We’re signing off. But before we do, we wanted just to give you our thoughts on a few outstanding races.
At this point, Republican Dan Sullivan is holding a 5.4-percentage-point lead over Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska with 65.6 percent of precincts reporting. In 2008, it took two weeks to determine a winner in the Alaska Senate race. And while it’s certainly possible that Begich can gain in the vote count this year as he did six years ago, the results tonight have barely shifted as the vote count has grown.
The bad news for Republicans in Alaska is that Gov. Sean Parnell is trailing independent Bill Walker by 1.6 percentage points. This lead, like the one in the Senate race, has held relatively steady as more votes have been reported.
Speaking of governors’ races, it looks good for Democrats in both Connecticut and Colorado. Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy is holding a 1.7 percentage point lead over Republican Tom Foley with 80.6 percent of precincts reporting in Connecticut. While the race remains uncalled, a lot of Democratic-favored Hartford County is still uncounted. Likewise, the remaining votes to be counted in Colorado look good for Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper: He may be trailing by 0.4 percentage points, but the heavily Democratic counties of Boulder and Denver have plenty of votes left.
Finally, Democrats can breathe a sigh of relief in Virginia. Sen. Mark Warner is holding a 0.6 percentage point lead over Republican Ed Gillespie there with 99.9 percent of precincts reporting. That lead will almost certainly hold up in any recount.
Now we’re all going to grab some sleep.
If 2014 voters know what they’re talking about, 2016 voters may not have many good options for president. The national exit polls Tuesday asked whether a number of possible 2016 candidates would make good presidents, and no one comes out looking good. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks least bad, with 42 percent of respondents saying she would make a good president, and 52 percent saying she wouldn’t. The four Republicans voters weighed in on had support in the 20s.
In addition to Republican governors, Republican senators and minimum wage increases, marijuana had a good night. Recreational marijuana easily won in Oregon and Washington, D.C., and it’s currently leading in Alaska.
The only state where marijuana didn’t win: Florida. A ballot measure to permit medical marijuana failed there, but only because it needed 60 percent of the vote to pass. “Yes” got 58 percent instead.
If “yes” continues to lead in Alaska, four states and Washington, D.C., will have legalized recreational marijuana.
Voters in Washington state chose to expand background checks for gun sales by nearly 60 percent, according to The Seattle Times. The approval of Initiative 594 means any Washington resident looking to buy a firearm will have to undergo a background check, even if she makes that purchase online or at a gun show.
Washington voters also rejected an anti-background checks measure, Initiative 591, and avoided the possibly awkward outcome of approving two seemingly mutually exclusive ballot measures. As my colleague Harry Enten wrote last week, polling earlier this year showed both measures passing, but the ensuing campaign “helped to clarify each initiative,” and I-591 lost 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent.
One place where Democrats may salvage a victory is in Colorado. In the governor’s race there, Republican Bob Beauprez leads the Democratic incumbent, John Hickenlooper, by 0.8 percentage points with 82 percent of precincts reporting. The good news for Hickenlooper, as the The Upshot’s adjusted vote count shows, is that the remaining areas to report votes should shift the overall margin by 2.4 percentage points in his favor.
If that holds, Hickenlooper will squeak by.
If you’re reading this from the East Coast, your eyelids may be starting to droop and your comfy bed may have entered your thoughts. The Senate is decided, after all. Bedtime! (Or maybe I’m just projecting.)
But there are still a few outstanding races we’ll be watching for a while. The final polls just closed in Alaska, where a Senate seat and governor’s mansion are at stake. And there are still unresolved gubernatorial races in Colorado and Connecticut.
Colorado’s GMO labeling initiative, Proposition 105, looks like a loser tonight. With 81 percent reporting, the “no” votes are leading, with 67.7 percent. It’s still too early to call the GMO proposal in Oregon, but with 68 percent reporting, it’s also losing: 48.7 percent of the votes are in support.
Tonight, voters in Colorado and North Dakota rejected two far-reaching anti-abortion ballot measures, while Tennessee voters approved a more moderate constitutional amendment that will pave the way for a slew of state-level restrictions on abortion access. Colorado voters rejected an amendment that would have changed the state’s criminal code to define a fetus as a “person” by a 25-point margin. It’s the third time in six years that a so-called personhood amendment been defeated in Colorado. The North Dakota ballot measure, which lost by a similarly wide margin, would have amended the state constitution to say that the right to life of “every human being at any stage of development” must be “recognized and protected.”
Supporters of the personhood amendments in both states worked hard to convince voters — who are generally leery of such extreme measures — that the goal was not to ban abortion. In Colorado, proponents said the measure would strengthen rights for pregnant women by ensuring that people who harmed unborn children could be prosecuted. In North Dakota, the wording was so vague that even organizations within the anti-abortion movement disagreed about its likely impact. Both measures’ decisive failure, however, indicate that voters still saw the amendments as too extreme.
Tennessee’s voters, on the other hand, were asked to approve an amendment that appears more moderate, but will still have broad consequences. The amendment — which is projected to win by a solid margin — is the culmination of 14 years of work on the part of anti-abortion advocates. They began organizing in 2000 when the Tennessee Supreme Court struck down several abortion restrictions on the grounds that they violated women’s right to privacy. That decision has until now kept Tennessee from passing anti-abortion laws like the ones that have closed abortion clinics in neighboring states. It’s been an expensive fight — in the last three weeks of October alone, the amendment’s opponents spent more than $3.4 million. Now the protections that have shielded the state’s seven abortion clinics will disappear.
As I wrote before, polls in the most competitive Senate races look to have had about a 6-percentage point Democratic bias based on the votes as counted so far.
What about in the most competitive gubernatorial races (excluding Alaska, which has not yet finished voting)?
The bias hasn’t been quite as bad, but the polls were still too Democratic-leaning by an average of about 2 percentage points. As a result, a number of Democrats who had narrow leads in the polls are going to lose their races.
While most people are paying attention to the Senate races tonight, Republicans also had an amazing night in gubernatorial elections.
The GOP won all the close races in which its candidates were favored, such as Michigan and Wisconsin. Republicans won the vast majority of close races in which they were slight underdogs, such as Florida, Illinois and Maine. They won in Kansas, where we gave the GOP incumbent, Sam Brownback, only a 20 percent chance.
And Republicans have even taken Maryland, where they had only a 6 percent chance of winning according to our last pre-election forecast. The Republican candidates are also leading in Colorado and Connecticut — three races where polls favored the Democratic candidates.
To put it mildly, this is a wave.
It’s looking like the North Texas city of Denton may be the first place in Texas to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fox 4 in Dallas is reporting that with 34 of 39 precincts reporting, the fracking ban is ahead, with 59 percent of tallied votes for the measure and 41 percent against.
The ballot measure pitted residents wary of drilling near residential areas against those courting the economic benefits of energy extraction in a city of 212,000. In 2013, the city council moved to raise the setback between wells and residences from 250 to 1,200 feet, but today’s ballot measure would ban fracking within the city outright.
The measure has drawn widespread attention in this extraction-friendly state, and if it passes, the measure is sure to be challenged. During a July hearing, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Tom Phillips told the Denton City Council that he believed the ban was unconstitutional because it contradicted state law and allowed the taking of private property from mineral-rights owners.
If you want to follow along as the last votes come in, here’s the link.
As the polls predicted, voters in Washington, D.C., have approved the possession and use of small amounts of of marijuana. Initiative 71 was passed late Tuesday by a margin of two to one.
As I wrote earlier in the week, Adam Eidinger will probably be celebrating the result. He’s chairman of the DC Cannabis Campaign and was the force behind the ballot measure. Eidinger has claimed that the initiative was intended, in part, to address D.C.’s “racist drug war.” There’s incomplete information to test that claim, but arrest data does show that black residents are more likely than white residents to be arrested for marijuana possession in the city.
But legalized pot isn’t a done deal just yet. Because of a quirk in D.C. law, Congress still has a chance to doom it in the next 60 days. So it’ll be some time before we know whether the law will change arrest rates in the city — if it even gets a chance to do so.
The pre-election polling averages (not the FiveThirtyEight forecasts, which also account for other factors) in the 10 most competitive Senate races had a 6-percentage point Democratic bias as compared to the votes counted in each state so far.
We aren’t counting Alaska, where polls haven’t closed yet. We also aren’t counting Virginia, which is much closer than expected. But Mark Warner’s close call makes more sense now given the margins we’re seeing in other states.
The bias might narrow slightly as more votes are counted; late-counted votes tend to be Democratic in most states. Still, this is a big “skew,” and it comes on the heels of what had been a fairly substantial bias in the opposite direction in 2012. The polls — excepting Ann Selzer’s — are having some problems.
Throughout the night we’ll be aggregating some of the best election-night tidbits and links from around the Web.
- Ted Cruz won’t commit to backing Mitch McConnell for Senate majority leader.
- Vance McAllister has lost his re-election campaign in Louisiana, which means the end of the “Kissing Congressman.”
