Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Election Liveblog: 2018

It's Election Day, and I'm liveblogging! We're in this until the bitter end -- or until the news gets too depressing and I make up for 11 years of not drinking alcohol in one fell swoop.

Updates will continue throughout the day below (though obviously, there won't be much here until results start coming in this afternoon). Join me!

(All times Pacific)

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2:25 AM: Okay, I'm calling it for the night. The Montana count has slowed to a crawl, and I've been at this almost continuously for nine hours.

Make no mistake, this was a big night for Democrats. Yes, the Senate was a disappointment. But the House was a huge victory. And -- Florida and Georgia notwithstanding -- we did a solid number on the gubernatorial races too. Seven states will welcome in new Democratic governors -- including some critical 2020 states -- and that matters a lot going forward.

1:49 AM: The main race I'm hanging on for is the Montana Senate race, which stubbornly remains red (Rosendale leads by 1.5 with 78% reporting) even as for a long time Tester still seemed to be in good statistical shape. The problem is that the blue parts of Montana just aren't reporting their numbers -- most notably, both Missoula and Gallatin counties, which are by far Tester's strongest turf, are each more than half out. Tester's winning Missoula by 31 and Gallatin by 21 so far, but that's actually a bit short of his benchmarks (another Dem fade!) -- he needs 37 and 23 point margins, respectively.

1:46 AM: See, this is why you need local experts. Turns out that Mower County is the one place on the Minnesota/Iowa border that leans blue. And good thing too, since it still has 40% left to report with Hagedorn up by less than 600 votes. I'd still say Hagedorn has a big advantage, but this isn't quite over yet.

1:36 AM: Unless there's something really skewed with the absentee and other late-counted ballots in Arizona, I have to think Martha McSally has taken this. But there's down-the-line silver lining for the Democrats: holding a solid Republican candidate like McSally to a sub-1 point victory in Arizona is definite proof that this state is trending, if not blue, then at least purple.

1:31 AM: More bright news from Wisconsin: It looks as if Democratic challenger Josh Kaul has defeated Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel.

1:27 AM: Okay, now I think we might be able to make a call in the California's 15th Assembly District. With 77% reporting, Buffy Wicks has what seems to be a commanding 57-43 lead on Jovanka Beckles. Congrats to Wicks, who will make a superb Assemblywoman.

1:23 AM: California races can change after the buzzer, thanks to all the mail-in ballots, but for the moment at least it looks like Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has lost his race against Harley Rouda. Rouda leads 51/49 with 99% reporting. And since late ballots tend to favor Democrats, Rouda should sleep well tonight.

1:17 AM: In a D-on-D California Assembly race, Speaker Anthony Rendon is beating Maria Estrada 57-43 with 2/3 reporting. While that's a comfortable margin, it's not as comfortable as I'd like given that Estrada is a raging antisemite.

Meanwhile, in my Assembly race, Buffy Wicks still has a 17 point lead over Jovanka Beckles, with just over half of all precincts reporting.

1:11 AM: I mean this about, I dunno, 70% seriously, but there's something to be said for all the Florida voters who voted for Scott or DeSantis and Amendment 4 (felon re-enfranchisement). There must be a lot of them, since A4 passed with over sixty percent of the vote, and given the sharp racial skew in Florida's ex-felon population, the sheer number of people who had been barred from voting who now will be eligible, and how closely divided Florida is, there's a very strong chance that these voters have basically signed away their political future to the opposing party.

If they knew that, and did the right thing anyway -- well, I tip my hat to that, at least.

1:06 AM: While "Democrat comes from behind to win in Connecticut" isn't exactly something to crow about, it is looking pretty good for Ned Lamont, who's been trailing all night in the Connecticut gubernatorial race but now appears to have pulled into a narrow lead.

1:04 AM: It's still overwhelmingly likely that Rick Scott has defeated Bill Nelsen (which -- come ON Florida!), but it is worth noting that the race has quietly crept back into automatic recount territory as Broward County processes its absentees.

12:59 AM: Apparently the California Senate race has been called for Dianne Feinstein. Kevin de Leon certainly ran a spirited contest and made it close, though his final coalition looks to be a bit of an oddball mix of "progressives thirsting for a lefty challenge to Feinstein" and "conservatives who instinctively vote for the not-Feinstein".

12:48 AM: Oh, in case you were wondering, yes, the Green Party vote is about twice the margin between McSally and Sinema in Arizona.

12:44 AM: Looks like Hurd is back ahead for good (provisionals, absentees, etc. TBD). And absentee votes have already made an impact in one race: in the GA-06, Rep. Karen Handel is now losing to Democratic challenger Lucy McBath by about 1,000 votes.

12:37 AM: The UT-04 race continues to tighten: Democrat Ben McAdams now has a 2.5% lead over GOP Rep. Mia Love. The remaining vote looks like it leans ever-so-slightly red (Utah County is 62% unreported and is blood-red, while Salt Lake City -- not as blue, but much more populous -- has around 30% left to report). This will be a nail-biter.

12:23 AM: I think McSally is in a good position to hold Arizona's Senate seat for the GOP. She's consistently led by about a point, and while Sinema is narrowly winning Maricopa, she needs to increase her margin by at least a little bit and she's running out of time to do it. Again, Maricopa is so geographically diverse that it's not impossible to make up the difference, but McSally is in pole position.

