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2018 Senate

Sabato's Crystal Ball

Tennessee Politics: From Boss Crump to Howard Baker to . . . Marsha Blackburn?

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — The nomination of now-Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) for Tennessee’s open-seat Senate race last year represented a rightward shift for state Republicans. — Blackburn’s clear victory over former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) last year means the GOP is well-positioned to hold another open Senate seat being contested next year. Tennessee’s rightward shift, and its implications Only one chapter in V.O. Key’s classic 1949 book Southern Politics in State and Nation named an individual in its title: “Tennessee: The Civil War and Mr. Crump.” Key described an era in Tennessee history when the Democratic primary decided who controlled statewide politics and Memphis political boss E.H. Crump — whose organization reigned longer than any other urban political machine in the 20th century — decided who would win the Democratic primary. Key illustrated Crump’s power by recounting the political fate of one Gordon Browning. In 1936, Browning was elected governor with Crump’s backing and the votes of 59,874 citizens of Memphis and surrounding Shelby County. Once in office, Browning fell out with Crump, who said of him that “in the art galleries of Paris there are twenty-seven pictures of Judas Iscariot — none look alike but all resemble

Michael Nelson

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 [email protected]. 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 and find the Coordinator of Media Relations position under “University Staff,” posting No. 0624191. Please email us at [email protected] 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

Trump to the rescue? Presidential campaigning and the 2018 U.S. Senate elections

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — There is not much evidence that President Trump’s rallies held for GOP Senate candidates had much of an effect on the results. — At the very least, two other factors were significantly more important: The normal partisan lean of the states where those contests took place and the advantage of incumbency. Did Trump’s campaign stops matter much in the race for the Senate? “If I didn’t do those stops we would definitely not have control of the Senate. It would be a question, so what are we up, three? Two or three. We would be down five or six or seven. And they know that. Nobody has ever had a greater impact.” — President Donald Trump, interview with the Daily Caller, Nov. 14, 2018 A bright spot for Republicans in an otherwise disastrous 2018 midterm election was their success in maintaining control of the U.S. Senate. In fact, Republicans ended up adding two seats to their Senate majority by picking up seats in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota even while losing seats in Arizona and Nevada. As the quote at the top of this article indicates, President Trump was quick to claim credit

Alan I. Abramowitz

2018 Senate: How the “Trump Ten” Races Compared to 2016

  Editor’s Note: The Crystal Ball will be off next week for Thanksgiving. We wish all of our readers a safe and happy holiday. After the holiday, please make a note to watch our 20th Annual American Democracy Conference on the morning of Thursday, Nov. 29. The conference will feature keynote speakers Rep. Adam Schiff (D, CA-28) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). We’ll include a reminder in the Crystal Ball that will come out the morning of the conference.   KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Last week, Republicans tried to knock off incumbent Democratic senators in 10 states won by President Trump in 2016. While some of these Republican challengers won, nine of the 10 ran well behind Donald Trump’s showing in 2016, perhaps not surprisingly given that all of the Democrats in these states had the power of incumbency and the political environment was generally pro-Democratic overall. The one exception where Trump’s performance wasn’t that much different from the 2018 GOP Senate showing was Florida, which is in the midst of a recount. — The following maps compare Trump’s 2016 performance in these 10 states to the performance by the GOP Senate candidates in each state. — Most

J. Miles Coleman

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

New polls: Democrats lead marquee Florida races; Arizona Senate, Kansas governor effectively tied

The final pre-election Reuters/Ipsos/University of Virginia Center for Politics state-level polls of this election cycle shows Democratic candidates leading for the Sunshine State’s high-profile gubernatorial and Senate contests, while the open-seat Senate race in Arizona and the battle for the open Kansas governorship are effectively tied. These are the second Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics polls in Arizona and Florida, and the first poll in Kansas. The results from the polls follow, with the findings from the previous polls in parentheses (incumbents noted with an *): Arizona Senate: Martha McSally (R) 48%, Kyrsten Sinema (D) 46% (September: Sinema 47%-44%) Arizona Governor: Doug Ducey* (R) 57%, David Garcia (D) 37% (September: Ducey 51%-39%) Florida Senate: Bill Nelson* (D) 49%, Rick Scott (R) 44% (September: Scott 46%-45%) Florida Governor: Andrew Gillum (D) 50%, Ron DeSantis (R) 44% (September: Gillum 50%-44%) Kansas Governor: Laura Kelly (D) 43%, Kris Kobach (R) 41%, Greg Orman (I) 9% The three polls were conducted online in English. The Arizona poll featured 799 likely voter respondents and was conducted from Oct. 17 to Oct. 26. The Florida poll featured 1,069 likely voter respondents and was conducted from Oct. 17 to Oct. 25. The Kansas poll featured 986 likely voter

