An Experiment with Michigan Nonpartisan Redistricting

I’m finally back, after some burdening college applications. My first post of the new year will have to do with redistricting, which is coming up in 4 years. 4 years seems like a long time, but for the Democrats, their No.1 priority should be getting citizen initiatives on nonpartisan redistricting as soon as possible to prevent them being shut from congressional majority forever.

 

In 2010, Michigan rural voters’ angers against an economy not working for them propelled two incumbent Democrats out of office, with the Republican candidates receiving an unprecedented 52.32% of the popular tallys. Two years later, Michigan Democrats lost another seat due to 2010 census eliminating a seat for the state, even though they have won a similar level of popular support as the Republicans did two years ago, solely at the advantage of gerrymandering. The Michigan Republicans decided to never lose it again after winning a previously unheard trifecta in the state government as well as carrying all statewide elective offices under their pockets.

 

In this hypothetical scenario, districts were drawn in the way that they respect the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (to comply to this rule, district boundaries near Detroit city were crazily gerrymandered). I tried to make as many districts competitive as possible, but not in a way that every district is made tossup. Also Dave’s redistricting uses 2008 election data (read: unreliable), and given Michigan’s massive shift in 2016, not every seat on this map is competitive.

 

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District 1:

Obama 49.6 – 48.5

This district remains mostly unchanged from its actual variant. At current day level, it’s about R+5 to R+7, out of reach of any Democrat competing, but this variant’s first district would have definitely flipped in 2012.

2016 likely winner: Jack Bergman (R)

District 2:

Obama 53.3 – 44.9

This district would have voted for a Democratic representative in 2012 (and probably even in 2014), but rough calculation gave it approximately 60% Trump. Main portions of this district belong to Moolenaar’s 4th and Kildee’s 5th, but since Kildee would be redistricted into the 3rd, Moolenaar should easily win here in 2016.

2016 likely winner: John Moolenaar (R)

 

District 3:

Obama 59.2 – McCain 39.0

Kildee’s old 5th’s boundaries would be safe for him for the foreseeable future, but this new district would place him into onto Sabato’s vulnurable incumbent list (although not too much down). A substantial portion of Genesse county is placed into the new 5th, and the more conservative part of St. Clair county is in the new 11th, so while Trump would probably carry this district, it’s not by a substantial amount to propel Kildee out.

2016 likely winner: Dan Kildee (D)

 

District 4:

Obama 50.6 – McCain 47.7

I gave Dem favorable parts of Grand Rapids to this district, but that’s doing little to stop Trump winning 55%+ here. Huizenga would easily win reelection in this district.

2016 likely winner: Bill Huizenga (R)

 

District 5:

Obama 48.7 – McCain 49.6

This is the only district that McCain actually won, although he came close to almost all of them. It includes almost 50% of Amash’s old district, and this seat should be his as long as he wants it.

2016 likely winner: Justin Amash (R)

 

District 6

Obama 52.0 – McCain 46.3

Most of Fred Upton’s district were intact. Upton should be slightly safer given I added heavily Republican Barry County and Ottawa County to the district while simutaneously removing Republican parts of Berrien county.

2016 likely winner: Fred Upton (R)

 

District 7

Obama 50.2 – McCain 47.9

This is another of the state’s 3 strongly R-leaning districts. Geographically and politically this district would be most similar to Walberg’s old 7th, winnable for a D in a wave, but mostly out of Democratic reaches.

2016 likely winner: Tim Walburg (R)

 

District 8

Obama 57.7 – McCain 40.7

This district might have voted for Clinton, but I have to check precinct data to confirm. Rick Snyder only got 53.2% of the votes here in 2010 against Virg Bernero who have long given up campaign, so the district should be completely safe for a Democrat pending a 2010-style wave in an open seat.

2016 likely winner: some generic Democrat (D)

 

 Detroit and surrounding region

Detroit and surrounding region

District 9

Obama 55.9 – McCain 42.6

This district is slightly less Democratic than the 8th, and probably voted for Donald Trump by a slim margin, but a generic D holding the district since 2012 should be able to keep any challenger out. Debbie Dingell’s core constituency would be retained here, and her high profile should be able to keep her a seat in this district although it hardly matches her prior district’s shape.

2016 likely winner: Debbie Dingell (D)

 

District 10

Obama 52.9 – McCain 45.7

This is Michigan’s even district. It’s almost entirely within Oakland county (except not quite). It contains the mostly Republican parts of Wayne county, some swing precincts in Oakland, and two major Democratic vote dumps (Pontiac and Farmington Hills). Obama likely did not carry this district (and certainly not the Dem candidate running for Rep. against incumbent David Trott) as Oakland County as a whole swung Republican for about 3 points and remained there ever since.

2016 likely winner: David Trott (R)

 

District 11

Obama 55.1 – McCain 43.1

This district is the home of many Obama-Obama-Trump voters. While the district voted Obama 55.1-43.1, it almost certainly voted Trump given the huge swing in Macomb county. The race between Paul Mitchell and whoever the Democratic candidate here in 2012 would most certainly be tossup, and that Democrat is likely unseated in 2012.

2016 likely winner: Paul Mitchell (or a generic Democrat) (R)

 

District 12

Obama 61.4 – McCain 37.0

Most of Sander Levin’s old district is intact. He should win here without a problem, even in the reddening Macomb. Levin’s old district suffered a 6-point reddening, but the addition of heavily black parts of Wayne should make him safer.

2016 likely winner: Sander Levin (D)

 

District 13

Obama 78.8 – McCain 20.2

This is the state’s only VRA district, being 41.6% white, 50.0% black, 2.4% Hispanic, 3.2% Asian, 0.3% Native American, and 2.2% others. There isn’t much to explain, as barring a Jefferson 2008-esque scandal facing a moderately liberal Republican, this seat is Democrats for life.

2016 likely winner: Brenda Lawrence (D)

 

District 14

Obama 81.7 – McCain 17.2

This district, at D+29, is not a VRA district, albeit majority-minority. John Conyers should have no problem winner primary and general would be a stretch for any Republican to reach 30%.

