On the eve of the U.S. midterm elections, most polls predict that the Democratic Party will make gains in the House of Representatives, but will have a hard time stopping the Republican Party from maintaining or consolidating its hold on the Senate.
Up for grabs are 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the Senate and 36 governors’ positions. The Republicans currently hold a majority in both the House and the Senate.
It’s an election that could determine the landscape of U.S. politics for years to come. Here’s a look at the most likely outcome according to polls:
House of Representatives
A total of 218 seats are required for a party to wrest control of the House. The Republican Party currently has 235.
An analysis of three major political forecasts — from the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics — concluded that 65 of the 435 seats are Democratic-leaning or tightly fought, and that the odds of the Democratic candidate winning increased in 48 of them.
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Online poll analysis service FiveThirtyEight gives the Democrats a seven in eight chance of winning control of the House.
The most likely gain expected for the Democrats was pegged at 39 seats, although there’s a 10 per cent chance they’d pick up 60 seats or more, and a 10 per cent chance that they’d suffer a disappointing result and gain 20 seats or less.
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Politico considered up-to-date polling data, historical trends and analysis of campaign strategies, concluding that the Democrats and Republicans can count on 172 and 132 “solid” seats.
The next best rating to “solid” under Politico’s analysis is “likely,” and the Republicans were assessed to have 32 likely seats while the Democrats are likely to pick up 20 seats.
Adding up the solid, likely and lean seats leaves the Democrats with 216 (172 solid) and the Republicans with 197 (132 of them solid). If that prediction holds, the Democrats would only need to pick up two of the 22 “toss-up” seats to secure a majority in the lower chamber of Congress.
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Crosstab, a political forecasting blog run by The Economist data journalist Elliott Morris, gives the Democrats a 79 per cent chance of winning a House majority. Crosstab found that the odds of a Democrat House takeover have increased moderately since July.
If Crosstab’s election simulations hold true, the Democrats will walk away with a handy majority of 229 seats, while the Republicans will drop from 235 seats down to 206.
Democratic gains would hardly come as a shock — the Cook Political Report points out that the party of the sitting president has lost House seats in 35 of the 38 midterm elections held since the U.S. Civil War ended in 1865.
While most polls paint a rosy picture for the Democrats when it comes to the House, it gives them little chance of making significant gains in the Senate.
The Senate comprises 100 seats, but only 35 of them are up for grabs this midterm election cycle — and Democrats already hold 26 of them.
If the Democrats want to even dream of taking the Senate, they’d likely need to retain all 26 seats that they currently hold, as well as defeat a couple of Republicans in order to get to the 51 seats required to claim a majority.
What’s more, 10 of the presently Democrat-held seats are in states that Trump carried in the 2016 presidential election.
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The state of West Virginia strongly exemplifies the challenge facing the Democrats. West Virginia elected a Democratic senator in Joe Manchin, but that was back in 2012, when Barack Obama hadn’t even begun his second term as president yet.
The 2016 presidential election saw West Virginians backing Trump in a big way, with 68 per cent of the vote.
As of last month, Trump enjoyed a 62 per cent approval rating in West Virginia, the highest of any state, according to Morning Consult.
Two other key Democrat-held states, Missouri and Indiana, are also at serious risk of flipping red, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan election analysis project based in the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
FiveThirtyEight gives the Democrats only a 16.8 per cent chance of winning control of the Senate, with the Republicans deemed heavy favourites at 83.2 per cent. Indeed the Democrats’ hopes of gaining more than two seats was pegged at only 10 per cent.
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Politico is similarly pessimistic about the chances of a Democratic takeover. Adding up its “solid,” “likely” and “lean” seat assessments would leave the GOP with a total of 50 seats and the Democrats with 45. That means the Republicans would only need to pick up one of the five “toss-up” seats to maintain their majority.
The Republicans are likely to increase their Senate presence from 51 seats to 52, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball.
CNN reported that multiple races appear to be slipping away from the Democrats including North Dakota and Tennessee but also Texas, where emerging liberal hero Beto O’Rourke has managed to raise huge amounts of money, but still lags behind in the polls in a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic senator in 30 years.
So low is the confidence in a shock Democrat takeover of the Senate that not a single poll or forecast accessed by Global News on the eve of Election Day predicts a Democratic Senate majority.
Are the predictions reliable?
President Donald Trump’s win in the 2016 presidential election left many people questioning whether polls and forecasts can be trusted, according to William Galston, a chair in governance studies and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
However, Galston says national surveys were actually closer to the final outcome in 2016 than they were in 2012, adding that the dearth of state-level polls was to blame for wide-held confidence in a Hillary Clinton victory.
Galston also wrote that many 2016 poll models went wrong because they mis-predicted voter turnout, failing to take into account the mobilization of blue-collar workers and other infrequent voter demographics who were energized by Trump’s campaign.
However, a record advance voting turnout across the political spectrum — the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1960s — is likely to have been better accounted-for going into the midterms, with Trump and his support demographics no longer unknowns to pollsters.
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Bettors predicting on the midterm elections also appear to be siding with polls and forecasters.
On PredictIt, a New Zealand-based political predictions market with offices in Washington, D.C., the most widely betted-on scenarios are for the Democrats to take control of the House and the Republicans to manage keeping the Senate.
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The closer America gets to Election Day, the further President Trump has moved away from his Oct. 31 assessment to ABC News, in which he said, “I think we feel pretty good about the House.”
On Sunday, Trump appeared to distance himself from responsibility if the Republicans lose control of the House, aligning himself more closely with the Senate battle which Republicans are predicted to win anyway according to every major poll.
“As you know, my primary focus has been on the Senate, and I think we’re doing really well in the Senate,” Trump said.