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2020 Governor

Sabato's Crystal Ball

Like His Predecessors, Trump Suffered Down-Ballot Losses — But the Declines Were Comparatively Modest

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Like every post-World War II president, Donald Trump witnessed a fall-off in his party’s numbers of U.S. Senate, U.S. House, gubernatorial, and state legislative seats during his presidency. That said, compared to recent presidents, the erosion on Trump’s watch was more modest than it was for his immediate predecessors. — One obvious difference is that Trump had only one term in office and escaped a “six-year-itch” election. The only other postwar president to escape the down-ballot curse relatively unscathed was George H.W. Bush, who was the most recent president before Trump to be ousted after one term. — Another factor may be today’s heightened partisan polarization, which makes states and districts less “swingy” than they have been in the past. Trump’s down-ballot impact For a defeated president, Donald Trump still seems to wield a great deal of power within the Republican Party. GOP candidates are still angling for his backing, and his decision whether to run for another term looms over the emerging 2024 Republican presidential field. It may or may not be wise going forward, from a strictly electoral standpoint, for Trump to remain as central to the GOP as he is. On

Louis Jacobson

NOW AVAILABLE: A Return to Normalcy? Our Book on the 2020 Election

A Return to Normalcy? The 2020 Election That (Almost) Broke America — the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ new look at the 2020 presidential election and its consequences — is now available through UVA Bookstores, Indiebound, and other online booksellers. Edited by Crystal Ball editors Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and J. Miles Coleman, A Return to Normalcy? brings together what Booklist calls a “stellar coterie of reporters, pundits, and scholars” to “parse the 2020 election via a data-driven set of analytics displayed in useful charts and graphs, drawing conclusions that will satisfy hard-core political junkies and provide a solid foundation for everyone looking ahead to 2022 and 2024.” Tonight (Thursday, April 8) at 6:30 p.m. eastern, four of the book contributors will participate in a free virtual forum: “Taking Stock: The Societal Impact of the 2020 Election.” Business Insider‘s Grace Panetta will moderate. She wrote a chapter on the massive expansion of early and mail-in voting necessitated by the pandemic. In it, she notes how President Trump’s criticism of mail-in voting “represented a stark reversal for the GOP because it upended decades of Republican get-out-the-vote strategy — in the process baffling and upsetting numerous Republican candidates and operatives.

UVA Center for Politics

Sifting Through the Results So Far

Dear Readers: We just posted a new Crystal Ball webinar on Friday afternoon, which you can watch at this direct link on YouTube. We discussed presidential concession speeches, our successful Electoral College projection, ticket-splitting (or lack thereof), what remains to be counted, and the looming Georgia Senate runoffs in January. Next Thursday’s Crystal Ball webinar will feature our 22nd annual American Democracy Conference. We’ll be hearing from New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie; CNN commentator Tara Setmayer; Republican strategist Chris LaCivita; and Democratic strategist John Lapp. That program will be posted at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12 on our YouTube channel, UVACFP. — The Editors One has to go back to 1884 to find a newly-elected Democratic president, Grover Cleveland, who won without his party also winning both chambers of Congress. If Joe Biden pulls out the presidential race — which seems likelier than not as we write this Wednesday afternoon, although much is uncertain — it seems likely he will be the next Democratic president to face at least one hostile chamber of Congress. Amidst the highest turnout in modern history, both Biden and President Donald Trump turned out their bases and battled in an epic duel that

Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and J. Miles Coleman

Final Ratings for the 2020 Election

Dear Readers: Due to popular demand, we decided to release a final pre-election Sabato’s Crystal Ball: America Votes webinar. We will be going through our picks for the election. We’ll also hear from Rob Griffin, the research director of the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, about the demographic changes we are likely to see in the electorate tomorrow and into the future, as well as how we should interpret the exit polls tomorrow evening. We will be releasing this edition on our YouTube channel by 2 p.m. eastern. Just visit our YouTube channel, UVACFP, then (or whenever you want), and look for Episode 12 of the Sabato’s Crystal Ball: America Votes webinar. The direct link will also be available on the Center for Politics’ Twitter account (@center4politics) as soon as it is posted later today. — The Editors KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Our final Electoral College ratings show Joe Biden at 321 electoral votes and Donald Trump at 217. — Democrats are narrow favorites to capture a Senate majority, 50-48 with two Toss-ups — the two Georgia races, both of which we think are likely to go to runoffs. — We have Democrats netting 10 seats in the

Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and J. Miles Coleman

With Just Weeks to Go, Trump is Not Making up Ground

Dear Readers: Join us today at 2 p.m. eastern for our latest episode of Sabato’s Crystal Ball: America Votes. Vice presidential expert Joel K. Goldstein will be joining us to react to the VP debate. If you have questions you would like us to answer about the debate, specific races, or other developments in the campaign, just email us at [email protected]. Additionally, an audio-only podcast version of the webinar is now available at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast providers. Just search “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” to find it. You can watch live at our YouTube channel (UVACFP), as well as at this direct YouTube link. — The Editors KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Recent rosy polling for Joe Biden in the presidential race may represent an artificial sugar high for the challenger. — But at this point, Donald Trump needs to be making up ground — not treading water or falling further behind. — 11 rating changes across four categories of races (president, Senate, House, and governor) almost exclusively benefit Democrats. Table 1: Crystal Ball Electoral College rating changes State Old Rating New Rating Arizona Toss-up Leans Democratic Georgia Leans Republican Toss-up New Hampshire Leans Democratic Likely Democratic Table

Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman

A Golden Age of Gubernatorial Propriety

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — In the past decade, four governors faced either a criminal case or sexual misconduct allegations while in office. That may sound like a lot, but it’s actually quite low by recent historical standards. — Gubernatorial bad behavior peaked between 2003 and 2009, an era personified by such governors as Connecticut Republican John Rowland and Illinois Democrat Rod Blagojevich as well as New York Democrat Eliot Spitzer and South Carolina Republican Mark Sanford. — There doesn’t seem to be a single reason for the decline in gubernatorial scandals, though declining scrutiny by a shrinking local news media, changes in prosecutorial priorities, and Supreme Court decisions making it harder to prove criminal malfeasance have probably played a role. — Even as gubernatorial scandals have dwindled, investigations of Congress and key legislative leaders such as state House speakers have remained robust. A lack of gubernatorial scandal These may be grim times, with the coronavirus pandemic and its resulting economic downturn. But as governors become key figures in fighting both scourges, the American public appears to be lucky that we’re in something of a golden age for gubernatorial propriety. In the past decade, there have been four governors

Louis Jacobson

Notes on the State of Politics

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) seems to be rising in the Biden veepstakes. — Late Wednesday, Jon Ossoff (D) apparently captured the Democratic nomination to face Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), thus avoiding a runoff. — Primaries in South Carolina and West Virginia saw protest voting in some key races. Veepstakes and primaries — Thanks to everyone who reacted to last week’s breakdown of Joe Biden’s vice presidential options. After seeing your comments and following subsequent veepstakes developments over the weekend and earlier this week, it seems clear we did not include at least one prime contender: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D). It is pretty obvious that she is emerging as a prime candidate to be selected, even though she lacks the formal, high-level elected experience that vice presidential nominees almost always possess (she’s never served in Congress or as a state governor). That said, she has earned a much higher profile in the midst of the ongoing national protests over police brutality, and some plugged-in people view her as a top contender for the VP slot. She will almost certainly be included in our next list of contenders, along with former national

Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman

King Dethroned, and Other Notes from the June 2 primaries

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Rep. Steve King’s (R, IA-4) primary loss makes his Republican-leaning seat easier for the GOP to defend. — There weren’t many other surprises from Tuesday night. Table 1: Crystal Ball House rating change Member/District Old Rating New Rating IA-4 Open (King, R) Likely Republican Safe Republican Notes from Tuesday’s primaries The first Tuesday in June of a presidential year is often a major political event — but for a lot of obvious reasons, this year’s early June primaries did not feature much drama or excitement. — The headline result, and the only one that is prompting us to make a rating change, is Rep. Steve King’s (R, IA-4) primary loss to state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R) in a Republican-leaning northwest Iowa district. King’s litany of racist comments had become impossible to ignore, and Republican leadership had stripped him of his committee assignments. This district voted for Donald Trump by a 60%-33% margin, and King’s narrow, three-point victory in 2018 had a lot to do with his abhorrent comments. With King out of the picture, Feenstra should be fine against 2018 nominee J.D. Scholten (D). We moved IA-4 from Likely Republican to Safe Republican on

Kyle Kondik

The State of the States: The Governors

Dear Readers: Join us tomorrow as UVA Center for Politics Director Larry J. Sabato interviews Time national political correspondent Molly Ball about her new book, Pelosi, an intimate, fresh perspective on the most powerful woman in American political history. The conversation will take place from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. eastern time on Friday, May 8 and will be livestreamed at: — The Editors KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Many state governors have received high marks for their handling of coronavirus. — Three of them on the ballot this November get a boost in our gubernatorial ratings this week. — As of now, the open seat in Montana seems to be the seat likeliest to change hands on the relatively sparse presidential-year gubernatorial map. Table 1: Gubernatorial rating changes Governor Old Rating New Rating Roy Cooper (D-NC) Leans Democratic Likely Democratic Chris Sununu (R-NH) Leans Republican Likely Republican Phil Scott (R-VT) Leans Republican Likely Republican Map 1: Crystal Ball gubernatorial ratings As noted in a previous edition of the Crystal Ball, even at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, it was clear that, politically, the biggest beneficiaries seemed to be governors. With few exceptions, governors across the board

Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman

The State of the States: The Legislatures

Dear Readers: We’re pleased this week to welcome Chaz Nuttycombe to give an overview of state legislative elections in 2020. While we at the Crystal Ball do not do specific race ratings for state legislative races and chambers, we wanted to provide you with an update on these races, and Chaz follows and rates these races at the election forecasting site — The Editors KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Republicans have more vulnerable state legislative chambers than Democrats. — Nationwide, Democrats are currently projected to have a small net gain in state Senate seats, whereas Republicans are projected to have a small net gain in state House seats. — Very few new state government trifectas are going to be created this year. The battle for the state legislatures There’s a lot at stake on the federal level this year: the presidency, the Senate, and the House are all up for grabs. While there has (rightfully) been considerable attention and speculation dedicated to these larger races, the upcoming state legislature elections have not received the same level of consideration. With more than 5,000 districts at stake this year, there are many opportunities at the state level for either party to

Chaz Nuttycombe

Rating Changes: Electoral College and Senate

Dear Readers: Please join Crystal Ball Editor in Chief Larry J. Sabato, Managing Editor Kyle Kondik, and Associate Editor J. Miles Coleman for a livestreamed assessment of the 2020 landscape from noon to 1 p.m. eastern today. The livestream will be available at: and is free. We previously were asking those interested to sign up through Eventbrite, but in order to accommodate a larger audience we decided to provide a direct livestream link. During the livestream, we will spend a significant portion of the time answering reader questions. To submit a question, tweet using the hashtag #UVACB2020 or email us at [email protected]. Concise questions will have a better chance of getting answered. Today’s two-part Crystal Ball offers a wide-ranging assessment of the political state of play in the midst of the ongoing public health crisis. Part one describes a series of rating changes we’re making in the Electoral College and Senate. Part two makes some bigger-picture observations and describes parallels between the 1980 election and this one. — The Editors KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — We are not dramatically revising our outlook for the presidential election, at least not yet. — That said, several rating changes in the Electoral