12:08 AM: Oh good: another "reporting error" puts Texas GOP Rep. Will Hurd back ahead. That's two in one night (the other was in Georgia's 7th district).

12:06 AM: Calling California races is a fools' errand, given all the mail-in ballots. Still, if you had told me that the closest of the toss-up CA race's would be Rohrabacher/Rouda, I'm not sure I would have believed it. Rouda has a half point lead with 70% reporting.

12:02 AM: With 20% reporting in my Assembly race (California AD15), Buffy Wicks is beating fellow Democrat Jovanka Beckles by 20 points. But I strongly suspect this is a race where different parts of the district will vote very differently, so I wouldn't read too much into that (though Wicks certainly should be pleased!).

12:00 AM: Poking our head into Montana, where Jon Tester is still down by about a point. But there's a lot of blue territory still outstanding, and again, he's hitting his marks there.

11:58 PM: Some tough early results (and the true disappointment in Florida) has masked a pretty solid night for Democrats. Not only taking back the House, but winning eight Governor's mansions (including a real feel-good victory in Wisconsin).

11:52 PM: Nevada carries on its slow but steady blueward march: Steve Sisolak will be its next Governor.

11:49 PM: What makes Arizona impossible to project is that 60% of the state's voters are in Maricopa, County, which includes Phoenix ... and a lot of rural areas that are not really much like Phoenix. On net, it's a swing county, but that's less because the whole county is purple and more because it has both some deep blue and deep red regions. So when it's 40% in and basically a tie, that could mean pretty much anything.

11:42 PM: Sometimes a race gets called and then those last few votes trickle in and suddenly ... the "loser" ends up ahead. So it appears to have gone in the TX-23, where GOP Rep. Will Hurd -- who had been called the victor earlier this evening -- is down 300 votes to Democrat Gina Ortiz with 100% reporting.

11:33 PM: And Nevada was just called for Jacky Rosen, finally putting Democrats on the Senate board tonight. Meanwhile, Arizona keeps on doing its thing -- McSally has a 1 point lead, with 55% counted.

11:30 PM: Will we ever tire of Danny Tarkanian losing? We may never find out! He lost again tonight, this time in the NV-02 district, to Democrat Susie Lee.

11:29 PM: And Wisconsin has officially been called for Democrat Tony Evers, who takes the Governor's mansion from one-time GOP star Scott Walker.

11:26 PM: Nevada is looking strong as Clark comes in 54-41 for Rosen and 53-52 for Sisolak. They needed a 53-45 margin, so while this isn't a blowout, they're both in a strong position (especially because both are winning in swingy Washoe County).

11:15 PM: I think Hagedorn will pull out the win for the GOP in the MN-01. Not only is this a rare D-to-R flip, but as I've mentioned this is the district where my in-laws live, so I'm especially less-than-happy that it elected a guy who likes to talk about how George Soros "owns" his opponents and accused Joe Lieberman of only voting for the Iraq War because he's a Jew.

11:05 PM: It's hard not to feel a bit nervous watching the California House results come in, but remember that a ton of the vote in California is by mail and gets counted late -- and that vote tends to lean liberal.

11:04 PM: Democrats flip the SC-01 -- probably an even bigger upset than the Oklahoma seat they won earlier tonight.

11:01 PM: So I knew that Democrats had taken control of the New York State Senate, but I hadn't realized just how badly they demolished the GOP in doing so -- they netted eight seats there tonight (they only needed one).

For me, the top two Democratic priorities in NY should be (1) reforming the state's awful election rules and (b) placing Simcha Felder on a raft and leaving him to fend for himself.

10:59 PM: I don't want to jinx it but ... Tony Evers might have pulled off the win in Wisconsin. Apparently a bunch of absentees were just counted in Milwaukee and Evers cleaned up there.

10:53 PM: Arizona continues to creep, creep, creep along. Republican Martha McSally leads Democrat Kirsten Synema by about a point. Almost all the remaining vote is in three counties: Pima, Pinal, and especially Maricopa. Synema needs to win Maricopa by one point, Pima by 17, and lose Pinal by 15. Right now she's winning Maricopa by one, Pima by 15, and losing Pinal by 16. Then again, Sinema has done slightly better than she needed in some of the more outlying rural areas (which is to say, she's losing there by bruising margins instead of lethal margins). This will be tight.

10:46 PM: I'll do a real post-mortem tomorrow (or maybe a little later -- I deserve a break). But one takeaway I have immediately is that this was not a "snapback" election from 2016, this was a continuation of a trend. Trump-y areas continue to back Trump. Suburban areas, long a redoubt for a sort of old-school Republican conservatism, continue to loathe him. States (Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, and yes, Texas) and districts which had been moving towards the Democratic Party continued to do so. Places which liked Trump in 2016 continue to like Trumpism in 2018 (Florida, Indiana, Missouri). If there's an exception to this, it's in the midwest -- but even there, look at Minnesota, which bucked the "blue wave" harder than perhaps anywhere after being closer than expected in 2016.

The thing pundits are really going to have to reckon with is that conservative Americans really like Trumpism. He's not an aberration. He's not an exception. He's not outside the Republican mainstream. There are segments of the country where racist, xenophobic appeals are really popular -- and right now, those are the locales where Republicans win.

10:30 PM: With Elissa Slotkin's victory over Rep. Mike Bishop in the MI-08, Democrats have officially won enough called races to take the House (I don't know if that count gets subtracted by one if Hagedorn pulls out the win over Feehan, but if not her there will be others).

