Final 2014 Midterm Election Predictions

The final Fix Senate rankings are here    The Washington Post

With a little under a week to go before Election Day, it is time to make last-minute predictions once again.

You can see my earlier predictions from January here, and from October here.

Overall, the trends have moved slightly, but not significantly, toward Republicans. The generic poll numbers have not significantly moved, but the enthusiasm gap steadily has increased, as the GOP is relatively excited to come out and voice their displeasure at the polls.

GOVERNORS

I didn’t spend a lot of time on the Governor’s races in my previous post, and won’t do so here either, other than to make quick predictions on a few key races. In the races not mentioned, I expect the incumbent/heavily favored to win.

Alaska: Walker (I), in close race.

Colorado: Hickenlooper (D) anb Beauprez are going neck-and-neck; I was ready to call it for Hickenlooper a few days ago, but right now…I wouldn’t bet a nickel on either side. True tossup. Guess? Republicans pull it out.

Connecticut: Polls are tied; my gut says Foley (R) ousts Gov. Malloy.

Florida: I have no idea; really. I would not be surpised to see a recount.

Georgia: Deal (R), but less than 50%, so heads to runoff.

Illinois: Polling all over the place; low confidence, but I think Rauner (R) pulls it out.

Kansas: Another true tossup; gut tells me Brownback (R) wins, though deserves to lose.

Maine: LePage (R), by the skin of his teeth.

Massachusetts: Baker (R); a stunning turn of events.

Michigan: Snyder (R)

New Hampshire: Hassan (D), in a race closer than predicted.

Rhode Island: Fung (R) has run a great race, but I predict he loses to Raimondo.

Wisconsin: Walker (R), but closer than predicted.

HOUSE

In my earlier post, I predicted a gain of 5-8 House seats. The polls have shifted recently, with several Democrat incumbents now in tough races, as both parties rush to pour money into these districts. That is good news overall for Republicans, who could steal a few seats that were considered safe by Democrats, including several in the completely blue region of the North East. Polls in states like New York are showing GOP surges late…that is a sign of good things.

PREDICTION: Gain of 8-12 House seats, up from 5-8 earlier this month.

SENATE

All the real fun is still with the Senate.

The Senate prediction models (538, NY Times Upshot, Washington Post, Realclearpolitics, Huffington Post, Wang,Larry Sabato, and the new AoSHQDD) have slightly moved toward Republicans in the past month, including Dr. Wang’s site, which had heavily favored Democrats last go around.

The short term shift of polls toward Democrats died a quick death, with most of the polls trending toward the GOP over the past several weeks. In that last week before election day, we have seen several polling units show last-minute surges for Republicans. That has solidified some of the ratings changes below:

1. ARKANSAS

Arkansas has trended GOP over the past several months, and Tom Cotton should be considered the heavy favorite. This race looks very close to being over.

RATING: Likely GOP.

2. NORTH CAROLINA

This race is sitting with a razor-thin margin. Kay Hagan has had a lead for months, but that has been slowly, but steadily, narrowing. Several polls show the race tightening or even at the moment. If momentum matters, Tillis will pull it out. As it were, I still have to give a light edge to Hagan, based on her long-term lead. One caveat though: Hagan has polled consistently in the low 40s for the entire campaign; in the RealClearPolitics average, no incumbent has ever won re-election with a rating below 45% going into election day. Hagan will try to become the first.

RATING: Slight Democrat lean.

3. LOUISIANA

This race is likely heading for a runoff in December. Cassidy is trailing slightly in the three-way race for next week, but in head-to-head with Sen. Landrieu, shows a solid lead. He is likely to win the race in December.

RATING: Likely GOP in runoff.

4. Alaska

Alaska is notoriously hard to poll, because of its sparse population. But there has been some decent polling there in recent weeks, and the news is not good for Democrats. Dan Sullivan has opened a small, but persistent, lead over Democrat Senator Mark Begich.

RATING: Leans GOP

5. Iowa

Iowa was considered the ‘firewall’ for Senate Democrats’ hopes to hold the Senate, along with Colorado (see below). Bruce Braley was a unanimous choice as a strong candidate to hold the seat. However, conservative Joni Ernst has run a strong campaign, attacking Braley on both policy and personal issues. Surprisingly, Ernst appears to have the tiniest amount of momentum at this point.

This is another race that a late GOP surge makes me a believer.

RATING: Leans GOP.

6. Colorado.

Along with Iowa, this was considered the Democrat firewall to hold the Senate. Cory Gardner has disrupted that strategy. Gardner is a solid candidate, who has run a clean campaign against incumbent Sen. Mark Udall. Udall has led for most of the year, but recently Gardner has taken a slight, but consistent, lead. Udall has had several hiccups of late, but he still has a lot of money and a strong ground game.

Like Iowa, we are seeing a GOP surge late…and that should take Gardner over the top.

RATING: Leans GOP.

7. New Hampshire

Honestly…I did not think we would be talking about New Hampshire at this point. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is a relatively popular Senator, with no major scandals. Fmr. Sen. Scott Brown is a relative usurper, moving from Massachusetts just earlier this year. But key issues, including foreign policy, have made this race competitive. Shaheen still holds a steady lead though, and I presume she will pull it out.