2016 likely winner: John Conyers (D)

 

In 2016, this nonpartisan redistricting plan would not change much, as Michigan swung hard to the Republicans. Were Michigan to swing back to the Democrats, this map would keep them competitive at every district. If Michigan swings more to the R side, every district except three would be made very friendly to them.

 

2018 Senate highlight race: Arizona and Nevada

Arizona

Incumbent: Jeff Flake (R)

Last party margin: 49.2-46.2

Senator Jeff Flake is one of the most endangered Republican incumbents in the 2018 cycle. Ever since his vote against Manchin-Toomey amendment (expanding universal background check on all gun purchases), his approval rating has been trending low. A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling in 2013 has showed Flake having one of the worst approval ratings in the nation–with just 32% approving and a whopping 51% disapproving. A Morning Consult poll also showed Flake to be one of the least popular senators.

Also conducted by Public Policy, a poll this May showed Flake up only 2 points with Kyrsten Sinema, a prominent Arizona Democrat. Although Sinema is a member of the Blue Dogs coalition, her voting record is nowhere near Jim Matheson, a prominent Utah Democrat and potential candidate to run for the open seat in 2018. According to Ballotpedia, her voting record is moderately left of center and largely voted along the party line. Combining Flake’s one-of-lowest-approval in the nation and his lackluster polling number, we rate this race Leans R pending Trump’s approval numbers for any further rating.

 

Nevada

Incumbent: Dean Heller (R)

Last margin: 45.9-44.7

Unlike Flake and McCaskill, Heller’s approval rating is more modest. In the same poll that showed Jeff Flake down 19 points in approval rating, it showed Heller up three points 44-41.  However, in his 2012 campaign, Heller promised to be bipartisan and independent. Voting records have not shown that. Heller’s records indicate his stance is much to the right of Shelley Moore Capito, who is seen as a “moderate conservative” in her party, but Morning Consult approval poll shows Heller up 26 points with 48 percent approving and 22 percent disapproving. (Morning Consult and PPP are different polls, and they yield vastly different results.)

I used to comment this race as strongly leaning Republican, as I thought Clinton winning the presidential election was all but assured, pushing a R-wave considering her less-than-modest approval numbers, but Trump winning completely changed Senate calculus for 2018. This race starts as a Tossup. 

Canadian Voting Index–An Introduction

Introduction

Partisan Voting Index is a concept developed by American political scientist Charlie Cook. While Mr. Cook would definitely not be happy me stealing his concept of partisan voting index to Canada, it’s not going to be effective in a Canadian context anyway. Canada has three major political parties–the Conservatives (or the Tories), the Liberals, and the New Democrats (or the Socialists)–PVI fails to work in a three-party context. Therefore, an alternative method to measure political party support needs to be developed. Therefore, I am introducing the Canadian Voting Index, basing on a slight variation of Mr. Cook’s legendary work.

Methodology

Canadian Voting Index measures each political party’s support level in a given geographic area, rather than a positive-negative number that measures two party’s support level in an area. Essentially, this is altering from Cook’s methodology, just converting a two-party index into a three-party index. Method of calculating CVI is identical to that of PVI, except in a three-party context.

CVI is calculated by:

\frac{\%_{r1}+\%_{r2}-\%_{n1}-\%_{n2}}{2} (1)

Where \%_{r1} denotes a party’s popular vote in a riding in election 1, \%_{r2} denotes that party’s popular vote in that riding in election 2, \%_{n1} denots that party’s nationwide popular vote in election 1, and \%_{n2} denotes that party’s nationwide popular vote in election 2.

For example, if political party B has 35% of votes in riding A in election 1, 33% of votes in riding A in election 2, 25% of national popular vote in election 1, and 27% of national popular vote in election 2, its CVI is:

\frac{35+33-25-27}{2}=+4

Applications

Canadian Voting Index could be used to project a political party’s performance in a riding in an upcoming election. For instance, we can apply CVI number to a nationwide poll to project a party’s expected vote share in a riding. Note that CVI is not a comparison between political parties, as that comparison would have no practical application aside from building a statistical table.

Canadian Voting Index could also be used calculate a region’s electoral shift from one election to another, by comparing CVI from different elections.

Procedures

Creating a CVI table would involve collecting 2011 and 2015 election results for all 338 electoral districts across Canada. 2011 election result needs to be in redistributed format to make such result most accurate. A table based on equation 1 then needs to be computed to output final CVI data for each riding.

Preliminary Data

A CVI table at the provincial level has already been completed. Preliminary findings include huge swings between one election to another in both the provinces and the ridings. For example, Gatineau swung 40 points toward the Liberals from 2011 to 2015. Based on the preliminary data, it might be difficult for a CVI-based model to accurately predict elections in Canada due to the existence of such swings.

 

Attachment:

Province NDP Cons. Lib.
British Columbia 4.05 2 -4.9
Alberta -10.95 27.4 -12.25
Sasketchewan 3.55 16.65 -12.95
Manitoba -5.35 9.65 1.4
Ontario -4.05 3.95 5.85
Quebec 9 -19.15 -4.25
New Brunswick -1.1 -1.15 7.9
Nova Scotia -1.8 -8.45 16.2
Prince Ed. Il. -9.45 -5.5 20.45
Newfoundland 1.65 -16.4 22
Yukon T. -8.2 -6.85 14.1
Northwest T. 13.15 -10.7 4.15
Nunavut T. -2.2 1.6 8.75

Table 1: Preliminary Data

2018 Senate Ratings

Safe D Likely D Leans D Tilts D Pure Tossup Tilts R Leans R Likely R Safe R
Feinstein (CA) Stabenow (MI) Nelson (FL) Manchin (WV) Tester (MT) McCaskill (MO) Cruz (TX) Wicker (MS)
Murphy (CT) Menendez (NJ) Casey (PA) Heller (NV) Flake (AZ) UT Open (Hatch) Barrasso (WY)
Carper (DE) Kaine (VA) Baldwin (WI) Heitkamp (ND) Fischer (NE) Corker (TN)
Hirono (HI) Brown (OH) Donnelly (IN)
King (Ind-ME) Tester (MT)
Cardin (MD)
Warren (MA)
Klobuchar (MN)
Heinrich (NM)
Gillibrand (NY)
Whitehouse (RI)
Sanders (Ind-VT)
Cantwell (WA)

