Skip links

2018 House

Sabato's Crystal Ball

Medicare for All a Vote Loser in 2018 U.S. House Elections

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — “Medicare for All” has been a major issue in the Democratic primary race. But it also came up a lot in the 2018 cycle. — A regression analysis comparing the performance of 2018 Democratic House candidates shows that those who supported Medicare for All performed worse than those who did not, even when controlling for other factors. — Democratic presidential candidates would do well to take heed of these results, particularly as the eventual nominee determines what he or she wishes to emphasize in the general election. Medicare for All: A warning from 2018 “Medicare for All” has emerged as a key issue in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination campaign. Two of the leading candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have made Medicare for All a central issue in their campaigns. Warren’s and Sanders’ proposals would abolish private health insurance in the U.S. within a few years and move all Americans into a government health plan based on the current Medicare program but with no copayments or deductibles. Several Democratic candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden, who has led in most national polls, have been highly critical of this idea.

Alan I. Abramowitz

The Seats/Votes Relationship in the U.S. House 1972-2018

Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of a story we previously published in June 2015 and January 2017 looking at the national House vote. KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — After adjusting the results for uncontested races, Democrats won the national House popular vote by about seven percentage points last fall. — The size of the Democrats’ national win allowed them to translate their share of the vote into a roughly approximate share of seats. — House maps in the 1970s and 1980s exhibited a pro-Democratic bias; more recently, the map has had a pro-Republican bias. The relationship between seats and votes in the 2018 House race Redistricting in the U.S. House of Representatives is not a unified process as is the case for most national legislatures, but the result of the cumulative actions in the states that have more than one representative. Nevertheless, it is useful to look at the entire House to see how the decisions in the states combine to form a fair or biased playing field for the parties. One commonly used method for analyzing the partisan nature of the redistricting process is the seats/votes relationship (see here for a longer discussion). For this analysis, simple least

Theodore S. Arrington

The Year of the Green Wave

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Democratic newcomer candidates spent far more money than in previous cycles, while Republicans’ spending numbers stayed stagnant. — Female candidates enjoyed a cash advantage over male candidates, with an especially large gap among Democrats in open competitive seats. –There has been no observable advantage in the amount of cash spent between newer incumbents and those who have been reelected multiple times. Riding the Green Wave Running a political campaign, even for a House seat, can take a lot of money. This is especially true if the district happens to be competitive, and this cycle saw extremely high spending and engaged donors, especially on the Democratic side. Thanks to data compiled from the Federal Election Commission and OpenSecrets.org, we can now explore the database of all candidate spending and look at the baseline and how it’s changed from previous cycles. Figure 1 shows how much House campaigns spent on their races for all the cycles this decade (2012-2018). The number plotted on the y-axis is the total spent by a single candidate in a race during all of the campaign, not the cost of the race as a whole. This excludes third-party spending or any

Noah Rudnick

How’d we do in 2018? A final update

Editor’s Note: Three quick notes this week: 1. Our First-Ever Name Our Post-Election Book Contest: We’re pleased to announce that our book looking back on the 2018 midterms and ahead to 2020 will come out in April 2019 and will be published by Rowman and Littlefield. The book is as yet-untitled, and that’s where you come in: We’re looking for suggestions for the book title. Please submit any ideas to goodpolitics@virginia.edu. We can’t promise that we will pick the eventual book title from the suggestions, but Rowman and Littlefield has generously offered $150 in book credit to whomever we judge made the best submission (whether we end up using it or not). The submission deadline is Dec. 31. 2. The University of Virginia Center for Politics will be hiring a new staffer to work on the Crystal Ball, and we’re still taking applications. If you’re interested, please visit jobs.virginia.edu and find the Coordinator of Media Relations position under “University Staff,” posting No. 0624191. Please email us at goodpolitics@virginia.edu if you have any questions. 3. The Crystal Ball will not be publishing over the holidays. Our next issue will be released on Thursday, Jan. 10. We wish all of our readers