- Slate, Slatepitching: “A Victory for the Left.”
- Oregon has voted to legalize marijuana, making it the third state in the country to allow recreational use of marijuana.
One theme I’ve been harping on tonight is how nationalized today’s politics are. And one especially good example of that is in the race to be the representative from West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.
The seat was formerly held by Shelly Moore Capito, the Republican who is projected to be the state’s next senator. So the fact that Alex Mooney, another Republican, is projected to win that race by a relatively close margin isn’t that surprising. (With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Mooney holds 46.8 percent of the vote, to his opponent’s 44.2 percent.) Nor is his bio surprising for a successful House candidate — he was previously a state senator and GOP party chair. What is surprising, though, is where he won. Until 2013, Mooney was a politician in an entirely different state: Maryland.
So far, tonight’s election returns have a very clear national trend: As party labels matter more, local connections seem to matter less. One way to measure just how nationalized elections are is to fit a model which predicts presidential voting, and see just how well it does predicting midterm gubernatorial voting. The short answer is better and better. Between 1990 and 2010, the model’s ability to predict gubernatorial results based on the previous presidential tallies increased by 63 percent. And once all the data from today’s elections is in, my strong hunch is that we’ll see that we’ve ratcheted upwards in nationalization yet again.
The minimum wage isn’t the only workers’ rights issue on the ballot tonight. Voters in Massachusetts voted overwhelmingly in favor of a measure guaranteeing paid sick time for many workers.
Massachusetts currently doesn’t require employers to offer sick time of any kind, paid or otherwise. But under the initiative approved Tuesday, businesses with at least 11 employees will have to offer workers up to 40 hours of paid sick time each year. (The exact amount is based on the number of hours an employee works.)
California and New York City enacted similar laws earlier this year. Nationally, only 65 percent of workers — and 61 percent of private-sector workers — get paid sick leave.
The writing has been on the wall for a while, and now it’s official: Republicans have won control of the Senate, according to ABC News, which just projected Iowa for Republican Joni Ernst and North Carolina for Republican Thom Tillis.
The GOP could finish with as many as 55 seats. Alaska has yet to close its polls. Louisiana will go to a runoff on Dec. 6, and Republicans will be favored there — unless Democrat Mary Landrieu’s campaign benefits from the fact that control of the Senate is no longer at stake. Virginia Democrat Mark Warner still looks more likely than not to hold his seat, but the fact that his race was so close speaks to how awful a night it has been for Democrats. Jeanne Shaheen’s win in New Hampshire looks like a minor miracle now.
There’s one piece of good news for Democrats in the down-ballot races. The Kentucky House of Representatives will stay under Democratic control, allowing Kentucky — with its Democratic governor — to remain a blue island in the South’s sea of red. Earlier this evening, it looked like the Republicans might take the state legislature for the first time since 1921, but the Democrats managed to eke out a slim majority, dashing the GOP’s hopes to make Kentucky a right-to-work state. Strangely enough, this is probably most disappointing for Rand Paul, who was angling for a Republican-controlled statehouse to allow him to simultaneously run for president and for re-election to his Senate seat in 2016.
According to projections, West Virginia and Iowa elected their first female senators tonight. Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia and Joni Ernst in Iowa are now the 35th and 36th female senators in the country’s history.
Before tonight, just 24 states had elected a total of 34 female senators. (A total of 44 women had served in the Senate, but 10 were appointed.) Of the 36 female senators, 22 have been Democrats and 14 have been Republicans, including Capito and Ernst.
Throughout the night we’ll be aggregating some of the best election-night tidbits and links from around the Web.
- The Working Families Party cleared the 50,000 vote threshold in New York to remain on the ballot.
- Republicans are having a good night tonight. These D.C. pot advocates are having a better one.
- Congressman Michael Grimm of New York has been projected as the winner in New York’s 11th District. Grimm’s next challenge is beating a 20-count federal indictment.
- Massachusetts has elected the first openly LGBT attorney general in the country, Buzzfeed reports.
Republicans’ chances of winning the Senate are now 99 percent, based on the ABC News projection that Republican David Perdue has won in Georgia without a runoff and Republican Pat Roberts has won in Kansas.
The GOP will need just one more seat to clinch a majority in the Senate. Any of the following would work:
- Louisiana, in the Dec. 6 runoff;
- North Carolina, where Republican Thom Tillis’s numbers look good;
- Iowa, where Republican Joni Ernst’s numbers look good;
Democrats would need to sweep all five states.
Proponents of legal pot suffered a setback when Florida became the largest state to reject medical marijuana by popular vote tonight. A constitutional amendment that would have legalized the sale and distribution of medical marijuana is projected to fall 3 percentage points shy of the 60 percent it needed to pass. The amendment was one of the most expensive ballot measures in the country this year, which explains why a relatively uncontroversial policy — public support for medical marijuana is exceptionally high and 23 states and the District of Columbia already have legal medical marijuana laws on the books — still sputtered and died.
The amendment was driven in large part by John Morgan, a lawyer with close ties to Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate in Florida’s governor’s race whom networks are projecting to lose tonight to the Republican incumbent, Rick Scott. Initially, the amendment seemed to be a shoo-in, but it quickly became ensnared in gubernatorial politics, with some Republicans contending that it was Crist’s attempt to lure more Democratic-leaning voters to the polls.
Then Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul, poured a stunning $5 million into the campaign against the amendment, most of which went to TV ads. It’s still unclear why Adelson decided to invest so heavily in the race, but his — and his money’s — opposition to the medical marijuana amendment seems to have decisively tanked it. As Harry Enten pointed out earlier, supporters of the amendment were already running up against a demographic barrier — namely, the state’s higher-than-average concentration of senior citizens, who tend to be more skeptical about marijuana.
Democrat Bruce Braley of Iowa looks to be falling short of the county-by-county numbers he needs to win. In Polk County (home to Des Moines), Braley is winning by 4.6 percentage points. Based on returns from past elections, Braley would likely need to win the county by 8 percentage points to 9 percentage points instead in order to win the state.
Although the North Carolina Senate race is still too close to call, it’s becoming clear that Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan has an increasingly tall hill to climb. With 91 percent of precincts reporting, she is down 2 percentage points to Republican Thom Tillis, and all of Wake County (home to Raleigh) has already reported.
Throughout the night we’ll be aggregating some of the best election-night tidbits and links from around the Web.
- Clay Aiken, who won America’s hearts with his performance on American Idol, has failed to win the hearts of the residents of North Carolina’s second district. He lost to incumbent GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers.
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio described tonight as a “great night for Democrats.” Meanwhile, in the mayor’s own city, embattled GOP Rep. Michael Grimm is winning.
- Florida voted down medical marijuana. About 57 percent supported it, but that fell short of the steep 60 percent plus one threshold needed to pass.
- The AP is reporting that in West Virginia, Nick Rahall, a long-serving, pro-coal U.S. representative, has lost his race to Evan Jenkins, a pro-coal, long-serving state senator.
Earlier this evening, the Center for Responsive Politics tweeted its prediction about these midterms: They’re going to cost $3.67 billion, and will be the most expensive congressional elections since 1998. But how does that number (which is based only on spending that’s been disclosed to the Federal Election Commission) break down?
The largest chunk, over $1.5 billion, was spent by candidates. Parties are responsible for another $1.1 billion and outside groups spent another $500 million. The Center notes that the size of that last category is a distinct change from previous election cycles. It predicts that outside groups will be responsible for far more spending, though the number of identified individual donors is lower. That would mean that more of this election has been funded by fewer individuals.
Overall, the Center estimates that Republicans will account for $1.75 billion of the total spending compared to $1.64 billion for Democrats. Here’s the complete breakdown by party.
None of this says anything about the smaller sums that average Americans have pitched in — since candidates and committees don’t have to disclose donations of $200 or less. But the Center does list the biggest individual donors of outside money in this election so far: Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, Fred Eychaner and George Soros.
Another state we’ve seen called by at least one network is Kansas, which has gone to Republican Pat Roberts. If ABC News calls it for him as well, the GOP’s chances of winning the Senate will rise to 94 percent.
Considering how many problems Democrats have elsewhere, this is starting to look like a done deal for the GOP.
New York’s Democratic incumbent governor, Andrew Cuomo, may have coasted to victory tonight but he’ll have a big task ahead of him in his second term. Cuomo made women’s issues a centerpiece of his campaign, primarily through the Women’s Equality Party, which he created earlier this summer to consolidate support from female voters. In mid-October, Cuomo released an ad featuring his daughters and his girlfriend, celebrity chef Sandra Lee, talking up the agenda of the WEP.
Now Cuomo has to prove that he was actually committed to issues like abortion rights and equal pay — and that the Women’s Equality Party was not, as his critics contend, a cynical attempt to siphon votes away from the progressive Working Families Party. Cuomo hasn’t been especially successful on women’s issues in the past. His Women’s Equality Agenda — a 10-point plan that addressed sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, how to protect domestic-violence victims, and alterations to the state’s abortion law that would expand the conditions under which a woman can get a third-trimester abortion — stalled after Republicans in the state senate refused to vote on it. House Democrats refused to split the omnibus bill and vote on each measure separately.