Democrats are favorable in 2016, numerous pundits predict. Recent polling suggest the Democratic candidate is on track of winning in WisconsinIndiana (although there’s only one poll)New HampshirePennsylvania, (either NH or PA has an outlier poll saying large-margin Republican lead) and Democrats have a very good chance at the quasi-abandoned Illinois. At R+0.2, Nevada is considered tossup by most pundits. Also North Carolina (R+2.5), Missouri (R+4.8), Florida (R+5.7), Ohio (R+7.5) Arizona (R+8.0), and even Georgia (R+8.0) could potentially flip Democratic if this election becomes a wave for Hillary Clinton.

 

If the Democrats were to win all Lean D states, picking up one tossup states (NV and NC), and one Lean R state, Democrats would have a 52-48 majority in the upper chamber. The lead is by no means large; in 2008, the Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats. Now they have 46, losing 14 seats between their supermajority and now.

 

Enough discussion about 2016 Senate. Let’s move onto our topic–2018 Senate. Republican and Democratic strategists alike point out the math is very unfavorable for the Democrats. 23 Democrats, 8 Republicans and 2 independents are up for re-election (or retirement) in 2018. Like this year with the Republicans, the 2018 map for the Democrats is incredibly bad.

 

Info por favor @ en.wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Info por favor @ en.wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Without wasting words, let us start by doing state-by-state analysis.

 

Arizona

Incumbent: Jeff Flake (R)

Last party margin: 49.2-46.2

 

Senator Jeff Flake is one of the most endangered Republican incumbents in the 2018 cycle. Ever since his vote against Manchin-Toomey amendment (expanding universal background check on all gun purchases), his approval rating has been trending low. A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling in 2013 has showed Flake having one of the worst approval ratings in the nation–with just 32% approving and a whopping 51% disapproving. A Morning Consult poll also showed Flake to be one of the least popular senators.

 

Also conducted by Public Policy, a poll this May showed Flake up only 2 points with Kyrsten Sinema, a prominent Arizona Democrat. Although Sinema is a member of the Blue Dogs coalition, her voting record is nowhere near Jim Matheson, a prominent Utah Democrat and potential candidate to run for the open seat in 2018. According to Ballotpedia, her voting record is moderately left of center and largely voted along the party line. Combining Flake’s one-of-lowest-approval in the nation and his lackluster polling number, Flake would find himself in the tossup column, especially after Trump’s election to the presidency

Rating: Leans R

 

 

California

Incumbent: Dianne Feinstein (D)

Last party margin: 62.5 – 37.5

 

There is not much to talk about. Safe D no matter Feinstein retires or not. Potential Democratic candidates include Reps. Loretta Sanchez, Linda Sanchez, Judy Chu, Xavier Becerra, Norma Torres, California State Sen. Kevin de Leon, or California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Rating: Safe D.

 

 

Conneticut

Incumbent: Chris Murphy (D)

Last party margin: 55.1 – 43.3

 

Still not much to talk about. Connecticut has Democratic trifecta control even at this time. Murphy won the open seat by 11.8%, and this time he would enter the race as incumbent, adding momentum to his side.

Rating: Safe D.

 

 

Delaware

Incumbent: Tom Carper (D)

Last party margin: 66.4 – 29.0

 

Same as Connecticut except the state is even more Democratic.
Rating: Safe D.

 

 

Florida

Incumbent: Bill Nelson (D)

Last party margin: 55.2% – 42.2%

 

If Nelson, 76, decides to run for another term, I see his prospects of winning re-election to be very high, as only his first Senate race was remotely competitive. However, if Nelson decides against running for re-election and decide to retire instead, it would be very difficult for another Democrat to carry the state for them. If Murphy loses 2016, he could potentially run again in 2018 against potential candidates Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Pam Bondi and David Jolly (who is likely to lose his congressional seat this year to former govenor Charlie Crist). Democratic potential candidates include Ex. Gov. Charlie Crist, but he lost two statewide races and if president Clinton has a low approval he is likely running for re-election to his House seat if he gets it this year. Under president Trump it would be a different story, with potential of Democrats sweeping every statewide office.

 

Rating: Leans D

September 7 update: a Public Policy poll showed Nelson only up by 4 points in a hypothetical matchup with Gov. Rick Scott. I am still standing with my Likely D prediction but it could change.

 

 

Hawaii

Incumbent: Mazie Hirono (D)

Last party margin: 62.6 – 37.4

 

If Hirono could beat a popular former governor by 25 points, she could beat another Republican candidate.

Rating: Safe D

 

 

Indiana

Incumbent: Joe Donnelly (D)

 

Indiana is certainly one of the most competitive Senate races in 2018. If Bayh is elected in 2016, which would likely happen, Donnelly is more likely to get unseated. Yes, I know Joe Donnelly is one of the most conservative Democrats out there in the Senate (slightly to the left of Manchin on economic issues, and almost the same position as Manchin’s on social issues), but still doesn’t change the fact Hoosiers would probably not be satisfied with two Democratic Senators. In 2012, Indiana was a safely rated as a hold for the Republicans before Lugar’s surprising primary defeat. Mourdock, even by Indiana standards, is considered too conservative to be electable. He never lead the poll more than 5%, and was hurt further by the pregnancy from rape controversy.

 

Donnelly was incredibly lucky running against Mourdock, but this time around he would face a much more powerful opponent. Republican challengers are plenty. Susan Brooks has been touted as a potential candidate, as well as Greg Zoeller, Curtis Hall, Luke Messer. Although the national climate could be very favorable to the Democrats, Donnelly will no doubt find himself in a tight reelection battle.

