Sunday, November 06, 2022

2022 Midterms - Overreaching Democrats vs Overreaching Trumplicans

Divided Government Is Coming... But How Divided?

After a two year hiatus, the Dividist blog is back. Our last post was after the 2020 Presidential election but before the inauguration, before the January 6th Capitol Hill insurrection, and before the Georgia runoff. In that post we discussed and analyzed how the Georgia results would determine partisan control of the Senate and the consequences in future elections. 

Here we are, two years later, days before the midterm election, and we are again discussing and analyzing how the Georgia results will determine partisan control of the Senate and the consequences for future elections. It's "Deja Vu all over again." 

Strap in. We've got a lot to catch up on.  We'll be pulling from relevant past work and predicting the future. This will be a long post. 

That Was Then. This Is Now.
Let's start with some excerpts from that December 30, 2020 post: Georgia On My Mind - Preference & Prediction:

"The three possible outcomes stack ranked in order of Dividist preference:

  1. Divided Government with a 1 seat GOP Senate majority.
  2. Divided Government with a 2 seat GOP Senate majority. 
  3. 50-50 Unified One Party Rule Democratic Government with VP Harris tiebreaker..."
While the actual result of the election was the Dividist's 3rd choice of the 3 possibilities, the Dividist was nonplussed by that possible outcome:
"The Dividist will not be too upset if the Democrats take both seats and have a 50/50 + VP Harris tiebreaker majority for the next two years. In that eventuality, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin will be the swing vote. Despite pressure from the progressive fringe, Manchin will keep the Democrats in line:

"West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III wants to make clear that he will not be the 50th vote in favor of eliminating the legislative filibuster or expanding the size of the Supreme Court in a potential 50-50 Senate."
Senator Joe Manchin has credibility on these questions. As we've noted before, Manchin is the only current sitting Democrat in the Senate who voted against Harry Reid nuking the judicial filibuster in 2013. That was the very vote that started us down this slippery slope in the Senate. Unlike 2013, this time Manchin's vote is enough to make a difference. And if Schumer tries to take the Democrats too far afield, Manchin could improve his reelection chances in West Virginia by switching parties and putting McConnell and the Republicans back into the majority. It's just that kind of balance that appeals to the Dividist."
Not a bad prediction, although the Dividist's prognostication about the Georgia outcome in that post was, shall we say, flawed. We didn't think there was any way Georgians would vote for two Democratic Senators. But, thanks to Trump and the election denier clown car he drove down to Georgia, they did. The conclusion of that 2020 post also included a prediction for 2022. The Dividist explained how that Georgia outcome and partisan makeup would impact the 2022 midterms:
"It's worth noting that the biggest impact of the 2020 Georgia special election may be in 2022. As we've explained before, in the entire 164 year history of Republicans and Democrats competing for electoral dominance, the House of Representatives has never flipped against a divided government in a midterm election. Never. Not even once. If the Republicans retain the Senate and divided government, history says the Democrats will retain the House in 2022. But, if the Democrats take both Georgia Senate seats and unified control of the government, it is very possible, even likely, they will lose their narrow majority in the House in the midterms... we'll leave the 2022 predictions to a future post."
2022 Midterm Prediction - Republicans Will Win The House Majority
The future is now. In 2020 the Democrats swept the two Georgia seats, were elected to a unified one party rule government and, now in 2022, the piper will be paid. Losing the House majority was a virtual inevitable consequence of the 2020 elections. Look no further than the history of Unified One Party Governments over the last 30 years. Trump was elected with Republican one party rule, and lost the House in 2018. Obama was elected with Democratic one party rule and lost the House in 2010. Bush was re-elected with Republican one party rule and lost the House in 2006. Clinton was elected with Democratic one party rule and lost the House in 1994. Biden was elected with Democratic one party rule and Republicans need only a net gain of 5 seats to claim the majority in the House. History says divided government will be restored in this election. The GOP does not even need a "Red Wave" to make that happen. 

While history predicts a GOP House, it doesn't explain why that happens with such inevitability. After all, incumbent House seats are among the most secure elected jobs in the Federal government with a ~95% reelection rate. And didn't Tip O'Neill teach us that "All Politics Is Local"?

U.S. House Reelection Rates, 1964-2020
US House of Representative Reelection Rates
Over the life of this blog, the Dividist has explored this question frequently, most recently when we invoked history to predict the  "2018 Election - House Rules & The O'Neill Exception"
"In the 2018 midterms the Democrats are facing a unified one party rule Republican government, and the "O'Neill Exception" has their back. Above and beyond the necessary condition of running against a Unified Government to nationalize the election, history offers additional conditions common to prior House flips that must sufficiently offend the electorate to vote against the party in power. In short, the unified party in power has to cooperate by demonstrating some combination of egregious legislative overreach, blatant corruption, and/or arrogant abuse of power."
In the 2022 midterms the GOP are facing a unified one party rule Democratic government, so the necessary condition to nationalize the House vote is met. The remaining question is whether enough of the independent electorate consider Biden's one party governmental actions like: increased taxation, student debt forgiveness, energy policy, expanded climate spending, IRS expansion, Medicare drug expansion, Judicial nominations, Afghanistan withdrawal, gun regulation and Ukraine military support meet the sufficient condition of legislative overreach and abuse of Presidential power. The answer is a qualified yes. It's certainly sufficient overreach to lose the House. 

