Title: Top Ten Senate Races
Date: October 14, 2014
Panelists: Lara Brown, Ph.D., Program Director, Political Management Program; and Leiki Luud, Host/Moderator
Subject: Dr. Lara Brown, Program Director of GW’s Master’s in Political Management program discusses the Midterm Elections and makes predictions on the Top Ten Senate Races.
[Start of recorded material 00:00:00]
Presenter: Good morning everyone and thank you for joining Dr. Lara Brown today as she discusses the upcoming midterm elections. Just a few things before we get started. If you have called into the Webinar, please make sure that your phone is on mute. I would recommend listening through your computer speakers, but if you do need to [unintelligible 00:00:26] in the information is in the chat box at the right hand side of your computer screen.
There is a Q&A session at the end of the webinar so please feel free to type your questions in the chat box and we will get to them at the end. If you have a lot of questions then we will probably pause halfway through and answer some of those questions so please feel free to ask questions as we go through the presentation. The webinar will also be recorded so you can expect a link to be sent to you by your designated enrolment advisor in the next week or so.
Lara Brown is an associate professor and Program Director to the Political Management Program in the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University. Dr. Brown’s publications include a sole-authored book entitled Jockeying for the American Presidency and a co-edited book entitled The Presidential Leadership Dilemma. Dr. Brown is a regular opinion contributor to U.S. News and the World Report. [Unintelligible 00:01:26] George Washington University she served as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Villanova University. She also served in President William Clinton’s administration at the U.S. Department of Education at Washington DC. She earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California.
I’ll turn you over to Dr. Brown to discuss the upcoming midterm elections and what your plans are once the elections are over.
Dr. L. Brown: Thanks for the introduction. It’s great to be in this call today and this webinar and I’m happy to talk a little bit about what’s happening in this midterm election. There are many mixed messages, I think, as you look out to the media environment. Many in the media aren’t [unintelligible 00:02:19] if the Democrats are going to be able to hold the Senate, if the Republicans are going to be able to take it over. Most people aren’t talking about the House of Representatives and, of course, President Obama is not on the ballot but in [many] ways he is. Well, today I’m going to do my best to [cover] some of the historical contexts and put this into the kind of political understandings that we know about and we’ll have a discussion about where I see it’s headed and where I think most political scientists are confident it’s aiming towards, with a little bit of context.
We do [unintelligible 00:03:09] House and Senate elections that occur in the middle of the presidential elections, our House seats are up every two years, so 435 members. Members of the House of Representatives stand down every two years [unintelligible 00:03:28] on the ballot when the president is there and two years later [unintelligible 00:03:35]. The senators have six-year terms so they essentially rotate through the Senate where one-third of the Senate is up for election every two years. So these midterm elections, as I said, they happen in [unintelligible 00:03:53] in a presidential term and we can look, historically speaking, what is true is that typically the president’s party loses seats in these midterm elections. It is a pattern that has gone on since basically 1932. We have seen that in all but [unintelligible 00:04:17] elections during the time the president’s party loses seats in the House.
There are some other patterns that are important as well, namely since World War II we have essentially seen that there are very high success rates of incumbents, and if you are an incumbent and you’re a member of the House of Representatives and you stand for re-election, the likelihood of you winning re-election is about 93 percent. And in the Senate that likelihood is about 80 percent. So [unintelligible 00:04:56] the Senate is slightly more competitive than the House, even though there are many more seats up for every term.
What also goes on in these midterm elections is that the House of Representatives, as I said, all 435 seats are actually up for election, but we only typically have about 10 to 12 percent of those seats that are competitive, meaning they could switch parties in [unintelligible 00:05:29] recently. This is very similar to the way things were 120 years ago when you would see a third of the entire House of Representatives lose their seats in these elections. One of the [unintelligible 00:05:48] become in some ways less competitive is if people have what we call sorted, meaning that more and more people are living by people who agree with them [unintelligible 00:06:01] and for the most part identify with the same political party.