Rating: Tossup

 

 

Maine

Incumbent: Angus King (I)

Last party margin: 52.9-30.7-13.1

 

Paul LePage is no Charlie Baker or Earl Ray Tomblin. He isn’t the most popular governor in an otherwise Democratic leaning state. His approval rating is also one of the worst in the nation, according to a UNH/Press Herald poll. The same poll showed him down 63-29 with King.

 

But Angus King, 74 on election day, could obviously decide to retire. Failed gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud could be replacing King as the choice of moderates and progressives. But he lost to LePage, who knows. Maine is relatively nonpartisan, just like North Dakota, which would be covered later in this essay.

Rating: Safe I

 

 

Maryland

Incumbent: Ben Cardin (D)

Last party margin: 55.4-26.7-16.6

 

Cardin retires or not, Maryland remains solidly D unless Republican candidate is Larry Hogan. Potential Democratic candidates include Donna House and John Delaney.

Rating: Safe D

 

 

Massachusetts

Incumbent: Elizabeth Warren (D)

Last party margin: 53.7-46.2

 

Replace Hogan with Baker is Massachusetts.

Rating: Safe D

 

Michigan

Incumbent: Debbie Stabenow (D)

Last party margin: 58.8-38.0

 

Michigan was Tennessee of 2014, enough said.

Rating: Likely D

 

 

Minnesota

Incumbent: Amy Klobuchar (D)

Last party margin: 65.2-30.5

 

Add Minnesota to the list of Connecticut, Delaware and Hawaii.

Rating: Safe D

 

 

Mississippi

Incumbent: Roger Wicker (R)

Last party margin: 57.2 – 40.6
Democrats in Mississippi have seem already given up. There is no credible candidate other than Jim Hood (Mississippi Atty Gen). Even if Hood runs for either Governor’s Mansion or Washington, the Republican candidate would still be favored,.

Rating: Safe R.

 

 

Missouri

Incumbent: Claire McCaskill (D)

Last party margin: 54.7-39.2

Now there we have it, the most competitive (or leaning takeover) race in the nation. McCaskill was well on her route of losing re-election in 2012 until Todd Akin said this:

If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

Apparently this is a statement to appease Tea Party voters, strengthening their support for him, but why the hell in the world did Todd Akin want to strenghten his Tea Party support while turning all moderate votes to Claire McCaskill?  Tea Party voters only have one choice–him, but moderate voters could split between him and McCaskill, and in the election they sided with McCaskill, beating Akin by a resounding 15-point margin.

 

Ok. Enough of 2012, moving onto 2018. McCaskill is considered one of the most vulnurable incumbents because of her poor approval rating–merely 39% approving while 46% voicing their disapproval, according to a Public Policy Poll. This figure is only marginally better than Jeff Flake’s approval rating, which is one of the worst in the nation. Having these approval ratings, combined with a strong Republican opponent (Ann Wagner), Claire McCaskill would be the Republicans’ easiest target for 2018. Theoritically, McCaskill and Flake are in the same position because of their less-than-ideal approval ratings, but McCaskill would face a less ideal situation because of her Democratic party affiliation in a red state. Changing demographics in Missouri are propelling Democratic voters out of the state, and St. Louis County region became a solidly red region from a swing region. All these factors are suggesting Missouri is on its path to become solidly red.

 

Less than ideal approval rating, strong Republican opponent, and changing demographics all suggest Claire McCaskill would face an uphill battle for reelection. Since Missouri has statewide races this November, situations could change after that election, but McCaskill is currently on her track to defeated reelection. If McCaskill is primaried and she does lose, this race would be rated otherwise. For example, if Jason Kander is the Democratic nominee instead of McCaskill, this race would be Tilt D at most.

Rating: Tossup/Tilt R

 

 

Montana

Incumbent: Jon Tester (D)

Last margin: 48.6-44.6

Sitting representative Danny Rehburg failed to unseat Tester in 2012. President Obama only scored 41% of votes in the state, indicating Tester ran almost 7 points ahead of Obama in his state. And Rehburg was a reasonably popular representative, representing the state for six terms.  Sure, it was 2012, but in Montana Obama was not positioned favorably and Tester is reasonably more favorable than Obama in the state. In 2018, to defeat Tester would require Hillary Clinton be really unfavorable if she becomes president, but if Donald Trump, whose favorability is almost guaranteed to be low, becomes president, Jon Tester would virtually be guaranteed to hold the seat for another six years. Some people see this race as very competitive and current trends show that to be true, but Tester would start with a major advantage.

 

Rating: Lean D

 

Nebraska

Incumbent: Deb Fischer (R)

Last margin: 57.8-42.2

Fischer could find herself with some nominal opposition with Rep. Brad Ashford, who was just defeated for reelection as Trump carried the district by 2 points, but that’s not enough to bring a serious challenge to her.

Rating: Likely R

 

Nevada

Incumbent: Dean Heller (R)

Last margin: 45.9-44.7

 

Unlike Flake and McCaskill, Heller’s approval rating is more modest. In the same poll that showed Jeff Flake down 19 points in approval rating, it showed Heller up three points 44-41.  However, in his 2012 campaign, Heller promised to be bipartisan and independent. Voting records have not shown that. Heller’s records indicate his stance is much to the right of Shelley Moore Capito, who is seen as a “moderate conservative” in her party, but Morning Consult approval poll shows Heller up 26 points with 48 percent approving and 22 percent disapproving. (Morning Consult and PPP are different polls, and they yield vastly different results.)

 

In comparison (to Jeff Flake and Claire McCaskill), these approval ratings are not bad at all.  If there is no significant demographic shift (such as influx of Hispanics or other strong D-leaning population), Heller should be pretty safe here.

 

The above texts were written pre-election. With Trump’s unexpected election to the presidency of the United States, Heller became the only Republican Senator who sits in a state that both voted for Obama twice and Hillary Clinton, Heller’s uncompromising record, if touted by a strong candidate (Jacky Rosen or Ruben Kihuen are among contenders here), can have detrimental effects on him.

 

Rating: Leans D

 

New Jersey

Incumbent: Bob Menendez (D)

Last margin: 58.9-39.3

Menendez has been covered up with scandals lately, but those scandals should not be strong enough for him to decide against seeking a third term. If Menendez doesn’t retire, he should be safe. If he does, unless the Democrats run a lackluster candidate, Democrat should be fairly safe as well.

