-hand corner in the figure above on the right.
All the other data points are also plotted in this figure. If there were perfect correlation, all the points would
fall on a straight line, which they clearly do not do. Nevertheless they do roughly fall around a line running
from the lower left-hand corner to the upper right hand corner.
If you are not a statistician, this paragraph may be gibberish, so just skip it.
Since the incumbent party generally loses seats in both the Senate and the House, most of the data points
are in the third quadrant, which is colored purple in the figure with the green dot indicating the origin.
The line shown in black in the figure
is a least-squares linear-regression
fit to the data. Visually, a higher-order fit or some kind of a spline
is probably meaningless. Using the number of losses in the Senate
as the independent variable, the line gives us the best prediction of the number of House losses. Of course,
Senate losses do not cause House losses, but they clearly correlate.
The vertical red line is drawn through the point corresponding to a Democratic loss of 8 seats in the Senate.
Given our current data, that is certainly a real possibility. It intersects the black line at a point
corresponding to a (net) loss of 38 seats in the House, which would give the Democrats a 1 seat margin, 218 to 217.
To achieve a net gain of 38 seats, the Republicans would probably have to beat 42 or 43 Democrats or Democratically held
open seats since they are likely to lose 4 or 5, as discussed here
The yellow vertical line is for a bigger wave and a 10-seat loss in the Senate. It intersects the black line
at a (net) loss of 42 seats, which would give the Republicans a 221 to 214 majority. The case of the
Democrats losing 9 seats in the Senate is halfway in between, so it would correspond to a bare Republican
majority of 219 to 216.
So if you could tell how many seats the Democrats are going to lose in the Senate, you would have some
indication of the size of the wave and thus have some historical basis for predicting the loss in the House.
The only real problem with this model (other than it being an approximation, since there is a fair amount
of scatter in the data), is that the size of the Senate loss isn't certain. It is likely to be in the range
8 to 10, but there could be surprises either way. In most elections, there usually are a few.
Many Three-Way Races This Year
In almost all elections there are half a dozen independents or parties on the ballot, but most of them get well under
1% of the vote and generally disappear in the noise. However, this year is different. In two Senate races
and three gubernatorial races there are independents on the ballot who might affect the outcome or even win.
The Senate race where someone other than the official Republican or Democrat has the best chance is Alaska,
where Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is trying to pull a Lieberman and win anyway after losing her primary.
Unlike Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who actually formed a new party and got on the Connecticut ballot in 2006,
Murkowski is running as a write-in candidate. It would have been easier had she been named Miller and the
official Republican had been named Murkowski, but it's the other way around. She has spent the past month
teaching Alaskans how to spell M-u-r-k-o-w-s-k-i and how to fill in the oval next to the write-in space,
but polls show the race as close to a three-way tie, with Joe Miller (R) just 1% ahead of her and Democrat
Scott McAdams not far behind.
The other Senate race where an independent might have an effect is Florida, where Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL)
chose to drop his primary campaign and run as an independent (because he saw he would have lost the primary).
So far, he is trailing Marco Rubio (R) by 10-15%, but there is at least a chance that Democrat Kendrick Meek
will drop out and endorse Crist (presumably in return for a job, since he will be unemployed come January).
If that happens, Crist would become the instant favorite.
Independents are playing a big role in three gubernatorial races. In Rhode Island, former Republican senator
Lincoln Chafee is in a statistical tie with Democrat Frank Caprio, with the Republican far behind. The Chafee
name is well known in Rhode Island, since Lincoln served 8 years in the Senate and his father, John,
served there for 24 years--after having been governor for two terms. Chafee has a real shot at it.
In a surprising turn of events, tea party favorite Dan Maes (R) beat the Republican establishment
candidate, Scott McInnis (R), in the Republican primary in August.
Since then, he has spouted off so much crazy stuff
that former representative Tom Tancredo (R) issued an ultimatum: if Maes didn't drop out of the race,
Tancredo would enter it. Maes didn't and Tancredo did. The most recent poll puts Democrat John Hickenlooper,
the mayor of Denver, at 42%, Tancredo at 38%, and Maes at 12%. Tancredo, who wants to take an extremely tough
line on illegal immigrants, is drawing all his support from Maes. Hickenlooper is still the favorite, but
Tancredo has been rising rapidly in the polls.
In the third three-way gubernatorial race, Tim Cahill, Massachusetts' Treasurer, is running
against both incumbent governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) and Republican Charlie Baker. He is unlikely to win,
but he could be a spoiler.
Taxonomy of Political Debates
There have been numerous "debates" between candidates this year. Actually, none of them have been real
debates, but more like intertwined question-and-answer sessions between candidates and moderators.
Chistopher Beam of Slate has
them and come to the conclusion that there are four kinds, as follows.
- Regular American vs. lifelong politician.
A lot of people are angry at politicians for not solving the country's many problems, so rich businessmen,
former athletes, and others for whom this is their first run for public office often endlessly pride themselves
on not being a politician. It's hard to imagine this working in any other field though. Can you see a doctor
applying for a job at a hospital bragging about the fact that he has never worked in a hospital?
Still, in politics this
is a popular gambit this year. Meg Whitman (R) in California and Ron Johnson (R) in Wisconsin are pushing this theme.
- Insider vs. outsider.This is kind of a variation on the first theme, but here the emphasis is on not
being a Washington politician, making it available to people who have been lifelong politicians, but in state
rather than national politics. Here the idea that it isn't the political system that is broken, but the wrong
people are in charge in Washington.
- National vs. local.Former Speaker Tip O'Neill once said: "All politics is local" but this year that is
not true. Republicans in many states and districts are running against President Obama and Nancy Pelosi even though
Obama isn't on the ballot anywhere and Pelosi's only actually opponent is John Dennis in CA-08. Sometimes this
approach gets so out of hand that the Democrat has to remind his opponent who is in the race. Halfway through their debate Monday,
Kentucky senatorial candidate Jack Conway (D) had to point out to his opponent that their election was
about whether the people of Kentucky wanted to be represented in the Senate by Jack Conway or Rand Paul, not
whether they wanted to be represented by Barack Obama or Rand Paul.
- Exciting weirdo vs. boring normal person. With so many fairly unconventional candidates running for
office this year, debates like the one between Harry Reid (D) and Sharron Angle (R) in Nevada have become
common. The standard-issue politician then tries to refute the insider-outsider argument by saying, in effect,
you may be an outsider, but you're crazy. I'm at least normal.
Today's Polls: HI UT MN-01 NH-01 NH-02 NY-25
|| Daniel Inouye
|| Cam Cavasso
|| Oct 13
|| Oct 13
|| Sam Granato
|| Mike Lee
|| Oct 11
|| Oct 13
|| Dan Jones
|| Tim Walz*
|| Randy Demmer
|| Oct 12
|| Oct 14
|| Carol Shea-Porter
|| Frank Guinta
|| Oct 07
|| Oct 12
|| U. of New Hampshire
|| Ann McLane Kuster
|| Charlie Bass
|| Oct 07
|| Oct 12
|| U. of New Hampshire
|| Dan Maffei*
|| Ann Marie Beurkle
|| Oct 10
|| Oct 12
|| Siena Coll.
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