Election News

2018 Interactive House Map with Initial Race Ratings

February 25, 2017

Our 2018 House interactive map is live, populated with initial House ratings from The Cook Political Report. Those ratings show 205 safe seats for Republicans, 173 for Democrats. The remaining 57 seats are seen at varying levels of competitiveness. At this early date, these are the 57 seats most likely to determine the battle for 218 - the number needed for control.

The GOP currently controls the House, with 238 seats to the Democrats 193. Four seats are vacant, three of which were previously held by Republicans now part of Donald Trump's administration.  The one open Democratic seat, in California, became vacant when Xavier Becerra became California Attorney General. All four seats will be filled by special election in the months ahead. Only one, for Georgia's 6th congressional district, has some prospect of being competitive

If we assume those four seats remain with the incumbent party, Republicans will have 241 seats, Democrats 194. This means Democrats will need to gain 24 in the 2018 election to gain control of the House. As can be seen in the above map, Cook is currently forecasting very little change. However, that is undoubtedly more a function of where we are in the election cycle than anything else. How things ultimately play out will likely be somewhat correlated with President Trump's popularity at the time.

Trump's approval rating is 41%, based on the latest Gallup Daily Poll. The table below shows the midterm change in House seats for each election since 1938. We've highlighted the seven occurrences where the president's approval rating was 45% or lower. In six of those, the president's party lost more than the 24 seats that the Democrats need to make up. 

The one time fewer than 24 seats changed parties with an unpopular president was the most recent time, when Democrats only lost 13 seats in 2014. To the extent that reflects the relative lack of competitive congressional seats in 2010's America, an unpopular Donald Trump in 2018 might be best seen as a requirement for, but not a guarantee of, a change in House control.



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2018 Senate Map Updated for Alabama Special Election

February 15, 2017

The 2018 interactive Senate map has been updated to include the special election that will be held in Alabama on the general election date of November 6th of that year. The seat became open when Jeff Sessions was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General earlier this month. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley appointed Luther Strange, the state's Attorney General at the time, to fill the seat.

This is a 'Class 2' seat, and will therefore be contested again, for a full six year term, in November, 2020.  

 

With the addition of this special election, 34 Senate seats will be contested in 2018. As a practical matter, this additional race won't change anything in terms of the battle for control. The seat is heavily favored to remain in Republican hands. Democrats must gain three seats to take control. This will be a difficult climb, even if the climate turns more favorable, as only nine of these 34 seats currently have a Republican incumbent. 


Proposed Constitutional Amendment: Apportionment Based on Citizenship

February 13, 2017

As reported by GovTrack, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King has introduced a Joint Resolution for a proposed constitutional amendment that would apportion congressional districts based on the number of U.S. citizens in each state. Currently, this apportionment is determined by the number of residents* of each state, as calculated in each Census.

This is not the first time such an amendment has been proposed. While it is highly unlikely that the current proposal will get anywhere, we were curious how the electoral map would shift if it was only based on citizens.**  

This report estimates the number of U.S. citizens in each state as of 2013, and uses those totals to calculate the number of congressional districts for each state. Somewhat surprisingly, only 11 states would be impacted. The big loser would be California, which would see 4 of its 55 electoral votes trimmed away. No other state was impacted by more than one electoral vote. FL, NY and TX would lose one each, while seven states (LA, MO, MT, NC, OH, OK, VA) would gain one.  

In terms of states won in the 2016 election, Donald Trump would have won 4 additional electoral votes, giving him 309. The Maine split and faithless electors were excluded.  

* Also included are overseas military and civilian federal employee population and their dependents living with them. In most states, this is well under 1% of the resident population.

** Each state receives electoral votes equal to its congressional delegation. That includes two U.S. Senators and one for each congressional district. Changing how congressional districts are allocated would therefore change the distribution of electoral votes. 


