Midterms are all about turnout, and turnout is all about what turns you off
What to Watch When You’re Watching the Midterms
(1) The whole country is voting on ANGER. That sentiment has been commonplace in American Presidential elections, at least since 2008, but the depth and breadth of that anger are very unusual in midterms. They are even more usual for times marked by unprecedented prosperity, low unemployment, and no major wars. Both parties have stoked the fear and rage, figuring it is better to mobilize their base voters than to rely on centrists. Both are now locked in to this divisive appeal, not just for this election but for 2020. That means the election is less about who you are voting for than who you are voting against.
(2) The midterms have been nationalized. That, too, is very unusual. Midterms are usually localized, focusing on issues in a particular district or state. The reason for the change is obvious. No modern President has been more polarizing than Donald Trump. That’s a big plus for Republican Senate candidates in red states, a big negative for Republicans in suburban House races, where educated, higher-income voters are repulsed by Trump’s rhetoric and personality, not by his policies.
(3) Several big Senate races are polling within the margin of error: Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and Nevada. Several others, including Montana and West Virginia, are also close. The narrow polling margins mean the outcome depends on turnout and campaign ground games. Both sides have known that for a long time, so few will be caught by surprise.
(4) The Democrats, who normally beat the drum about “big, rich donors” and the Supreme Court’s “awful decision on Citizens United,” are now mute on the subject. That’s because the big, rich donors this year are left-wing billionaires from New York and California. They seem very interested in like-minded candidates across the South, especially this year’s JFK, Beto O’Rourke in Texas. The interesting question: will the strong, anti-Trump stances that draw big money from these donors actually hurt their candidates by pulling them away from positions that are more popular with local voters?
(5) Polling is getting more and more difficult to do, despite steady technical improvements by pollsters. The problems lie in so many non-responses, the variability of turnout, dishonest answers to polling questions (especially voters’ reluctance to say they support pro-Trump candidates or oppose some minority candidates), and, in this election, the need to poll each House race separately. The turnout issue is especially vexing because the raw numbers have to be tweaked to account for expected turnout, which varies significantly by sub-groups and has been increasingly hard to forecast.
(6) Despite these uncertainties, pollsters and betting markets give the Democrats high odds of taking the House. The respected Cook Political Report is also showing growing numbers of contested races in once-reliable Republican districts. Again, turnout is the key since marginal votes come disproportionately from Democratic sub-groups.
(7) A narrow victory in the House for either party means legislative deadlock. The House Republicans are too divided to pass much. The House Democrats would have less trouble passing bills, knowing they are all rhetorical exercises that will die in the Senate. Of course, a Democratic House can—and will—investigate, investigate, investigate, but the Senate is far more important since it alone can approve Trump’s nominees for courts and executive branch. In the first two years, the courts have been a major win for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley. The Republican base couldn’t be happier with those results. That’s one reason the Kavanaugh hearings were so important in restoring Republican enthusiasm. It reminded them of the stakes.
(8) A Democratic House with a narrow majority would be a nightmare of investigations against Trump but, paradoxically, an electoral godsend for him and the Republican Party in 2020. That’s because a Democratic House would cater to their enraged base, as they did in the Kavanaugh hearings, and overplay their hand. In the process, they would alienate many centrist voters and become an easy target to run against in 2020.
(9) The victories or defeats of three very progressive candidates in big states–Georgia governor, Florida governor, and Texas senator–should have a major impact on how Democrats position themselves going forward. Victories would move the party even further left, losses would compel rethinking—and perhaps more candidates like Pennsylvania’s Connor Lamb, who fit the local voters, not the national donors.
(10) If the Democrats do not win the House, the old leadership will be amputated, without anesthetic. If Democrats do win but by only 5-6 seats, they could still face a real mess in the Caucus about electing Nancy Pelosi speaker. That’s because the national Democratic campaign committee adroitly backed centrist candidates for purple districts, and those candidates explicitly promised not to vote for Pelosi as Speaker. If the Democrats take the House, those newly-elected representatives will have to ask themselves which is their greater fear: (a) betraying their voters and risking the next election, or (b) betraying Nancy Pelosi and risking exile to Siberia if she becomes speaker? The Democratic Caucus is deeply divided by age, radicalism, and identity politics. But they do have something to unite them: their hatred of Donald Trump.