10:27 PM: According to exit polls (I know, I know), 79% of Jews voted for Democratic House candidates this cycle.

10:22 PM: Nevada finally posts some damn numbers. Carson City is 88% in, with Republican gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt and Senator Dean Heller up about 13 points. That's decent news -- Democrats can lose that county by 16 and still win tonight.

10:13 PM: The called, uncalled, called again race in NY-27 goes to indicted Rep. Chris Collins. And Duncan Hunter likewise looks to have prevailed in the CA-50. With Greg Gianforte still ahead in Montana, this is a banner evening for Republican criminals.

10:04 PM: There's a big upset brewing in the SC-01 -- a deep-red district whose incumbent, Mark Sanford (yes, that Mark Sanford) lost a primary challenge to Katie Arrington. But now Arrington is shockingly down three points to Joe Cunningham, with 92% reporting.

9:59 PM: The MN-01 race is going to kill me. With 86% reporting, Democrat Dan Feehan has moved into a 300 vote lead. I have to think that the two remaining counties (there might be one more Rochester precinct) lean Hagedorn -- though if there are any experts on Jackson and Mower county, Minnesota, now's your time to shine.

9:54 PM: I want to be very careful, and very precise, in how I say this: a "data error", in a Georgia congressional race, that puts a Republican incumbent over the top in a race where it looked like he had lost to his Democratic challenger, looks very, very bad.

9:49 PM: A college buddy of mine ran for the Minnesota State House. He got smoked -- but don't worry: while I love him as a friend, he'd make a terrible legislator. (Democrats looked poised to win the State House outright, flipping it from GOP control).

9:42 PM: Democratic Rep. Colin Peterson has won reelection in the MN-07, but it was close, again, even though Republicans didn't really invest much effort in the race, again. I have to think that's going to change in 2020.

9:37 PM: Apparently the margin of victory in the KS-02 race, where Rep. Steve Watkins held off Democrat Paul Davis, was provided by a libertarian candidate who was a Democratic Party official planning to run in this race as a Democrat before the party consolidated around Davis. So he ran third party. Dead to me.

9:35 PM: Democrats have won the governor's race in Maine, thus bringing the hellish Paul LePage era to an end.

9:33 PM: As California starts to report (22% in), Senator Dianne Feinstein begins with an eight point lead over fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon. Interestingly -- given that de Leon is mounting a from-the-left challenge of the incumbent -- he's doing best in the less liberal inland parts of the state. I imagine some conservative voters just dislike Feinstein and reflexively vote for her opponent, even if he's a Democrat too.

9:29 PM: Rep. Steve King has reportedly held onto his western Iowa seat. It was close, but this goes to show that if your district is conservative enough there's no limit to how racist you can be.

9:25 PM: I think Scott Walker is going to squeak out another victory in Wisconsin. The rough Senate night was expected, but it's really been a deeply mediocre performance for Democrats on the gubernatorial side as well.

9:17 PM: Kim Reynolds looks poised to hang on to the Iowa governorship -- another GOP hold (and an extra impressive one given Democratic strength on the House side of things). She leads by 1 point with 85% in, but it looks like more red turf than blue is left outstanding.

9:07 PM: If the Democratic wall in the Senate really collapsed we would have lost Montana too, but fortunately that doesn't look to be happening. Jon Tester continues to hold down a 7 point lead with 27% reporting.

Meanwhile, the House race is also surprisingly close: Rep. Greg Gianforte (best known for bodyslamming a reporter) is up just 1 point over Democrat Kathleen Williams. And so far, it seems like she's right at her county targets -- which is to say, it may well stay this close down the stretch.

9:01 PM: Back in Minnesota, Angie Craig has pulled out to a 4 point lead in the MN-02 with 91% reporting. It doesn't look there are enough Republican votes to close the gap for Rep. Jason Lewis. A bit further south in the MN-01, Jim Hagedorn has a .4% lead over Dan Feehan with 68% reporting. Still plenty of Olmsted out, and I was right that it was D terrain. But if Hagedorn does hang on, he'll have won only the second GOP flip this House cycle -- both in Minnesota!

8:59 PM: On the other hand, maybe the call for Rep. Chris Collins was too soon too? He's trailing by 10 with 50% in, and the outstanding turf doesn't look great for him (though it's a bit hard to say, since some counties haven't reported at all).

8:56 PM: Josh Hawley is projected to beat Claire McCaskill in Missouri -- another Senate loss in what has been a really tough night for Dems in the upper chamber (off-set, of course, by our many victories in the lower chamber!).

8:50 PM: Retraction alert! Now I'm seeing reports that Rodney Davis has held on to his IL-13 seat. Sorry Illini.

8:47 PM: It'll be down to the wire in Wisconsin, where Democrat Tony Evers has a lead of less than 2,000 votes over incumbent Scott Walker. 78% of the state has reported, including virtually all of Milwaukee (though there are still some Democratic pockets in and around Madison).

8:44 PM: Democrats have won three of Iowa's four House seats. The fourth, held by White Supremacist Steve King, is almost deadlocked with two-thirds reporting.

8:41 PM: Indicted Rep. Chris Collins (NY-27) will be re-elected -- California's Duncan Hunter is hoping to make it two-for-two for the accused criminal House set. That said, Democrats have picked up at least three seats in New York: defeating the aforementioned Donovan (NY-11), John Faso (NY-19), and Claudia Tenney (NY-22). They've also officially won complete control of the New York State Senate. No more IDC shenanigans, please!