As a result, when we go to draw House districts and we go to make sure that they are essentially committees that are essentially contiguous, meaning that they match up and they all [unintelligible 00:06:21] next to one another and trying to make them as compact as possible, which is what the Supreme Court has essentially [catered] for, and explained what [unintelligible 00:06:34] a lot of districts that just aren’t competitive to swinging back and forth and considered to be [unintelligible 00:06:45] it is a function of the [unintelligible 00:06:46] that people live by people they agree with.
[Unintelligible 00:06:50] our rates are not very high in the House of Representatives, so it’s a really good job once you get it, and if you get it you typically try to keep it. Your [unintelligible 00:07:01] of being re-elected and you can actually serve for quite a long time. [Unintelligible 00:07:09], and I think this is one of the most important parts about how the House and Senate elections work in midterm years. [Unintelligible 00:07:20] there are some fulfilling prophecy, and what I mean by that is about one year out from the election [unintelligible 00:07:29] basically stick their finger up in the wind and they say to themselves, does it look as though it’s going to be a good year for my party? Does it look like it’s going to be a bad year for my party?
Challengers who want to run for office think it’s going to be a good year for their political party they [unintelligible 00:07:51] elections and then run. If they think it’s going to be a bad year for their party, they say to themselves, I think I’ll [unintelligible 00:07:59] another couple of years and see if I might have a better [unintelligible 00:08:03] environment for my party at a later time. Because of [unintelligible 00:08:09] difference it would seem is that those [unintelligible 00:08:15] strategic challengers quality Canada. The one who thinks they’re going to have a good year for their party [unintelligible 00:08:26] good at raising money, they’re good at earning positive media, they don’t make mistakes on the campaign trail, and then what you see is that a year from then their party ends up having a good year.
So [I will] speak specifically about this year. If you look at 2014, one of the things that is true is back in 2013 you saw not just the shutdown of the government which the Republicans did to sort of their detriment, many of their approval ratings fell and the overall party reputation started to fall. So [unintelligible 00:09:12] last October [unintelligible 00:09:17] were thinking to themselves, maybe I shouldn’t run and Democrats were thinking, oh good, midterms are going to be a good year and maybe I [shouldn’t] run. [Unintelligible 00:09:27] what did we see? We started to see essentially the role of [healthcare] and many of the [unintelligible 00:09:39] problems with the website, the problem with the functioning, and then the Democrats started to essentially [unintelligible 00:09:50] to recover somewhat.
So a year ago you basically has both parties have a [unintelligible 00:09:54] or a window of an opportunity where they each thought that the next election was probably going to be a good one for them. [What does that] mean? Well, [unintelligible 00:10:09] is that [unintelligible 00:10:14] we actually had a whole bunch of good quality candidates on the Democratic side [unintelligible 00:10:21] and decide to run for office, so you can think about Alison Lungergan Grimes, who is a good candidate and who is running against Mitch McConnell, who is the incumbent and the Majority Leader of the Senate in Kentucky.
You see Michelle Nunn, who is the daughter of a senator who is now running for a Senate seat in Georgia, but at the same time you also had [unintelligible 00:10:49] and good quality candidates jump in to their races. You saw Republicans work very hard to end up getting Cory Gardner to run in Colorado against the sitting senator there, Senator Udall. You also see people like Thom Tillis in North Carolina who is a well-known Republican Senator from North Carolina, run there and David Cassidy in Louisiana run there. So what [unintelligible 00:11:26] of the uncertainty around this election is that many candidates who chose to jump in a year ago are [unintelligible 00:11:37] and there is a certain amount of parody to challengers who jumped into the races because both parties thought they had an opportunity to basically perhaps keep [unintelligible 00:11:52] a stable place, and if you’re the Republicans [unintelligible 00:11:55] back the majority. [Unintelligible 00:11:58] historical context.