The 2016 Election Under Alternate Electoral Allocation Methods

February 7, 2017

We've updated our Gaming the Electoral College feature to show how different allocation methodologies would have played out had they been in place for the 2016 presidential election. The chart below summarizes the results for 2016 and compares them to 2012.

 

While all the alternative methods benefited Mitt Romney in 2012, they would have negatively impacted Donald Trump's results in 2016. That said, he would still have won the electoral vote, albeit with a smaller margin over Hillary Clinton, in most of these scenarios. The reason is that the winner take all method is much more volatile than the ones involving congressional districts or the popular vote. 

Only a small number of the 435 congressional districts are battlegrounds. While voting for one party in a House election doesn't guarantee a similar vote for president, it happens most of the time. In 2016, only 23 districts that voted for a Republican in the House voted for Hillary Clinton. Just 12 voted for a Democrat and Donald Trump.  The net effect is that absent a change election that sweeps through the House, the congressional method will yield roughly the same result each time. We see that in 2016 vs. 2012, where Donald Trump had 100 more electoral votes than Mitt Romney, but the difference was only 16 using the method currently used by Maine and Nebraska.

Allocating by popular vote will also yield a close electoral map, absent a landslide.  This was especially true in 2016, when Clinton won the popular vote. Trump still comes out ahead in these two options (although doesn't reach 270 if there are no electoral votes separately allocated to the state winner, as the map below shows). This is because we are still looking at each state as an individual contest. The proportional popular vote methods also make it easier for 3rd party candidates to secure electoral votes.

 


2018 Senate Map Launched; Democrats Defending 25 of 33 Seats

January 31, 2017

Our first pass at the 2018 Senate Interactive Map is now live. This three-way map lets you look at the current composition of the Senate, make a forecast for the 33 races scheduled for 2018, and then see the new (2019) Senate based on those predictions.

After gaining two Senate seats in the 2016 election, Democrats currently hold 48 seats (including two independents). The party will need to gain an additional three seats in 2018 to wrest control from the Republicans. That will be a tall order as 25 of the 33 seats to be contested in 2018 are currently held by the blue team.  

We've included three 'Starting Views'. Two of those are initial ratings from The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections (formerly The Rothenberg & Gonzales Report). We've also included a composite battleground map that shows as competitive any race rated toss-up or leaning by one of the above-mentioned forecasters. 

 

If Jeff Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley would appoint a replacement for Sessions until a special election is held. That election will most likely coincide with the 2018 general election. Assuming it plays out that way, we will add the Alabama race to the map. The winner of the special election would face re-election in 2020, the next regularly scheduled election for that seat.  


Congress Update: Recent and Pending Vacanies; Retirements Announced

January 26, 2017

Two vacanies have arisen this week in the House of Representatives as a result of political appointments. Additional vacancies may be forthcoming as President Trump's nominations are confirmed. Lastly, several House Members have announced they will not be running for re-election in 2018.

Vacancies

  • Mike Pompeo (R, KS-03) resigned on January 23rd after being confirmed as CIA Director. A special election for this safely Republican seat will take place on April 11.
  • Xavier Becerra (D, CA-34) resigned on January 24th after being confirmed as California Attorney General. A primary election for this safely Democratic seat will take place on April 4. In the unlikely event that one candidate gets over 50%, there will be no general election. Otherwise, that election will take place on June 6th.

With these two vacancies, the House sits at 240 Republicans, 193 Democrats.

