2018 Midterm Election Recap – What Went Right, And What Went Wrong

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In a threepart series on the 2018 midterm elections, FMShooter made several predictions on expected outcomes in the House and Senate.  We updated these predictions just prior to the election, and with nearly all of the results in, we will examine where we (and the election itself) went right and wrong, unlike many other pundits who have instead chosen to make excuses for their mistakes.

In spite of boasting by President Trump and virtue signaling liberals on the 2018 midterm elections, it is difficult for either party to claim a victory.  While some on the right will argue that “the sitting party isn’t supposed to win midterm elections” and others on the left will claim victory with the return of Speaker Pelosi, the fact of the matter is, the outcome was largely the “market expectation”, and far less will change politically than anticipated.

We will start off by sharing the expected final Senate map at 270 To Win

…and begin the discussion with the positive election takeaways for Trump’s GOP, and our calls.

What went right

Barring something unforeseen in Arizona, Florida or Montana, the GOP will wind up 54 Senate seats, which was exactly our called “over/under” for the upper legislative chamber.  We were resoundingly correct in our predictions for Missouri, Tennessee, North Dakota, all of which the GOP won easily, in predicting Arizona and Florida’s close GOP wins, and in predicting Manchin’s DNC win in West Virginia.  And while we predicted a close contest in Indiana, the GOP ended up running away with it, with Braun defeating Donnelly by 9.5 points.

And in the one race that we notably did not call, we correctly predicted Montana’s razor-thin contest, which appears will be won by Tester.  In our election guide update, we noted the following regarding Libertarian Rick Breckenridge abandoning his candidacy to support Rosendale:

In 2006, Tester won by 3,562 votes, with Libertarian Stan Jones receiving 10,377 votes.  In 2012, Tester won by 18,072 votes, with Libertarian Dan Cox receiving 31,892 votes.  The race could come down to just how many Libertarian voters abandon the party to support Rosendale.  

At last count, the Montana Secretary of State had Tester up by 9,744 votes, with 99% of precincts reporting:

While we can’t fathom the logic of voting for a candidate who has abandoned his platform, we especially can’t fathom the type of logic behind a voter casting a ballot for Gianforte AND Tester, as at least 18,000 voters did in this election.  If just 1/3th of the 30,000 voters in question had voted for Rosendale, we would have been going to a recount.  Our self-professed ignorance on the state’s politics is perhaps more than part of the reason we can’t explain the 4% of voters voting for Gianforte and Tester, much less the nearly 3% of Libertarians who chose to vote for Breckenridge in spite of his pleas.

Finally in the “good” section was the Gubernatorial races.  While we did not discuss them in our election preview, Republicans picked up major gains in these offices in Ohio, Florida, Georgia, and Iowa, in spite of heavy liberal campaigning.  Perhaps tellingly, Republicans came within 1.3% of capturing the Connecticut governorship, in a state which has seen its tax base decimated due to non-stop tax increases.  This will be something to monitor in future races.

What went wrong

We’ll start with the obvious – we were wrong about the House, and the pundits were right.  While it looked like the GOP had a shot at holding a narrow house majority, that quickly evaporated as results from swing districts like FL-26 came in.  We thought demographics and incumbency would save many of these candidates, but it seems most of the candidates that were done in were “Never Trump” types that did not stand behind the President:

Also, we should have followed our first hunch on the Nevada race, where we noted the following:

Both Heller and Rosen are flawed candidates, and this race will ultimately be lost more than it is won.  However, given Heller’s low overall likability, combined with a voting record that may keep Republican voters home, we think he loses this one by a slightly wider margin than his original victory, and we expect Rosen to be elected to Nevada’s Senate seat.  

This ended up being the correct assessment.  However, we listened to a number of Republicans in Nevada who were confident that Heller would win, which when coupled with our own partisan tilt following the Kavanaugh confirmations, led us to abandon this analysis and flip the call:

While we fully acknowledge our pro-Trump bias has caused us to favor Heller, with Trump’s support, Heller has changed the tilt in this race, and as such, we are changing our prediction, and we now expect Heller to be re-elected to Nevada’s Senate seat.  

Sometimes, its better just to stick with your gut feeling.  We should have done that with Nevada.  

Looking ahead to 2020

Obviously, President Trump’s re-election campaign will dominate this cycle.  Comparing the 2018 results with the 2016 Presidential election results will leave anyone who wants to see a Trump win a little worried.  Trump will need to capture one of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, without losing Ohio or Florida, to retain the Presidency.  If those states stay blue and the rest of the map holds, this will result in a loss:

As Montana, Ohio and West Virginia demonstrate, it is foolish to extrapolate Senate results into a Presidential election, but it is certainly an indicator that 2020 is shaping up to be a very tight election.  

In the Senate, the 2020 map is about as unfavorable for the GOP as it was favorable in 2018.  Republicans will need to defend Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina, and several others, with Democrats only needing to defend Alabama.  For years, everyone knew the Senate map would be good for the GOP in 2018, and the reverse has been known for 2020.  Trump and the GOP will need to play major defense to maintain their newly-gained seats.

Final Notes

As we have previously detailed, liberals moving from high-tax blue states to low-tax red ones are taking their political allegiances that destroyed their state governments with them:

But there’s a second element to this shift: These citizens moving from these blue states to red states aren’t just abandoning political loyalties while they’re at it. They are still going to maintain their same beliefs in their new homes, which has caused some seemingly “safe” red states to come into question.

This is particularly troubling for places like Georgia and Texas. These higher volumes of people in typically liberal industries such as entertainment and technology have suggested potential political shifting, noted in the 2016 election. And while both states did end up safely red this time around, neither was as comfortable a win as Republicans are used to enjoying. President Trump’s margin of victory in Georgia was 6 points. In Texas it was 9, and in North Carolina it was under 4. Those three states alone account for 59 Electoral Votes and an integral part of any Republican’s strategy for victory.

President Trump fortunately has an advantage in turning over the typically-blue rust belt states of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, while losing by only a point and a half in Minnesota. However, if Republicans want to maintain any share of that success in future elections it’ll mean delivering on economic promises and maintaining the faith of those disaffected by Democrat neglect.

Demographic shifts of liberals to red states will make it harder and harder for Republicans to win key states and races.  The GOP may be permanently fighting an uphill battle if some of these red states flip blue.  This is particularly pertinent in Florida, which is facing not only an influx of northeastern liberals moving to the state…

…it is dealing with a number of ex-cons being added to the voter rolls, a group which is known to heavily favor the DNC.

Lastly, if the 2018 midterm elections taught us anything, it is that the non-stop campaign season is here, and it grows more expensive by the day.  Just take a look at the most expensive races:

The ungodly sums of money being spend on the nation’s biennial elections will only grow larger in 2020.  President Trump (and former President Obama) have assured us that “campaign season” will be a year-round affair that never ends, akin to the modern-day NFL.  

If only someone could get to work on campaign finance reform, perhaps the two-party system could find a better way to spend all that money?