Bottom line: Tuesday is all about turnout, and turnout is all about what turns you off.
Charles Lipson is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of Chicago, where he is founding director of PIPES, the Program on International Politics, Economics, and Security. He can be reached at [email protected].
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turnout for democratic controlled areas is how much you pay out.
“No modern President has been more polarizing than Donald Trump. ”
should read “No modern President has been ‘able to expose Washington swamp agendas and trigger media leftists’ than Donald Trump.”
fixed it for ya
Author has a LOT of nerve saying turnout = anger. I’m not angry. I’m winning. I’m not angry at Democrats. They are losing and acting badly. They are angry. I’m thrilled at progress. My neighbors and I , who voted straight RED in early voting all agreed on the importance of supporting Trump and doubling down on our votes in ’16, but it’s NOT a vote in anger.
The never trump GOP… or the reluctant Trump supporters… maybe they have to get angry. They still can’t believe he won… and they write a LOT of blog entries and have completely ruined otherwise conservative sites. It just never stops.
This makes no logical sense. If this is to be true for 2020, then why wouldn’t it also have been true in 2018 (if the (D) party wins the House)?
The (D) party is full of rabid socialists who will do whatever it takes short of gulags and murder to get their way. If their behavior the past two years wasn’t enough for the citizenry to punish them out of power in 2018, then how the heck is an enraged citizenry going to punish them in 2020 for the same nonsense? Either the (D) party gets away with it or they don’t.
The only way they can get away with it at this point is via House races and House races only – because those only deal with a very limited area of voters. You can’t dilute the pockets of crazy with wide swaths of normal like in a statewide or national election. This is why Robert Francis can win El Paso but can’t win Texas. And this is precisely why I’m not optimistic about (R) chances at holding the House, because too many districts in play cannot be counted on staying and/or flipping to (R).
I hope the (R)s keep the House but if I’m being honest with myself, I’m not expecting it. The (D) party is off the rails and where is the evidence that most Americans do not approve? Pretty much half the country DOES approve.
I hope I am 100% wrong about tomorrow.
Everyone get off your butt and vote (R) and tell everyone you know to vote (R).
(1) The country is voting on different shades of anger. The Left is voting based on sheer frothing incoherent rage. Trump is evil, he has to be stopped no matter the cost, etc… The conservative right is voting based on justified anger. We’ve watched our (R) representatives roll over on their backs and show their soft underbellies over the smallest signs of conflict, we’ve watched liberals with contacts cruise through criminal investigations without any risk of being sent to jail.
(2) The midterms have not been nationalized as much as in 94 with Gingrich’s Contract with America. Regrettably. Best (R) wave ever.
(4) The Dems will be beating the “Evil Big Money” drum in a few weeks, regardless of the election results, just like normal.
(6) I don’t think the Dems will take the house. They’ll gain some seats because they spent money like water, but…
(8) Losing the House would be a loss for the Republicans with very few positive points. The Dems will use it to dominate the headlines, bring charges, hold endless hearings, blame, blame, blame. There will no substance to the charges, but it will not matter.
(10) If the Dems do not win the House, they will keep the same ossified leadership until 2020 with the excuse that they made gains. Dictators do not willingly relax their grips on power.
Totally agree this election has not been nationalized enough. The saying all politics is local is decidedly not true for congresscritters, senators, and POTUS. Republicans do much better when they run on a unified national platform.
Weak analysis on Lipson’s part. Trump is polarizing because the Democrats and their pals in the media have made him so. Why leave that out? Does Lipson think Trump is de facto polarizing? As to the “respected Cook Report,” we shall see. My sense is it leans left, not nutty left, but left.
As to the nationalizing of basically local elections, well, heck, that’s the Democrat’s bread and butter. All war all the time, from K through 12 and on into post doc. They’ve been doing it since the killed Justice Bork.
As to the anger? Hogwash. Dems are angry. Just look at them. These are folks who think Antifa is a First Amendment support group. My sense is the election isn’t going to be as close as the pollsters and pundits would have it.