Now the question is how — and when — Cuomo will make good on his campaign promise when the bill is reintroduced in January. The Women’s Equality Party has been pressing candidates in the state legislature to pledge that they will support the 10-point agenda, but some to the left of Cuomo question whether he actually wants to make women’s rights a priority.
Add Nebraska to the minimum-wage party. The Associated Press is projecting that voters there, too, voted for a higher minimum wage.
Like in Arkansas, the Nebraska vote is binding. Its minimum will go up to $8 from the current level of $7.25, the federal rate. It’ll go up by another dollar a year later.
As I noted last week, not that many Cornhuskers earn the minimum wage, in part because the state’s economy is strong — the unemployment rate is 3.6 percent, one of the lowest in the country. The state’s low-wage workers are predominantly young and unmarried.
We’re still waiting on results of minimum-wage votes in South Dakota and Alaska, where polls will be open for several more hours.
We just published a post on the Democrats dodging bullets, but not for long … well, one bullet hit. With the Republican Cory Gardner projected to win in Colorado, the GOP now has an 86 percent chance to win Senate control.
Democrats have about a 25 percent chance of keeping the Senate based on states that have been called by ABC News so far, according to our live forecast.
But the qualifier in that sentence is key. While the major states to have been called so far haven’t been disastrous for Democrats — they won New Hampshire, and they were expected to lose in Arkansas and Kentucky — the situation in just about every uncalled state looks bad for them:
- Mark Warner is still in a real fight in Virginia.
- So is Kay Hagan in North Carolina.
- Mark Udall is trailing Cory Gardner in Colorado so far, and some networks have already called the race against him.
- Michelle Nunn may not be able to prevent Republican David Perdue from getting to 50 percent of the vote tonight in Georgia.
- Greg Orman, an independent who could caucus with the Democrats, trails so far in Kansas.
As we said at the start of the night, our election-night model is just based on called states — the W’s and L’s. But Harry Enten and I think the Democrats’ chances of holding the Senate are much lower than 25 percent.
Voters in Arkansas joined those in Illinois in voting to raise the minimum wage, the Associated Press is projecting. And unlike in Illinois, the Arkansas vote is binding — the state’s minimum wage will increase to $7.50 an hour on Jan. 1.
Arkansas is currently one of three states with a minimum wage below the federal rate of $7.25 an hour. Five other states have no state-mandated minimum. In practice, the federal rate applies to most workers, but some small employers in Arkansas could pay workers the state minimum of $6.25 an hour. (Some tipped workers, among others, are exempt from both the state and federal minimum wages.)
As I noted last week, the 26,000 Arkansans who would be affected by the increase look a bit different from low-wage workers in other parts of the country. Their median age is 34, by far the oldest of the five states with ballot initiatives on minimum wage, and 40 percent have children, far more than in other states. The typical low-wage worker in Arkansas is a 30-something, unmarried woman with no more than a high school education.
We’re still waiting on results on minimum wage votes in Nebraska (where it’s leading), South Dakota and Alaska. Polls suggest an increase could win in all three.
So far, one of the biggest surprises tonight has been a race that is unexpectedly close — Democrat Mark Warner against Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia. The race practically wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen (although the ads for it did seem to be on plenty of television screens). And based on his voting record at least, Warner is relatively moderate, meaning he’s not out of step with the state’s politics overall.
Should we be surprised by Virginia’s tight race? Yes, even if hindsight is 20-20. This wasn’t a heavily polled race — some of the biggest names in state-level polling didn’t poll Virginia. And it was just a year ago that political analysts were hunched over their computer screens watching an unexpectedly tight race for the Virginia governor’s race after public polls suggested the Democrat was winning.
There are more structural reasons to think that this Senate race could be close. Incumbents don’t have the advantage they used to. Our politics are also increasingly nationalized, leaving candidates with less room to craft a brand independent of their party’s. And Virginia is a closely contested state — with the exception of Warner’s prior bid in 2008 and the GOP blow-out in the 2009 gubernatorial election, recent races there have been close. Obama only won 51.2 percent of the state’s votes in 2012. Also, Virginia’s demographics make it a relatively inelastic state, to borrow Nate Silver’s measure: Most of its voters have consistent commitments to one of the parties. With relatively few swing voters, elections there hinge on turnout. And it seems likely that Warner didn’t build the same turnout machine his fellow incumbents in other states did.
Voters in Colorado and Oregon today weighed in on Proposition 105 and Measure 92, respectively, both of which would require companies and merchants to label foods that qualify as genetically modified organisms.
There’s no scientific evidence that GMOs pose health risks (a highly touted 2012 study suggesting that GMO corn caused tumors in rats was later retracted), but proponents of the measures say that consumers have a right to know how their food was produced and labeling will allow consumers to make informed choices about what they’re eating.
Opponents of the measures say that they will cause unnecessary and costly hassles for producers and could drive up the price of our food supply. They also argue that the labels aren’t meaningful, because the rules provide numerous exceptions (milk and meat from cows that eat GMO feed wouldn’t require labels, nor would food served in restaurants or alcoholic beverages, for instance).
Colorado Public Radio reports that the fight against Proposition 105 is backed by donations of $4.7 million from Monsanto and $1 million each from PepsiCo and Kraft, while funding for pro-105 group Right to Know GMO has come from Food Democracy Action ($140,000) and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps at ($25,000).
In Oregon, the No on 92 Coalition has netted more than $18.7 million, mostly from Monsanto, PepsiCo, Mead Johnson and Dow AgroSciences, according to The Oregonian. Meanwhile, Yes on Measure 92 is supported by numerous organic food and farming groups and has raised $7 million.
Virginia’s Senate race is turning into a big, big surprise, but we believe that Mark Warner is still favored to win by the slimmest of margins. According to the latest Associated Press vote count, Warner is trailing by about 7,600 votes. That count doesn’t include new votes that are being tallied in Fairfax County. According to the Fairfax County website, Warner is winning there by about 10,000 votes. That should put him into the lead … barely.
At least one network has called Colorado for Republican Cory Gardner, and as my colleague Harry Enten wrote earlier, we think his numbers look good, too. We won’t officially change our live forecast until and unless ABC News calls the state for him also. But if they do, it would make a big difference in our forecast, bringing GOP odds up to 86 percent to win the Senate.
ABC News is projecting that no candidate will receive 50 percent of the vote in Louisiana, and the Senate race there will go to a runoff. This was the expected result — Mary Landrieu, the incumbent Democrat, has poor approval ratings, but two Republican candidates split the GOP vote. Our pre-election forecast had given Landrieu only about a 2 percent chance to win tonight and avoid a runoff and almost no such chance to the leading Republican candidate, Bill Cassidy.
Cassidy, who has also advanced to the runoff with Landrieu, leads her in head-to-head polls and has about an 80 percent chance of winning it, according to our forecast.
We’ll want to watch tonight to see what share of the vote Landrieu gets against the top two Republicans combined, which could be another indication of her runoff standing. Democrats might also be worried that their incumbent in neighboring Arkansas, Mark Pryor, lost badly tonight in his head-to-head race.
My colleague Allison McCann has been mapping the history of women in office. History could be written tonight in one small state where the polls are closing shortly. Iowa has never elected a woman to Congress — but could elect two tonight. Republican Joni Ernst is a 67 percent favorite to take a Senate seat, as of this writing, and Democrat Staci Appel is in a close race in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. (A third woman, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, is a longshot in Iowa’s 2nd District.)
As we noted last week, five states had ballot initiatives on the minimum wage today. The results are in from the first one: ABC News is projecting that Illinois residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of raising the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour from $8.25 now.
The Illinois vote, unlike those in other states, is only advisory — the final decision on raising the state’s minimum wage still lies with the state legislature.
That distinction is important because Tuesday’s ballot initiative calls for an overnight $1.75-an-hour increase — a big enough bump that nearly 1 in 5 hourly workers in Illinois would be due a raise. Economists are split over the impact of the minimum wage, but even those who support a higher minimum typically advise a more gradual increase to give employers a chance to adjust. That was also the approach favored by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in an earlier bill.
If the legislature did push ahead with an all-at-once increase, it would affect close to 600,000 workers, most of them women. Their median age is 29 and more than a quarter are raising children.
The vote in Colorado is coming in fast. We have a lot of votes reporting in El Paso, Denver and Jefferson counties, and Republican Cory Gardner is doing well. He is leading in El Paso by 32 percentage points, trailing in Denver by 42 percentage points and winning Jefferson by 1.6 percentage points (with 82 percent of precincts reporting in El Paso, 67 percent in Denver and 89 percent in Jefferson).