8:37 PM: We mentioned the NJ-02 earlier, where Republicans had cut loose Seth Grossman for being racist (and thus, they thought, non-competitive -- obviously they don't care about racists who might win). But this race has been tighter than expected, though now Democrat Jeff Van Drew does have a three point lead.

8:35 PM: Another Illinois Democratic pickup is projected, this time in the 13th district. Congrats to Betsy Londrigan, and all the UIUCers who helped make this possible.

8:33 PM: Claire McCaskill is down 10 in Missouri, albeit with much of St. Louis still to report. Still, it might be that the GOP basically runs the table on meaningfully contested Senate races (obviously, we've still got Arizona and Nevada outstanding. Montana also is only 20% in, though so far Jon Tester is hitting his marks).

8:29 PM: A Republican pickup in the MN-08 is their first House flip of the night. This was by far their best chance to win a Democratic seat, though the MN-01 race is still close and has a good chance of falling their way too.

8:26 PM: While we were distracted, Rep. Steve Watkins has pulled back into a (.5%) lead over Democrat Paul Davis. With 90% reporting and (I think) mostly red turf out, this looks like a GOP hold.

8:23 PM: With Kobach losing in Kansas, but DeSantis and (probably) Kemp winning in Florida and Georgia, it sometimes feels like the battle against the greatest GOP demons is like we're fighting H.Y.D.R.A.. "Strike down one head, and two will take our place!"

8:22 PM: Even if you're a cynic like me, it's virtually impossible to imagine Democrats not taking the House. They've already flipped 20 seats out of the 23 seats they need -- and there are some ripe pickings to be had out west.

8:18 PM: In case you were wondering, that UT-02 race has been slowly reverting to form. Now Republican Rep. Chris Stewart is back in the lead by 2 points -- but while not all of Salt Lake City (the only Democratic territory here) is in, there's a lot of brutally red terrain down south that hasn't reported at all.

8:11 PM: It's a photo finish in the NJ-03: GOP Rep. Tom McArthur trails Democrat Andy Kim by less than 400 votes with 99% in.

8:05 PM: In the cruelest "Florida man" story, Florida men have elected Ron DeSantis governor (Andrew Gillum just conceded).

8:03 PM: We will net at least two Illinois seats: Lauren Underwood has defeated GOP Rep. Randy Holtgren in the IL-14. He joins Rep. Peter Roskam and, of course, Governor Bruce Rauner, among the defeated Illinois Republicans.

7:57 PM: Rep. Rodney Davis has crept back into the lead in the IL-13. He's up by a little over a point with 78% reporting. The good news for Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan? The most outstanding turf appears to be in Dem-leaning Madison County.

7:55 PM: Tim Walz has won the Minnesota governorship, keeping the seat Democratic. But can team Blue keep Tim Walz's seat in the D column? Right now, Democratic nominee Dan Feehan is trailing Jim "my opponent is owned by Soros" Hagedorn by about 2 points, with 26% reporting.

7:50 PM: Why is Florida so tough for Democrats to capture? My hypothesis right now is that the more rural and tempermentally "Southern" parts of the state (paradoxically, in North Florida) have pivoted hard to the right faster than suburban Florida has gone blue. Consider that Nelson and Gillum both won suburban Pinellas County, historically a bellwether, even while (probably) losing statewide.

Of course, with the passage of Amendment 4, which will re-enfranchise 40%(!) of the state's African-American adults, this analysis might be moot faster than you'd think.

7:44 PM: Feeling good about Angie Craig's chances against Rep. Jason Lewis in the MN-02. She's up 2 with about half reporting -- but half of Dakota (the bluest part of the district) is still out along with all of Rice County (home of Carleton College!).

Things are a bit harder to predict in my wife's native MN-01. It's dead even with 21% reporting. I assume (though I don't know) that Olmsted County, aka Rochester, will be the strongest territory for Dan Feehan as he tries to keep this seat blue.

7:40 PM: It's not called yet, but Kendra Horn still has a 1 point lead over Rep. Steve Russell (R) in the OK-05, and 97% of precincts have been reported.

7:36 PM: Georgia continues to creep along in its reporting. The Governor's race is hard to process given just how divided this state is. But on the House end of things, there's some news: Democratic challenger Carolyn Bourdeaux is up 6 on GOP Rep. Rob Woodall in the GA-07. The more marquee race was thought to be the GA-06 race: Incumbent Republican Karen Handel has a small lead with less than 15% reporting.

7:31 PM: Out in Utah, Mitt Romney will be a US Senator. More interestingly, in the UT-04, GOP Rep. Mia Love is trailing by about 10 points to Ben McAdams with 53% reporting. There are a bunch of different narratives in play here: this is very conservative territory, but also not particularly Trump-positive territory. And Love -- one of the few African-American Republicans -- has always had to reckon with more than a bit of racism in this part of the country.

Also in Utah, Shireen Ghorbani is way up (like, 40 points up) against GOP Rep. Chris Stewart in the UT-02 with 18% reporting. I assume this is a mirage though, since I've never heard a whisper about this race.

7:29 PM: While O'Rourke may not have won himself, there's no doubt he gave Democratic House challengers down ballot a significant tailwind. And the first of those challengers to officially get a call is in the TX-32, where Colin Allred has unseated longtime Rep. Pete Sessions.

