November Gets Iffier

Just when much of the punditocracy was settling in for a few happy weeks of arguing over the extent of the Republican “wave” in November, while Mitch McConnell figuratively measured curtains for the Majority Leader’s offices, the worm has turned a bit, at least in the polling data, and the GOP victory parade seems a bit premature. WaPo’s Chris Cillizza sums up the confused state of prophecy:

Democrats are now (very slightly) favored to hold the Senate majority on Nov. 4, according to Election Lab, The Post’s statistical model of the 2014 midterm elections.

Election Lab puts Democrats’ chances of retaining their majority at 51 percent — a huge change from even a few months ago, when the model predicted that Republicans had a better than 80 percent chance of winning the six seats they need to take control…..

The movement toward Democrats in the Election Lab model isn’t unique. LEO, the New York Times’ Upshot model, gives Republicans a 51 percent chance of winning the Senate — but that is down significantly over the past few weeks.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model now has Republican chances of winning the Senate at 55 percent, down from 64 percent 12 days ago.

Meanwhile, Princeton Election Consortium’s Sam Wang, the forecaster who focuses strictly on polling data, and refuses to tilt the data to reflect “fundamentals” like historical precedents, presidential approval ratings and the condition of the economy, has the probability of continued Democratic control of the Senate at 81%.

As Cillizza notes, though, the most prominent traditional forecasters–who do not use statistical models and tend to put a greater emphasis on factors like campaign spending and “momentum” and national trends–seem to be moving in the opposite direction:

What’s interesting about the election models is that they are moving in the opposite direction of political handicappers. In recent days, Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook, the two best-known, nonpartisan prognosticators in Washington, have each written that the possibility of large-scale Republicans gains is increasing, not decreasing

I don’t know if this disconnect between poll- and non-poll-based analysis will generate the level of ferocious debate we saw during the Great “Skewing” Battle of 2012. But it is interesting that despite the shifting winds, in the heart of conservative-land there’s not even a scintilla of doubt that Republicans are on their way to a historic win in November that will carry over into 2016, and presumably last foreover. Check out these lines from TV celebrity pundit S.E. Cupp in the New York Daily News:

It’s hard to imagine Democrats can course-correct in less than two years the failures they — and Hillary Clinton, in particular — have overseen for more than six.

In the lead-up to the 2014 midterms, Democrats have tried and failed to figure out successful campaign strategies. They tried to resurrect the “war on women,” but believe it or not, Democrats have a bigger problem with men than Republicans do with women.

According to GWU battleground polling, Republicans are only six points behind among women, whereas Democrats are 15 points behind among men, and 28 points behind among white men in particular. That’s a lot of ground to make up.

Raising the minimum wage turned out not to be the barnstormer Democrats hoped it would be either.

Another of their “big ideas” was to make tax inversion, where businesses move to foreign countries to avoid steep corporate taxes here, a turnout issue. Last week Politico called that effort a “massive dud.”

Without any cohesion — united only, it seems, by their desire to distance themselves from their standard-bearer — Democrats are having to run a spaghetti strategy: throw it on the wall and see what sticks.

Republicans won big in the 2010 midterms but weren’t able to swing back to the center in time for 2012. With all this momentum behind them, the pathway is clear. And not even Hillary Clinton should be able to stop them.

There’s a rather obvious and irreconcilable gap between those who look forward to elections by consulting at empirical data and those who view them as representing moral judgments on the truth or error of world views. Think I’ll stick to empirical data, but then I would, wouldn’t I? I’m a liberal, God help me.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.