“Tuesday is all about turnout, and turnout is all about what turns you off.”
What’s Lipson a Democrat plant? Anger might have been a motivator in 2016, but 2018? I don’t think so. We’ve got a good thing goin’ and we want it to continue. What’s angry about this?!
Several negative comments regarding the author’s anger theory. Are you telling us that the Kavanaugh smear job didn’t have you spitting mad?
No, I’m livid. But not at Kavanaugh. He was not the cause of the breakdown, the people making false accusations of rape are.
When the media plays this line, they are trying to prop up the narrative that everything would be peachy again if only we got rid of that meddlesome priest.
I’m not assuming the author meant it like that. But its unwise to run Benedict Arnold’s philosophy up the flagpole same day he was hanged.
The dems are again showing that they have no ideas. Nearly all of the election stuff I have seen is a reaction to Trump. They are like petulant teens still blaming their dad for everything.
“Polling is getting more and more difficult”
That’s all on the media. A preference cascade hit somewhere, and now they are viewed as Democrat Operatives With Bylines (Insty).
ABC/Rasmussen would like some helpful information? The people at ABC think I am subhuman.
CNN/Politico are sleuthing to see where more trunk loads of fraudulent ballots are needed? Go die in a fire.
Hamas would like the Jews to reveal the most effective way to annihilate Jerusalem? Sure thing – daisy chain your suicide belts together and then have everyone call each other’s cellphone. I’ll be over here.
Behind the tank.
““No modern President has been more polarizing than Donald Trump”
With respect, the MSM has been slipping that assertion in all over the place (JournoList 3.1) and its become aggravating.
No, Hillary did not “win” the popular vote.
No. Justice Kavanaugh was not the most polarizing nominee in modern history.
The girl did not create the sexual assault because her skirt was short.
Who is responsible for the current atmosphere? Trump with his undignified tone and measure? Or the Democrats with their Nazi Apocalypse hysterics, calls to drive administration officials out of the public square for life, cracking open skulls of conservatives with bike locks and shooting 6 Republican Congressmen practicing for a softball game intended to promote bipartisanship.
And I’m going to go all Wolverine on the first person who says “well, both sides blah blah blah.
“And I’m going to go all Wolverine on the first person who says “well, both sides blah blah blah”.
Gosh. That seems a pre-emptive attempt to silence debate on these threads.
Ewwwww…. Fear and tremble before the silly, limp “Wolverine”.
The guy who blows about “picking up a rifle” and hurting the children of people who he sees as political enemies.
Don’t be afraid to oppose him. He’s got nothing.
It’s a METAPHOR, little boy.
And, not that I would ever initiate violence over a disagreement, but I CAN hit center mass as 800 yards, and I can still build IEDs in my sleep. So you go right ahead posing as some expert on lethality.
Right after you learn the difference between semi/automatic and manual/automatic.
But its interesting you responded to my criticism with a personal attack. Did you hear a Cuck whistle in there?
Ha ha. Go away
I was never confused about the difference between an automatic weapon (all of which rely on the energy of firing the first round to cycle) and a chain-gun (which relies on a motor to cycle).
That was you, Killer McLethal.
Soooooo weak and pitiful… Your “metaphor” was a threat, aimed at the commentaters. It’s what you intended.
Haha. No. I’ll be right here.
Rags: “I was never confused about- ”
Dude. You actually bit on that one?
We’re done. I’m not wasting anymore time on you.
Rags: “Your “metaphor” was a threat, aimed at the commentaters. It’s what you intended.”
Yes. If you disagree with me I’m threatening to… respond vigorously in the comment section.
C’mon Rags, you are many things but stupid isnt one of them. If you are going to troll, at least make it ‘cotton pickin’ plausible.
Oh noes! I made a “racist” comment too. Lol.
Are you going to celebrate with the rest of us if the GOP keeps the House? Or drowning your pain at the AHOY! bar with the Nevertrumpers who claim they “allied” with the Dems to handicap the Republican President?
At the end of today, I will likely have voted a straight GOP ticket, but only one candidate at a time. This is Texas, and a pretty conservative part of Texas.
