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I Hate Congress! Predicting Voter Turnout and Electoral Outcomes in the 2014 Midterm Elections and the Final Two Years of the Obama Presidency Artemus.

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Presentation on theme: "I Hate Congress! Predicting Voter Turnout and Electoral Outcomes in the 2014 Midterm Elections and the Final Two Years of the Obama Presidency Artemus."— Presentation transcript:

1 I Hate Congress! Predicting Voter Turnout and Electoral Outcomes in the 2014 Midterm Elections and the Final Two Years of the Obama Presidency Artemus Ward Department of Political Science Northern Illinois University Batavia Public Library Batavia, IL October 31, 2014

2 The cost of the 2014 midterm elections will be nearly $4 billion – the most expensive midterm election in history. The vast majority of that sum -- $2.7 billion -- will be spent by candidates and parties. (Republicans are expected to spend slightly more -- $1.92 billion to $1.76 billion.) But an additional $900 million will come from outside groups (Super PACs and 527s), a sum that rivals the $1.2 billion those organizations spent in the 2012 presidential cycle. An additional $100 million is being spent by 501 (c) (4) groups –most of them right-wing—like the Koch brothers-aligned American for Prosperity. Does more money equal greater turnout?

3 Voter Turnout: % of Voting-Age Population In 1972, the 26 th Amendment granted voting rights to those age 18 and older. Turnout plummeted.

4 Historical Trends If we look at the presidencies of the 6 other two-term presidents (Bush II, Clinton, Reagan, Eisenhower, Roosevelt, Wilson) and their congresses to predict what President Obama’s fourth Congress may look like, we find that on average, the president’s party loses seats in both the Senate and the House in midterm election. In the 2010 midterm election, the Democrats lost 63 House seats. They will not lose that many this time because there are simply less seats to lose. The Senate may see a larger change because of the “six-year itch” -- Senators who were riding on Obama’s coattails in the 2008 election are now going up for reelection on their own and are therefore more vulnerable. On average, the president’s party loses 7 Senate seats in the second midterm election.

5 The Senate Democrats currently hold a 53-45 majority. But 2 independents caucus with the Democrats effectively making their majority 55-45. The GOP needs to gain 6 seats to secure a majority. What are their chances?

6 Senate Forecast According to, the GOP has a strong chance (68.5%) of winning a majority in the Senate. The most likely outcome is a 52-48 GOP majority with 53-47 as the next most likely. This forecast is based on state-level public opinion polls, weighted for their accuracy in the past.

7 The Changing Forecast’s forecast shows how the Democrats were gaining ground through mid- September but have slipped since then. Why has this happened?

8 There are at least 10 Senate races where the outcome is far from certain. There were 10 races rated as toss-ups by the Cook Political Report in their final ratings before the 2012 election, but only 7 such races in 2010 and 6 in 2008.

9 Contested Senate Races: Probabilities Of the 10 Senate races that could go either way, nearly all are leaning Republican. And 7 of these seats are currently held by Democrats.

10 The GOP is expected to gain seats in West Virginia, South Dakota, and Montana.

11 Kansas (R) Both sides think this one remains very close. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) was looking like he might have some momentum there for a while, but a couple automated polls have shown independent Greg Orman up by a small margin in recent days. It doesn't look like anybody will pull away here.

12 Georgia (R) Democrat Michelle Nunn clearly has the momentum -- a new CNN poll last Friday morning has her up three points -- in the wake of Republican David Perdue's outsourcing problems, but it's probably likely now that we're headed for a Jan. 6 runoff. Historically, runoffs are very unkind to Democrats. But it's also looking increasingly possible that Nunn could win outright on Election Day, with a majority of the overall vote.

13 Alaska (D) Republican Dan Sullivan has led Sen. Mark Begich (D) by two to six points in every public poll out this fall. Democrats are keeping the faith because of their well-oiled ground game and early vote operation. If the election ends up being really close, we may not know the outcome until well after Nov. 4 because of the lengthy period of time to tally absentee ballots.