Awaiting Confirmation

  • Mick Mulvaney (R, SC-05) is awaiting confirmation as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. A special election would likely take place in the spring. While Republicans would be favored to hold the seat, it could be competitive with a strong Democratic nominee. Mulvaney, just beginning his 4th term, is the first Republican to hold this seat since 1883.
  • Tom Price (R, GA-06) is awaiting confirmation as Secretary of Health & Human Services. A special election would follow his departure from Congress, no less than 30 days after his seat opens. Price won re-election to his north Atlanta district in November with 62% of the vote, although Donald Trump won the District by less than 2%. While Republicans would likely be favored to hold the seat, this election could be competitive.
  • Ryan Zinke (R, MT-AL) is awaiting confirmation as Secretary of the Interior. Zinke won re-election to his statewide seat by 15% in November; Trump won here by 21%. A special election would be held between 85-100 days after Zinke leaves office. Republicans would be heavily favored to hold the seat.
  • Republican Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is awaiting confirmation as United States Attorney General. He is not up for re-election until 2020. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley would appoint a replacement for Sessions until a special election is held. That election will most likely coincide with the 2018 general election.

Retirements (not running for re-election in 2018) have been announced by:

  • Michelle Lujan Grisham (D, NM-01)
  • Lynn Jenkins (R, KS-02)
  • Sam Johnson (R, TX-03)
  • Kristi Noem (R, SD-AL)

Grisham and Noem are running for governor in 2018.


Gaming the Electoral College 2017

January 26, 2017

As first reported by Political Wire (subscription required for this particular article; a political feed well worth following even if you aren't a member), Republicans in Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia have introduced legislation this week to modify the winner-take-all allocation of electoral college votes in their states. All three states were won by Clinton in 2016 and have been won by Democrats for at least the last three presidential elections. It will not surprise you that these proposals would benefit the Republican nominee in future elections should the Democratic streak continue.

All three bills would shift the state from winner-take-all to what is known as the congressional district method. In this method, the winner of the popular vote in the state receives 2 electoral votes, with one electoral vote awarded based on the popular vote result within each congressional district. In 2016, Donald Trump would have won 12 electoral votes in these three states if the rules had been in place.

Legislation to manipulate the electoral college vote seems to arise regularly between elections, and is almost always partisan in nature. For example, while proponents of the current bills will likely claim they are 'fairer', Republicans in Nebraska have repeatedly tried to revert back to winner-take-all since Barack Obama won an electoral vote there in 2008. 'Fairer = benefits me' when it comes to this legislation.

Unintended Consequences: It is worth noting the risk associated with this kind of legislation, as things change. For example, in 2013, Pennsylvania Republican State Senator Dominic Pileggi introduced a bill that would change the state’s allocation to roughly reflect the popular vote. This proposal was clearly meant to benefit his party, which had just lost its 6th consecutive presidential election. Mitt Romney would have won 8 of the state’s 20 electoral votes under Pileggi’s plan. Fast forward to 2016, the first election the new rules would have been in place. Donald Trump broke the Democratic winning streak. This legislation would have cost him 9 electoral votes.

Here's how the electoral map would have turned out in 2016 had every state used the congressional district method:

 

Coming Soon: We're putting the final touches on the 2016 update to our Gaming the Electoral College feature, which explores a number of alternative methodologies that have been proposed over the past 12 years or so.


If Electoral Votes Were Weighted by State Population Alone: Trump 303, Clinton 235

January 24, 2017

The 2016 election made many people aware that the way electoral votes are distributed gives residents of sparsely populated states more clout than those in large states. To take the two extremes, California gets 55 electoral votes for 37.3 million people (2010 Census), or one electoral vote for approximately each 680,000 people. Wyoming receives 3 votes for its 568,000 people, or about one per 190,000. For more detail, see the 'Background' section of this article.

We were curious how the electoral vote would have turned out if the 538 available electoral votes were distributed based exclusively^ on population, so that everyone's vote would have the same weight. As it turns out, it would have made very little difference in the 2016 outcome.

Donald Trump would have received 303 electoral votes, a reduction of just three from the 306he actually won. That might seem surprising since Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. There's a second factor at work here, which is the margin of victory in each state. If we look at the states gaining the most using population, the ones Clinton won were by a much larger margin than those won by Trump. California gained 10 electoral votes, New York 5. Clinton won these by 30% and 23%, respectively. On the other hand, Trump won Texas, which gained 6, by 9%, and Florida, which gained 4, by just 1%. 

