Monday, March 24, 2014

Imagine This Frightening Scenario

President Barack Obama wakes up on the morning of November 5, 2014 with a headache:

When FiveThirtyEight last issued a U.S. Senate forecast — way back in July — we concluded the race for Senate control was a toss-up. That was a little ahead of the conventional wisdom at the time, which characterized the Democrats as vulnerable but more likely than not to retain the chamber.

Our new forecast goes a half-step further: We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber. The Democrats’ position has deteriorated somewhat since last summer, with President Obama’s approval ratings down to 42 or 43 percent from an average of about 45 percent before. Furthermore, as compared with 2010 or 2012, the GOP has done a better job of recruiting credible candidates, with some exceptions.

As always, we encourage you to read this analysis with some caution. Republicans have great opportunities in a number of states, but only in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana and Arkansas do we rate the races as clearly leaning their way. Republicans will also have to win at least two toss-up races, perhaps in Alaska, North Carolina or Michigan, or to convert states such as New Hampshire into that category. And they’ll have to avoid taking losses of their own in Georgia and Kentucky, where the fundamentals favor them but recent polls show extremely competitive races.

Short answer: The GOP has a 60% chance of wresting control of the Senate from the Democrats.

Mind you, this is not a fair assessment of the political will of the nation. Recent polls seem to indicate a general distrust of Republicans (can’t find the link right now, but I’ll keep searching) but you have to counterbalance that with the consistent view that the nation has that the government ought to be divided amongst parties.

It comes down to this: Democrats turn out for national elections. They do not turn out for midterm and local elections. Republicans can count on a continual, if dying, base of rock-ribbed voters who will vote no matter how small the election.

Ignorance has its virtues, you see. Bamboozle enough people into believing that you are good for them, and they’ll faithfully follow you like a puppy dog, despite the fact that you kick them every chance you get.

The survival strategy for Democrats is to get out the vote (GOTV). There are precious few things in Silver’s analysis that can be influenced by an effort. You can’t change the demographics of a state or county, most of which tend to be a deep purple, you can’t change the bias of a local or state government that can throw its weight behind the candidate of its party, and you can’t cross your fingers and hope for a wide-spread sex scandal to impact precisely the candidates you want to defeat.

But you can motivate people. One can only hope that President Obama has such a strategy in mind.

After all, Silver was 100% correct in 2008 and 98% correct in 2012. And while his methodology suffers slightly from the same troubles any pollster has in off-year elections (bad data is abundant), to expect Siver to be off by ten percent is asking a lot.

So get up off your butts and get your friends to the polls. Make a difference, because this year, you can.