Today is Election Day in America, the culmination(And probable stage-setter going forward) of many years of nasty, divisive partisan warfare. Whoever one is to blame, it cannot be denied that the last two years have provided much in the way of 'parlor intrigue.' With both sides revved up and ready to go, the big question is how Independents vote, which demographic blocs show up to vote, and how much in the way of cross-over voting occurs. The answer to any of these three questions will determine how the vast majority of elections across America shake out. However things go, the widespread calls for civility and decency are likely about to be bypassed entirely. As one person put it on HBO/Showtime's "The Circus" television series, "Historians will look back on the past two years as 'the calm years'."
It is interesting that I am doing this again, having thoroughly blown several years of electoral predictions. Simply put, I've figured out that I am all too apt to go with head or heart in determining races as opposed to gut. For instance, my gut told me Obama and Trump would win in the last two races and that Nathan Deal would be re-elected without a runoff. Head and heart, however, wanted to believe the opposite(All parties involved were surprised when David Perdue notched his race without a runoff), so that's the opinion I often opted to put down. Those times I have gotten predictions right, mainly in 2014 when I was still making the 'rounds' at Politicaldog101, involved gut calls, which I am making my operating practice today.
Having said all this, here are my predictions for how tonight will go down:
Republican Gains: AZ-1, CA-16, MN-8, PA-14
Democratic Gains: Alaska at Large, AZ-2, CA-1, CA-4, CA-10, CA-25, CA-39, CA-42, CA-45, CA-48, CA-49, CA-50, CO-6, FL-15, FL-16, FL-26, GA-6, GA-7, IL-6, IL-12, IL-13, IL-14, IN-2, IN-9, IA-1, IA-3, IA-4, KS-2, KS-3, KY-6, ME-2, MI-1, MI-6, MI-7, MI-8, MI-11, MN-2, MN-3, Montana at Large, NJ-2, NJ-3, NJ-7, NJ-11, NY-1, NY-2, NY-11, NY-19, NY-22, NY-23, NY-27, NC-2, NC-9, NC-13, OH-10, OH-12, OH-14, OK-5, PA-5, PA-6, PA-7, PA-10, PA-16, PA-17, SC-1, SC-5, TX-7, TX-10, TX-21, TX-31, TX-32, UT-4, VA-2, VA-5, VA-7, VA-10, WA-5, WA-8, WV-2, WI-1, WI-7
Democrats gain 76 seats in the US House, flipping control.
Republican Gains: Florida--For once, Trump gets it right. Incumbent Bill Nelson has been sleeping through this race. Of late, he has seemed to count on Democratic Gubernatorial nominee and likely victor Andrew Gillum and his ability to juice minority turnout. This is on paper a solid strategy, but turns out to be a double-edged sword as Rick Scott has unique strength among many minority voting blocs. With the latter's handling of the hurricane response, you will see a lot of people voting to give him a promotion to the Senate. Scott hits 50% and wins by around 2%.
Michigan--John James has proven to be one of the most under-rated candidates of this election cycle. Like Bill Nelson in Florida, incumbent Debbie Stabenow seems to be sleep-walking, thinking that this race has been over for a while. Polls have been tightening in recent weeks, indicating that Michigan on the whole might be in the mood to throw out both eight years of Governor Rick Snyder and three terms of Senator Stabenow, and opening the door to new blood in state politics.
Missouri--Bless her heart, Claire McCaskill has really given this race her all. However, even in a blue-trending national environment, she seems to be flailing in the closing stretch of the campaign. This time around, she has had the ill fortune of facing moderately decent opposition in what is now a solidly red state. State Attorney General Josh Hawley has proved a slightly more focused candidate than either of McCaskill's two previous General Election opponents, which will pay off in a right trending state. Interestingly enough, there is a Democratic incumbent poised to swamp her Republican opposition for the State Auditor position, which shows that some voters are still willing to split their tickets. It also shows that McCaskill has not earned the trust of her constituents, under-performing a lower tier state-wide officer the way she is.
North Dakota--2012 fluke winner Heidi Heitkamp, who only won because of the naked opportunism of her opponent, then first term and job-hopping Congressman Rick Berg, has lost all mojo in the final stretch of the campaign. In fairness, she never really had any mojo to speak of(No poll ever had her in the lead). Now that the fiasco of the Brett Kavanagh hearing has played out, Heitkamp is behind by around 16 points in recent polling. Her predicament is much like that of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum in 2006, sans the unfavourable national environment. She just cannot beat back the red hue of her state. My guess is Kevin Cramer wins 57-43.