In terms of electoral votes, winning a state by a huge margin is no better than winning by a very small one, and so, in a sense, all those extra actual votes cast for Clinton are not helpful in this framework. For those that favor a national popular vote, the methodology described on this page would likely not be a satisfactory alternative.

Background: Each state receives electoral votes equal to the size of its congressional delegation. That delegation is comprised of two Senators and one Representative for each congressional district in the state. The number of congressional districts is fixed at 435, with the districts reapportioned* across the 50 states, based on population, after each Census. Each state must have at least one congressional district, leaving 385 districts to be allocated by a mathematical formula. (The next Census will take place in 2020, with any changes in electoral votes being effective with the 2024 presidential election.

The above rules mean no state can have fewer than three electoral votes or, put another way, 385 electoral votes are allocated based on population, with 153 (including three for the District of Columbia) essentially fixed. The net effect of this is that smaller population states are overrepresented in the Electoral College, while larger states are underrepresented. 

^ We kept electoral votes as whole numbers, so the weighting is not exact. Additionally, we relaxed the rule slightly so that DC and Wyoming would receive an electoral vote. If the model was followed exactly, Missouri and Illinois would have gotten the last two electoral votes. Either way, the 303-235 total would be the same.

+ Ignores faithless electors. Assumes no Maine split, since that state is reduced to two electoral votes.

* After reapportionment, the individual states engage in redistricting, which sets the geographic boundary for each congressional district. Each state has its own procedures for redistricting. That process is undertaken by the legislature in many states, which often leads to gerrymandered districts shaped to protect incumbents and/or maximize the number of congressional districts likely to be won by the party controlling the legislature. 


First Look: Projected 2024 Electoral Vote Allocation

January 12, 2017

It's a long way off, but we've utilized a recent report from Election Data Services to take a look at how the electoral map may shift after the 2020 Census. We've illustrated it using state winners from the 2016 election, but the map is interactive allowing you to make your own projections. The new electoral map, however it ultimately looks, will be in effect beginning with the 2024 election.

 

Texas is projected to be the big winner, gaining 4 electoral votes on top of the 4 it gained after the 2010 Census. While Texas has voted Republican since 1976, 2016's margin of victory was the smallest there since 1996. If demographic or other trends make the state even remotely competitive, this will be one of the major battlegrounds of the next decade.

A perennial swing state, Florida, is projected to gain 2 electoral votes, surpassing New York (both have 29 electoral votes today). The Sunshine State has gained at least 2 in every decade since the 1950s. By contrast, in 1948, the New York had 47 electoral votes to just 8 in Florida.

Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Oregon are on track to also gain an electoral vote. Since this is a zero-sum game, the 10 votes gained by these 6 states have to come from somehwere. At this point, Illinois looks to lose 2 electoral votes, while 8 other states (Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia) set to lose 1 each.

After each Census, there is a reapportionment of the fixed 435 congressional districts based on relative shifts in population. As each state's electoral votes equals the size of its Congressional delegation (Number of Districts + 2 Senators), the shift in electoral vote is equal to the change in a state's congressional districts. As noted above, Rhode Island could lose a seat. This would give them a single district for the first time ever. We could find only two other instances (South Dakota and Vermont) of a state moving to a single district after previously having two or more.


Donald Trump Officially Wins Presidency as Electoral Votes Counted by Congress

January 6, 2017

The Associated Press reports that "it's official: Congress has tallied the Electoral College votes and Donald Trump has been elected president." Mike Pence was elected vice-president.

The count, as with much of the 2016 election, had its share of drama. Several objections were raised but all were disallowed. 

The final presidential electoral vote is unchanged from December 19th, when the electors met in their respective state capitals to cast their votes. Trump won 304 electoral votes, Hillary Clinton 227. Seven faithless electors cast their votes for someone else.

Trump will be inaugurated on January 20th at Noon EST.



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