Tuesday, January 01, 2019

2018 Election Wrap-up and Predictions Review

Happy New Year!

The 2020 Presidential cycle has unofficially begun, but first, we must take a look back at the midterms of '18. I could have done this several weeks ago, but have been putting it off. For one thing, there is the somewhat unprecedented incident of a spoiled Congressional election in North Carolina, in which no candidate has been declared a winner. Much like an NFL game that ends in a tie, that one will thus not count in my "score", but I will make a prediction once again before what is almost certain to be a special election.

As I look at these results and below attempt to explain some of the reasoning behind the inevitable wrongly-called races, I once again feel the urge to brag about just how good I am this.

Gubernatorial races-


I called this race Tossup (D) and I have to admit to being somewhat surprised that Republican Ron DeSantis managed to win it narrowly, in spite of most polls showing him slightly behind.

Still though, immediately after the Democrat primary, I said that the nomination of Andrew Gillum was a huge backfire for the party. While he was an energetic campaigner who attracted national attention, his ideology was too far to the left for Florida after all. DeSantis ran a fairly poor campaign, tying himself very tightly with Donald Trump, but in Florida at least, it was not fatal. That is a sign that even as other states swing away from Republicans, the Sunshine State may be one where Democrats have fundamental statewide problems . In looking at exit polls, I was pretty surprised that DeSantis did as well with African-American voters as he did, relatively speaking (and better than the U.S. Senate nominee did against a white opponent in a race that was assumed to be better for Republicans.) It has been speculated that support for charter schools caused DeSantis to make modest inroads with black voters and that might have made the difference.

I think another Democrat candidate would have won the general election, but that is moot at this point. Since Election Night, DeSantis has already taken steps to reach out beyond his political base and to put some distance between himself and Trump.Nonetheless, his campaign team deserves a ton of credit for finding a path to win this race, in spite of their candidate.

Gubernatorial Results: 35-1 (97%)

Past cycles-
2006: 35-1 (97%)
2008: 10-1 (91%)
2010: 34-3 (92%)
2012: 9-2 (82%)
2014: 32-4 (89%)
2016: 9-3 (75%)

 U.S. Senate races-


I predicted Martha McSally would become a U.S. Senator and it turned out I was right! Alas though, my electoral prediction of her winning a Tossup was wrong though as she was very narrowly defeated by Democrat Kirsten Sinema in a race that was not called for days after. The Republican had been ahead on Election Night and for a couple days afterward. Now, interim Senator Jon Kyl has indeed decided to resign and newly reelected Republican Governor Doug Ducey chose McSally to replace him, in a somewhat controversial move. With a spirit of grace though, Sinema, the winner of the election will become the "Senior Senator", even though McSally could have technically claimed seniority and the two women, who were Congressional colleagues, turned bitter Senate campaign rivals, will be colleagues once again, this time in the upper chamber.

McSally's initial defeat in Arizona should be disheartening for Republicans. She was a rising political star, who determined it was necessary to run as closely to Donald Trump as possible in order to get the nomination. This was in stark contrast to her previous approach to him two years ago. Indeed, she won the primary, but might have done so regardless. Enough Arizona Republicans though were turned off by her political posturing and becoming a staunch Trump apologist, who for example, refused to acknowledge John McCain in the campaign, and did so somewhat tepidly after he passed away. This allowed Sinema, her wacky leftist Green Party politics of her youth aside, to be seen as the "moderate" in the race and got just enough votes from pro-McCain, Eventi-Trump Republicans to win.

Indeed it is worth mentioning that incumbent Jeff Flake probably would have been reelected in Arizona, where a Democrat had not won a Senate seat in decades if not for being completely abandoned by the pro-Trump faction of the party. Now, Flake will be gone, to the satisifcation of many on the right, but his replacement is far, far more to the left than he was.

It is worth nothing that a decorated military veteran like McSally was even unable to gain traction on Sinema over her youthful opposition to the War in Afghanistan perhaps in part because that same position was been and still is held by Trump himself.

McSally will have to run again in two years  and hopefully will  have learned the lesson of her defeat. After the election, perhaps with her future in mind, she refused to play along with the Trump/RNC strategy of claiming fraud in Arizona and she graciously conceded to Sinema. Weeks later, it has been reported that McSally personally apologized to Cindy McCain for snubbing her late husband and former political mentor as a condition for being appointed to the vacant Senate seat he had held for decades.


Here, I predicted Democrat incumbent Senator Bill Nelson would defeat current Republican Governor Rick Scott in a Tossup. Instead, it was Scott who unseated Nelson, but not without some controversy, and a recount. Indeed, the ballot design in heavily Democrat Broward County (which is completely the fault of the Democrats who run the elections there) might have caused many people to skip over this race altogether and potentially cost Nelson the victory (and myself a correct prediction.)