7:25 PM: We're looking at a rough Senate night for Dems (with Donnelly, Heitkamp and -- probably -- Nelson going down at the very least, with McCaskill still very much on the chopping block too). But we might have the weird scenario of a significant Democratic underperformance on the Senate side being paired with strong results on the House.

But while the brutal Senate map is probably responsible for most of the GOP's victories, their overperformance against the numbers certainly will give their spin doctors some ammo in the event the Democrats take the House, as seems increasingly likely.

7:24 PM: Rep. Rodney Davis's IL-13 seat has always been tantalizingly out of reach for Democrats, dating back to my time at the University of Illinois. But maybe this is the year: with about half the vote counted, he's trailing by 8 points.

7:19 PM: It looks like Ted Cruz is going to hold off Beto O'Rourke. Disappointed, but the very narrow margin is testament to the fact that everyone hates Ted Cruz, and we can take solace in that.

7:16 PM: A sleeper GOP upset pick would be the MN-03 (the non-sleeper GOP pickup district in MN is the MN-01, the non-sleeper and non-upset pick is the MN-08). Rep. Colin Peterson represents some very red turf, and he was held to a much tighter than anticipated margin in 2016 against a no-name opponent. The race is dead-even right now, albeit with less than 10% reporting.

7:13 PM: Not to keep picking on the early Kentucky/Indiana races, but the early angst might have been skewed by the fact that this is arguably the most pro-Trump area in America. Democrats are doing considerably better elsewhere -- including in generally red heartland areas like Kansas (and -- maybe -- Oklahoma: Kendra Horn is up a point on GOP Rep. Steve Russell in the OK-05 with just under 80% reporting).

7:07 PM: And we get some more AP calls: Luria has eked it out in the VA-02, and Rose has unseated Donovan in the NY-11. Two more very solid Democratic pickups.

7:04 PM: Just saw a call in Kansas -- Kansas -- where Democrat Laura Kelly apparently has defeated voter suppression maestro Kris Kobach. That feels real good. She's up 52-40 with 35% reporting. Also in Kansas, Paul Davis has a 6 point lead in the KS-02 with half the vote in. That'd be a nice Democratic pickup (his district was considerably tougher turf than Davids').

7:02 PM: While I'm ready to lock in the VA-07, the VA-02 remains comically close (oddly, I think the VA-07 was thought of as a harder Democratic target). With 94% reporting, Democrat Elaine Luria has a 44 vote lead over Rep. Scott Taylor. And there's no clear lean to the remaining precincts to count, either.

6:59 PM: A bunch more Democratic pickups. In the KS-03, Sharice Davids will become the first Native American woman in Congress (Democrats are hoping to make it two later this evening with Deb Haaland in New Mexico). Meanwhile, Haley Stevens has flipped a GOP open seat, beating Lena "let's bring out Jews for Jesus to eulogize Pittsburgh victims" Epstein in the MI-11.

6:56 PM: Sleeper race in New York: Democrat Max Rose has a 4 point lead on GOP Rep. Dan Donovan with 89% reporting. This was a race that wasn't really on anyone's radar as one of the marquee Democratic pickup opportunities.

6:51 PM: Still no call, but I think it's over in the VA-07 -- a big Democratic pickup given how the evening is progressing. Right now I think we'll see a Democratic House, but by a relatively narrow margin. There's no crushing wave, which makes it all the more imperative that Democrats win at least some races like this.

6:47 PM: Most of Minnesota hasn't reported yet, but one district has gotten ahead of the rest: MN-03, a suburban Minneapolis seat where Democrat Dean Phillips is smoking GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen. He's up 12 with over 70% in -- another affluent suburban district which is snapping back hard to the Democratic Party.

Over on the Senate side, both Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar look solid in early returns.

6:45 PM: GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo has conceded in the FL-26, giving a key toss-up race victory to the Democrats.

6:43 PM: Congrats to Jared Polis, who holds down a Democratic governorship in Colorado and becomes the first openly gay man to be elected Governor in American history.

6:34 PM: The Democratic pick-ups so far have been in districts we were expected to win (if Spanberger beats Brat, that would probably be our best victory so far). That would include Jason Crow defeating Rep. Mike Coffman in the CO-06. But if Laura Underwood takes down GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren in the IL-14, that would be a good get. She leads by 5.5 with 42% in.

6:30 PM: Now the VA-02 is back to a teeny-tiny GOP lead -- .4%! About 13% of Virginia Beach is left to report, and that's been bouncing here there and everywhere tonight.

6:21 PM: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is projected to comfortably win reelection in Maryland over Ben Jealous. While this isn't as big of a deal in the scheme of things, given MD's Democratic supermajority in the legislature, it's still embarrassing that we can't elect a Democrat in a state as a blue as this (see also: Massachusetts).

6:15 PM: While it is good that Corey Stewart will lose to Tim Kaine in the Virginia Senate race, he isn't projected to do materially worse than Ed Gillespie did in 2017. That's worrisome, given that Stewart is basically an open White Supremacist and neo-Confederate fanboy. Moral of the story: Being a White Supremacist and neo-Confederate fanboy costs you precisely zero Republican votes.

6:12 PM: With 22% reporting, Republican Seth Grossman is up by 3 over Democrat Jeff Van Drew. This is an open GOP seat, but one the Republican Party had basically written off once they learned that Grossman was really, really racist. It's geographically large for New Jersey though, so this may not be a representative sample.

