Tag Archives: University of Virginia

The Crystal Ball Comparison

By Jim Ellis

Professor Larry Sabato, University of Virginia

Professor Larry Sabato, University
of Virginia

July 31, 2018 — Last week, University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato released his latest “Crystal Ball” ratings of the current US House races and declared that the Democrats are a “soft favorite” to assume the majority in the coming November elections. There’s more to the story, however.

Dr. Sabato supports his claim for several basic reasons. First, he sites the historic trends that a new president’s party loses seats in the first midterm election, and traces this electoral pattern all the way back to the Civil War era. Second, he turns to the typical polling regularly released that places President Trump’s approval ratings in what he terms “the low 40s”, and includes the generic House ratings, along with the “enthusiasm” analysis. Third, is the Democrats’ record in the current cycle’s federal and state special elections, and fourth is their second quarter fundraising “advantage.”

There are counter arguments that need mentioning for each of these points.

It is questionable to compare electoral trends developed during the 1800s to the elections of today because the world has changed so much. Bringing the analysis to at least the 20th Century and looking just at the post-World War II patterns (from President Harry Truman, inclusive, to today), we find that the average seat loss in the House during a new president’s first midterm is 26 seats. But, this average combines the six Democratic presidents losing 32 seats, and the five Republicans’ dropping 15 districts. Just three elections, 1966 (Johnson; -47 seats), 1994 (Clinton; -54), and 2010 (Obama; -63) have substantially upped the overall average.

Continue reading

The Crystal Ball:
Points of Disagreement

By Jim Ellis

July 31, 2017 — University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato has released his latest “Crystal Ball” political ratings, but further arguments must come to the forefront about some of his individual race categorizations.

In the first part of his latest report, Sabato illustrates that the number of Democrats already running for Congress shatters the new candidate rate of previous off-election years. Currently, 209 Democrats have declared themselves as US House candidates at this point in the election cycle, obliterating the mean average of 42.6 derived from the period beginning in 2003 to the present. For Republicans, 28 non-incumbent candidates have currently declared, well below their non-election year average of 42.8 within the same post-2003 time frame.

But, so many Democratic candidates are declaring in the same districts, thus skewing the situation. For example, in the 14 seats where a GOP incumbent voted in favor of the healthcare legislation sitting in a district that Hillary Clinton carried, 57 Democratic candidates have already declared. In the seven competitive California Republican seats where national Democratic Party leaders pledge to heavily contest, 34 Dems have become candidates, though duplication does exist to some extent between the two aforementioned categories. In three more sites featuring presumed competitive 2018 campaigns: AZ-2 (Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson), FL-27 (open seat; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami), and VA-10 (Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean), an additional 23 candidates are competing within this trio of CDs.

Therefore, we find in these 16 unique, prime, targeted congressional seats, a total of 72 individuals who are active Democratic candidates. We also know today that 56 of these competitors will lose their primary because, of course, every district can only nominate one candidate per political party.

Continue reading

Advantage Republicans, or Democrats? Look to the
President’s Job Performance

President Barack Obama speaks during a summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Barack Obama speaks during a summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

FEB. 10, 2015 — University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato and two others published an article that is still running in the Politico newspaper (The GOP’s 2016 Edge), but their conclusion is open to debate. They argue that the eventual Republican presidential nominee may have a slight advantage in next year’s election, yet analyzing the most recent voting data seems to point in the opposite direction.

According to Sabato and colleagues: “At this early stage, does either party have an obvious edge? Around the time of the GOP-dominated midterms, it seemed logical to say the Republicans held the advantage. Not because their strong performance in congressional and gubernatorial races has any predictive value — ask President Romney about how well 2010’s midterms predicted the future — but because President Barack Obama’s approval rating was mired in the low 40s. Should Obama’s approval be low, he’ll be a drag on any Democratic nominee, who will effectively be running for his third term.”

Doesn’t the actual voting pattern established in the two Obama elections supersede their observation about presidential job performance? Remembering, that voters in only two states, Indiana and North Carolina, changed their allegiance during those two election periods (both from President Obama to Mitt Romney), and that 48 states and the District of Columbia voted consistently, suggests a new prototype may have formed. This is further supported by the fact that 47 states and DC voted consistently during the George W. Bush years.
Continue reading >