If we were to readjust the 2012 statewide presidential results to pretend Obama and Romney tied in Colorado, Obama would have lost by 26 percentage points in El Paso County. We’d expect him to win in Denver County by 44 percentage points. We’d expect a tie Jefferson.
Gardner is doing better than all these percentages. He shouldn’t start measuring any drapes, but he can start picking out patterns.
North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan ran for Senate in 2008 with the Democratic wind at her back. But she’s now running again in a considerably tougher climate for her party. One interesting fact about her changing support: According to exit-poll data, the GOP candidate, Thom Tillis, gained a striking 31 percentage points among voters aged 18 to 29. What’s going on?
As FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten never tires of pointing out, as you dig into any survey’s crosstabs, you are liable to find something odd and incomplete. But I think there is a real item of interest buried in here — and I think it’s a mistake to assume that young voters (and especially young non-Hispanic white voters) will always fall into the Democratic camp.
As I wrote back in April, there is extensive political science literature on the powerful and lasting effects of the political situation when a voter enters the electorate. Voters who came of age during the early days of the Great Depression were much more Democratic than their counterparts a few years older, and that was still evident as late as the 1950s, when political scientists at the University of Michigan were revolutionizing the study of voting behavior.
For young voters entering the electorate in the second Bush administration, the Iraq War was front and center. Those voters are now six years older, and are boosting Democratic support in the 30- to 44-year-old bracket. But voters now entering the electorate are doing so at a time when conditions are far less favorable to the Democrats — and we should expect young voters to reflect that. If the North Carolina exit poll is any indication, they do.
Republican Asa Hutchinson’s projected victory in the Arkansas governor’s race just made the fate of the state’s unique version of Medicaid expansion a lot more uncertain. During the campaign, Hutchinson’s Democratic opponent, Mike Ross, hammered him on his refusal to say whether he supported the state’s “private option,” which allows new Medicaid beneficiaries to enroll in health plans purchased through the federal insurance exchanges, using federal Medicaid money. Hutchinson has said that he sees the private option as a “pilot project that can be ended if needed.”
Arkansas’s private-market approach could become a template for Republican governors who want to expand Medicaid while sidestepping the scourge of Obamacare — if Hutchison doesn’t dismantle it. Under state law, the legislature has to reapprove the expanded program annually, and passage requires support from three-quarters of the members of the House and Senate. Hutchinson, if he decides he wants to end the Medicaid experiment, could make finding the requisite votes a lot harder. This year, the program was reauthorized with no votes to spare in the Republican-controlled Senate, thanks in large part to the efforts of the outgoing governor, Mike Beebe, who is term-limited. Several Democratic state senators are defending seats in the northeastern corner of the state tonight, seats that, if lost, could shave off one or two of those decisive votes.
Without a renewal, the 205,000 people who are enrolled under the program would lose their coverage.
Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is projected to win reelection in New Hampshire, according to ABC News. Shaheen was ahead in most polls and an 80 percent favorite to win in New Hampshire, according to FiveThirtyEight’s pre-election forecast. But while defeating Shaheen was never particularly likely for Republicans, doing so was one of the few ways that they could have made the outcome of Senate control known relatively early. Democratic chances of keeping the Senate would have been in the low single digits if Shaheen had lost.
Republicans also trail so far in North Carolina, another must-win state for Democrats.
Still, there’s good news for Republicans elsewhere. In Georgia, David Perdue is ahead of Democrat Michelle Nunn and looks as though he could get at least 50 percent of the vote and avoid a runoff.
And in Virginia, while it still looks more likely than not that Mark Warner will prevail, Republican Ed Gillespie has done much better than polls projected. A loss there would be every bit as devastating to Democrats’ Senate hopes as one in New Hampshire would have been.
North Dakota’s Constitutional Measure 1 is the most drastic of the three anti-abortion initiatives on ballots today. It would alter the state’s constitution to define personhood “at any stage of development.” According to the North Dakota Coalition For Privacy in Health Care, a group that favors abortion rights, the measure would ban all abortion services in the state and close the one remaining abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo.
“This amendment is intended to present a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade,” the 1973 Supreme Court decision that extended the right to privacy to include abortions, Republican state Sen. Margaret Sitte has said. Opponents of the measure argue that its vague language (it doesn’t mention abortion) could inadvertently affect other areas of health care, such as end-of-life care and pregnancy complications.
A poll from the University of North Dakota College of Business and Public Affairs this month found that 50 percent of respondents favor Measure 1, compared to 33 percent against and 17 percent who were undecided. Polling for a similar personhood initiative on the ballot in Missouri in 2011 showed the majority of voters in support, but the measure ultimately failed 58 percent to 42 percent. Pollsters have had trouble with ballot measures; Measure 1 could go either way.
- Rep. Tom Cotton, who is projected to win the Senate race in Arkansas, is the first Iraq War combat veteran to be elected to the Senate.
- Reminding us that the 2016 election starts tomorrow, Rand Paul claimed this election is a referendum not only on the president but also Hillary Clinton. IT BEGINS.
- In other firsts, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has made history as the first Pennsylvania governor to lose re-election in state history.
- Check out NPR’s coverage of
future lobbyistsdefeated incumbents.
CORRECTION (9:40 p.m.): An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that Tom Cotton would be the first Iraq War veteran elected to the Senate; he will be the first combat veteran of that war elected to the Senate.
As expected, ABC News has projected that Republicans will hold onto the House of Representatives. The question is how many seats they will gain. Most pre-election estimates put that gain between six and 12 seats. I argued yesterday, however, that Republicans would have performed better had congressional approval ratings been higher. Those ratings were only 20 percent in the exit polls.
Measures to ban hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” appear on today’s ballot in nine municipalities and counties in Ohio, Texas and California. Fracking involves injecting pressurized liquids and sand into shale rock to extract natural gas or oil, making it possible to extract oil and gas from places where it would otherwise be difficult to recover. Shale gas production is booming in the U.S., with 215.9 billion cubic meters extracted last year, despite becoming one of the most controversial environmental issues in the United States over the past decade.
Opponents of fracking cite the large volumes of water required and concerns that chemicals used in fracking liquids could leak into groundwater. They also point to fracking’s potential to trigger earthquakes. Researchers linked a series of earthquakes in Harrison County, Ohio, to fracking operations, and fracking is suspected to have played a role in earthquakes in other midwestern states.
Supporters of fracking say that the natural gas it extracts provides clean energy that could help stem climate change (a contention contradicted by some recent studies), and that jobs associated with fracking operations provide an economic boost to some rural communities.
Anti-fracking measures are up for a vote in five Ohio communities (Athens, Gates Mills, Kent, Niles and Youngstown) one Texas city (Denton), and in California’s Mendocino, San Benito and Santa Barbara counties.
More than 425,000 votes have now been counted in Georgia, and results continue to look good for Republican David Perdue. He is outperforming the 2008 performance of Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss in the vast majority of counties reporting. Chambliss got 49.8 percent of the vote, so Perdue just needs to beat Chambliss’s benchmarks by the tiniest of margins. In Fulton County (home to Atlanta), where over 12 percent of precincts are reporting, Perdue is trailing Democrat Michelle Nunn by 16 percentage points. Chambliss lost that county by 30 percentage points in 2008.
This year, Arizonans will be voting on Proposition 304, which would increase the base salaries of their state legislators from $24,000 per year to $35,000 per year. State legislators got their last pay increase in 1999, when salaries increased from $15,000 to $24,000. That $24,000 in 1999, adjusted for inflation, would today be worth $34,290, meaning that the proposition would increase legislator salaries to keep pace with inflation.
We know that Arizona state legislators make below-average salaries compared to other states, but it’s difficult to compare the salaries directly because of the varying nature of the job in each state. Legislators in seven states are “full-time,” meaning the legislative session lasts throughout the year, while the legislative sessions in Texas, North Dakota, Nevada and Montana occur only once every other year and last for only for a few months.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a bipartisan organization that represents the interests of state legislators in Washington, categorizes Arizona’s legislature as a “hybrid” body, along with 23 other states where legislators say their legislating tasks take them more than two-thirds of the time that a full-time job would, but frequently cannot make a living without having other sources of income.
Arizona state legislators last year made $24,000 as a base salary, but that amount alone is not sufficient to compare states. That’s because of the way some states pay their state legislators — through a labyrinthine set of rules. Take Alabama, where legislators receive $10 per day as a base salary when the legislature is in session, but are also entitled to a per diem of $4,308 per month, plus $50 per day for three days of each week that the legislature is in session. We estimated salaries of state legislators including any per diem for the chart above. Arizona state legislators currently make an estimated $26,590. Compare that to the estimated average $37,227 of other states in the “hybrid” legislature category.
New York voters are — as usual — looking forward to a relatively boring election night. While there are several competitive congressional races in the Hudson Valley, Staten Island, Long Island and upstate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to coast to victory.