6:05 PM: Donnelly wasn't exactly expected, but it wasn't exactly wrenching either. But losing both the Governor and Senate race in Florida? That would hurt. A lot. Particularly when we're talking about a sociopath like DeSantis.

6:00 PM: West Virginia has been called for Joe Manchin -- an expected, if still nice, Democratic hold (particularly with Donnelly falling).

5:55 PM: KY-06 has been called for Barr -- a GOP hold.

5:53 PM: What goes around comes around! I think Rep. Dave Brat, who soared to prominence by defeating GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary, will lose to Abby Spanberger in the VA-07. He's down by only .2, but nearly all of the remaining vote is in D- or D-leaning turf.

5:51 PM: Democrats have just pulled into the lead in both the VA-02 and VA-07 -- but both by tiny margins (less than a point). At least 85% of the vote is counted in both districts.

5:50 PM: Just saw the first projection that Joe Donnelly will lose in Indiana. While there's still plenty of vote to count, Donnelly just isn't hitting his margins in the big cities.

5:49 PM: Christ, Florida, must we do this every time? "This" being insanely tight elections that boil down to how much vote is left in South Florida, and "this" being "possibly electing Rick Scott to offices by tiny margins."

5:41 PM: Checking back in on Virginia, Rep. Dave Brat (R) is up by less than a point -- and Chesterfield County (a blue -- albeit light-blue -- tinted county) is only half in. That's by far the largest source of outstanding ballots here.

5:39 PM: Some unambiguously positive news, if it holds: Florida looks poised to restore ex-felon voting rights!

5:29 PM: The VA-02 race in coastal Virginia is a little hard to parse. Incumbent Scott Taylor (R) is up three on challenger Elaine Luria with 70% reporting. But it feels like there should be a lot more votes from Norfolk. I don't know what to make of it, really.

5:27 PM: Statewide in Florida, both Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis are clinging to very small leads with 70% of the vote in. The good news: It seems like a lot of south Florida Democratic turf (e.g., in Palm Beach and Broward Counties) is still out. The bad news: I feel like I have a bad memory of thinking the same thing in 2016 and being very disappointed....

5:26 PM: Another very close race is in the FL-26 -- a south Florida district where GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo has long been a top Democratic target in a district that went heavily for Clinton. With 77% in, challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell leads by less than a point. But virtually all the remaining turf is in the much bluer Miami-Dade part of the district, so if I'm Mucarsel-Powell I'm feeling pretty optimistic right now.

5:16 PM: The VA-07 race is going to be tight. GOP Rep. Dave Brat is clinging to a one point lead with 79% of the vote in. But much -- though not all -- of the remaining vote is in Chesterfield County, where Democrat Abby Spanberger is currently up by 7 points.

5:12 PM: 77% in, and Barr has pulled into a 1 point lead in the KY-06. About 12% of Fayette County (where McGrath is leading by 21) is left to report, and that's her best turf. But there's some red (or at least reddish -- pretty much anything not Fayette or Franklin County here is at least "reddish") territory also is still outstanding. The closest thing to a "swing" county left is Woodford County, which "only" went for Trump by 20.

5:08 PM: Comstock was basically a gimme, but Democrats had a few more targets in Virginia. The two largest were the VA-02 (Rep. Scott Taylor) and VA-07 (Rep. David Brat). Both incumbents are currently leading (though the Brat race has been oscillating a bit) -- a more distant Democratic target (VA-06) has already been called for the Republican.

5:02 PM: Another D flip is called, this time in south Florida where Donna Shalala has apparently taken an open GOP seat. There had been some griping about Shalala's campaign skills, but she's up 5 with 62% reporting.

4:59 PM: I'm going to be honest -- not feeling great right now. 22% of Marion County (Indianapolis) is reporting, and Donnelly is up by 28. DKE county benchmarks say he needs to win there by 42.

4:50 PM: Pinellas County is about half in, and both Nelson and Gillum are holding onto leads there (Nelson's is larger -- 5.5 points vs. 3 points). Again, that's fine if it holds up -- this is a very swingy county.

4:49 PM: Comstock, of course, was a "moderate Republican", which means she was substantively virtually identical to Paul Ryan on every issue except -- occasionally -- rhetorically.

4:43 PM: We have a House pick-up, and it's for the blue team! Rep. Barbara Comstock has gone down in Virginia's 10th District (suburban DC). With 60% reporting, she's trailing Jennifer Wexton by a bruising 16 point margin. Lest we get too excited, this is a district that Republicans had basically written off -- this part of the country loathes Trump.

4:41 PM: Franklin County is all reported in Kentucky, and McGrath ended up winning it by 8. That's not good -- she needed a 12 point margin. If you wanted to read this into a national trend -- and I highly encourage you not to -- the worry is that Democrats succeeded in getting more people to vote early but not more people to vote period. That might translate to a difficult night where early returns look good and then it slowly slips away.

4:34 PM: Finally, a biggish county starts to report in Indiana. St. Joseph's County, in the northern part of the state, is going for Donnelly by 27 points with about 20% of the vote counted. He needs a 20 point margin there -- but again, watch for backsliding if early (potentially more D-leaning) votes are the bulk of the count.

