Monday, November 3, 2014

Election Projection - The Governors

It's finally here!  Tomorrow, the nation will vote in the 2014 midterms, and as such, Battleground270 is revealing our complete election projection for both the Senate (later tonight) and Governors races.  This will include not just the chances of each candidate winning, but what we project to be the final vote share.  Let's get started! 

If you are a frequent reader, you'll notice a similar-looking image above.  This represents the likelihood that the Republicans will have control of a certain number of Governor's mansions after the election.  It's remained remarkable consistent throughout our forecast.  At the beginning of our forecast, Democrats had a slightly better chance to have 23 seats, picking up two seats.  Now, the model forecasts that the most likely outcome is that Democrats will pick up only one seat.  The likelihood of this happening is 21.39%.

But like any model, it represents the most likely chance, not the final result.  That's where our vote share projection comes in.  Like in previous years, we use data from the model to help determine who will actually win.  In that, we factor in state fundamentals, polling recency, and some other more subjective factors to come up with a final vote tally.  

Below, you will see the official projection.  You will likely note that not all of the Gubernatorial races are represented on this chart.  I have only calculated the chances for races that are not in the 'safe Dem' or 'safe GOP' column.  We'll begin at the top and work our way down.

Georgia's race looked to be a nail biter, with a likelihood that it would go to a runoff.  That conventional wisdom no longer seems to hold, as a string of polls in recent weeks has shown Governor Nathan Deal pulling ahead.  We currently project that he will get greater than 50% of the vote and therefore avoid a runoff.

Massachusetts is another case in which our original assumptions were way off.  The state is deep blue, and it was expected that the Democratic candidate would have a relative cake-walk to winning the election.  We were probably wrong.  The Republican, Charlie Baker, has pulled ahead in recent polls and taken a small but stubborn lead against Martha Coakley.  It's likely that Massachusetts' liberal base will end up helping Coakley a bit, but in the end, we still project Baker to win by about 1.2%.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has presided over a relatively liberal state for the past four years, and despite having decent approval ratings, he is barely ahead of his challenger.  Again, this is because Michigan's electorate is much more favorable to Democrats.  Additionally, voters have a relatively negative association with almost any incumbent this year, so that is also likely helping his challenger.  Still, we project Snyder to win 49% to 48%.

Wisconsin's Scott Walker is in much the same boat as Rick Snyder.  He is facing a credible challenger and the polls are neck and neck.  The most recent polling has shown a slight one to two point advantage for the incumbent, which translates to about a 67% chance of him pulling off a victory tomorrow.  But it will be close.  We expect him to win by only 1.3%.

Now we are getting to the races we expect the Democrat to win.  Despite being the closest incumbent to having a 50% chance, Maine's Governor's race is not expected to be the closest race of the night.  This is due to the fact that the forecasting model does not take into account subjective factors when determining a percentage likelihood of winning, but we do take that into account when predicting the final vote share.  

In Maine's case, there is an independent candidate on the ballot who recently made news by essentially saying that his voters shouldn't vote for him if they don't believe he will win (and he won't).  Therefore, we've concluded that about 3% of Cutler's voters will end up voting for another candidate, and the majority of those voters will likely vote for the Democrat.  That means we expect Michaud to beat the incumbent governor by about 1.4%.

Next up is Colorado.  This state is probably the 'swingiest' of all the battleground states this year.  While the Senate race currently favors the Republican candidate, the Gubernatorial race has seen the lead switch to a different party almost every week.  This week, Governor Hickenlooper has a slight edge, and we believe that will hold through tomorrow.  However, his win is going to be by the slimmest of margins, about 0.5%.

Alaska is yet another curious case in which we originally thought last December that Governor Parnell would skate to victory.  However, after the Independent and the Democrat joined forces on a unity ticket, the race became very competitive.  Most polls in September and early October showed the unity ticket leading by a healthy margin.  But recent polls from the state show a tighter race.  It is also worth noting (as we have in our Senate forecasts) that Alaska is an incredibly tough state to poll.  We are basing our prediction off the polling, but we wouldn't be surprised if Parnell pulled off a win.

On the complete opposite side of the country, Florida Governor Rick Scott is in the political fight of his life to retain his position.  He and former Governor Charlie Crist have been running neck and neck all fall, and this race is going to be decided on who shows up to vote.  Crist has had the polling edge over the past couple weeks, and we have him winning by 1%.

One incumbent who seems to be staying afloat is Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.  Though his Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner, was leading him in almost every poll throughout the summer, Quinn has finally broken through by defining Rauner as a one-percenter who doesn't care for the working class.  The line of attack seems to be working, as we expect Quinn to end up winning by 3.9% in President Obama's home state.

Kansas is, for once, getting a huge amount of attention this election cycle due to competitive Senate and Governor's races there.  Governor Sam Brownback is in trouble with voters due to his aggressively conservative moves in the state, and it looks as though Democrats may strike back this year in the deepest of red states.  Brownback has only a 33% chance of pulling off an upset, and we believe the race, though close will be won by about 1.4%.

Rounding out the 'lean Democratic' states are Connecticut and New Hampshire.  Neither state was on our radar early on, but both have become more competitive.  Governor Malloy is now likely to win by only about 2.8%, while New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan will win by about 3.6%.

Republicans have an outside chance of grabbing Rhode Island and Maryland.  They've touted recent polls showing the races are closer than were expected.  Still, Republicans are not leading in these states, and the Democrats shouldn't have too much trouble defending them.  

If you're counting, by now you will realize that we are predicting Democrats will actually pick up three seats as opposed to the model's "most likely" projection of only one seat.  This is because, as we said before, the model gives someone who may end up winning by only half a point a 45% of still pulling off an upset.  When calculating total vote share, it became more obvious that Democrats could have a decent night, at least for Gubernatorial races.

It will certainly be a fascinating night for political junkies.  We predict there will be at least eight races in which the two major candidates will be within two points of one another.  That is relatively unheard of in an election year.  If we begin to see some of the close races that were predicted to be won by Democrats actually won by Republicans, it will likely be a terrible night for the Democratic party.  However, if states like Wisconsin and Michigan end up being won by the Democratic candidates, it could mean that polling was off nationwide, and Democrats could have a better-than-expected night.

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