One of the people I’ll hold my nose to vote for is my incumbent Congressman who I’ve worked to get rid of via primary.
I’ve never hinted that I have any truck with Krystal. That’s just you lying your ass of…again.
A T-rump Realist is not what you stupidly depict, ‘Wolverine”.
RHETORICAL. A question no one cared to have answered.
You’re usually better than this Rags. But I have go get out the vote. Grab another coffee so you dont back through your garage door. Sheesh.
You lying like a Pelosi is not a “rhetorical” question.
It’s lying. And I won’t let it go unanswered, coward.
Rags: “and hurting the children of people who he sees as political enemies.”
Woe. You are so dishonest and in bad faith. I never said that.
What I said was that people who go after other people’s children are putting their own children in play. If you are going to destroy other people’s lives, don’t go back to your own life afterwards expecting your glass house to be standing.
Again, I think the reason you keep twisting that remark is because you and Krystol and the other NeverTrumpers are angry – the collaborators won’t get their perks if they cant get us to lay down, eh Rags?
You have no honor. You’re not even a man. There’s really nothing I could say or do to you that would debase you any further.
Every day of your life is worse than the previous. Your’re in hell. I would talk to people you trust about getting help.
You are outright lying here. Of course you said what I depicted you saying, along with that other clap-trap you try to hind behind.
Remember “Mueller has children”? Remember Chelsea hanging from a bridge?
You are a liar, coward, and weakling. And I am a happy warrior!
And what was Mueller doing? Was he maybe threatening to destroy the life of a man’s child over a political disagreement?
And I said twice that: if you stay inside the rule of law, if your mistakes are made in good faith, no one should touch a hair on your head.
You’re as bad as Dr Ford and Creepy Porn Lawyer. Why dont you just accuse me of raping you. Hell. I’ve already got you bent over.
What law school did you go to? That’s really the only thing anyone reading our exchange is interested in. Where did you go?
And if you say UT, I’m going to go all Groot on your ass.
This is your BEST “Wolverine”…???
I’ve invited Professor Jacobson to be one of several dinner party guests in my home.
I’m curious – if one unruly guest continually attacked the others and I allowed it, how much respect would the Professor have for me and my rules?
What would he do? Would mask any embarrassment he felt for me? Would he bite his tongue when I asked everyone but Rags to just take it up the ass?
Would it diminish me to allow my guests to be abused in my presence?
This ain’t your party, Grooterine.
” a narrow majority would be a nightmare of investigations against Trump but, paradoxically, an electoral godsend for him”
Again, with respect, this falls into the same pattern that smells like failure theater again. On the bright side, mother’s death will motivate Aunt May to maybe enter for a chance to win that cruise (or a set of stake knive) at some point in the near to mid future…
And when we lose control of the Senate in 2020 we can console ourselves that Trump’s victory will block an out of control Congressional Branch. And welcome Justice Milquetoast. Yay.
No more Losing Gracefully.
I feel like Puddleglum from The Silver Chair when the witch cast a spell of befuddlement to drain their will.
No offense, but we need to reach beyond Participation Trophies. I dont know who or what follows Trump, but we’re not going back to the pre-Trump GOP dispirited ordered retreat.
“” If the Democrats take the House, those newly-elected representatives will have to ask themselves which is their greater fear: (a) betraying their voters and risking the next election, or (b) betraying Nancy Pelosi and risking exile to Siberia if she becomes speaker? The Democratic Caucus is deeply divided by age, radicalism, and identity politics. But they do have something to unite them: their hatred of Donald Trump.”
See, there is actually Victory in defeat: if the Germans and the Soviets split Poland open, their forces may bump heads and sow discord years later. Win-win.
Besides, we have Hitler’s word for peace in our time. We just need to rationalize our defeat gracefully, with a dignified tone and manner.
Oh wait, I think I’m getting the rhythm of this: ” if the Dems tank the economy, at least rising inflation won’t be an issue any longer. How did I do?
I want to apologize to the OP, I feel like I’m being unfair. And I hope he will be comfortable jumping into the comments to address criticism. I just dont understand how an expert in political science could misread 63 million Trump supporters 2 years afterwards.