 

Rating: Likely D

 

New Mexico

Incumbent: Martin Heinrich (D)

Last margin: 51.0-45.3

Lately, New Mexico has been trending Democratic. Heinrich, 47, is young and ambitious. Although he hasn’t been featured on the national spotlight, according to Morning Counsult, Heinrich is up 25 points in approval rating, making him on the same level as Heller. New Mexico is six points more Democratic in comparison to Nevada Republican (Nevada is D+2, New Mexico is D+4, so there’s a six point difference between Heller and Heinrich). If Heller is likely, NM should be safe for the Democrats if Republicans only run a generic candidate.

 

But New Mexico’s Republican bench is solid. Susana Martinez and Gary Johnson are both exceedingly qualified candidates to take New Mexico’s senate seat. Johnson’s popularity in New Mexico has been reflected in recent pollings. If he could get 20% in a presidential race, he could win the Senate race with 50-55%. Martinez is very popular as well, taking 57% while Udall (Democratic nominee for Senate) took 55%, so at least 10% of the voters must have split their ticket. A clash between two (and potentially three) popular politicians in NM would be very interesting to watch.

Rating: Safe D

 

New York

Incumbent: Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

Last margin: 72.2-26.3

See Minnesota.

Rating: Safe D

 

North Dakota

Incumbent: Heidi Heitkamp (D)

Last margin: 50.3-49.2

 

North Dakota’s senatorial race would be very interesting to watch. Heidi Heitkamp narrowly defeated one-term representative Rick Berg in the 2012 election. I watched a debate between the two candidates and found out Heitkamp to be a very emotional and appealing speaker. Representing an overall conservative state with a large liberal-conservative shift like North Dakota, Heitkamp’s much more to the ideological center than his predecessor is–Kent Conrad was around 30th most liberal, while Heitkamp is around 50th.  She has an A rating from NRA and consistently ranked among the most bipartisan senators. She is also pretty conservative on social issues, making the Republicans unable to attack her from this point. North Dakota’s general electoral history is incumbent protection, and incumbents usually get reelected with large margins–Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan all won their elections by wide-margins. But Heitkamp’s popularity is not nearly as high as Conrad and Dorgan’s, so that raises some questions for this North Dakota incumbent protection theory. Entering 2017 we might see some polls done in this state, and they may confirm or reject my theory that Heitkamp is narrowly favored but a strong Republican could beat Heitkamp.

 

Heitkamp is in a better position than McCaskill mostly because of her approval ratings. Heitkamp, although not Conrad/Dorgan/Hoeven level, is reasonably popular, at least much more so than McCaskill is. That made her to be not in too much of a disadvantage.

Rating: Tossup

 

Ohio

Incumbent: Sherrod Brown (D)

Last margin: 50.7 – 44.7

 

Brown’s opponent Josh Mandel never led the poll in 2012, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any power to unseat Brown. Mandel first started as an underdog (trailing Brown almost 15 points in the polls), but he almost equalized that polling near the end of the race. Brown ultimately prevailed, but in 2018 Ohio’s Republican bench would be even larger. Republicans hold every statewide elective offices and all of them are term-limited. DeWine could try to win his old seat back after an eight-year spell at OAG, and his approval rating is not 2006 level (and 2006 was such a large Democratic wave that made Tennessee a tossup) . Kasich could also be a potential Republican candidate–he ran an impressive presidential campaign although losing, but his publicity in Ohio was more than enough that denied Bernie Sanders any chance of a victory.

But keep in mind Brown is much more popular than all these Republican candidates mentioned. Brown is even more popular than Kasich is, by three percentage points according to PPP. Rob Portman, who has a negative approval rating, is expected to win his race against Strickland by more than 15 points. Brown’s approval rating is almost twenty points higher than Portman’s. he also leads by more than 10 points in a hypothetical matchup against Mandel.

 

Rating: Lean D

 

Pennsylvania

Incumbent: Bob Casey (D)

Last margin: 53.7 – 44.6

Casey faced Tom Smith, an unknown, in the 2012 general election and was posed a significant threat. Name recognition should push all independents and undecideds to the Casey side, but that didn’t happen. This is unusual because Casey’s approval rating is not remotely low–he is at Sherrod Brown level according to PPP. Considering Pennsylvania’s Republican bench, Casey would probably face another Smith in the general election (almost all statewides are held by the Democrats), but if a strong Republican comes out by any chance, Casey would be significantly threatened. If Casey faces another Smith, he is safe, but if he meets someone like Charlie Dent, the race could become competitive.

 

Rating: Lean D

 

 

Rhode Island

Incumbent: Sheldon Whitehouse (D)

Last margin: 65.0 – 35.0

Not much to talk about. Whitehouse is very safe as the last Republican who could even post nominal threat to this seat became a Democrat.

Rating: Safe D

 

Tennessee

Incumbent: Bob Corker (R)

Last margin: 64.9 – 30.9

Same as Rhode Island except change D to R.

Rating: Safe R

 

Texas

Incumbent: Ted Cruz (R)

Last margin: 56.4 – 40.6

Cruz could face a primary challenge. Actually he is very likely to face a primary challenge. His primary challengers are unlikely to defeat him, though. There is no significant difference between Cruz, Dan Patrick, Rich Perry or name another Republican. Ideologically and name recognition wise they are all the same. Texas has been trending purple, meaning a strong Democrat could make this one a swing. Potential Democratic candidates include the Castro brothers if they can boost Latino turnout significantly. If no strong Democrat (turnout-driving) is running, the Republican candidate should be very safe.

Rating: Likely to Safe R.

 

Utah

Incumbent: Orrin Hatch (R)

Last margin: 65.2 – 30.2

Hatch is very likely to retire. If he retires (or dies), DINO Matheson could have this seat within reach. If Matheson declines, the Republican candidate should be VERY safe, but if he runs then there could be some drama.

