There is a lot of data to sort through as November 6 draws near. We know that interest is at peak level, early voting numbers are at record highs in many states, and both Congress watchers and polling aggregators are still predicting a Big Blue Wave. For my part, I am still not there. Let’s take a look at what the data is presently showing.
Early Turnout — we are receiving mixed messages on what appears to be a record turnout for an off-year election. In Florida, thus far Democrats casting ballots outnumber Republicans, but apparently at a smaller margin than two years ago when Donald Trump actually won the state. Nevada has a heavier Democratic turnout, as does Texas, but these look to be in already reliably Democratic strongholds, whereas Democrats have to win in districts where Republicans currently serve. Arizona, already considered a burgeoning blue state, Republicans have a solid lead in votes cast. So there appears to be a larger Democratic turnout for an off-year, but no real clue yet how this is going to play out.
Turnout Models — in 2010 and 2014, the electorate has been significantly white, older, more rural and conservative. Generally, less than two-thirds of the percentage of younger voters and considerably fewer Latino and African American voters vote. There is strong evidence that younger and non-white voters are more interested than in the two previous Congressional elections, but again these groups have to vote in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and where currently a Republican serves in the House. To date, local polling shows about half the districts that Democrats must win are one and two point races.
- The Latino Vote — the trajectory of Latino turnout in previous Presidential elections has been substantial. but the numbers have been dismal in off years. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reveals that 61% of Latinos are enthusiastic about voting on November 6. But that is not enough for Democratic victories. Twenty of the forty most competitive races have Latino populations of at least 20%. This reliably Democratic constituency has to come out big and there is some evidence that this might not happen. Even with President Trump’s rhetoric, his policy about building a wall, his openly insulting Central American refugees seeking asylum in the United States, the New York Times and others have recently reported that are substantial number of Hispanic immigrants are fearful of voting or do not feel that either political party really helps them. On the other end of the spectrum are the growing numbers who feel that they are doing better financially than they were a few years ago. This could dampen turnout.
- President Donald Trump — a brand new poll by my son’s Zogby Analytics, shows the President’s approval rating at 47%. Other polls have him at 47% and he is averaging between 45%-46% in polling just this week. All of this is while he ratchets up the rhetoric about undesirables coming into the US, embraces than slightly backs off weak criticism of Saudi Arabia and the murder of a dissident, and announces he will pull out from a missile treaty with the Russians more than thirty years ago. The President is emboldened by his growing support and has an aggressive campaign schedule of two stops a day between now and Election Day. He is rallying the troops enough to cause some pundits to back off from a Blue Wave projection.
- The Economy — voters are not one dimensional but the perception of a good economy certainly is helping the GOP gain some ground. Younger voters and non-whites in previous Zogby Analytics polling feel they are doing better off financially — and an average of 40% feel the country is heading in the right direction. The latter is not a very good number, but it is eleven points higher than when Mr. Trump entered the White House. But the data speaks for itself as well as backing up the perceptions. The official unemployment rate is at only 3.7%, a figure many of thought we would never see again; the growth of the Gross Domestic Product is 4.2%; wages continue to go up, slowly but up; and over 400,000 new manufacturing jobs have been created. All of these combine to enhance the President’s argument that he has accomplished a lot.
- The Gender Gap — this is the ultimate wedge issue this year. At this moment, the gap is 30 points as women overwhelmingly support the Democrats, while men strongly favor Republicans. For the Democrats to win control of the House — a net gain of 25 seats — their turnout will have to tilt closer to the 2008 and 2012 winning model, In addition to non-whites and yo9unger voters, that is going to mean many more young women. It was the high turnout of young women and their 73% support to President Barack Obama in 2012 that sealed the deal for him. The Taylor Swift support of Democrats in Tennessee is very significant. Thousands of young women registered to vote in 48 hours. But will they turnout?
Close Races — I am seeing Republican gains in competitive districts where Democrats had been leading. In New York State alone, NY 19 had shown Democrat Antonio Delgado ahead by 6 points over incumbent Republican John Faso. Mr. Faso is now leading by 1 point and the NRCC is now running an advertisement that portrays Mr. Delgado as a former rap artist who had demeaned women and the tragedy of 9-11 while in his twenties. In NY 22, state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi had been leading incumbent Claludia Tenney by 7-9 points. Following a visit to the district by the President, the race is either down to a 2 point lead for Mr. Brindisi or a Kellyanne Conway poll showing an 8 point for Republican Ms. Tenney. In NY 27, indicted incumbent Republican actually tried to drop out of his race but now leads Democrat Nate McMurray by 3 points.