RATING: Leans Democrat.

8. Michigan

Of all the races for the GOP, this is by far the most disappointing. I openly advocated for Terri Lynn Land, but she has run a horrendous campaign, where her messaging has been off, her campaigning has been lackadaisical, and she has allowed herself to become mired in silly controversies time and again. Unlike every other Republican on this list, she has actually outspent her opponent, to little or no avail. Gary Peters is not a good candidate, but in a blue state, you don’t have to be a good Democrat candidate to beat a mediocre Republican.

RATING: Solid Democrat.

9. Kansas

This is a race nobody can honestly predict. All the fundamentals should mean Sen. Pat Roberts wins re-election. The polls are not great in this race, but like Sean Trende has said on Twitter, until I see solid evidence, you have to bet on Roberts.

The GOP has ridden to Roberts’ rescue in the last few weeks. And former Sen. Bob Dole pulled out all the stops. My guess is, by the skin of their teeth, that will be enough.

RATING: Leans Republican.

10. Georgia

Georgia wasn’t listed in my last prediction…because I never seriously considered it in play. However, just to show the flux in polling, a surge for Nunn gave her a tiny lead during the interim. Perdue’s polling appears to have rebounded, and he seems to have a small lead. This race looks like it is going to a runoff, but once there, Perdue will very likely comfortably win. However, Perdue has surged enough in recent days, he is achingly close to avoiding a runoff all together by reaching the 50% mark.

RATING: Leans Republican.

PREDICTION: I think the last two weeks have slightly shifted the electorate. Where as some races were true tossups at that time, like Iowa and Colorado, those races now appear to be leaning Republican, if not out right over. For example, the Des Moines Register poll, often considered the premier poll in the state of Iowa, gives Joni Ernst a outside-the-margin-of-error lead of 7 points, and calls the race over. That would have been an unthinkable claim at the beginning of the month.

I think Republicans are going to be very, very disappointed in races in New Hampshire and North Carolina. In New Hampshire, Scott Brown has run an excellent insurgent campaign, very much like this win in 2010 in Massachusetts. However, the GOP was a little late in coming to his aid, and he will probably lose by a point or two.

In North Carolina, Thom Tillis had run a terrible campaign through out the summer. He disastrously remained in the North Carolina state legislature, which not only gave him bad press, but allowed Kay Hagan to pound him on the campaign trail for months. Tillis has done a nice job in recent weeks, both on the trail and in the debates. I think he is going to fall just short though.

When all is said and done, I predict the GOP takes 8 seats, to get to a 53 seat majority in the United States Senate.

OVERALL:

In recent days, a lot of political pundits are already setting up the ‘expectations’ game for both political parties. The Washington Post said the GOP will need a ‘reality check’ after winning. Nate Cohn in the New York Times is that the success in the midterms tells us little about the electorate for 2016.

In general, that is true. The midterm elections really have no significant bearing on what will happen in a Presidential elections. We have to look no further than 1986 Democrat Party victory, after which George H.W. Bush shellacked Michael Dukakis; or 2010, when the GOP had a wave election, only to be overcome by Barack Obama once again in 2012.

Victories this year, mostly in states favorable to the GOP, doesn’t really prognosticate for future victories.

This comes with a couple caveats however. Note how far the GOP has come since just JANUARY. See my predictions from January here, which aligned nicely with those of other pundits throughout the blogosphere. Democrats expected to hold both Colorado and Iowa, with Ken Buck thought to be the expected candidate in the former, and nobody giving Joni Ernst a chance in the latter. New Hampshire was not supposed to really be in play. North Carolina was the one race where Democrats can be happy with their plans.

In short, pundits are moving the bar greatly in these last few weeks. Simply put, virtually nobody predicted the GOP would take both Iowa and Colorado, both blue-leaning states in the era of Obama. And many, if not most, prognosticators thought Democrats would gain seats in the House, or at worst, stay even; instead, the Democrats are guaranteed to lose House seats, and some of those seats may be in relatively ‘safe’ Democrat districts.

The repercussions for 2016 and beyond simply cannot be predicted right now. But the short answer is this: the GOP looks like it is doing their job: elevating their ground game, recruiting strong candidates, and then running relatively err0r-free campagins. The Democrats, on the other hand, tried to depend on past victories in the ground game, recruited some poor to terrible candidates, and have run campaigns full of gaffes and mistakes.

Whether this is a true ‘wave’ election is a matter of opinion. But there is no doubt, this is going to be a solid victory for Republicans, who now have to look forward both on policy and 2016 to make this election matter.

This was cross posted at Neoavatara

Syria: What Now?

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So, I have spent much of the last two weeks contemplating the logic of war, what should determine if we send troops into the field and kill and destroy people of a far off land.  I think, and I hope, I took a fair look at the decision-making involved.  You can see my prior posts here.

That said, where does that leave us?

I believe wholeheartedly that Barack Obama made the right decision in 2012 when he refused to get involved directly in the Syrian Civil War.  None of the arguments I have heard, to this day, make me believe that anything we could have done would have dramatically altered the landscape in such a way to benefit us in any significant way.