[Unintelligible 00:12:01] provide a little more understanding about the House of Representatives. As I said, [unintelligible 00:12:08] of those 435 House seats [unintelligible 00:12:14] all and most of it has to do with [sorting], some of it has to do with gerrymandering, but the big problem is just these House seats are very homogenous communities and this chart shows how really just over almost 20 years you can see how few House seats are considered to be [unintelligible 00:12:39] seats. Republicans and Democrats are each winning their seats and [unintelligible 00:12:46] places by larger and more comfortable margins and there are very few opportunities that can swing either way. And this swinging either way is kind of a high point in the sense that [unintelligible 00:13:04] seats is nowhere near really the number that people believe are competitive of the cycle. I’ll talk a little bit later about what some of the predictions are, but it really could turn out to be closer to about 35, 40 seats that people are keeping an eye on.
Some more historical context. The backdrop was obviously the 2012 elections. President Obama won a re-election but he did in fact lose two states that he had won in 2008, this time around [unintelligible 00:13:46] for the Republicans picked up Indiana and North Carolina. In the previous election John McCain had lost those to Obama. When you look at 2012 what was [unintelligible 00:13:58] is that well, Obama won re-election, he was losing popularity and it turned out that 2012 it was also not as strong as it was in 2008 and yet strong enough for him to essentially help bring some more Democrats into the House of Representatives and some of those Democrats [unintelligible 00:14:29] who walked on his coattails in 2012 are now the ones really facing a potential loss in 2014.
Anyway, when you start to look a bit more closely at the country I think one of the problems of just looking at that red and blue map by state [unintelligible 00:14:51] in fact how many more pockets of the country actually are red or blue and it is not just sort of a state-wide phenomenon. You can see that our sort of blue counties dotted all throughout the country and then there are red counties dotted [unintelligible 00:15:14] country. And it seems very obvious when you look at those light blue and those light [unintelligible 00:15:22] coloured red you can see where in fact we will have some more swing areas of the country, or competitive areas, where neither party is really in charge. But move this into house districts [unintelligible 00:15:44] as that last chart showed people want to live nearby people who agree with them and ideologically you tend to agree and then as a result people identify with the same political parties.
When we look at these house districts [unintelligible 00:16:07] and we look at the, in fact, sort of competitive ones, you can see how few districts there are. Most of the country is shaded light pink in the lower map because essentially those are seats that are not competitive at all, and this is where, again, I think that 435 elections doesn’t really mean 435 elections at the congressional level.
When we go to the Senate, as I had mentioned, a third of the Senate is up every two years, and so this year those bits coloured in grey that are in this map do not have Senate elections going on. Those ones that are in yellow are sort of pure what we call [possibs]. You might want to think about them as having been a [unintelligible 00:17:13] and they could go either way. You can see the ones that are marked in the [orange] red colours are the ones people are saying lean or are [obviously] Republican. Those ones that are shaded in light blue to dark blue are more safely Democrats.
What this ends up meaning is that we essentially have a handful of seats that this time around that really could move the majority. The Republicans need to win six seats in order to [get] back the majority in the Senate because, of course, in the Senate the Republicans would actually have to win an hold 51 seats and that [unintelligible 00:18:07] and the vice-president is considered essentially [unintelligible 00:18:17] breaker, so if it were 50/50 the [unintelligible 00:18:21] would go to [unintelligible 00:18:25] because [unintelligible 00:18:28] would break that tie as President of the Senate and Vice-President of the United States. That means Republicans have got to get to 51 to hold the majority and this time around it looks to be because of many of the states that are in fact up and that are being contested this time around, that looks to be like it’s [possibility].