Still, there’s one aspect of the gubernatorial election to watch, and it’s whether the liberal Working Families Party — which lists Cuomo as its candidate — will manage to break the 50,000 votes required to stay on the ballot in the next election cycle. This has been complicated by the Cuomo-backed Women’s Equality Party, which may suck votes from the WFP. In Democratic-leaning New York, this internecine liberal fight could have effects down the road. The WFP could potentially lose its ballot line, which would limit its ability to pull the party to the left in future mayoral and gubernatorial elections.
The “Brian Lehrer Show” on local NPR affiliate WNYC has been covering this aspect of the race closely, and spoke to former city council speaker and WEP advocate Christine Quinn last week to press her on the potential fallout for New York’s liberal wing. New Yorkers looking to follow this local fight should check out Lehrer’s stream of the results tonight at 9 p.m.
ABC News’ first two major Senate projections of the night — for Republican Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and, just a few minutes ago, for Republican Tom Cotton in Arkansas — went in the direction pre-election polls predicted. Republicans have an 80 percent chance of winning the Senate, according to our live-updating forecast. That’s up only slightly from 76 percent in our pre-election forecast. A call in a more competitive state — like Georgia — would do more to move the numbers.
Still, both Kentucky and Arkansas looked more competitive at points earlier in the cycle. Mark Pryor, the Democratic incumbent in Arkansas, had a roughly 34 percent chance to hold his seat when we launched the FiveThirtyEight model on Sept. 2 — those chances fell to 4 percent by Election Day. For Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky, the odds fell from 23 percent to 2 percent.
As we’ve written before, the polls often converge toward the “fundamentals” in a state over the course of the election, and particularly its overall partisan orientation. The fact that so many important Senate races are being held in red states this year is part of what makes the environment so challenging for Democrats.
John Kasich is the projected gubernatorial winner in Ohio.
A few weeks ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave an argument for backing GOP gubernatorial candidates that was grounded squarely in 2016 presidential implications: By winning gubernatorial posts in 2014, he argued that the party would control the voting process in key states in the next presidential race. Specifically, he asked: “Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?” All three are swing states that Obama won in 2012.
There are a lot of reasons to prefer that your party’s candidate wins key gubernatorial races. But help in presidential elections isn’t one of those reasons. In a 2002 article in PS, a political science journal, Emory political scientist Alan Abramowitz looked into the question of whether winning a governor’s seat helped in the next presidential election. His key conclusion: “After controlling for the Democratic share of the major party vote in the previous presidential election, Bill Clinton and Al Gore actually did slightly worse in battleground states with Democratic governors than in battleground states with Republican governors.”
Kansas is ruby red in presidential elections, but for a slew of reasons, both Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican Sen. Pat Roberts have faced challenging re-election campaigns. FiveThirtyEight has given Roberts a better chance of winning than Brownback. Although we only have a few votes reported so far, Roberts is getting nearly 6 percentage points more of the vote than Brownback is. This could be a state, like Colorado, in which the Democrat wins the governor’s race, but the Republican wins the Senate race.
Voters in Colorado are deciding today whether to change the state’s Criminal Code and Wrongful Death Statute and define a fetus as a person for the purposes of those two laws. Opponents of Colorado’s Constitutional Amendment 67 say such a measure would criminalize women who seek abortions and doctors who provide the procedure. Proponents are looking to recognize crimes against fetuses — spurred by the case of Heather Surovik, the Colorado woman who lost her fetus in a car accident in 2012.
Similar “personhood” amendments were on the ballot in Colorado in 2008 and 2010, but were defeated handedly each time (73 percent against Amendment 48 in 2008, and 71 percent against Amendment 62 in 2010). A Suffolk University/USA Today poll from September shows Amendment 67 also failing, but by a much closer margin — 45 percent against and 35 percent in favor (the rest were undecided or refused to answer).
But Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, said that supporters of the ballot initiative have framed this initiative differently, using language about “protecting pregnant women.”
“What we’re left with is this kind of clunky way to ban abortion,” she said.
Turns out, when you look at it that way, there is a relationship, though not an incredibly strong one. Voters seem to be more optimistic in states where the unemployment rate has fallen more quickly in the past year. Meanwhile in West Virginia, where voters are the most pessimistic about the direction of the economy, the unemployment rate has actually risen over the last 12 months.
It’s early, but with 8 percent of the expected vote reporting in Georgia, Republican David Perdue leads Democrat Michelle Nunn 59-39. Those results mean little since Georgia’s demographics vary so heavily from county to county and precinct to precinct.
A more informative number may be the share of the vote going to the third-party candidate, Libertarian Amanda Swafford, since those numbers tend to stabilize more quickly. So far, it’s just 2 percent. That could make it easier for Perdue — or Nunn — to avoid a runoff and get over 50 percent of the vote. Pre-election surveys had given Swafford and average of 3 percent to 4 percent of the vote instead.
- Big night for firsts: West Virginia has elected its first female senator, Rep. Shelly Moore Capito. South Carolina has elected the first black Southern senator since Reconstruction, Tim Scott.
- The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chief says that at least 2016 will be good for Democrats.
- Kristen Wyatt at the AP reports that early data appears to show Florida voting for medical marijuana by a larger margin than Colorado did in 2012. Still, Florida needs to cross a substantial 60 percent threshold to get medical cannabis.
With the announcement of Republican Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s loss to Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, we have one of the first incumbent losses of the 2014 general election. Which raises a question: Will 2014 be an anti-incumbent year?
Incumbent candidates are almost certain to win at a very high rate in both federal and state elections. Even in 2010, some 86 percent of House incumbents won their bids — and that year had the lowest re-election rate since at least 1972.
Yet we should be careful not to confuse how often incumbents win with something political scientists call the “incumbency advantage” — the electoral benefit that incumbent candidates receive relative to similar candidates who are not incumbents.
In the decades after 1960, being an incumbent conferred a sizable electoral advantage in and of itself. That was true not just for members of Congress but for a wide range of elected officials, whether highly visible (like senators and governors) or all but unknown (say, state auditors). But in the most recent election cycles, the advantage of being an incumbent seems to have waned. Fewer voters are willing to cross party lines, even for an incumbent with a track record of helping his or her constituents.
So yes, incumbents do manage to win at strikingly high rates. But that is to an important extent because most incumbents are from the same party as most of their constituents. The actual advantage of being an incumbent is real — but it is smaller than it used to be, and quite possibly too small to keep incumbents like Arkansas’s Mark Pryor in the Senate.
From Polk County, Iowa, to Bay County, Michigan and Houston, Texas, American voters have been complaining today that they didn’t get their “I Voted” stickers. If you’re one of them, don’t worry. You can buy 1,000 such stickers from a company called Intab for $6.95. (Intab describes itself as “a national and international supplier of election products.”) Given standard delivery times though, you’ll have to wear the sticker 2 to 5 business days after the election. Or you could just hang onto it for 2016.
Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city, has 67 percent of its precincts reporting. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is leading in Manchester by a little over 6 percentage points. She won the city by a similar margin in 2008. Shaheen won statewide by a little over 6 percentage points then.
West Virginia was once a famously Democratic state: Jimmy Carter won it in 1980 even while losing in a landslide to Ronald Reagan, and Michael Dukakis won there in 1988. But it became slightly more Republican than the national average in 2000 and has gotten more and more so since. In 2012, President Obama lost it by 27 percentage points — in an election he won nationally by 4. Sure, Obama’s never been popular in West Virginia, but that was a huge decline even as compared with 2008, when he lost by 13 points instead.
Democrats argue that West Virginia is less Republican outside of presidential races and they have a point: Conservative Democrat Joe Manchin was elected to the U.S. Senate there in 2010 and re-elected easily in 2012. But Manchin wasn’t given much of a challenge — his opponent in both years was perennial candidate John Raese. The Democratic candidate for Senate this year, Natalie Tennant, faced a much better opponent in Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and projects to lose by double digits. The seat, previously held by retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, may be hard for the party to win back.
One more interesting tidbit about the economy in those preliminary exit polls: There doesn’t seem to be much correlation between how Americans view the economy and how their states are actually doing.
According to the exit polls, the states where voters were most pessimistic (that is, the states where the most people said the economy is on the “wrong track”) were West Virginia, Louisiana, Kansas and Arkansas. The most optimistic voters (the fewest saying we’re on the “wrong track”) were in Minnesota, Michigan, Colorado, Oregon and Illinois.
As the chart below makes clear, there’s pretty much no relationship between those responses and the states’ unemployment rates. In Kansas, for example, 72 percent of voters say the country is on the wrong track, despite an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent, one of the best in the country. Voters in Oregon, meanwhile, are fairly optimistic despite a 7.1 percent unemployment rate.
Even in Oregon, though, voters aren’t that optimistic. A solid majority of Oregon voters — 58 percent — still say we’re on the wrong track. In fact, there isn’t a single state where most voters think the U.S. is on the right track.
We’ve warned about reading too much into early exit polls, and I wanted to reemphasize that caution as returns from Georgia come in. Although there aren’t too many votes counted in Georgia yet, Republican David Perdue is overperforming Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss’s 2008 performance in the majority of counties that have reported so far, according The Huffington Post.