That doesn’t mean we couldn’t have had an effect.

First and foremost, we could have pushed a diplomatic solution long ago. Yes, it would have required agreement by Russia and China…but isn’t that what diplomacy is always about?  And don’t tell me it was impossible.  Today, with the deal the Syrians are making with the Russians, we are seeing how impossible such a path was.  Simply put, our diplomatic forces failed miserably.

Additionally, if we wished it, we quite easily could have pushed Assad out of power.  But to what end?  To allow a host of rebel groups, most of whom are to one degree or another Islamists, and many who have direct ties to terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, to take control of a key piece of real estate in the Middle East?  There was no western-style democracy to be had in Damascus.  Every alternative was a bad one.

Then, for reason unknown to this day, President Obama drew his now infamous ‘red line’.  This may go down in history as one of the most inept Presidential statements ever.  In one single sentence, Mr. Obama placed the credibility of the U.S.A., not to mention the credibility of his own Presidency, on the line if Assad or the rebels ever decided to use their chemical weapons stockpiles.

Imagine:  placing the credibility of the greatest nation on earth on the decision-making of dictators and Islamists groups, who would happily die for the greater good that they envision.

That was madness.

Everything that has occurred on this side of the pond since has largely occurred because Mr. Obama said something extremely stupid in that press conference.

To compound this initial mistake, which could have been corrected by an apology, Obama then went on to double down, as he built a case for war against Syria.

At this point, he has laid this mess on the laps of Congress, because frankly, he had no where else to go.  He couldn’t go to the public, because they are about 90:10 against the concept; heck, his own wife is not on board.  He couldn’t go to the United Nations, because his leverage there may be less than mine. He tried to go to America’s great backup plan, the United Kingdom, and David Cameron failed in epic proportions to muster the votes needed for military action.

Now, Obama stands alone.  And honestly, this is unique in his entire political career.  Obama has always made sure he had political cover for every decision he has ever made.  That is one reason he has tried to go back to Congress; he believes that their support may give him the cover he needs to take the country to war again.

So, the question remains:  what should Congress do?  This is a terrible decision all around.  First and foremost, the President already had the power to attack Syria under the War Powers Act.  I wholly believe this, although I have made much hay about Obama’s hypocrisy on the subject (he openly opposed those same powers when George W. Bush was in office).

If Congress blocks military action, the President and the country will be further diminished in the eyes of the world.  If they vote for military action, Obama could take the country on another unnecessary and possibly dangerous adventure in the Middle East…and we all know how well those have gone in the past.

In other words…damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

In a last-minute brilliant move by Vladimir Putin (brilliant for him; not so good for the United States), Putin offered a roadmap to peace.  He would allow the Syrians to give up their chemical weapons, in exchange from protection from military attacks from the West.

This is, of course, ridiculous policy after the past few weeks.  First and foremost, Assad has been accused of wars against humanity.  So all he has to do is give up the weapons for which he is accused of those crimes?  It is like allowing a murder to walk following a shooting, if only he hands over his gun.

It should be interesting how Democrats play this.  For the last several weeks, Obama supporters like John Kerry and Harry Reid have made the case that Assad is the modern Hitler.  So now, if we allow Assad to stay in power…the natural progression of their logic is Barack Obama is the modern Neville Chamberlain.

Secondly, we all know this is a delay tactic. Much like Saddam Hussein, time is on the side of the tyrant.  The longer he survives, the more time he has to wipe out his enemies, in what ever manner possible. Furthermore, if you see news reports in the German press, there is an open question to whether Assad ever was inclined to use chemical weapons in the first place.  This raises the question:  is he even in control of his weapons?  And if he isn’t, that means that he benefits from any steps the international community takes, by allowing him to consolidate his power.

Furthermore, the reality is Assad will never give up his chemical weapons.  Not really.  Even if he gave up every ounce of weapons he has today, he will forever have the capability to make more.  Chemical weapons are a low-cost entry in to the world of weapons of mass destruction.  He may talk about eliminating his stockpile; he may even let inspectors come and look at his weapons depots.  But the possibility of him handing over his trump card, including potential capabilities to produce future weapons, is next to nil.

So, the joke is on us if we even consider this proposal for a nanosecond.

On September 10th, the President plans to talk to the American people.  I have no idea what he plans to say.  At this point, I almost don’t care.  The last few weeks of foreign policy from this administration has been a comedy of errors, and sadly, none of it is funny.  As they have made their case for war, their support for war among the public has dramatically dropped; as much as 20% in a recent poll over the past week.  In other words, the more Obama makes his case, the more people are opposed to it.  So what difference will a Presidential primetime speech make?  Likely, none at all.

So, Congress is likely to shoot down Obama’s war proposal; possibly even the Senate.  That will be one of the loudest votes of no confidence in an American President in modern times.  The decision-making will then shift to the Kremlin, where Putin has outplayed Obama, and he now holds all the cards.  And where Obama goes from there, nobody knows.  But America will be weaker off for it.