So what’s important about these states that we’re looking at that are the more competitive ones that are somewhat the toss-up ones, so those are states that senators or the retired in those states that are open seats, they [unintelligible 00:19:18] in 2008. 2008 was of course the year that President Barack Obama won his first election; he had very large coattails. It was very much a Democratic [unintelligible 00:19:31] here and with [unintelligible 00:19:35] six years, senators who won election year, who won in states that they probably wouldn’t have normally won in, they [unintelligible 00:19:51] and now here they are either standing for re-election, like if you’re [unintelligible 00:19:56] in Louisiana or you’re Mark Pryor in [Arkansas] or the Assembly decided to retire as we actually saw [unintelligible 00:20:07] do in West Virginia. And three of the states, West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana all retirements of democratic senators, those are now three states that Republicans are pretty certain to in fact pick up.
So the underlying [dangers] and why it is that the Republicans are [to be] favoured fits geography as we’ve just discussed. Some of it is the backdrop of the election, but the [unintelligible 00:20:50] issue is really [unintelligible 00:20:54] where we are today. [Unintelligible 00:20:59] among Americans that the economy is weak. The statistics are starting to show that it is getting stronger and that the economy is improving. Many people have yet to feel that effect. They have not seen necessarily their friends and neighbours get jobs; they have not necessarily seen their [unintelligible 00:21:19] rise. They also [haven’t] heard about more successful people in their neighbourhood because the economy is growing and strengthening. [Unintelligible 00:21:37] to filter down to people to where they actually feel the effects of a good economy in their pocketbooks.
This weakness tends to reflect poorly on the president’s party. It tends to [unintelligible 00:21:55] on the president’s approval rating, given Barack Obama is the president and there is sort of [no more] room for him to continue to have said that this [unintelligible 00:22:07] from President Bush and the Republicans, which he was able to do his first four years as president because people said that that makes sense because he did fall under George W. Bush and [they] understand that President Barack Obama is trying to get it into shape. At this point in time, six years into his presidency, [many people] feel that the [Republicans 00:22:35] have had plenty of time; the Democrats have had plenty of time; the economy is a lot better yet there must be time for a change.
The other thing that’s really impacting things is that we’re in a time frame, a really high [unintelligible 00:22:52] polarization, people are, if you will, deciding to vote for people of the [unintelligible 00:23:01] political party. In fact, some of the data that comes from [unintelligible 00:23:06] on polarization shows that Americans are more concerned about their family members marrying outside their political party than they are of many other concerns. [Unintelligible 00:23:24] issues of race and ethnicity used to rise to the top, other times issues of religion and none of that matters to Americans as much as if you marry outside your political party, your family’s political party. People are deeply concerned about what that means.
So we are in a time of high polarization, a great deal of suspicion and sort of [unintelligible 00:23:52] across the aisle, and this [unintelligible 00:23:55] polarization is leading to the reality that if you’re in a Republican state, if you are in one of those red states, it’s highly unlikely that a Democratic Senator, no matter how sort of distances [he would be] from the National Democratic Party. Where both Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor are they do not vote sort of on [unintelligible 00:24:22] Democratic Party line votes and no matter how kind of outside they are, or independent, if you will, they are they will still be seen as Democrats and as Democrats they will be maligned by Republicans in their state. The same on the other side of the aisle, [unintelligible 00:24:47] at this point in time, the suspicion across the aisle is great and this belief that the other side essentially wants to harm the country has also increased substantially over the last 20 years.
Another big factor that’s impacting these elections is [unintelligible 00:25:09] currently being Republican. Other times in other midterm elections, for example in 2006, we saw [the Independents 00:25:20] leaning Democratic, but this time around the Independents are [unintelligible 00:25:26] and siding more with the Republicans, which means when it comes to these close races and those few people who are in fact Independents, they are likely to end up voting Republican and Democrat this time around.
Some [unintelligible 00:25:45] to know what’s going on, to kind of cut through the [unintelligible 00:25:49] approval, and this is where President Barack Obama is not on the ballot, but he might as well be on the ballot. Most political [unintelligible 00:26:01] have shown for a good few years that the president’s approval rating does impact on the mid-term electoral votes. What you essentially see is that the president has a positive approval rate [unintelligible 00:26:22] if the Democratic Party necessarily picks up seats but he just doesn’t lose as many. Presidential approval rating, however, is low as [unintelligible 00:26:31] President Barack Obama’s is – it’s hovering in the low 40s – [unintelligible 00:26:38] to be a drag on all of his fellow partisans who are running for election.