In many ways, Scott is not an ideal political candidate, but in three consecutive cycles now he has found a way to eke out victory in competitive Florida. One factor in this race seems to be the outreach his campaign did with Latino voters in the state. That caused the candidate to get votes that not many other Republicans did this cycle. Whatever it took, this was an impressive victory for Scott, a sign that Nelson was past his prime as a campaigner, and yet another point of concern for Florida Democrats moving forward.

In both of these high-profile Florida races, I should have perhaps given more credit to former Governor Jeb Bush, who remained loyal to the GOP in both cases, for his ability to successfully persuade anti-Trump Republicans, such as himself, to vote as he did.

Senator-Elect Scott will not be taking office on Thursday though, as every other recently elected Member of Congress will. He will instead wait for another few days until his term of Governor is formally over. Apparently, he did not want his hand-picked (and second) Lt. Governor the distinction of formally being Governor of Florida, however briefly.

U. S Senate Results: 33-2 (94%)

Past cycles-
2006: 31-2 (94%)
2008: 34-1 (97%)
2010: 34-3 (92%)
2012: 28-5 (85%)
2014: 36-0 (100%)
2016: 31-3 (91%)

U.S. House races-

First, let's get North Carolina 9 out of the way. I predicted that Democrat Dan McCready would win a Tossup over Republican Mark Harris. The vote count showed that Harris very narrowly won though and McCready conceded. I was prepared to tally this as an incorrect prediction.

However, evidence came forth to suggest that Republican allies of Harris, particularly in one county, might have engaged in shenanigans involving absentee ballots. Furthermore, this might have also happened in the Republican primary, when Harris narrowly unseated the GOP incumbent.

State election officials refused to certify the results and the Democrat withdrew his concession. Needless to say, the new Democrat U.S. House majority will not seat Harris. It looks like a new election will have to be held, and with all these developments, it might be very tough for Harris to have a chance of winning and Republicans might need to find another candidate somehow. For the purpose of this "scorecard" though, this district did not count.

Incorrect Republican Predictions-

CA 21

I had said that GOP incumbent David Valadao's hold on this seat was "Likely" and the initial vote count appeared that he was indeed reelected. However, in California, the votes keep coming and as November became December, Democrat T.J. Cox inched ahead and was declared the winner. This was a seat that Valadao has seemingly had a good hold on, but it did go heavily against Trump in 2016, and in just about all of those districts nationwide, former ticket-splitters voted to punish Trump's party. The results for Republicans in California House races was especially brutal.

CA 39

For this open seat, I predicted a Tossup win for Republican Young Kim, who was seeking to become the first Korean-American Congresswoman. As in many California districts, the immediate aftermath of the election looked like she had won, but the final votes gave the win to Democrat Gil Cisneros. Hillary Clinton had narrowly won a majority of this district in 2016 and perhaps seeing a very tough race ahead of him, the longtime Republican incumbent retired and even an impressive candidate of his party could not survive the headwinds of the year.

FL 26

Republican Carlos Curbelo was among the rare group of Republicans to never attempt to embrace Donald Trump. I thought he could hold on in a Tossup but he lost by a few thousand votes to Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. In his day after press conference, Trump attacked Curbelo by name (along with others) for having been defeated due to not embracing him. That is an interesting take, as Trump was virtually blown out in this district in 2016. Curbelo only narrowly lost, and perhaps Trump acolytes witholding could have been a reason, but there was no way that the incumbent would have possibly come as close as he did in this heavily Latino district by being a Trump backer. Hopefully, Congressman Curbelo's career in politics is not finished.

GA 6

After winning a nationally spotlighted special election, I had thought that Karen Handel had a Leans Republican advantage for a full-term. That was not meant to be though, as she was defeated by an African-American female first time candidate with a compelling biography. This highly-educated, affluent suburban Atlanta district was once the home of Newt Gingrich and the epicenter of Republican strength in the South. Now, like white-collar suburbs throughout the country, voters are acting to punish Republicans. A very worrying sign for the GOP under Trump indeed.

NJ 3

I predicted GOP incumbent Tom MacArthur would win in a Tossup over Democrat Andy Kim, but the reverse narrowly happened. This is another example of late ballots switching an outcome. Even in a district where Trump had taken 51 percent, it was rough sledding for Republicans in New Jersey who now hold just one U.S. House seat. MacArthur was a leader of Republican moderates who tried to work on a compromise solution to replace Obamacare and that contributed to his defeat.

NY 11

This is probably the second largest surprise of the cycle. I had this one tagged as Leans Republican, but incumbent Dan Donovan lost to Democrat Max Rose. In this Staten Island and Brooklyn based district, Trump had taken 53 percent against Hillary Clinton, but urban districts demonstrated different behavior in 2018 than rural districts. Trump had used his influence in the primary to help Donovan easily defeat a comeback attempt by the ex-felon who had held the seat before him, but then that association contributed to a surprise Democrat win.

