It is now Friday before the big election and Democrats are in a good position to win control of the House of Representatives for the first time since January 2011. They need 23 seats to achieve this and are clearly heading in the right direction. But they are not there yet. I am a pollster and have been closely observing elections, analyzing them for media and opinion leaders worldwide, and conducting my own highly regarded polls. Just as Hillary Clinton was “probably” going to win the Presidency in 2016, barring the unforeseen, that is where the Democrats stand as of today with a House majority. If you are a Democrat, take out the cigar. But just don’t light it yet. (To the young folks and the non-fans of the NBA, that is a reference to longtime coach and general manager of the Boston Celtics Red Auerbach, who would famously light a cigar when victory was assured).
Here is what we know. Turnout for early voting is very heavy. In some states, more voters have already cast their ballots than voted when Election Day in 2014 was over. We also know that turnout among the all-important (to Democrats) young voters is less than 5% of the total votes cast thus far. We know as well that even as Democrats come out to vote, so too are Republicans. Among the states with large early voting turnouts, more Republicans are turning out in Arizona, a state looking to turn blue, and in Florida which has a number of closely contested House races.
While we consider the early turnouts in key states, we still must focus on individual Congressional districts. A total of 34 states are still considered tossups by RealClearPolitics,com, all but four of them presently held by Republicans. According to RCP’s count, Democrats need to win 14 of these to achieve a majority in House. Seventeen of these toss up states are either tied or have a Democratic lead. But as of now, 12 of those leads are by 1 or 2 points – and 5 of 7 seats where Republicans currently lead by 1 or 2 points. In short, the good news for Democrats is that so many of these Republican-held districts are competitive. We also know that Democrats own the top issue in the country, health care – so much so that even Republican incumbents who actually voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act are trying to back away by saying they always meant to extend and protect coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
I have been reticent to argue the inevitability of a Democratic majority in the next House. I still am. I could say they probably will win, but Hillary Clinton was “probably” going to be the next President a few days before the 2016 election. We are seeing President Donald Trump’s polling numbers starting to slip and we know that both the White House and Congressional GOP leadership are starting to privately concede losing the House. Just as importantly the President – the Blamer-In-Chief — is already to name some scapegoats, notably Speaker Paul Ryan. The Cook Report just projected a 30-40 seat gain for the Democrats in the House. And the aggregator website 538 says that the Democrats have an 85% chance of winning back a majority. But how can you make this kind of projection with so many very close races?
In the meantime, the President is drawing huge crowds, is not backing away from the controversial rhetoric that helped him the Presidency two years, and his visits appear to be having a positive impact on the candidates he seeks to help.
As of Friday, November 2, Democrats can take out the cigar. But I am not quite ready to tell you to light it.