4:23 PM: As more votes are coming in, McGrath is backsliding a bit. The Clark County numbers were always a mirage, but now (with 42% in) Barr is up by 25 (he needs 20). Montgomery County is all  in, now with Barr holding down a 27 point margin (he needs 24). And while McGrath is still beating her numbers Franklin County (up 15, needs to be up 12, 48% in), she's lagging a bit in Fayette County, by far the largest in the district and a place where the Democrats need to dominate. Her 20 point margin is good, but it isn't good enough -- she needs to be up 25.

4:16 PM: Hey, we all remember Kim Davis, right? The Kentucky official who wouldn't process lawful same-sex marriages? Well, with almost 2/3 of the vote counted she's losing her re-election fight.

(Also, yes, she switched parties and now is a Republican)

4:13 PM: Let's turn our gaze to Florida, where the early vote in swingy Pinellas County (near Tampa) has incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson leading Rick Scott by 8 point. The benchmark figure Nelson needs to hit is a 1 point win. But again, early votes in particular are often non-representative, so caveat emptor.

4:06 PM: Montgomery County joins the large KY-06 counties with over 10% in club. And with a third of the vote counted, Barr is leading by 19. Again -- that's good news for McGrath: she just needs to hold him to 24 in this county to come out on top.

3:58 PM: Polls are about to close in a bunch more states, meaning that our deep analysis of the KY-06 race may be coming to an end. But so far, I'd say things look good for McGrath. Franklin  County is now half in, and she's still up 15 (remember, a 12 point margin there was her benchmark, so right now she's past it). The only other large-ish county to have reported over 10% is Clark (11.5% in), and McGrath is up 8 -- which would be stunning, given that her benchmark there is to only lose by 20. I can't believe that's going to hold, but hey, good news is good news.

3:51 PM: Another example -- albeit from a smaller county, albeit with more reporting. With about a third of the vote counted in Indiana's Bartholomew County, Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly is trailing by about 9 points. In 2012 he lost Bartholomew County by 8 points while winning statewide by six points. Trump dominated here by over 30 points.

3:45 PM: Okay, we're going to jump the gun a bit and report some early results from the Kentucky-06 race, where Amy McGrath is challenging GOP Rep. Andy Barr. These are very early, and I'm giving to you only to illustrate the point I made before regarding county benchmarks.

The two biggest counties in this district to report a non-trivial chunk of votes are Franklin and Montgomery ("non-trivial" is relative -- both are around 6% in. That's not a lot). In Franklin, McGrath is up 29. In Montgomery, Barr is up 23.

Okay, but what does that mean? Well, in 2016 Montgomery County went for Trump by 41 points -- if McGrath can bring that margin down to a 24 point loss, she's in good shape. So she's right on target there. But the news is even better in Franklin County: Trump won that by 15, and McGrath's target is to win it by 12. So being up 29 would be a massive overperformance.

But again -- it is early. There's still a lot of votes to count, including in these two counties.

3:38 PM: Results are starting to trickle in, but they're sporadic and too spread out to really paint any sort of picture. What we're waiting for is a decent-sized county (e.g., Franklin in Kentucky) to report a decent-size percentage of its votes. Once that happens, we'll start getting a sense of where the night (or at least, that county's race) is heading.

3:20 PM: Don't trust exit polls don't trust exit polls 61% of first-time voters are voting Democrat according to an exit poll don't trust exit polls.

3:05 PM: And here ... we ... go! Polls have closed in Kentucky and (most of) Indiana. The nation's eyes, hungry for any bit of data they can swallow, all look to the Indiana Senate and KY-06 House races (the two main competitive contests here). Can Donnelly run-up the score enough in Marion County to overcome Indiana's Trumpist lean?

2:37 PM: The polls don't close for at least another 30 minutes anywhere in the US. But they do things differently out on the islands, and we've got our first Democratic pickup of the night .... in Guam! Lou Leon Guerrero will be Guam's next (and first female) Governor. Republicans had held the seat for the last sixteen years.

Congrats to Guerrero and incoming Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio!

2:27 PM: Georgia Secretary of State and GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp -- who's been battling accusations of voter suppression all cycle -- struggles to cast a ballot after nearly being stymied by his own state's voter ID law.

1:28 PM: A poll worker in Houston is facing criminal assault charges after hurling racist remarks at a Black voter, then shoulder bumping her. The most interesting part of the story, for me, is what the worker said when the voter said she was calling the police: "I'm white. Have you seen the news? If you call the police, they're going to take you to jail and do something to you, because I'm white."

Now, to be clear, that's not what the police ended up doing (they escorted out the poll worker, as they should). But it is interesting to see how racist Whites are directly weaponizing the increased salience of police bias against Black people -- a sort of through-the-mirror-darkly upshot of the success of the BlackLivesMatter.

1:22 PM: Apropos of nothing, a new study published in the Journal of Politics finds that politicians no longer are punished for making explicit racial appeals to White voters. Some (albeit contested) evidence suggested that for a period such appeals had to be made implicit -- explicit racism being rejected by all -- but this study concludes that this era passed around when the Tea Party began organizing its anti-Obama backlash circa 2010.

12:19 PM: Still have three hours until the first results come in  (from Indiana and Kentucky). Quoth the wife: "What's the point of living in Pacific Time if the election isn't already decided by the time you wake up?"