[Unintelligible 00:26:46] those unemployment and GDP numbers, as I said, [unintelligible 00:26:50] the economy, those numbers are getting better, unemployment is shrinking, GDP is rising, people aren’t necessarily feeling it yet and when we build all of our sort of our midterm election forecasting models we [don’t 00:27:05] actually use unemployment and GDP from the second quarter of the election year, not the third, and certainly not the fourth. [Unintelligible 00:27:17] people in the later part of spring and the early part of summer are really what informs the vote [unintelligible 00:27:30].
Engaging in the election really matters and we’ll talk about this in a minute, but right now neither party is all that engaged, but
Republicans are more engaged than the Democrats. [Unintelligible 00:27:44] the generic ballot is actually a question that we’ve asked [unintelligible 00:27:55] if you were to vote today for essentially a member of the House of Representatives would you prefer to vote for a Republican or a Democrat. [Unintelligible 00:28:05] those answers when we do these surveys do tend to be, again, indicative of which way the election is going.
So, let me just run you through some of this [data]. As I said, some identification matters because people are not really defecting from their party, they’re [unintelligible 00:28:29] their own party lines and they are instead voting for candidates of their own parties. In fact, in the last few elections we’ve reached record highs with this number and if you tell me that you [unintelligible 00:28:46] the Democrats there’s a good 90 to 95percent change that you’ll vote for that party’s candidates in the election. And the same holds true for a Republican. So these [unintelligible 00:29:04] identification are from Gallup but they only go through 2013. They were [unintelligible 00:29:12] January and Gallup released a whole new set of data this January. And [unintelligible 00:29:21] is that since this data was released the percentage of Republicans has grown slightly and the percentage of Democrats has decreased slightly. But [unintelligible 00:29:35] of people are saying that they are Independents, they’re not really excited about identifying with either political party. We know that those Independents right now are leaning Republican, and what that means is that really at the end of the day [unintelligible 00:29:55] between the Democrats and the Republican has essentially shrunk.
[Unintelligible 00:30:07] data, what you’re going to see is [unintelligible 00:30:11] what is a gap between 47percent of the Democrats when you actually force those Independents to lean, and a 41percent of the Republicans when you force those Independents to lean in 2013, I would imagine seeing something probably much closer to 45 and 43. In other words, [unintelligible 00:30:41] all of these numbers it’s closer to where it was in 2010 in this chart than where it was in 2012. And very normal, given the fact that this is the president’s [unintelligible 00:31:02] office, these midterms tend to be quite dramatic and presidents often lose a number of seats in the House of Representatives. This [happened] because so many Republicans won in 2010, in fact the Republicans a net of 63 seats in 2010 and the Democrats didn’t take that many seats back in 2012. There just aren’t that many overall opportunities so the House is not actually engaged in all that much action, as I said. There aren’t that many swing seats that [unintelligible 00:31:42] rates [unintelligible 00:31:47] then much of the change happened in the House that we would expect to see now happen in 2010. So this is why so much is, again, focused on the Senate.
[Unintelligible 00:32:02] is about these ideological leanings for people’s party affiliations. [People are 00:32:09] more consistent in fact in their ideological self-identification. You can see that at least for the last 20 years or so most Americans have considered themselves moderate or conservative and over the last decade we have seen a slight rise in the number of individuals who identify as liberal, but when you look at these ideological leanings [unintelligible 00:32:36] that statement from a centre right country tends to come from is that there has opened a kind of strong and persistent liberal minority, but when it comes to [unintelligible 00:32:54] or the majority of the country, it does tend to be [unintelligible 00:33:01] conservative and moderate really more aware the country has been for much of the [modern era]
Again, polarization is really striking. One of the things that I think is [fascinating] about some of this [unintelligible 00:33:18] is that in the [unintelligible 00:33:22] that has the blue line it talks about [widening] the partisan differences and political values. What [Purice] did was in fact look at the whole series of value questions, questions about size of government, questions about the environment, questions about entitlement and asked Republicans and Democrats if they felt like government should do more or less on these things. What you essentially saw was that over this 25-year period that they looked at, the difference between Republican and Democrats grew from basically a ten percentage point difference to an eighteen percentage point difference.