Kyle Kondik

One-Party Dominance Extends to Statewide Elected Offices

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — For talented young political prospects who belong to the minority party in states dominated by one party, the path to statewide advancement is rocky. — In 34 of the 50 states, a single party controls all of the statewide elected offices. — Only four states have a relatively balanced mix of Republican and Democratic statewide officeholders. One-party rule common in statewide elected offices By historical standards, Pete Buttigieg had a thin record in public office before he embarked upon a presidential run. Buttigieg had served two terms as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a mid-sized city, and his one run for statewide office — for state treasurer, against a candidate who would later lose a U.S. Senate race ignominiously — ended in failure. But Buttigieg was, like many politicians with potential, doomed to live in a state trending away from their party. In Buttigieg’s case, a Democrat’s chance of winning statewide office in Indiana seemed — and likely was — smaller than his chance of being elected president. Though he eventually gave in and endorsed rival Joe Biden, Buttigieg ended up as a top-tier candidate, narrowly winning the Iowa caucuses and finishing respectably in

Louis Jacobson

Trump Not Immune to the Usual Down-Ballot Presidential Penalty

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — After just three years in the White House, Donald Trump is seeing a significant erosion of down-ballot seats held by his party. — This erosion puts Trump in good company — at least since World War II, presidents typically experience at least some erosion across his party’s numbers of U.S. Senate, U.S. House, gubernatorial, and state legislative seats. — The best news for Trump and Republicans is that they have held their own in the category of races that is arguably most politically important: the Senate. The down-ballot White House blues On Monday, President Donald Trump began his fourth year in office. His presidency has been unique in many ways, but he’s been like other presidents in at least one respect: His party has generally lost ground down the ballot since he took office. In recent decades, presidents have typically seen an erosion of their party’s seats in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, the governorships, and the state legislatures. In fact, to one degree or another, every post-World War II two-term president has bled seats in these categories, and so have the two-term, same-party combinations of John F. Kennedy-Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon-Gerald

Louis Jacobson

Ratings Changes: Senate, House, and Governor

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — The Kansas Senate race is getting a lot of national buzz, but we still see the GOP as clearly favored to hold the seat. — The chances of Republicans springing Senate upsets in New Hampshire and Virginia appear to be growing dimmer. — Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D-CA) decision not to hold a special election for CA-50 makes it likelier for Republicans to hold the seat. — Vermont is a sleeper Democratic gubernatorial target. Table 1: Senate ratings changes Senator Old Rating New Rating Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) Leans Democratic Likely Democratic Mark Warner (D-VA) Likely Democratic Safe Democratic Table 2: Governor ratings change Governor Old Rating New Rating Phil Scott (R-VT) Likely Republican Leans Republican Table 3: House ratings change Member/District Old Rating New Rating CA-50 Vacant (Hunter, R) Likely Republican Safe Republican Senate: A word of caution on Kansas We have two ratings changes this week, upgrading the odds of Democratic incumbents in New Hampshire and Virginia. But perhaps the more interesting item to discuss is a rating that we’re not changing, in Kansas. Despite the threat to Republican fortunes there presented by 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach (R), we’re sticking with a Likely

Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman

The Governors: Party Control Now Near Parity

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE — Following the 2019 elections, Republicans retain a narrow 26-24 edge in governorships. — But that’s a big shift from mid-2017, when Democrats held just 15. — Gubernatorial races are likelier to defy federal partisanship than House and Senate races. The gubernatorial scorecard The Louisiana gubernatorial runoff closed the book on 2019’s statewide races. Democrats held Louisiana and narrowly won Kentucky, while Republicans held Mississippi. Map 1 shows the current party control of the governorships. They are split roughly evenly, with Republicans holding 26 and Democrats holding 24. A majority of Americans, a little less than 55%, will live under Democratic governors once Gov.-elect Andy Beshear (D-KY) takes office next month. Map 1: Party control of governorships following 2019 elections Since mid-2017, when Gov. Jim Justice’s (R-WV) party switch left Democrats with just 15 governorships, the party has gained nine total, while in that timeframe the only GOP gain came in Alaska, where a Republican took over from an independent last year. This trend is in keeping with what happens when a party controls the White House: They often lose ground in down-ballot offices. Still, party control of the governorships defies federal partisanship (as expressed

Kyle Kondik