Rating: Likely R (Lean R if Matheson runs, Safe R if he doesn’t)

 

Vermont

Incumbent: Bernie Sanders (I)

Last margin: 71.0 – 24.9

Safe I or D, depending if Bernie Sanders runs for reelection.

 

Virginia

Incumbent: Tim Kaine (D)

Last margin: 52.9 – 47

Likely D if Kaine runs for reelection, tossup depending on 2017 general election result.

 

Washington

Incumbent: Maria Cantwell (D)

Last margin: 60.5 – 39.5

Rob McKeena (or Dino Rossi) could pose some threat to Cantwell, but not nearly enough to unseat her.

Rating: Safe D

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post-2016 PVI

I was going to offer an installment on my response on the 2016 presidential election (no, I am not dead, and I feel proud that my model was reasonably accurate given those percentages). However, this is my final exam week and the exams have preoccupied me, so I shall offer this alternative here.

 

Some interesting phenomenons:

West Virginia is now tied for third most Republican state at R+19.1. Indiana and Missouri are as red as Mississippi, all at around R+8.7. Maine reduces from D+6 to D+4 (still fairly Democratic given ME-02’s margin this year). In a Republican wave, Oregon, Connecticut and Delaware are all vulnerable, at D+5, D+6, D+6 respectively. Ohio, on the other hand, despite voting heavily Republican this year, is still only at R+3. Arizona and Georgia are both down to R+4.5 from R+6 four years ago. The new EVEN states are now PA, WI and NH (all down from D+2 ish). MI still sitting at D+1 despite voting Trump this year, given the state’s huge Democratic leaning from 2012.

 

Download PVI table here

2016 General: The Model is Here

Hillary Clinton is favored to win tomorrow’s election since the beginning of the 2016 cycle. Since after the primaries, Donald Trump has only lead five non-Rasmussen or Ipsos, non-tracking national four-way polls. This possibly points to an overwhelming Democratic win tomorrow, but our model, largely based on state-level polling averages, suggests only a modest Clinton win.

 

The model has a simple methodology: combining all polls published on Real Clear Politics conducted within 2 weeks (for the same pollster, only their three most recent surveys are included; RCP is not used because of its extremely narrow inclusion guidelines) and adjust their two-party numbers by their historical partisan leanings (provided at FiveThirtyEight). If such number is not provided, the poll’s self-reported partisan registration number is compared to statewide partisan registration numbers * 0.75 to “unskew” the poll (factored at 0.75 considering LV/RV gap). If partisan registration numbers were not provided in a poll, such poll is discounted from the model. On top of this first adjustment, average two-party polling error in a specific state is adjusted as well, according to numbers published by Real Clear Politics for the 2008 and 2012 elections.

 

 

Two party average vote is calculated using equation 1 (P denotes party, D for Democratic, R for Republican)

P_{avg}=\frac{2008P+2012P}{(2008D+2008R)+(2012D+2012R)}

 

Systematic polling average error is adjusted by equation 2: (TPA denotes true polling average)

TPA=PA_{avg}-D_{avg}

2016-polling-error

State AvgPE
Arizona 3.23
Colorado -3.64
Florida -1.68
Georgia -0.72
Iowa 1.7
Maine -2.85
Michigan -3.68
Nevada -4.9
New Hampshire -1.1
North Carolina -0.9
Ohio -1.03
Pennsylvania -2.1
Virginia -2.7
Wisconsin -2.58

Table 1: Average polling errors in several states

 

Table 1 provides us how off polls were in these battleground states. A positive number indicates poll in favor of Democratic candidate; a negative number indicates poll in favor of the Republican candidate.

 

From table 1, we developed table 2 (which is not shown here due to its massive size). Table 2, containing our full methodology  can be downloaded in the link below. Due to time constraint (it’s 1AM Pacific on November 8), I cannot to explain my full methodology here.

 

In fact, my prediction model is fundamentally flawed because of its reliance on RealClearPolitics data. If my model included more polls, it would be more predictive. My model would be most predictive in Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia because of these states’ abundance of polls, and less predictive in Wisconsin, Ohio and Maine, where polls are not as abundant.

Here are my numerical predictions for each battleground states:

AZ: 18% D, 82% R (HRC 46.55 DJT 53.44)

CO: 86% D, 14% R (HRC 54.05 DJT 45.94)

FL: 64% D, 36% R (HRC 51.29 DJT 48.71)

GA: 32% D, 68% R (HRC 48.09 DJT 51.91)

IA: 31% D, 69% R (HRC 48.15 DJT 51.85)

ME: 88% D, 12% R (HRC 54.19 DJT 45.81)

MI: 91% D, 9% R (HRC 54.77 DJT 45.23)

NV: 69% D, 31% R (HRC 51.93 DJT 48.07)

NH: 58% D, 42% R (HRC 50.77 DJT 49.23)

NC: 52% D, 48% R (HRC 50.07 DJT 49.93) — Pure Tossup

OH: 29% D, 71% R (HRC 47.94 DJT 52.06)

PA: 76% D, 24% R (HRC 53.29 DJT 46.71)

VA: 90% D, 10% R (HRC 54.20 DJT 45.80)

WI: 86% D, 14% R (HRC 54.51 DJT 45.49)

Raw Data

My electoral college ratings:

 

%e5%be%ae%e4%bf%a1%e6%88%aa%e5%9b%be_20161108005714 %e5%be%ae%e4%bf%a1%e6%88%aa%e5%9b%be_20161108005837

 

Enjoy today and live with whoever we get tomorrow for four years!

2016 Senate Ratings

U.S. Senate
Safe D Likely D Leans D Tilt D Tossup Tilt R Leans R Likely R Safe R
Blumenthal (CT) Bennet (CO) Johnson (WI)  Toomey (PA) NV Open (Reid)  IN Open (Coats) Rubio (FL) McCain (AZ) Murkowski (AK)
Schatz (HI) Kirk (IL)  Ayotte (NH) LA Open (Vitter)  Isakson (GA) Shelby (AL)
MD Open (Mikulski) Blunt (MO) Grassley (IA)  Lee (UT)
Schumer (NY)  Burr (NC) Paul (KY)  Crapo (ID)
Wyden (OR) Portman (OH) Moran (KS)
Leahy (VT)  Boozman (AR) Hoeven (ND)
 Murray (WA) Lankford (OK)
 CA Open (Boxer)

Harris

Scott (SC)

 

Safe D:

Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Vermont: No explanation needed.