14 Iowa (D) Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst's decision to snub the Des Moines Register editorial board got lots of attention -- both in Iowa and nationally. You simply can't cancel on the state's biggest paper without getting heat. Recent polling shows Ernst and Rep. Bruce Braley (D) at or within the margin of error of one another. Every little thing counts at this point.

15 North Carolina (D) Sen. Kay Hagan (D) got a boost last week from the environmental community when the League of Conservation Voters announced a $4.2 million effort on her behalf. If Hagan pulls this one out, it will be thanks to the barrage of attack ads the senator and her allies have launched. Tillis has faced a whopping $26 million in negative ads -- more than any Senate candidate and about twice as much incoming as Hagan has faced (though that excludes plenty of "issue ads" that were run against Hagan over the summer).

16 Colorado (D) All of the movement here is in Rep. Cory Gardner's (R) direction. Gardner has led Sen. Mark Udall (D) in the last eight polls and, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, Gardner is up by four points. If Udall does lose -- Democrats insist their ground operation and the new vote-by-mail system are their aces in the hole -- expect his relentless focus on reproductive rights to be blamed.

17 Louisiana (D) This race is likely headed for a runoff. The runoff would be held Dec. 6 -- a month before Georgia's. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) would still be an underdog against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R- Baton Rouge), but she has actually won runoffs -- both that she's faced, in fact.

18 New Hampshire (Democratic-controlled) Former senator Scott Brown (R- Mass.) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) debated twice last week, but there were no big momentum- shifting moments. Polls show Shaheen is popular and has a very small lead, inside the margin of error. This race is making Democrats more nervous than it was a couple of months ago, but Shaheen has at least avoided stumbles.

19 Kentucky (Republican-controlled) Two things are true about this race. 1) Mitch McConnell has not been able to pull away from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes despite massive spending. 2) This is Kentucky in a midterm election that looks bad for Democrats nationally. McConnell is a slight favorite but both sides are engaged in this race and spending (after the DSCC momentarily stopped running ads), which suggests the outcome isn't quite decided.

20 Arkansas (D) Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has led by between three and eight points in the last five polls, and Sen. Mark Pryor's (D-Ark.) days are looking increasingly numbered. Cotton overcame some early rumblings that he wasn't the great candidate that he was billed as to run a solid campaign. Republicans are counting on this one, at this point.

21 Over time, there have been increasing numbers of vulnerable Democratic seats in the House. The GOP should maintain its current (231-201) majority if not increase it slightly.

22 Possible GOP Congressional Agenda House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has been discussing his plans for the next Congress. McCarthy seems willing to pass relatively small bills on issues ranging from energy to health care to taxes. Energy policy will be a priority, in addition to repealing the medical device tax and the independent payment board for Medicare — bills that Democrats have mostly ignored over the past few years. Highway spending will likely come up, McCarthy said, and it could be funded by new drilling on public lands. He sees these bills as a way to draw constant contrasts with President Barack Obama and to split Democrats. Maybe Obama will sign some bills into law, McCarthy says. If he doesn’t, it will set up a clean discussion for the 2016 presidential election. Also, McCarthy would like to use the lame-duck session before the new Congress is sworn in to pass a long-term government-funding bill, so Washington can begin focusing on big-picture legislating, instead of just trying to keep government’s doors open. He also is aiming to renew a host of lapsed business-focused tax provisions and renew the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act — two items with bipartisan support.

23 The Final Two Years of the Obama Presidency: What to Expect Although there is often a lot of conflict in a president’s fourth Congress, legislation still gets passed. Typically the fourth Congress doesn’t pass a president’s domestic programs but does a lot of crisis legislation, presidential veto overrides, and trade legislation among other things. Thus, Obama’s fourth Congress may not pass a lot of domestic legislation but will probably pass a lot of crisis management and foreign policy legislation.



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