So the political parties have moved further apart from each other, rather than closer together and a part of what’s driving some of this [unintelligible 00:34:21] and asked Republicans if the Federal Government has too much power. What you can in fact see is that this is not simply an ideological answer, but very much a partisan answer. [Unintelligible 00:34:42] George W. Bush’s Presidency [unintelligible 00:34:46] thought the Federal Government had too much power and Barack Obama’s Presidency [unintelligible 00:34:52] the Republicans have thought that the Federal Government had too much power.
So how we judge the president is deeply [unintelligible 00:35:03] whether or not that president is our [guy 00:35:06] or the other person’s guy, and if it’s the other party’s guy then people don’t want to pick them and this is again one of the things driving gridlock; it has to do so much and the R and the D behind someone’s name and not so much their, in fact, belief.
[Unintelligible 00:35:34] and what Barack Obama approval is going to mean, actually look at George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Essentially they hold the records for the most partisan and polarized responses to in fact their job approval ratings. This chart shows that Obama’s fourth year in office, the average approval among Republicans was 10percent and the average approval rating he had among Democrats was 86percent, in other words there was a gap in perception about [the job 00:36:18] Obama was doing [unintelligible 00:36:20] of 76percent. And George W. Bush, if you look at his [unintelligible 00:36:30], he had a similar gap. His average approval rating among Republicans was 91percent and his average approval among Democrats was 15percent. His [unintelligible 00:36:44] was 76percent.
[Unintelligible 00:36:48] an approval rating of presidents [like President Eisenhower] or Lyndon Johnson or John F. Kennedy, or even Richard Nixon, what we saw was that Republicans and Democrats, there was a difference, and that difference tended to be about 20 points, and for the most part they moved together in tandem. In other words, when the president did things that the country was not happy with, both Republicans and Democrats disapproved, not one side disapproving more than the other side and were rallying around. So we have seen this more and more. President Obama’s job approval rating in 2013 [unintelligible 00:37:45] down to 41 percent, his approval rating during most of 2014 has again hovered basically between about 40 percent and about 44 percent. If you look at the top chart you can see that some of the latest average approval ratings are about 42 percent which is not good.
Congress rating isn’t so great either. In fact, it has been consistently hitting lows and the American public has [unintelligible 00:38:30] to re-elect fewer of their incumbents, they are displeased with the job that congress is doing and they are also displeased with their own member of congress. And that survey is kind of a big one. For many, many years Americans have disliked congress as an institution but have liked their individual member. Some of the members have also been upset in the last couple of years. They have seen there is [unintelligible 00:39:06] disapproval in Washington; there is a good amount of distrust on elected officials. Because Republicans have the House and the Democrats have the Senate and the Democrats have the White House, there is essentially uncertainty among the American public about who to blame, who is really at fault.
About a year ago we saw the Republicans shut down the government and then [unintelligible 00:39:33] of that we saw the [unintelligible 00:39:36] administration that was a Democratic administration [unintelligible 00:39:36] healthcare in a way that [unintelligible 00:39:46] believe that the government wasn’t as competent as it should be, as it’s not necessarily something to trust. So trust is leading to some uncertainty and it’s leading to the sense of who is to blame. Right through the generic ballot [unintelligible 00:40:09] leans towards the Republicans and this goes along with what I was saying about the Independents also leaning towards the Republicans, and what you essentially is that Republicans [unintelligible 00:40:22] the party from the White House and it is no doubt that this election is [suddenly] trending toward them, but because the country isn’t so excited about the Republicans it’s not moving in a huge way toward them.