Oregon: Republican bench in Oregon is pathetic. Every statewide official is a Democrat, and the only U.S. Representative represents a conservative (R+10) district. Wyden, a four-term incumbent with reasonably high approval rating, should win reelection without any trouble. Safe D

Washington:  Murray, although not well-liked by her constituents, should easily beat his token Republican opposition given she won reelection in 2010 against a powerful Republican opponent. Safe D.

Note on WA: While Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House, has no trouble facing reelection in his moderately Republican 6th district, she would lose to any Democrat by landslide margins because of her hardcore positions on social issues. The same applies to Jaime Herrera Beutler. The only Republican with a realistic chance of winning a Senate seat in Washington is Rob McKeena, but only if the seat is open.

California: Kamala Harris is arguably the most powerful Democrat in California as the state’s attorney general. Were Loretta Sanchez, the more conservative Senate candidate, to run a campaign on courting Republican voters while holding about 25% of the Democrats, she would win this race. Yet, polls have indicated Republicans are just inclined to skip this race altogether; therefore, Harris would safely win this seat and perhaps a lifetime Senate term. Safe Harris.

Illinois (Updated 11/02/2016 from Likely D): Before Kirk’s inappropriate comment regarding Duckworth’s family’s heritage and military service, Kirk looked all but finished. While the comment might not move the needle (or probably even in his favor) in Southern states, the national attention generated would reduce his chance in Illinois to be effectively nil. An Emerson poll confirms my hypothesis that Kirk would be behind further than he was three weeks ago. Safe D.

 

Likely D:

Colorado: Glenn is a weak candidate and polling indicate a massive distance between the two candidates. Glenn could potentially luck out and get a victory if something very wrong happens. Likely D.

 

 

Leans D:

Wisconsin: Johnson was all but written off bythe national Republicans. NRSC canceled its spending there long ago but there are signs of a Johnson rebound going on. Johnson never led a poll this cycle but there are signs of a close race going on there. If Feingold is absolutely safe, DSCC wouldn’t pump in $2mil to help him, just to push him over the top. Feingold should be fairly safe, likely winning by 7-8 points in a week, but if Comey effect gets more severe, Johnson could sneak out a victory here. Leans D.

Pennsylvania (Updated 11/02/2016 from Tilts D): Katie McGinty has led 10 consecutive polls conducted after October 20, including two polls from Republican-leaning pollsters (Gravis and Emerson), averaging a 5-point lead ahead of incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey in RCP average. While McGinty is clearly not a strong candidate, Toomey is more vulnurable than he was ever. Leans D.

Tilts D:

New Hampshire: Polls show a close race with slight edge going to Ayotte, but given New Hampshire’s electoral votes will almost inevitably go to Clinton, straight-ticket voting might be able to push Hassan over the top. Tilts D.

Pennsylvania: See New Hampshire.

Missouri: Like Bayh (who we can find in the Tilts R column), Blunt’s status as a “Washington Insider” is helping him in no way. Blunt started the race with a 20 point advantage (just like Bayh), but his lead has largely diminished because of Kander’s attacks over his ties to the lobbying industry (lobbying is his family business with his wife and sons all being lobbyists). This would be this year’s closest Senate race with a potential recount. Tilts D.

North Carolina: Richard Burr has made headlines recently regarding his comment on assassinating Hillary Clinton. However the state is so polarized that any token Republican and Democrat would take at least 45% each. With polling showing a deadheat, third party would be determinative here. Tilts D

 

Pure Tossup:

Nevada: With polls showing a deadheat between Cortez Masto and Heck, the presidential winner (of Nevada)’s party would likely carry this seat. Polls show a close race between Trump and Clinton here. Tossup.

 

Tilts R:

Indiana: Bayh’s collapse largely has to do with his ties with the Washington lobbyists, and in this anti-establishment year, “Washington insider” status certainly do not help candidates win election. Bayh started the race with a 25 point advantage, but Young’s powerful attacks and his “anti-establishment” tone has put Bayh into a Blunt position. He and Blunt might end up as victims of anti-establishmentism. Tilts R.

 

Leans R:

Florida: Rubio started with a major advantage–Florida Cubans. According to a PPP survey, Clinton leads this block by 65-22 but Rubio leads by 50-41. There is no way for Murphy to win unless he could court the Hispanic voting bloc onto his hand. Leans R

Louisiana: This one is more likely than just a lean, given Louisiana’s tremendous Republican leaning. But Caroline Fayard and Foster Campbell are both strong candidates, and in the unrealistic situation of them facing each other in the runoff, Democrats would prevail. In every other case (Republican vs. Democrat or Republican vs. Republican), the Republican candidate would almost inevitably win.

 

Likely R:

Arizona: This race was only “lean” for a long time mainly because of McCain’s volatility in the primary. With McCain the Republican nominee he is most likely safe. Likely R

Georgia: This race would be competitive were the Democrats to run Nunn or Carter, but unfortunately this is not the case. With a Berniecrat on the ticket, Isakson is safe barring extremely unlikely conditions. Likely R

Iowa: Grassley is very popular among Iowans and the state is shifting to the right with Trump and Clinton neck-to-neck in this Obama firewall state.  Likely R.

Kentucky: The state has shifted heavily in the Republicans’ favor. While Paul looks potentially vulnerable with scarce polls showing him only up slightly (and Jim Gray being a perfect Kentucky Democrat), the state’s Republican leaning (and difficult of polling) gives Paul a significant (and almost insurmountable) edge. Likely R

Ohio: Portman initially looked vulnerable with him and Fmr. Gov. Ted Strickland neck-to-neck in the pollings before late April, but he was able to shake off all Strickland attacks by rebuking Strickland’s remarks as completely untrue (which is indeed the case; Portman supports gay marriage [largely because his son is gay] and is moderate on several other issues). Portman also highlighted Ohio’s recessionary economy during Strickland’s governorship, effectively shifting the race in his favor. Recent polling has shown slight sign of Strickland rebound but I remain skeptical. Likely R.