Democratic Gains: Arizona--The Kavanaugh fiasco initially gave Martha McSally a bump in the polls, but now things have reverted back to where they were before the simultaneous GOP Primary and the passing of the legendary Senator John McCain: Narrow-to-modest leads for Kyrsten Sinema. With the Green Party candidate dropping out and endorsing the latter candidate, this race seems about finished.
Nevada--Home to some of the more dull, predictable races in recent memory, this one is going about as you would expect. Jacky Rosen is narrowly leading Incumbent Dean Heller in recent polls. Heller did not help his case when he flip-flopped during the debate over the 'Shaved Repeal' of the Affordable Care Act back in July, 2017. Coupled with state and national trends, all of this will be enough to give Rosen a modest win when the votes are tallied.
Tennessee--Former Governor Phil Bredesen is a much stronger candidate than anybody knows, and front-benching Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is not likable to the Moderate friendly electorate in Tennessee. In the past four decades, the most boldly Conservative person to get elected to the Senate was the late former actor Fred Thompson. For the most part, the state elects Moderate voices like Howard Baker, Lamar Alexander, Bill Frist, and Bob Corker. Democrats like Al Gore and Bredesen himself have also been elected as Moderate candidates. Polls have consistently showed a tight race with small Blackburn leads, but this under-states the nature of the race. Blackburn has not defined herself well in the minds of many Tennesseans, while Bredesen has a very well liked image tailor-made for the state. The deciding votes will likely be determined in the voting booth, allowing Conservatives and Republican Moderates who like Bredesen more liberty to do as they wish.
Wild Cards: Indiana--Voters here like their politicians boring and low-key, and Senator Joe Donnelly fits that bill well. Case in point: Congressional front-bencher and future Vice President Mike Pence under-performs Mitt Romney's top ticket performance in his 2012 Governor race, yet his anonymous, non-descript Lieutenant Governor routs with Donald Trump in 2016. Mike Braun strikes a grandfatherly, yet still boat rocking image in a state that seems to thrive on no drama. Even with the partisan lean of the state, Donnelly should still win by 2-4%. Democratic hold.
Mississippi(Hyde-Smith)--This race goes to a runoff with Mike Espy. Cindy Hyde-Smith wins that round by around 8%, though juiced Democratic enthusiasm could put the race even more on the map. Republican hold.
Montana--Jon Tester ought to pull it out, but polls have tightened of late. With a consistent push from President Trump and his allies, Matt Rosendale is making this one much closer than was originally expected. Tester should still win by 1-2%. Democratic hold.
New Jersey--In addition to his own myriad ethics issues, Bob Menendez's re-election has further been hampered by the weather forecast for election day, which calls for late-afternoon severe weather, including an enhanced tornado risk. New Jersey has no early voting, which has set the stage for a tight race. An electorate saturated with negative advertising focused on Menendez's taking of gifts from a crooked, wealthy donor, the federal charges on which resulted in a hung jury and default acquittal. It is tough to discern whether or not New Jersey has enough Democrats to off-set any cataclysm(As was the case when Hurricane Sandy devastated the state in 2012, depressing Republican turnout on the way to a 19 point Menendez win) or if Bob Hugin has successfully caught lightning in a bottle to such a thorough extent that enthusiasm notches him the win. Tossup, with about half-a-percent difference between winner and loser.
Texas--This race is closer than expected, but Ted Cruz should still pull it out over Beto O'Rourke by around 3%. Texas is still a Republican state for now. Republican hold.
Republican Gains: Alaska--While Centrist Independent Governor Bill Walker's departure creates an opening for former Senator Mark Begich's campaign, State Legislator Mike Dunleavy should still be favoured to pick off this seat in what is still a Republican leaning state.
Oregon--Incumbent Kate Brown, as a known commodity having served in many statewide capacities, has not been able to put away her challenger, State Legislator Knute Buehler, in her race. A bold Progressive, she strikes the same pose and tones as 2016 Secretary of State candidate Brad Avakian, who surprisingly lost to Republican Dennis Richardson even as all of Hillary Clinton, Senator Ron Wyden, and Kate Brown herself were all winning the state by modest-to-solid margins. Oregon is a Liberal state, but there are apparently limits to what the voters will handle from a Democrat. Polls have shown consistent Brown leads, but by low to middle single digit margins and with the incumbent under 50%. Given the trend lines and Oregon's ability to occasionally hand Republican's key offices with cross-party voters, Buehler looks like an upset winner.