Chambliss won 49.8 percent of the vote in that race — just shy of the 50 percent +1 he needs to win outright this evening. The question will be whether these results hold as the counties around Atlanta begin to report. The Atlanta metropolitan area has seen major population growth recently.
It’s an old Election Day habit to wonder if the weather played any role in the outcome. The weather today was apparently pretty nice (or at least rain-free) in some of the key states such as North Carolina and New Hampshire. But there was rain in parts of Iowa, leading me to wonder: Is that precipitation likely to matter for Joni Ernst, Bruce Braley or control of the U.S. Senate?
Political science literature says weather can matter. In a 2007 article in the Journal of Politics, Brad Gomez, Thomas Hansford and George Krause make the answer clear from the very title: “The Republicans Should Pray for Rain.” But there’s a catch, as Bernard Fraga and Eitan Hersh contend in a 2010 article in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science: It’s true that rain depresses turnout, but it does so principally in noncompetitive races.
The weather might matter most for turnout in the contests where it matters least.
We now have more than 1.5 million votes reported for the Florida gubernatorial election. You can see why we’re expecting a very close race in this graphic from The Huffington Post. It compares President Obama’s margin in 2012 and the margins in the counties reporting so far. Obama won that race by a little less than 1 percentage point, so Democrat Charlie Crist does not have much room for error.
Crist is matching Obama in some counties, but is underperforming in others. This corresponds with pre-election polls that showed a very tight race.
There were the usual “I voted” statements on social media today, but there were also frustrated voices complaining about being unable to fill out a ballot.
Earlier this year, Ohio started a system that could remove people from the voting rolls if they are registered to vote in more than one state, and lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would change voter ID requirements. In an article last week, my colleague Hayley Munguia wrote about the push for stricter voter ID laws:
“According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 24 states considered for Tuesday’s election legislation to implement stricter voter ID standards. Of those, 12 states’ proposals garnered enough support to make it on the ballot.”
All that reflects a longer-term trend: It’s gotten harder to vote in the United States.
- Local viewers are seeing the final political ads of the cycle in certain localities. Here’s one anchor commemorating the last political ad to air on Denver’s 9 News.
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reminds voters to please refrain from taking selfies while voting, since doing so can be illegal.
- ABC’s Rick Klein reports that exit polls are showing GOP turnout at a 20-year low in Kansas, where incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts is fighting off a challenge from independent candidate Greg Orman.
- Welcome to the “McConnellsance.”
Anti-abortion initiatives are on ballots in three states tonight, but the most likely to pass is Tennessee’s Constitutional Amendment 1, which would amend the language in the state constitution to read: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”
The amendment would allow Tennessee legislators to implement a host of new restrictions, said Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. “If this initiative were to become law, I would expect we would start to see a lot of the kinds of restrictions we’ve been seeing in other states, from waiting periods, inaccurate counseling, and a broad abortion coverage ban.”
While its neighbors have passed a slate of abortion restrictions, Tennessee has only eight, including some less restrictive measures. Anti-abortion legislation has been stymied in the Volunteer State by a state Supreme Court decision in 2000 that knocked down many of the more restrictive abortion laws there. Since 2000, legislators have been trying to get something like Amendment 1 back on the ballot, Nash said — unsuccessfully, so far.
Why is the measure likely to pass? First, Tennessee residents lean anti-abortion. Second, the top of the ticket isn’t competitive; Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to win re-election easily. Left-leaning voters may not turn out to support Charles V. Brown, the Democratic candidate for governor and an interesting guy, clearing the way for Amendment 1. There is one wild card: Tennessee law dictates that for a ballot measure to pass, it must earn a majority of the number of votes cast in the gubernatorial election, so it’s possible more voters will tick “yes” for Amendment 1 than will tick “no,” but not enough to make it law.
Another strong early sign for Republicans is the close margin that exit polls show in Virginia. The Democrat, Mark Warner, is slightly ahead in the exit polls, but not by as much as in pre-election surveys, which put him up by an average of 9 percentage points.
Warner is still the favorite to pull out the race: Exit polls aren’t necessarily all that informative as compared with pre-election surveys. We’ll be getting more real votes in soon. But for what it’s worth, if Republican Ed Gillespie wins, it would be one of the bigger polling errors in recent memory in a Senate election — a once-or-twice-a-decade type miss. The FiveThirtyEight model gave Gillespie just a 0.5 percent shot (1 chance in 200) of winning based on its pre-election forecast.
Sen. Mitch McConnell — who was thought to be in some danger earlier this year — is projected to win in Kentucky, and he’s matching or slightly exceeding his performance from 2008. We can see this well in this graphic from The Huffington Post that looks at McConnell’s 2014 vote performance by county versus 2008:
McConnell won that election by 6 percentage points. That’s probably part of the reason ABC News has already projected him the winner over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.
ABC News has projected that Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell will retain his Senate seat in Kentucky. Although McConnell had a comfortable lead over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the polls — he was a 98 percent favorite in FiveThirtyEight’s final pre-election forecast — the speed of the call is the first sign of a good night for Republicans.
Our live-updating election night forecast, which is based on states where a winner has been projected by ABC News, has Republicans’ Senate takeover chances up to 78 percent, from 76 percent originally. It does not account for McConnell’s potential margin of victory.
There’s a longstanding paradox in American politics: Democrats consistently win among women, yet many liberal strongholds in the Northeast — Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts — have never elected a female Democratic governor. That could finally change tonight.
Neither Rhode Island nor Massachusetts has ever elected a female governor (Democratic or Republican) and each has female candidates in the running tonight. Our final gubernatorial forecasts showed Massachusetts Democratic candidate Martha Coakley with only a 15 percent chance of winning, but Rhode Island Democratic candidate Gina Raimondo with a 77 percent chance of defeating her male opponent, Allan Fung.
Should Raimondo win tonight (as we expect) the map below would reflect the number of states that have ever elected female governors:
CORRECTION (7:08 p.m.): An earlier version of this post misidentified the Republican opponent of Gina Raimondo in Rhode Island; he is Allan Fung, not Lincoln Chafee.
Back in September, FiveThirtyEight contributor David Wasserman wrote that the diversity gap between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives was on track to be the widest it’s been in decades.
Even as Democrats have elected more women and minorities in recent years, Republicans have continued voting in white men — sometimes over women and minority candidates in GOP primaries.
In the last two years, the demographic chasm between the parties has widened. Eight members of the 113th House of Representatives have been elected in special elections since 2012. All six Republican winners have been white men, five of whom prevailed over women in their primaries. Both Democratic winners have been women who prevailed over men in their primaries.
The midterms will only accelerate this trend, Wasserman predicted. Using projections less than two months out from the election — and bearing in mind that only 10 percent of House races are competitive this year — he projected white Republican men to hold about 210 seats in the the next Congress, compared to just 30 seats for Republican women and minorities combined. The Democrats look far more diverse by comparison: Wasserman estimated white Democratic men would hold about 86 seats, and Democratic women and minorities would hold 109.
- Fox News appears to have broken the rules and announced exit poll returns before the end of voting in New Hampshire. This is frowned upon as it has the potential to influence — and possibly discourage — voters.
- Josh Barro at The Upshot reports that Nevada could elect the first openly transgender legislator tonight. Polls close there at 10 p.m. EST.
- The Denver Post describes how a recount would work in Colorado. There are two very close statewide races there — governor and senator — so keep an eye out if someone wins by a margin of less than 0.5 percent, as a recount is then guaranteed.
- Kanye West, a popular performer, would like you to know that he met with the president two weeks ago, he’s supporting the Democratic ticket, he considers the midterms extremely important and urges people to vote. This aligns his political sympathies with those of his wife, Kim Kardashian. Oh god, please let us get returns soon.
Colorado, which faces a key Senate race, has switched over to conducting all elections by mail. Some people have claimed this will pose a challenge for pollsters — but in the two other states to conduct all-mail balloting, Washington and Oregon — polls have been more accurate than the national average.
The average error among all polls in FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings database, which covers polls in the final three weeks of campaigns since 1998, is 5.3 percentage points. In Washington, however, it’s been 4.4 points, and 4.0 in Oregon.
Overall, Harry Enten and I are skeptical about the skepticism of polling results in Colorado. Mail balloting provides for hard data ahead of Election Day about the rate of ballot returns among different parties. In Colorado, those numbers have generally been poor for Democrats. Initial exit polls also suggest that Democrats have had poor turnout in Colorado.
The economy hasn’t gotten as much attention this year as in the presidential race two years ago — senators and governors, individually, just don’t have as much influence over the economy as the president does. But make no mistake: Voters are thinking about the economy when they head to the polls.
According to preliminary exit polls, 45 percent of voters listed the economy as their top issue. That’s down from recent years (59 percent of voters were most worried about the economy in 2012), but it’s still the biggest issue on people’s minds. Seven in 10 voters say the economy is in bad shape. Only about a third say it’s getting better.