UVA Center for Politics

Moderation in the Pursuit of Reelection May Not Help

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — District partisanship was by far the strongest determinant of the results of House elections in 2018, with Republican candidates typically running behind Donald Trump’s 2016 margins in all types of districts. — Whether incumbents under- or over-performed was unrelated to ideology. Moderate Republicans actually were more likely to be defeated than those with solidly conservative records. How the 2016 presidential results explained the 2018 House results In my book, The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation and the Rise of Donald Trump, I argue that the United States has entered a new era of electoral competition in the 21st century. The most important characteristics of 21st century elections are partisan polarization and nationalized elections, and the results of the 2018 House elections provide striking evidence of both. The outcomes of House contests in 2018 were overwhelmingly determined by two factors — the partisan composition of House districts and the unpopularity of President Trump in many of those districts, including some that had supported him in 2016. Democrats gained at least 40 seats in the House with one disputed election in North Carolina still undecided. This was their largest seat gain since the post-Watergate election of

Alan I. Abramowitz

How’d we do?

It took a lot of Krazy Glue, but we think we pieced the Crystal Ball back together, reassembling after 2016 shattered us and just about every other prediction group. As of this writing, early Wednesday afternoon, and with many uncalled House races remaining, the real-time seat projections from both the New York Times and FiveThirtyEight were suggesting that the Democrats would win a 229-206 majority in the House, for a net gain of 34 seats, exactly the seat change we picked in our final selections. Democrats built their new majority in part by persuading voters in many Republican-held districts carried by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election to elect Democratic House members. Of the 25 Clinton-won GOP districts, Democrats have won at least 14 and very likely will win several more. But Democrats also will win a similar number of districts won by Donald Trump, including upsets against Reps. Dan Donovan (R, NY-11) on Staten Island and Steve Russell (R, OK-5) in Oklahoma City. Another surprising Democratic win came in Charleston after Rep. Mark Sanford (R, SC-1) lost his primary. But for the most part, the seats the Democrats flipped were ones that we projected to flip. If indeed

Larry J. Sabato and Kyle Kondik

Final picks for 2018

  KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Sorry, friends, but you are going to have to actually read this one. — Our full list of ratings changes is available here. Our best guesses for Tuesday The 2018 midterm has long been a study in contradictory signs. There is, for Republicans, the benefit of running at a time of relative peace and prosperity. Unpopular wars and economic recessions have spelled doom for the president’s party in many past midterm elections. But then there is also the weak approval rating of President Trump, who thanks to his deliberately polarizing style has kept the GOP base in line but strongly alienated Democrats and, perhaps more importantly, independent, swing voters. Democrats have held a steady lead in the high single digits on the national House generic ballot polling, a lead suggestive of a potential House flip but not one large enough to indicate that such a flip is an absolute lock. There is the shifting political landscape that emerged nationally in 2016, with some traditionally Democratic blue collar small cities and rural areas across the North moving toward Trump and the Republicans, and some traditionally Republican suburbs dominated by voters with high formal educational

Larry J. Sabato and Kyle Kondik

Five days to go

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Our final picks are coming Monday. In the meantime, our longstanding overall assessment — Democrats favored in House, Republicans bigger favorites in Senate — remains in place. — Four ratings changes in the House. Table 1: Crystal Ball House ratings changes Member/District Old Rating New Rating David Valadao (R, CA-21) Likely Republican Leans Republican CA-49 Open (Issa, R) Leans Democratic Likely Democratic Steve King (R, IA-4) Likely Republican Leans Republican NV-4 Open (Kihuen, D) Leans Democratic Likely Democratic Table 2: Crystal Ball House ratings Map 1: Crystal Ball Senate ratings Map 2: Crystal Ball gubernatorial ratings Where things stand less than a week out We have great news for everyone. In just six days, the 2020 presidential campaign will begin! (No, we’re really not kidding.) But before then, we have the small matter of the 2018 midterm to settle. We’re still agonizing over our final picks in the closest House, Senate, and gubernatorial races. We will announce our final picks on Monday. That said, the direction of this midterm does not seem like it has changed much in the final days of the campaign. The Democrats remain in the lead for the House majority.