12:08 PM: There's a lot of excitement over dramatically increased early voting numbers among young voters this cycle (see, e.g., here: it's up 2,500% in North Dakota). But while that's certainly not bad news, there are two reason to not overstate it. First, it's unclear what the base rate was (if virtually nobody was voting early in North Dakota, then a relatively small raw increase in early voting can yield a massive percentage increase). Second, it's possible that the rise is simply reflecting a shift where people who had been voting in-person now are voting early.

Put another way, my big worry this cycle is that voters who already voted Democrat are more amped up to vote Democratic (expressed, for example, by voting early) but that this isn't necessarily translating into getting new Democratic voters. And a vote doesn't count more just because its cast enthusiastically.

10:30 AM: You never want to generalize from a few tweets and reports, but voting in Georgia looks to be an utter trainwreck and all accounts are that's entirely by design from Secretary of State Brian Kemp -- who also happens to be the GOP gubernatorial nominee.

10:00 AM: One of the key resources I'm going to use throughout the evening is DKE's county benchmarks. Early returns can be deceiving, since often times it is only very particular parts of a state reporting. What looks like a GOP wipeout might be an artifact of certain conservative suburbs coming in before bluer urban areas. The benchmarks tell you what numbers Democrats need to hit on a county-by-county level. So it might be that even losing numbers early if they're nonetheless overperformances on the benchmarks in red parts of a state.

For example: if Jefferson County is first to report in Missouri and McCaskill is down 45-55 on Hawley, that would actually be a very, very good sign since it went 65-30 for Trump and DKE predicts McCaskill needs to move it to only a 42-58 loss in order to win statewide.

9:21 AM: The last bet I placed in Las Vegas (Jill and I were on a "mini-moon" vacation there) was on the Devils to beat the Penguins last night, at +150 (3:2). And they didn't just win, they throttled the Pens. All I can say is I hope that's the only upset pulled by a team of devils this week.

9:07 AM: The chalk picks, based on polling data, are Democrats winning the House and Republicans keeping the Senate. But like any severely-traumatized Democrat, 2016 has made me very nervous about chalk picks. What if the polls are wrong again?

Nate Silver would tell you that "improbable" events actually happen quite frequently -- that if something has a 75% chance of occurring, then statistically it should not occur 1 in every 4 times. If it occurs less frequently than that, then the 75% statistic is just wrong. And the most plausible explanation for why (some of) the polls were off in 2016 is simply that.

But there are other possibilities (or at least, I think these are distinct possibilities -- I don't really know enough about statistics to know if they're built into the above). Namely:
  • There was something systemically wrong in the polling model, that persistently benefits Republicans.
For example, that Republicans are always undercounted in polls now because of some sort of Bradley Effect. This is the nightmare scenario, because it suggests that Republicans will consistently outperform the polls over time. If the GOP starts pulling out win after win in close races where maybe they were thought to be a bit down, we have to start wondering about this.

But another option is:
  • There was something systemically wrong in the polling model, that does not persistently benefit any one party.
For example, suppose that the model has gotten really bad at predicting turnout among first-time voters. Maybe in 2016 Trump pulled out a bunch of never-before-voters who were really jazzed to have a White Supremacist speaking their language for the first time. But equally, maybe in 2018 first-time voters are more likely to be youngish members of the Blue Resistance. This skew doesn't necessarily cut one way or the other -- it could benefit Democrats or Republicans. And this is the story that probably needs to be told if Democrats are to take back the Senate.

1 comment:

Harlequin said...

Polling! I think there were a few things that were relevant in 2016, some of which apply now, some of which don't.

1. Comey letter. This caused late-breaking voters to preferentially go for Trump more than they would have otherwise. Most polls didn't catch this because--due to how long it takes to make and process a poll--most places barely were polled in the last couple of weeks before the election. I can't find the link right now but I think Nate Silver has pointed out that their predictions were more accurate in the few places that happened to have been polled in the last 2 weeks of the campaign.

2. That last sentence may seem obvious, except that established political science wisdom says that most people don't change their votes very easily or quickly, so most short-term changes in poll numbers are driven by response rate changes not voter inclination changes. (If Roy Moore has just been outed as a sexual predator, you're less likely to even answer a pollster's questions if you think you'll vote for him; if Andrew Gillum gets in a great slam about his opponent, you want to tell everybody you're voting for him.) So one thing poll aggregators do is to try to estimate how much a poll taken (say) a month ago matters, relative to a poll taken today, because they're probably measuring the same information. FiveThirtyEight is an outlier in that it assumes the poll taken a month ago should be weighted less heavily than a poll taken today, relative to what other poll aggregators do. Its models are more volatile than other outlets. In 2016, they had a higher chance of Trump winning than anybody else I was watching, because they're the only ones that even slightly captured those last-minute voter changes. But how often will such last-minute changes actually occur? Hard to know. And hard to know if there would be a partisan bias there.

3. It's possible that some districts coded safely Republican are actually a result of self-fulfilling prophecies about the likelihood of victory there. (I don't know if the author is right--we'll see how many of the Great Slate candidates win. But the argument is plausible to me.) If this is the case, then those districts have a chance of turning blue--and nobody will know, because nobody polls there. See also FiveThirtyEight on finally getting polling data in some House races. This would favor the Democrats, I think, because gerrymandering etc means there are more supposedly safe Republican districts than supposedly safe Democratic districts.

4. The turnout models are definitely also a site of uncertainty. The uncertainty is greater for Democrats because Democratic turnout is more volatile, but it could go in either direction, overestimating or underestimating.