On the surface, that might seem surprising. The unemployment rate is down to 5.9 percent. Job growth has been strong. Gross domestic product has posted consecutive quarters of solid gains.
But dig a bit deeper and the exit polls make more sense. The recession ended five years ago, but the U.S. median household income has been flat in the recovery and is still 8 percent lower than it was in 2007. Household wealth isn’t doing any better. Home values are still far below their peak.
So while the economy as a whole is improving, many families are missing out on those gains.
That’s weighing on voters’ minds: According to the exit polls, 25 percent of Tuesday’s voters say their own financial situation is worse than it was two years ago, and nearly half say it’s about the same. Only 28 percent think their situation has improved. Those figures are better than they were in 2008, 2010 or 2012, but they’re still pretty grim.
- There’s a Facebook app making the rounds that reminds you it’s Election Day, and it appears to be legit. Eyder Peralta at NPR reports on how the app makes a demonstrable difference in turnout. And if you shared it, you may have inspired some friends to go vote.
- Jason Clayworth at The Des Moines Register reports that Iowans who voted early really should check the Secretary of State’s website to make sure their ballots, in fact, got there.
- Meanwhile, the AP is reporting that people don’t like the candidates they’re voting for.
- Kansas — which was already a particularly interesting state this cycle — has been ordered by a federal judge today to allow same-sex couples to marry, the AP reports.
Voters in Florida are deciding today whether to legalize medical marijuana in their state. According to Florida law, Amendment 2 (the “Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative”) needs 60 percent of the vote to pass. But polls show Florida’s seniors, a crucial voting bloc, aren’t much more favorably disposed to medical marijuana than they are to recreational weed.
Senior citizens remain strongly opposed to legalizing marijuana, even as a majority of Americans support it. Quinnipiac University asked registered voters in Florida three times from November 2013 to July 2014 whether they wanted to allow “adults in Florida to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use?” On average, 52 percent of voters said that they did. For those age 65 and over, it was 34 percent.
How about polling specifically on Amendment 2? SurveyUSA conducted five polls in September and October and found that, on average, 53 percent of voters were going to vote for Amendment 2, with just 38 percent of people 65 and older in favor. The gap between seniors and the rest of Florida was 15 percentage points — similar to the difference on the recreational marijuana question seen in the Quinnipiac surveys.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Seniors don’t disproportionately use medical marijuana. In fact, most people who use medical marijuana are fairly young, even if older people tend to have more health problems.
Not all surveys are as pessimistic about Amendment 2’s chance of passing, and it’s difficult to poll ballot measures; it wouldn’t be shocking if Amendment 2 passed. But if it does pass, it will likely be in spite of Florida’s older voters.
In my evaluation of governors’ economic records earlier today, I focused on states where incumbents are facing tough challenges. But several other states are interesting for another reason: Their presidential implications.
Take Ohio: Tonight’s vote isn’t likely to carry a lot of drama for Gov. John Kasich, who’s a 19-percentage point favorite in FiveThirtyEight’s model. But he’s considered a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, so it’s worth looking at how his economic record measures up.
The answer: pretty well. My very simple model — just a linear regression based on state and national unemployment rates — shows Ohio’s unemployment rate should be about 5.9 percent right now. In fact, it’s 5.6 percent. The model is too imprecise to draw any big conclusions, and it doesn’t tell us anything about whether Kasich himself deserves credit. But at the very least it suggests Ohio is doing comparatively well economically.
It’s a bit of a different story in New Mexico, home to another Republican governor generating presidential buzz, Susana Martinez. Martinez, like Kasich, is a big favorite to win re-election, but her economic record is more ambiguous.
New Mexico came through the recession in comparatively good shape — its unemployment rate topped out at 8 percent, compared to 10 percent nationally — but its recovery has been weaker. Its unemployment rate was 6.6 percent in September, well above the national mark of 5.9 percent. But it isn’t clear whether Martinez deserves the blame for that: New Mexico is about where our simple model suggests it should be.
Sometime soon, precincts all across Kentucky will start reporting votes, and we’ll get some numbers in Jefferson County, home to Louisville. The Democratic candidate, Alison Lundergan Grimes, will probably win there, but what does that mean? It means nothing out of context.
So here’s some context. We’ve produced maps for seven of the most competitive Senate races to help you understand the county-by-county results as they come in.
On all our maps, the number over each county represents the percentage-point margin the Democratic candidate needs in order to produce a tie statewide. For example, we have +17 over Jefferson County. That means, roughly speaking, Grimes needs to win Jefferson by more than 17 percentage points in order to defeat Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell statewide.
The maps are based on past election results. The Kentucky map is modeled off McConnell’s last re-election campaign in 2008. Because there is a different Democratic candidate this year, and because state demographics change, the map is a benchmark. We guarantee it will not be perfectly predictive. Candidates will overperform the benchmark in some counties and underperform it in others.
Overall though, these maps will be a good guide as the county-level results roll in.
Waiting for the polls to close on election night focuses our attention on what we don’t know. But as the results start to come in, it’s worth reminding ourselves of what we already do know. For one thing, today’s Senate and gubernatorial elections give every indication of following the nationalizing trend I wrote about back in March. The thesis in short: Voters in statewide elections increasingly decide whom to vote for based on their reactions to national politics.
Most of the attention tonight will be focused on the closest Senate races. But in the 30 most lopsided Senate elections (according to FiveThirtyEight’s model), there is just a single seat — the one currently held by Republican Susan Collins in Maine — where the likely winner is not from the political party that won that state in the last presidential election. And even among the six seats with the most uncertainty, three of them (Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina) were also uncertain in the 2012 presidential election.
Maybe that level of nationalization isn’t surprising for Senate races. The Senate, after all, is part of the federal government, and has been controlled by the president’s party. But even on the gubernatorial side, where there are a host of close races, national alignments appear predictive. Take the 23 gubernatorial races where FiveThirtyEight’s model gave one party more than a 90 percent chance of winning. In just four of those cases (Ohio, Nevada, New Mexico and Iowa) the likely winner is not from the party that took the state in the 2012 presidential race. What’s more, all four of those states have been swing states in presidential races within the past few cycles.
That’s not to say that the alignment between presidential and gubernatorial voting is perfect, or as close as in the Senate races. Even if Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback defies the odds and keeps his seat, he has little chance of a performance as strong as Mitt Romney’s 21.6 percentage point thumping in 2012. On the Democratic side, one could say something similar about Illinois’s Pat Quinn or Connecticut’s Dan Malloy.
All politics isn’t presidential just yet — but a whole lot of it is.
Wisconsin isn’t one of the five states with a statewide ballot initiative on the minimum wage tonight. But you’d be forgiven for thinking it was — Democrats have tried to make the minimum wage one of the dominant issues of Wisconsin’s gubernatorial campaign.
In fact, many Wisconsin voters are casting ballots on the minimum wage in today’s election. Several cities and counties, including Milwaukee and Dane County (home to Madison), have ballot initiatives proposing a $10.10 minimum wage, up from $7.25 now. The proposals aren’t binding, but Democrats are hoping they draw voters to the polls. Republican Gov. Scott Walker is in a tight race for re-election — FiveThirtyEight’s model gives him a 75 percent chance of victory over Democratic challenger Mary Burke.
If the state does raise its minimum wage to $10.10, about 43,000 Wisconsinites — 25 percent of all hourly workers — will get a raise. Two-thirds of them are women, while 17.5 percent of them are raising children, and their median age is 25. A third of them work full-time. (That’s all pretty typical. Minimum-wage opponents often describe low-wage workers as primarily teenagers or others just starting out in the labor market, but that isn’t really true.)
All those numbers are based on one key assumption: Raising Wisconsin’s minimum wage wouldn’t lead to low-wage workers losing their jobs. In general, that’s not an unreasonable assumption — economists disagree about the impact of the minimum wage on employment, but most studies find at most a small effect. But those studies generally look at modest increases to the minimum wage. Employers might have a tougher time adjusting if the minimum suddenly jumped by $2.85. It’s a safe bet that if Wisconsin does raise its minimum wage, it will do so in phases.
Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize and tax marijuana in 2012, hallmark victories for a political movement that had spent decades chipping away at U.S. drug law through decriminalization and medical marijuana initiatives. That effort continues in 2014, with Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia all voting on some form of cannabis legalization (thought the D.C. initiative is closer to “full decriminalization,” since it wouldn’t establish a legal marketplace for marijuana). A fourth state, Florida, will be voting to allow medical marijuana, with 60 percent required for the initiative to pass.
D.C.’s measure is likely to succeed, which could set up a dramatic conflict between state and federal drug enforcement as Congress has final say over all D.C. law. Oregon, Alaska and Florida are expected to be much tighter votes. About 12.2 million Americans currently live in states with completely legal weed, and that number would climb to 17.6 million should all three legalization initiatives pass. If Florida’s medical initiative succeeds, 122.3 million Americans — just under 40 percent — would still live in states where marijuana is completely illegal and criminalized.