Kyle Kondik

How Republicans could hold the House

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — There is no systematic relationship between the turnout rate and the Democratic Party’s (or the Republican Party’s) share of the two-party congressional vote. — Midterms often feature a decline for the presidential party after a surge in the House in the presidential year. But Republicans enjoyed no surge in 2016, which could limit their decline this year. — A model based on history and the dynamics of surge and decline suggests Republicans should lose House seats, but they remain well-positioned to hold the House majority. However, certain factors not included in the model, like a new House map in Pennsylvania and a high number of Republican retirements, could cause the model to understate GOP exposure in the House. In 2018, will the story be about turnout? Probably not. The empirical fact is that turnout does not display a systematic bias in American national elections, despite the typically lower turnout rate of Democratic partisans and the greater effort by Democratic campaigns to get out the vote. Two more powerful influences are: (1) the incumbent president’s job approval and (2) how many members of Congress are holding seats for which they are a bad “fit.” So

John R. Petrocik and Daron R. Shaw

The House Bellwethers

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — The longest running House bellwether is a rural, conservative portion of Ohio. — If Democrats win the House, that streak and some other House bellwether streaks will likely be snapped. — The newest bellwethers might be in the Philadelphia suburbs, Northeast Pennsylvania, and Upstate New York. The places that vote for the House majority party What is the historical bellwether House district? Finding out is harder than it appears. Unlike other bellwether entities like states and counties, the borders of congressional districts are frequently changed. Since the 1960s and following key Supreme Court decisions involving population equality among state and federal district lines, U.S. House district lines have shifted in every state at least once per decade (in states with more than one district) and in many states it has occurred more often than that. Moreover, districts frequently change their numbers — Nancy Pelosi (D) has represented California’s 5th, 8th and 12th congressional districts over the course of her career even though the actual area she represented (the bulk of the city of San Francisco) has remained largely unchanged. So I’d rather look at determining the areas that have sent a member of the

Robert Wheel

A dozen days to go: Ratings changes in gubernatorial, House races

  KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — The battles for the state governorships are getting more volatile as Election Day nears. We are moving three races, Kansas, Oregon, and South Dakota, to Toss-up. — Republican odds of holding the Senate are as good as ever. — The playing field continues to expand in the House. Table 1: Crystal Ball gubernatorial ratings changes Governor Old Rating New Rating KS Open (Colyer, R) Leans Republican Toss-up Kate Brown (D-OR) Leans Democratic Toss-up Gina Raimondo (D-RI) Leans Democratic Likely Democratic SD Open (Daugaard, R) Leans Republican Toss-up Table 2: Crystal Ball House ratings changes Member/District Old Rating New Rating Debbie Lesko (R, AZ-8) Safe Republican Likely Republican Jim Costa (D, CA-16) Safe Democratic Likely Democratic Scott Tipton (R, CO-3) Likely Republican Leans Republican Vern Buchanan (R, FL-16) Leans Republican Likely Republican Brian Mast (R, FL-18) Likely Republican Leans Republican FL-6 Open (DeSantis, R) Likely Republican Leans Republican Karen Handel (R, GA-6) Likely Republican Leans Republican Mike Bost (R, IL-12) Toss-up Leans Republican Justin Amash (R, MI-3) Safe Republican Likely Republican Bill Huizenga (R, MI-2) Safe Republican Likely Republican Fred Upton (R, MI-6) Likely Republican Leans Republican John Katko (R, NY-24) Likely Republican Leans