Democratic Gains: Florida--Not only has Andrew Gillum run an almost perfect campaign in spite of the lingering questions over the FBI investigation into his Mayoral office, but his opponent, Ron DeSantis, has engaged in one of the more incompetent and forgettable(To say nothing of nasty) campaigns in recent memory. Gillum will break the two decade streak of Republican victories, winning by around 10%.
Georgia--Polls don't entirely show it, but I seriously believe Stacey Abrams has a chance to not only come out on top, but also to clear 50% and win outright. Two factors to keep an eye on here in terms of big voting motivators: Stacey Abrams and Donald Trump. While Trump excites Conservatives and Republicans as no one else can, the excitement generated by him has a hard and fast ceiling outside those circles. Abrams by herself generates enthusiasm from long-disillusioned state Democrats and many Independents, and the enthusiasm is spreading across all corners of the state. Brian Kemp, on the other hand, doesn't gin up excitement by himself, apart from that which surrounds President Trump's support. Enthusiasm pays, even in nominally red states like Georgia. So not only do I think Abrams can win outright, but she can also pull in several row office candidates along the way.
Illinois--Incumbent Bruce Rauner has been dead on arrival for a while in his re-election quest against JB Pritzker. In fact, no poll has shown him reaching 40%. While I think right wing third parties will fade a bit going into the election, all signs point to a landslide defeat.
Iowa--After eight years of Republican Governors Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds, voters are hungering for a change. Fred Hubbell ousts Reynolds 51-45.
Kansas--Like in the Tennessee Senate race, Kansas voters prize moderation in a leader, a trait not even slightly seen in Secretary of State Kris Kobach. State Legislator Laura Kelly has run a competent campaign, scoring considerable cross-over support on the way to what will probably be a narrow win. Like Blackburn, Kobach can't close the deal with a very Republican electorate.
Ohio--Though President Trump remains relatively popular with Ohioans, voters are ready for changes and checks on powers. Richard Cordray narrowly rides in on Senator Sherrod Brown's coat-tails, dealing Mike DeWine his second defeat in a blue wave this century.
Oklahoma--Though Oklahoma is one of the most Republican states in the country, Kevin Stitt finds himself running against the headwinds of the unpopularity of Incumbent Governor Mary Fallin. With numerous Democratic Special Election victories in ruby red Legislative districts, it is not impossible to fathom a Democratic victory even in the worst of circumstances. However, the party has fielded one of their strongest ever candidates, former Attorney General and political scion Drew Edmondson. With the state's history of cross-over support and electing Democrats, Republicans will have a very hard time holding on to this seat. Edmondson by 51%-47%.
Maine--Maine has generally leaned Democratic over the past three decades. That said, this decade has seen some growth in terms of Republican office-holders. This year will be different, as current trends are working against Republican candidates and in favour of Democrats. With Democrats running Attorney General Janet Mills and Republicans going with former third party Gubernatorial nominee Shawn Moody, the race is pretty well set in place. After eight years of Governor Paul LePage, voters seem to be opting for change. Mills clears 50% before the second choice balloting is tallied.
Michigan--After eight years of Governor Rick Snyder, Michiganders are clamoring for change. Gretchen Whitmer beats Bill Schuette 54%-44%.
Nevada--In the battle between two highly flawed candidates, state and national trends reign supreme. Steve Sisolak beats Adam Laxalt 49%-46%.
New Hampshire--Recent polls suggest that, like so many others before him, Incumbent Chris Sununu has been caught napping and is potentially poised for a modest defeat at the hands of State Legislator Molly Kelly. With all of New Hampshire's other major seats going to the Democrats, it would appear that the blue tide is just too much for him to handle.
South Dakota--Polls have shown a surprisingly tight race between Kristi Noem and Billie Sutton. Seemingly unusual for such a Republican state as this one, but there has been semi-recent precedent for electing Democrats to major offices, as recently as 2008. After four decades of GOP control of the Governorship, it seems voters may be wanting a change. Sutton wins by around 1-2%.
Wisconsin--After eight years of clashes between legislature Democrats and Governor Scott Walker, it appears the former is about to get its due. Walker has consistently trailed Tony Evers by mid-single digit margins. In as ancestrally a blue state as this one, and even in some of the red states previously listed, this is not a good place to be, especially when you are one of the most known commodities in the state. Unlike his last bids, this time Democrats have fielded top drawer opposition which can take advantage of Wisconsin's historically blue hue. Evers by 52%-47%.