National support for the legalization of marijuana has grown steadily since 1990, with a (slim) majority now in favor. A larger number of states, including California, are expected to vote on legalization in 2016.
Throughout the evening on our live blog, we’ll be publishing an updated probability that Republicans or Democrats win the Senate, along with their probabilities of winning the key Senate races. These probabilities will use FiveThirtyEight’s final pre-election forecast as a baseline, which gave Republicans a 76 percent chance of winning the Senate. But they’ll deviate from them as our partners at ABC News project winners in each state.
We wanted to keep the model simple. (It’s hard to implement a complicated new product on an election night and even harder to be sure that it isn’t making mistakes.) So, with a couple of exceptions that I’ll describe below, the updated probabilities will be based on the winners and losers of states only, as they’re projected by ABC News. To repeat, like Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, the election night model only cares about W’s and L’s. It will not make any inferences from partial vote counts or from margins of victory.
To give an example of how this works: Let’s say that North Carolina is projected by ABC News to go for Democrat Kay Hagan. If it were the first state called, Democrats’ odds of retaining the Senate would rise to 34 percent from 24 percent.
The call in North Carolina would be good news for Democrats for two reasons. First, they’ve won a state they were uncertain to win before. That alone is worth something on the path to 50 senators. But second, the results in North Carolina are one indication that Democrats are having a good night nationally — which also means they’d be slightly more likely to win Colorado, New Hampshire and other states.
How do we make inferences about the results in one state from other states? The FiveThirtyEight model works by considering two types of uncertainty. First, there’s state-by-state uncertainty — factors intrinsic to a particular state. It’s much higher in some states — like Alaska, which has been poorly polled — than others like Iowa where polls should be more reliable. Second, there’s national uncertainty — the possibility of an overall bias toward one party or another across the board. In some of our simulations, for example, the model will give a 2 percentage-point boost to the Democrat in every state — in others, it might give a 3-point boost to Republicans.
This latter type of uncertainty — the possibility for an overall bias in the polls — is something we’ll learn more about as the night unfolds. Essentially, the election night model flips the pre-election model’s process on its head, making inferences about the national bias from the results we know so far. The cases where Hagan won North Carolina, for example, were associated, on average, with a national bias of 0.6 percentage points against Democrats. So if Hagan wins, our election night model will add 0.6 percentage to the Democrat’s projected margin of victory in every other state.
What about when Republican Thom Tillis wins North Carolina? Those simulations were associated, on average, with a 1.3 percentage point national bias against Republicans. Note that these figures are asymmetric: A Tillis win would suggest a 1.3 point Democratic bias in the polls; a Hagan win would suggest a 0.6 point Republican bias. Why don’t they match? Because Tillis is an underdog in the polls — and an underdog winning does more to suggest the polls are wrong.
The model also assumes we’ll learn more about the national mood from the states where it expects the polling to be more reliable. We don’t know much about who’s ahead in Alaska in the first place, so it could be dangerous to make inferences about the national race based on who wins there. But in the presidential swing states — Iowa, Colorado, North Carolina and New Hampshire — the polling is usually more reliable. They’ll tell us more about the national trend.
As I said above, the election night model will not make inferences from incomplete vote counts. It will wait until ABC News projects winners in each state.
However, we will have the option of deeming a state “too close to call.” What that means is that we’ll reset the probabilities in a particular state to 50-50, overriding the model’s original forecast. While we don’t expect Alison Lundergan Grimes to win in Kentucky, for example — the model will start her off with just a 2 percent chance — if the vast majority of the vote has been counted there and it’s clear the race will come down to the wire, 50-50 will be a fairer estimate of her chances than our original projection. We intend to use this option very sparingly.
We also have the option of projecting that Louisiana and Georgia will go to runoffs. A runoff would be somewhat good news for Democrat Michelle Nunn in Georgia because she’s unlikely to win 50 percent of the vote tonight.
All of this should be intuitive once the night gets going, and ABC News has made a few projections. Don’t be surprised to see some major swings in the model if some big underdogs win.
We’ve published plenty on today’s election. Here’s a reading list from other sites as we wait for election results to come in:
- Because Senate terms last six years, Senate seats are divided into three classes depending on when they come up for a vote. Today’s election decides Class 2 seats, which, as Patrick J. Egan notes at The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, has come uncoupled from national trends. The states holding Senate elections today, Egan writes, are far less Democratic than the nation as a whole.
- In 2012, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz reported his findings that counting Google searches for “vote” or “voting” could help predict turnout. If that trend holds, turnout this year likely will be in line with 2010, the Upshot’s David Leonhardt reports. That’s bad news for Democrats. University of Florida political scientist Michael McDonald is keeping track of the numbers. He has an early-voting data page and authoritative turnout figures.
- Third-party candidates have won few congressional races since 2006, and probably haven’t swung very many, either. Time projects that just one race likely was swung by a Libertarian candidate: Al Franken’s Senate victory in Minnesota in 2008.
- Lisa Mascaro writes in the Los Angeles Times that at least one African-American Republican candidate and possibly two openly gay Republican candidates could win House seats today.
- Voters in several states have reported getting mailings about their voting records and how they compare to those of their neighbors. Todd Rogers, a behavioral scientist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, told the Boston Globe that the voter report cards — mailed to 446,000 Massachusetts voters last week — are data-driven. “People are more motivated to vote when they believe others are voting, and vote more than them,” Rogers said. When those turnout figures are available, researchers will have a much bigger sample they can use to evaluate the mailings than they did in earlier experiments. Talking Points Memo focused on the backlash.
- The Wall Street Journal analyzed more than 20 million Facebook posts to find what voters care about the most, depending on which state they live in. The economy is huge in Wisconsin, while energy is, surprisingly, a minor issue in Texas and Louisiana.
This is your biennial reminder not to pay too much attention to exit polls today. The surveys of voters right after they’ve cast their ballots are invaluable gauges of attitudes and demographics. They’ll be useful for political scientists for decades. But on Election Day itself, exit polls have often proven to be a lousy way to ascertain who will win.
In June 2012, my colleague Harry Enten summarized some of the famous exit-poll-fueled misfires. Harry wrote that article just after exit polls had indicated, wrongly as it turned out, that Milwaukee Mayor Tommy Barrett might win the recall election for governor in Wisconsin. That and other miscues aside, there are a bunch of methodological reasons to handle the exit polls with care, as FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver detailed in 2008.
So don’t look to exit-poll numbers to predict races. Do look to them for lots of other interesting information. With the help of Daniel M. Merkle, director of elections at ABC News (owned by the Walt Disney Co., which owns 80 percent of FiveThirtyEight’s parent, ESPN), here’s a guide to how and where the exit polls will be conducted, who’s paying, and when to look for results:
- Each of the six members of the National Election Pool (NEP) — ABC News, the Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News — is spending “millions” of dollars on the exit polling, Merkle said. (The exact amount isn’t public.) Edison Research conducts the polls, as it has since 2003.
- Thousands of exit-poll interviewers are surveying Americans nationwide — with samples big enough for statewide estimates in 27 states, most of which have a competitive Senate race, a close gubernatorial election or both: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
- The NEP plans to complete at least 60,000 interviews.
- “Starting around 5:45 p.m. [EST] on Election Day, exit poll analyses of demographic information about voter turnout and issues will be available on ABCNews.com,” Merkle said. “Complete exit poll cross tabulations will be posted on ABCNews.com at each state’s poll-closing time.”
Leaked, raw exit-poll numbers could emerge at any time and place beforehand — but, again, we advise treating them with caution.
- Joe Lenski, executive vice president of Edison Research, says the company typically pays its interviewers between $200 and $300 for the day’s work. Most are veteran exit pollsters, but the company hired and trained new interviewers this year for states that aren’t usually battlegrounds, such as Alaska and Kansas.
FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver and senior political writer Harry Enten set up election night with a discussion of which returns will come in when, and which contests might not be decided for days or weeks.
It’s Election Day — the time when votes are cast and narratives are spun. At FiveThirtyEight, we’ve been waiting for this for months. Our editor in chief, Nate Silver, is stocked with enough Red Bull to power a city block. Senior political writer Harry Enten has been doing calisthenics in preparation. Our team of experts — on the economy, the environment, political science, etc. — are standing by to bring you the kind of statsy, no-B.S. coverage FiveThirtyEight is known for. It’s going to be a great night.
It will also likely be a long night. The live blog — this very thing you’re reading right now — will ramp up at 5 p.m. EST with some posts about what to watch for as the results come in. At 7 p.m., the words will start to flow even faster as we get our first look at vote tallies. This page will auto-update any time there’s a new post, and the fancy widget on the right side of the screen will show our changing Senate forecast as ABC News projects winners in each race.
So bookmark this page, tell all your friends, order that pizza, and keep us on while you watch TV. We make great company.
Live coverage of the 2014 midterm elections. Send questions and comments to @fivethirtyeight.