Arkansas: Like Kentucky, Arkansas realigned itself completely in the recent six years (with two Senate seats, four House seats, governor, statewide offices, and state legislatures all going Republican from Democratic). Boozman is very unpopular among Arkansas voters and Eldridge has run a reasonably good campaign (being a former U.S. Attorney and reasonably conservative on all issues but he’s no Kander), but this is not enough to unseat an incumbent Republican senator in a heavily Republican state. Likely R

 

Safe R:

Alaska: If Murkowski was able to beat Miller on write-in, she would be able to beat him again this time as the Republican nominee. Safe R.

Alabama, Utah, Idaho, Kansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina: no explanations needed. Safe R

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin Senate–Is Johnson Rebounding?

Sen. Ron Johnson is clearly headed to defeat after numerous polls showed him down 10-15 points in a rematch against Fmr. Sen. Russ Feingold. However, recent polling have shown Johnson rebounding a bit, even with a Loras poll showing him leading Feingold 5 points with other reputable (Marquette) polling showing him in striking distance of keeping his seat.

 

Incumbent profile:

Ron Johnson (R)

First elected in 2010, 1 term

 

Challenger profile:

Russ Feingold (D)

Former U.S. Senator, 3 terms

 

Sen. Ron Johnson narrowly unseated incumbent Russ Feingold in 2010’s Tea Party wave. Elected from the slim liberal-leaning state of Wisconsin, ultra-conservative Johnson replaced ultra-liberal Feingold for this class 3 seat. Johnson proved to be too conservative for this otherwise moderately progressive state (Scott Walker brought jobs to WI but Ron Johnson did not) and Wisconsin voters have been wanting to remove him since 2010.

 

Ron Johnson never led a single poll in this race, not even polls conducted in 2014 or 2015, until early October when Clinton is leading Trump by a margin as large as 10 points. Theoretically, Johnson’s rebound happened att an impossible time interval. The Gravis/Breitbard poll immediately before the Loras one showed Feingold leading Johnson by 12 points, so what caused this 17-point shift in just one day?

 

I ran through the two candidates in Google Trends, but nothing too significant is told. The only notable surge in both candidates’ search interest graphs occured at the Johnson-Feingold debate, and both candidates got a significant but temporary surge. I also tried to obtain Johnson and Feingold’s campaign activities, noting anything controversial that could move the needle by as large as 17 points, but unfortunately nothing is found.

 

Therefore the only explaination of that poll is that it is an outlier. I am supposing that Johnson’s right to try bill had some impact on Wisconsin’s Senatoral race. Accoding to previous experience, Johnson’s boost is most likely temporary (he refuses to take moderate positions even when the national party abandoned him). It is extremely unlikely that Johnson would win this race but be careful to put this one safely in the Democratic column. For instance, LA gubernatorial election was rated Likely R before the blanket primary (spoiler: Bel Edwards tronced Vitter); it became lean D before runoff. (In that race, Vitter was never safe but pundits locked him)

 

Rating: Strong Lean D

 

Update (10/18/16):

Feingold up 12 in a poll showing Clinton up 8, confirming my hypothesis that the boost is temporary.

Missouri Senate–Who are the Trump-Kander voters?

Presidential hopes in Missouri for the Democrats have faded long ago, but Missouri Democrats are still able to win down ballot races. Usually, due to incumbency advantage, Senators run ahead of their party’s presidential nominees (example: Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in 2012), but this is not the case for Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who faces an uphill reelection battle against little-known Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander.

 

Incumbent Profile:

Roy Blunt (R)

First elected in 2010, 1 term

 

Challenger Profile:

Jason Kander (D)

Missouri Secretary of State, 2 terms

 

Kander’s campaign was really a long shot (see prediction section) before some miracle happened in early July that a Public Policy poll showed Kander down only three points. The same poll showed Trump up 10 points ahead of Clinton. A St. Louis Dispatch poll conducted a few days later confirmed the race is within five points, but this poll showed Clinton ahead in the presidential race. (The poll was conducted during Clinton’s postconvention bounce period.) Later polls all showed Blunt ahead with a small lead, until this, probably the best political ad regarding gun control ever, sending a strong signal to the conservative pro-gun Missouri while also playing with the gun control message supported by almost 90% of the American population, including 80% of Republicans. After the release of this ad, both sides now recognize this race as a tossup and DSCC pulled in swing state resources to help Kander.

 

In addition, “Washington (or state capital name) is broken, we need to fix it” has become the standard-bearer of politicians running for office nationwide, and in this anti-establishment year, this message has become surprisingly effective. Bernie Sanders almost upset Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump won his party’s presidential nomination. Both candidates ran as outsiders, and their messages resonate well with the voters, who disapproved Congressional performance 7-1.

 

Blunt’s establishment Republican position angers Missouri voters who seek change in government. Before Blunt was elected a Senator, he was House Minority whip, second ranking Republican in the House, although he departed from the position after Republicans’ successive losses in the House. A Monmouth poll shows Blunt only having 80% of Republican support (11% goes to Kander), while Kander has 90% Democratic support, with only 5% going to Blunt. The same poll shows Kander with a 62-32 lead over Blunt in moderate voters’ views. The poll also shows both Blunt and Kander is becoming more unfavorable (compared to August), but Kander’s net favorability rating is still at +19, 1 point down from August’s +20, whereas Blunt’s net favorability has become negative.

 

This race might just be a replay of Arizona’s Senate race of 2012, but the R nominee for president is much more unfavorable among ordinary Americans than Mitt Romney is. If Trump gets trumped by Clinton in the 3rd debate, he would be starting to drag down downballot Republicans, making 2016, otherwise a Republican golden opportunity to expand their majority in both houses of the Congress, a 2006-style Democratic wave.

Rating: Tossup