Wild Cards: California--Gavin Newsom ought to be crushing John Cox, but many polls have shown only a low-double digit margin for the former. In a state as Democratic as California, this is a true oddity, especially as the Senate race is a battle between a Liberal Democrat and a Bernie Sanders/Chris Murphy-styled Democrat. Newsom likely wins by around 15%, but such a win in as anti-Trump an environment as this one is a sturdy under-performace. An even greater under-performance cannot be ruled out, either(He won't lose in any scenario, by the way). You can bet Newsom would have lost if fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa had surged past Republican Cox in the Jungle Primary. Democratic hold.
New Mexico--Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham has run a weaker-than-expected campaign, creating an opening for fellow Congressman and 2008 US Senate nominee Steve Pearce, who has surprisingly shown a capacity for getting votes from across the aisle this time around. Polls show Lujan-Grisham leading Pearce by mid-single digits with under-to-around 50%. Like with the Bredesen situation out in Tennessee, voters seem to know Pearce better than his poorly defined opponent. Given some of the discontent on the ground and the fact that Pearce has seemed to re-invent his image in the eyes of the voters, a 3% Pearce win seems the most reasonable result, but he could just as easily lose on the lean of the state. Republican hold.
South Carolina--Governor Henry McMaster will win over State Legislator James Smith on the partisan lean of his state, but not by as big a margin as you would expect. 54-43 McMaster. Republican hold.
Vermont--Governor Phil Scott is favoured to win, but finds himself with unique vulnerabilities going into Election Night. Republican enthusiasm in Vermont will likely be muted, as they have fielded not many serious candidates for the other major offices on the ballot. However, one vulnerability of Scott's jumps out: He signed a gun restriction bill into law, angering many of the state's Conservative voters. It remains to be seen how many of them will just stay home, and what difference this will make. After all, Scott has proven cross-over vote-getting abilities. Christine Hallquist is an untested commodity, though she has the sole advantage of running in a blue state. Scott by 7%. Republican hold.
Truthfully, it remains to be seen whether or not I will continue my political associations after today. I have found it very hard to find much of anything worth supporting these days. With Republicans having embraced the rat poison and the Democrats seeming to think the answer is to swallow their own name brand of poison, it's a mess out there. And Libertarians, with their constant emphasis on self enrichment and aggrandizement of all kinds, are no option for me. You can't convince me that Trump is somebody I should vote for(Not a good character), but you can easily convince me that some good has come from it all and that there are many more worse options out there. At some point, there will come people who make the present crowd look tame by comparison, which might necessitate the need for me to make a clean break from politics before I slide down the slippery slope of justifying one evil as opposed to the other.
Moreover, I continue to realize the truth of something I had considered back in 2012, after meeting a lovely young lady who I fell for: There is more to life than politics. There is, in fact, a whole world outside the political sphere. Life is more than the insults and the degradation. People are people regardless of the conclusions they come to have, and don't usually deserve your dose of cynicism. Then again, I understand some people are either paid to or aspire to be paid to be just the opposite. That is another discussion for another day. While I expect the already high temperature of American politics to soar even further before it all comes to a cataclysmic head, the clarion call for basic decency and, yes, love still sounds. It may just be that stepping away from politics might be, for me, the best way to achieve that end.
A final note, yet one more important than all the others, is that the Lord Jesus Christ instructed us to "Be in the world, but not of the world." Some apply this to one realm or another. As far as I am concerned, politics and the power that comes from it is counterfeit compared to the real thing. All of this is just flash-paper: Here today, gone tomorrow. Nothing more than a worldly mechanism, but one with real consequences for a great many people. For those who choose to operate the political mechanisms, more power to you and may God grant you the wisdom to make good judgment calls. However, that is something in which I am increasingly not called to take part. Having made many flubs and otherwise bad calls in my decade plus in this political thing, I don't suppose I am suited to this anywhere as well as I am suited to other things.
My 2018 votes, from a Northern Georgia perspective...
Governor: Brian Kemp(R)
Lt. Governor: Sarah Riggs-Amico(D)
Secretary of State: John Barrow(D)
Attorney General: Charlie Bailey(D)
State School Superintendent: Richard Woods(R)
Agriculture Commissioner: Fred Swann(D)
Insurance Commissioner: Janice Laws(D)
Labour Commissioner: Mark Butler(R)
Public Service Commission 1st: Dawn Randolph(D)
PSC 2nd: Lindy Miller(D)
9th Congressional District: Josh McCall(D)
Constitutional Amendment 1: No
CA 2: No
CA 3: No
CA 4: No
CA 5: Yes
Ballot Initiative 1: No
BI 2: Yes