Who'd control Congress today? Midweek midterm elections update

Who'd control Congress today? Midweek midterm elections update                   

Bottom Line: We’re down to crunch time with under two weeks until Election Day. First, here's what history tells us about midterm elections...                

Since the advent of the current two-party system (39 midterm elections) we've averaged the President's party losing 4 Senate seats and 30 seats in the House. If that happens this year Democrats would retake control of both chambers of Congress. Democrats only need to flip two Senate seats to retake control and they need 24 seats in the House. History is on the side of the Democrats reclaiming control going into this cycle.   

There are only three times that the incumbent President's party has gained seats (1934 during FDR's first term, 1998 during Bill Clinton's second term and 2002 during George W. Bush's first term) thus only 3 out of 39 midterm elections have resulted in the President's party gaining seats. Here's another way of looking at it... History suggests there's a 92% chance Democrats will gain Congressional seats this year. The question becomes how many. That's where it's helpful to look at the history of generic ballot polls and outcomes. These are the past four cycles:                                    

The first number is the average generic ballot polling on Election Day and the second is the actual result:  

  • 2014: GOP +2.4 - GOP +5.7 = GOP +3.3%                                    
  • 2010: GOP +9.4 - GOP +6.8 = GOP -2.6%                                    
  • 2006: DEM +11.5 - DEM +7.9 = DEM -3.6%                                    
  • 2002: GOP +1.7 - GOP +4.6 = GOP +2.9%                                    

Polls average being off by about 3% - however history has shown that the party with a generic ballot advantage has always performed the best in the midterm elections. This is analogous to a "home field advantage" and represents about a third of the picture when attempting to determine the likely outcome of elections. As of today, the generic ballot says (average of accredited polling over the past week) ...        

  • Current: DEM: +8%                                  

For the first time in over a month there’s a change in the average generic ballot advantage for Democrats. They’ve added a point to their lead. If the current landscape holds on Election Day, we’re looking at a range of around 27 to 32 pickups for Democrats in the House which would be enough to gain control. The Senate map is favorable enough for Republicans that as of today it actually looks like if there’s any change – it'll be a net pickup for Republicans. Here’s what I’m comfortable saying at this point within two weeks of the election. Republicans will outperform historical averages. As mentioned at the onset, an average outcome would be a loss of four seats in the Senate and 30 seats in the House. Republicans are positioned to fare better than those averages. If this outlook holds Republicans are well positioned to retain control of the US Senate but would likely narrowly lose the US House.  

Tracking South Florida’s toss ups... In most simulations of House scenarios, I’ve found that the party which wins two of the three South Florida toss-ups (18, 26 and 27) will likely control the House. As of now we’re seeing Brian Mast lead in 18, Carlos Curbelo in 26 is polling ahead by about a point. The 27th between Donna Shalala and Maria Elvira Salazar shaping up to be closer than pundits thought originally but with Shalala currently polling ahead (coming into the cycle this was considered the easiest pickup in the House for Democrats).     

The individual characteristics of these races project a more neutral election landscape in which the candidates and the issues matter most. In a wave style election, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. 

Democrats have led on the generic ballot by an average of 3% to 12% in 2018. Anything in the 8%+ range has the potential to produce a "wave" type of election – we're right there currently. Anything in the 4% or under range would likely result in Republicans retaining complete control. Individual candidates and issues in specific races can heavily influence outcomes however Democrats appear to be gaining momentum as we’re down to the final two months before the midterms.         

Until next time...    

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