NY 19

I was extremely iffy about giving this prediction to Republican John Faso in a Tossup and was not too surprised when he was defeated by Democrat Antonio Delgado. Nonetheless, it was an incorrect position and proof that even I somewhat slightly underestimated the Democrat "wave" in the House.

OK 5

Honestly, nobody really saw this coming. Despite my Likely Republican prediction (and frankly people might have said I was being too cautious) incumbent Congressman Steve Russell was unseated by Democrat Kendra Horn in a district Trump had won with 53 percent. My how things can change without Hillary Clinton as an opponent for a Republican candidate. Even in urban/suburban Oklahoma City, voters turned against a Republican.

SC 1

The people of Charleston, South Carolina will be represented, at least for two years, by a Democrat. This was a definite upset though I had the race as merely Leans Republican. For all his past personal controversies, conservative Congressman Mark Sanford had a lock on this seat until Donald Trump came along. The persistent critic of the President was defeated in the Republican primary, with Trump's ardent support, by Republican Katie Arrington, who was as an unflinching MAGA-ite .Then lo and behold, she lost to Democrat Joe Cunningham. While Cunningham might have been among the most impressive Democrat politicians seeking office in 2018, this loss should never have happened for Republicans. Mark Sanford is gone, but so is the seat.

TX 32

Republican Pete Sessions had been around Congress for a long time and I thought he could win another term in a Tossup, with it being Texas and all, but instead, he was defeated by Democrat Colin Allred, a young, African-American, almost NFL player. While I did give the Democrats a victory over an incumbent in suburban Houston, I also should have given them this one in suburban Dallas. The writing on the wall for Republicans involving the short and long-term future of the party as long as it stands behind DJT could not be clearer.

UT 4

I was perhaps most disappointed by this result, and the final outcome was not known for weeks after the election, with the lead basically going back and forth a couple times. Even in rock-ribbed Utah, Republican Mia Love, one of two African-American House Republicans, was unseated. She lost to Democrat Ben McAdams, a onetime close personal friend, who it should be noted had achieved political success previously in the district. I thought Love could win in a Tossup but perhaps that was wishful thinking. She also is among those who never embraced Donald Trump, who had "won" this district with only 39 percent two years earlier. Trump attacked her by name at a White House podium the day (with the final result still very much in doubt) saying she did not show him enough "love." Shockingly, he attacked her for having asked her to help get one of her constituents released from captivity in Venezuela. The fact that the President of the United States considered such a thing to be on par with the need for political favors or support says all there is to know about the current occupant of the office.

VA 2

A similar story here. I predicted Republican Scott Taylor would win a Tossup, but he was defeated instead by Democrat Elaine Luria. Taylor had some campaign ethics issues in this race and despite the long-time GOP history of the district, it had basically been tied at the Presidential level in 2016 and moved even further away from the party in the next cycle.

WA 8

Had there been more polling on this district, I might have gone the other way, but I predicted Republican Dino Rossi would in a Tossup, keep an open GOP seat. After all, Rossi deserved to win something after so many high-profile tries! Alas though, the winner was Kim Schrier, who won fairly easily. The voters in highly-educated and fairly affluent suburban Seattle are not into Trumpism.

Incorrect Democrat Predictions-

KS 2

In this open district, I predicted that Democrat Paul Davis would win a Tossup. Instead, the plurality winner was Republican Steve Watkins. Problems for Republicans were clearly evident elsewhere in Kansas in 2018, but the party's strength was enough to hold the district. It was noteworthy that it was even considered vulnerable.

MN 1

Here, I predicted Democrat Dan Feehan would prevail in a Tossup to keep the seat in party hands with the incumbent on the way to being elected Governor. Instead, it was Republican Jim Hagedorn, a somewhat perennial candidate, whose father once held the seat, who was the victor by less than one percentage point. Despite it's ties to the DFL though, this was a district that Trump took 53% of in 2016. It was closer this time, but there are indications that districts that Trump did well in, continue to mostly stand by him and have increasing suspicion about all Democrats.

U.S. House Results: 419-15 (97%)

Past cycles-
2006: 31-2 (94%)
2008: 34-1 (97%)
2010: 34-3 (92%)
2012: 28-5 (85%)
2014: 36-0 (100%)
2016: 31-3 (91%)

Grand Total Results: 487-18 (96%)

Past Cycles Grand Total:
2006: 482-22 (96%)
2008: 462-19 (96%)
2010: 482-27 (95%)
2012: 452-27 (94%)
2014: 494-13 (97%)
2016: 469-12 (98%)


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