[Unintelligible 00:40:46] I mentioned; engagement and interest. How important are they? Well, one [of the reasons 00:40:54] is how much people actually say they’re paying attention, whether or not they plan on voting, and how much thought they’ve essentially given to [unintelligible 00:41:05] itself and whether or not they will see [the vote 00:41:09] as being related to the President of the United States and are trying to send the president a message themselves. When you look overall, sort of, you know, [unintelligible 00:41:27] is that for the most part Republicans are following and more interested in the election; they’ve given it more thought, but they are as interested or as engaged as they were in 2010.
[Unintelligible 00:41:45] you see Democrats not as engaged and also not as engaged as they were in 2010. We certainly see Democrats also not as engaged as they were in 2006. You can [unintelligible 00:42:05] the bottom chart and I find this one to be really fascinating about whether voters are wanting to send a message to the president. When you look at [unintelligible 00:42:19] what we see is that people in 1998 said that they wanted to send a message of support to President Clinton and that was the [unintelligible 00:42:30] the three election years where in fact the president’s party gained seats in the House of Representatives. Similar to 2002 was one of the first midterm election years out of the three where a president’s party gained seats.
You can see there was a message of support again for President Bush shortly after 9/11. Many people wanted to rally behind the president and give a sense of he could do what was needed to protect the country. When you look at [unintelligible 00:43:12] six many people had a sense that they were fed up with the [unintelligible 00:43:12], they were fed up with [unintelligible 00:43:20] Bush administration and, no surprise, you know, people essentially said they wanted to send a message to President Bush to oppose him. Sure enough, Democrats won back the House and the Senate in 2006. It was quite a message that they did send. Similarly, in 2010 [unintelligible 00:43:47] to send a message to President Obama that the Democrats were going in with not the direction that the country wanted to go in and the Republicans, as I mentioned earlier, won back 63 seats in the House of Representatives. They didn’t manage to take the Senate that time, but it was [quite a 00:44:11] message that the American people sent. This time around sentiment appears to be fairly similar to what it was in 2010 where you see a number of people who are wanting to tell the president that they oppose his policies and direction he is headed in.
[Unintelligible 00:44:35] elections, either the- or the polarity of these people said their vote isn’t sending a message at all and that is a very [unintelligible 00:44:49] thing to say, that you are voting based upon the candidates in your [unintelligible 00:44:54], but the [unintelligible 00:44:57] are these election results [unintelligible 00:45:05] of the electorate that is essentially to send a message with their vote.
[Unintelligible 00:45:14] talk about and I’m just going to kind of briefly, you know the actual races that are up in the [Senate] and what you are likely to see because many people have questions about specific races. But what I was going to do was say that generally speaking a large big picture conclusion [unintelligible 00:45:46] with strategic challengers on both sides [unintelligible 00:45:52] get into these races, very competitive races and both have raised a lot of money and [unintelligible 00:46:00] are quite well. We also see that the House is divided and Americans aren’t really sure who to blame for the situation that we’re in. What we’re more likely to see than not is essentially, as I put in on the slide, a big ripple. It’s not really going to be a wave, but I do think that most possibs are going to fall to the [unintelligible 00:46:28] than not.
Typically at these elections the party is [favoured 00:46:35] in the waves; they don’t lose any of their incumbents and they typically pick up all of the toss-up or leaning seats. [The effect on the 00:46:46] election is going to be is that the Republicans are going to pick up the vast majority, but they may lose one or two here and there. [Unintelligible 00:46:58] to gain, I would argue about ten to twelve seats, political scientists are forecasting that Republicans pick up about fourteen. The [unintelligible 00:47:13] who look sort of [unintelligible 00:47:16] are suggesting that Republicans will pick up about eight. But, again, the way to think about this election is as more of a normalizing election. It’s more a balancing the country from the Democrat wave that happened in 2008 and [unintelligible 00:47:37] back in to seat and expect them to hold and take the seats that you would also expect them to hold.