A GOP House Majority Does Not Necessarily Mean a Red Wave. 
Is it enough for a Red Wave? In the 1994 House flip the GOP took a net 54 seats. In the 2006 House flip the Democrats took a net 33 seats. In the 2010 House flip the GOP took a net of 63 seats. In the 2018 House flip the the Democrats took a net of 41 seats. All of these were considered Wave elections. If the Republicans win less than a 20 seat majority (as currently indicated by respected pollsters like Cook and Sabato) and fail to retake the Senate, then it would represent a severe underperformance by the GOP in a midterm against a Unified One Party Democratic Rule government and not a Red Wave by historical standards.  

Why might this happen? First, let's review the reason why every Unified One Party Rule government since 1992 has lost the House majority. Simply put, there is one party in power, and the party out of power is nationalized in opposition to to the perception of overreach by the party in power. As indicated earlier, Biden and the Democrats have given the GOP all the overreach ammunition they need with: inflation driven in part by anti-drilling and anti-fracking energy policy; excessive spending led by student debt forgiveness; and foreign policy missteps like the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal. 

But it's different this time and the difference is this: The overreach of the Trump administration is still with us and in the headlines every day. Voters are living with the overreach of three Trump Supreme Court nominees and the consequent Dobbs decision overturning Roe v Wade on abortion. In addition, in an astonishing unforced error, two years later, the GOP has continued to put the 2020 overreach of election denialism, the January 6th attempt to overturn the election, and the continuing embrace of Trumpism in the forefront of voter's minds. This motivates Democratic voters and is showing up with partisan enthusiasm parity - unusual for the party in power in the midterms.
High Enthusiasm = Voter Turnout
High Interest = High Enthusiasm = Voter Turnout

Is this overreach standoff enough to blunt the GOP advantage in 2022? The Dividist says it does. 

As for my Democratic friends who are apoplectic about a narrow GOP majority in the House - don't worry. The GOP House caucus is unmanageable and, to state the obvious, Kevin McCarthy is no Nancy Pelosi. Neither he nor any other GOP member in the House can control that caucus. Ask John Boehner.  Ask Paul Ryan. Yes, the House will be a partisan shit show. But, with a narrow majority, all that Republicans will be able to do is constrain Democratic Party overreach and beclown themselves with performative meaningless investigations - if the Democrats hold the Senate.

In this clip Sabato agrees that gridlock is inevitable as the GOP is virtually certain to take the House. But when it comes to the Senate, he points to close races in Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Georgia, says we should expect upsets, and concludes it's a crap shoot with a good chance that we will again be waiting on a Georgia runoff to determine control of the Senate. 

The Prediction Future Markets show the GOP heavily favored to win the Senate, giving the Democrats less than a 33% chance of holding the Senate. However, it's worth remembering that in 2016 the Prediction Markets gave Donald Trump less than a 14% of winning the Presidency. So there's that. The Dividist is going against the betting markets with his Senate prognostications. 

2022 Midterm Prediction (and preference) - Democrats Maintain Senate Majority
The Senate is a much tougher call than the House. With only 1/3 of the Senate up for election each cycle, the electoral map is the single most important indicator of electoral success.  In 2022 there are 36 Senate seats contested. 14 are held by Democrats and 22 by Republicans. With fewer seats to defend, advantage Democrats. All they need do to maintain their 50-50 +VP tiebreaker majority status quo is hold serve on the seats they already hold. If they can take a seat in close races like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, or North Carolina, they could actually increase their majority (or offset a loss of incumbent seats in Nevada or Georgia). 

Clown Candidates Can Trump The Senate Map
Another key factor in Senate elections is whether one party nominates fringe and/or clown candidates in competitive seats. There are several recent historical precedents for clown candidates trumping the Senate map. In 2010 there were 37 seats up for election including 3 special elections filling vacant incomplete terms. Democrats were defending 19 seats, Republicans 18 - an even playing field. Despite 2010 being the Reddest of Red Waves, with the GOP taking a net 61 seats and the majority in the House, they failed to win the Senate. Why? 2010 was the year of GOP primary clown winners and general election losers like Christine "Not A Witch" O'Donnell, Ken "Buyer's Remorse" Buck, and Linda "WWE" McMahon.  In 2012 there were 33 Senate seats up for election. The Democrats were defending 23 seats, the Republicans only 10 - a crushing advantage for the Republicans. But 2012 was also the year of GOP primary clown winners and general election losers like Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akins, Richard "God Intended" Mourdock, and again Linda "WWE" McMahon. Somehow the Democrats increased their Senate majority in 2012. Sometimes they just don't learn.

As we look to 2022, who am I to disagree with Mitch McConnell?:
"I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different," the GOP leader said. "Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome."
Since McConnell made that statement in August the Senate races have tightened considerably. That said, in 2022, we're still talking about Herschel "Abortions For Me Not Thee" Walker, Mehmet "Snake Oil" Oz, Blake "Election Denier" Masters and Adam "Trump Won" Laxalt. Clowns, one and all. They're not all going to win. 

Place Your Bets
For the 2022 midterm election, the Dividist is betting on divided government with a narrow GOP majority in the House, betting on a partisan overreach standoff, betting against the MAGAT clown candidates, and betting on Democrats retaining the Senate*:

Dividist Say: GOP House / Democrat Senate

*Your mileage may vary. Past performance does not predict future results. All predictions subject to change without notice. Some assembly required. Avoid alcoholic beverages while using these predictions. Fasten your seat belt. Elections are closer than they appear. If you have an erection lasting more than four hours call a doctor.

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