Kyle Kondik

Forecasting the Democratic State Legislative Wavelet of 2018

  Editor’s Note: After showcasing a state legislative assessment from experts at the National Conference of State Legislatures a couple of weeks ago, we’re pleased to offer another look at those races, this week from Carl Klarner. His forecast suggests that Democrats are positioned to pick up several state legislative chambers this year. If you’re curious for more information and detailed forecasts for every state, please visit Carl’s website, klarnerpolitics.org. Klarner’s state legislative forecast was featured in a recent issue of PS: Political Science and Politics, which also included political science forecasts for the House and Senate. We have featured several of those forecasts in the Crystal Ball as well. — The Editors   Democratic votes for state legislature haven’t translated into Democratic seats at a rate favorable to them of late. This is especially the case in key states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida. Experts disagree on the extent, but part of the Democratic “seat translation problem” is because of Republican gerrymanders put in place after the 2010 elections when the Republicans took control of many state governments. As a result, the Democrats are focused on winning back these and other states in the hope

Carl Klarner

The Drive for 25: An updated seat-by-seat analysis of the House

  KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — A race-by-race analysis of Democratic House targets shows the party is close to winning the majority, but they do not have it put away, in our judgment, with Election Day less than three weeks away. — Barring a big, positive late change in the political environment in favor of Republicans, the bare minimum for Democratic House gains is in the mid-to-high teens. The needed 23-seat net gain is not that far beyond that and there are many different paths Democrats can take to achieve it. So the GOP is still at a disadvantage overall. — There are 11 ratings changes this week, seven in favor of Democrats and four in favor of Republicans. — Note: With the election so close, and with the Crystal Ball planning to eventually offer a projection in every general election House, Senate, and gubernatorial race (as per our tradition), we are working to reduce the number of Toss-ups in our ratings, not add to them. — We are not making any changes to the Senate and gubernatorial ratings this week, but we are including our current assessment of the state of play in Maps 1 and 2 before

Kyle Kondik

Midterm Update: North Dakota goes to Leans Republican, giving the Republicans a clearer edge in the Senate

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — The North Dakota Senate race moves from Toss-up to Leans Republican, reinforcing what we’ve long described as a GOP edge in the race for the Senate. — The Democrats do have a path to the majority, but that path almost certainly involves winning at least one race we currently rate as Leans Republican: the aforementioned North Dakota contest, or Tennessee or Texas. — Meanwhile, in the gubernatorial races, two red states (Alaska and South Dakota) are moving in different directions in our ratings. — The dean of the House, Rep. Don Young (R, AK-AL), might have a hard race. Table 1: Crystal Ball Senate rating change Senator Old Rating New Rating Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) Toss-up Leans Republican Table 2: Crystal Ball gubernatorial ratings changes Governor Old Rating New Rating Bill Walker (I-AK) Leans Republican Likely Republican SD Open (Daugaard, R) Likely Republican Leans Republican Because we know readers want to see the up-to-the-minute state of play, we’re going to be publishing our Senate and gubernatorial maps, along with our House ratings tables, at the top of the Crystal Ball each week from here to the election. One can also always find our ratings at

Kyle Kondik

Ratings Changes: House, Senate, and Governor

  Editor’s Note: Before we begin this week, we just wanted to acknowledge our friend Geoffrey Skelley, our long-time Crystal Ball associate editor. Geoff started a new position this week with FiveThirtyEight. For nearly seven years, Geoffrey was an exceptionally valuable member of our team, and we will miss him tremendously. However, we are also happy for him as he continues his career at an outlet whose work we deeply respect. We will have more to say in the coming weeks about how we plan to replace Geoff but, in the meantime, we wanted to thank him for his great work for us and to wish him success in his new position. — Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and the rest of the University of Virginia Center for Politics team.   KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — There are lots of questions, and not many answers, about whether the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation saga might impact November. — We have 11 House ratings changes, all in favor of Democrats. — Five gubernatorial ratings changes go in different directions but are generally better for Democrats. — Only one change in the Senate as the battle for that chamber remains in something of

Kyle Kondik