UVA Center for Politics

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

New polls: Nevada, Texas, Wisconsin

New Reuters/Ipsos/University of Virginia Center for Politics polls show Republicans ahead in key races in Nevada and Texas, while Democrats lead in the Wisconsin Senate race and both parties are locked in a close race for the Badger State’s governorship. These are the second polls that Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics has released of these states. The results in each states are as follows, with results from the previous polls in parentheses (* indicates incumbent): Nevada Senate: Dean Heller* (R) 47%, Jacky Rosen (D) 41% (September: Heller 46%-43%) Nevada Governor: Adam Laxalt (R) 46%, Steve Sisolak (D) 41% (September: Laxalt 43%-40%) Texas Senate:  Ted Cruz* (R) 49%, Beto O’Rourke (D) 44% (September: O’Rourke 47%-45%) Texas Governor: Greg Abbott* (R) 53%, Lupe Valdez (D) 38% (September: Abbott 50%-41%) Wisconsin Senate: Tammy Baldwin* (D) 54%, Leah Vukmir (R) 39% (September: Baldwin 52%-39%) Wisconsin Governor: Tony Evers (D) 48%, Scott Walker* (R) 45% (September: Evers 50%-43%) The three polls were conducted online in English from Oct. 12 to Oct. 18 (Texas and Wisconsin) and Oct. 12 to Oct. 19 (Nevada). They feature 1,137 likely voter respondents from Nevada, 1,298 likely voter respondents from Texas, and 1,193 likely voter respondents from Wisconsin. More details, including tables, crosstabs, and methodological information,

UVA Center for Politics

New polls in the South: Georgia gubernatorial race tied; Tennessee Senate race close

Two new polls from Reuters/Ipsos/University of Virginia Center for Politics show close races in two high-profile, open-seat Southern contests: the Tennessee Senate race and Georgia gubernatorial race. In Tennessee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R, TN-7) leads former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) 47%-44%. Earlier in the campaign, this poll might have been taken as a good sign for Blackburn, who was generally trailing Bredesen. However, the three most recent public polls have shown her with larger leads: 14 points in a New York Times/Siena College poll, eight points in CBS News/YouGov survey, and five points in a Fox News poll. So, compared to other recent polls, it’s actually a better finding for Bredesen. This poll does perhaps suggest that Blackburn may have slightly more room to grow than Bredesen: just 2% of self-identified Democratic likely voters said that they didn’t know who they would support or refused to say, while 6% of self-identified Republicans said the same. Bredesen does better among Democrats (a 92%-3% lead) than Blackburn does with Republicans (86%-7% lead), and he also has a giant lead among self-described independents (59%-21%), yet he still is not leading because of Tennessee’s very Republican electorate. The Crystal Ball rates the Tennessee Senate

UVA Center for Politics

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

New polls: Rauner in big trouble in Illinois; McCaskill, Hawley locked in tied Missouri Senate race

Two new Reuters/Ipsos/University of Virginia Center for Politics polls show Democrats well on their way to picking up a key gubernatorial seat, while both parties are locked in a tied race in one of the most pivotal Senate races in the country. In Illinois, businessman J.B Pritzker (D) leads Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) 50% to 30% among likely voters in the gubernatorial race, while Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) has a nominal 45%-44% lead over Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) among likely voters in a race that will help decide the Senate majority. Both findings are generally in line with what other polls have found in each race; Pritzker has long seemed a favorite against Rauner in a race that the Crystal Ball rates as Likely Democratic, while the Missouri Senate race has been a pure Toss-up the entire cycle. The two polls were conducted online and feature 968 likely voter respondents from Illinois and 1,111 likely voter respondents from Missouri. The Illinois poll was conducted from Sept. 27-Oct. 5, and the Missouri poll from Sept. 27-Oct. 7. More details, including tables, crosstabs, and methodological information for both of these polls, are available at: Illinois: Missouri: During the

UVA Center for Politics

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

The Senate: How 2018 sets up 2020

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — The 2018 Senate races are important not just for determining the majority next January, but also for setting up both parties for the next election. — Republicans are defending almost double the seats that Democrats are defending in 2020, something of a reversal from this cycle, where Democrats are playing a lot of defense. — However, the most vulnerable 2020 seat (Alabama) is currently held by a Democrat. But Democrats have some decent targets of their own. — — If Republicans can net a seat or two this year, it would make their position much stronger in 2020, much like their strong showing in 2014 protected them in 2016. Likewise, Democrats holding the line in 2018 would be a victory in and of itself, given both this year’s difficult map and the potential for a limited gain on what for Democrats is a better map in 2020. The Senate: A first look at 2020 Throughout the 2014 cycle, the Republicans appeared favored to win control of the U.S. Senate, but there was some doubt about whether they would maximize their gains. They needed six net seats to take control, but given the map, it

Kyle Kondik