[Unintelligible 00:47:50] sort of difference for the presidential election come 2016, if the [unintelligible 00:47:56] are in charge of the Senate and the Republicans are in charge of the House, then what you’re heading into in 2016 is somewhat set where we were in 2007. In 2007 the Democrats were in charge of both Chambers of Congress, the president was a Republican and the [unintelligible 00:48:19] wanted to make change in the White House too. The Republicans were able to take back the Congress and we can easily the same kind of push heading towards the Republican Party for 2016.
[Unintelligible 00:48:37] said, there is some uncertainty because Republicans, a lot of [unintelligible 00:48:43] battles that they’re fighting within their party and there’s a certainty [unintelligible 00:48:52] know exactly what direction they’re going to head in or what candidate they’re going to get behind. [Unintelligible 00:49:00] the Democrats retaining the White House. Since 1952 each political party has essentially controlled the House for [two] terms and then it switched to the other party. The only [unintelligible 00:49:16] to that was President George Bush, Senior, when he won a [unintelligible 00:49:23] for his party after Reagan’s [two 00:49:26]. So what would expect is that the Republicans would be favoured, but again because the Republicans have been so unsettled in the last few years no one knows which way things are going to go going forward.
So, now, a minute to talk about the races. I’ve showed you the maps, I’ve mentioned that a lot of the places that the Democrats are having a difficult time in the Senate. [Unintelligible 00:49:57] either they had an incumbent senator retire or an incumbent senator is fighting to hold onto essentially a red state that they won in 2008. Those places really start with Montana, with Indiana and with South Dakota. As I mentioned, the incumbents retired and [unintelligible 00:50:25] are essentially not [gridlocks] but [unintelligible 00:50:33] for Republicans who are running in those seats to pick up those seats. That’s Republicans plus three. They need six for the majority. In Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia they’ve got three.
The other four races to watch are Louisiana, Arkansas, Alaska and North Carolina. Each of those has a Democratic incumbent who is fighting with kind of everything they’ve got to try to both distance themselves from the president they want more red states and to win out those seats. Then there’s a handful of kind of [supporting] states, states that the parties weren’t necessarily sure they were going to be targeting but at [unintelligible 00:51:29] date appear competitive. You have [Iowa] where essentially a representative on the Republican side is running to replace long-time Democratic, Senator Tom Harkin, and he is in a [unintelligible 00:51:46] race with a Republican newcomer by the name of Joni Ernst. They are essentially tied and that race is considered to be a toss-up.
We also have Colorado where, again, a Democratic incumbent, Senator Mark Udall, is [unintelligible 00:52:08] a very strong challenge from Cory Gardner, who is looking to be more and more like the favourite. And then you have a couple of places where Republican incumbents are embattled. I mentioned both Kentucky- in fact the other race is in Kansas. Senator Pat Roberts, who is a Republican, a senator for Kansas, has basically been caught flatfooted by an Independent who has [unintelligible 00:52:43] said who he would form a [unintelligible 00:52:50] with, but [unintelligible 00:52:53] Democrats believe that he will stand with the Democratic Party. And this sort of Independent versus Republican race is one that has recently come on the screen and is a very hot race.
And then you’ve got [unintelligible 00:53:10] Georgia where there is a Republican businessman by the name of David Perdue who is with Michelle Nunn, who is a Democrat, and they are basically fighting in an open seat because Saxby Chambliss retired. So what you [unintelligible 00:53:33] is three sort of Democratic seats that are likely to become Republican. You have four really tight Democratic seats that are surely going to split. Three to four, at least two to four which gives the Republicans their majority.
And then comes Colorado and Iowa, which the Republicans might also pick up which would put them I would say at a plus eight, but then if they lose Kansas or Kentucky, then they end up back at a plus seven, which all goes to say that most people believe, when they look at this election, that the Republicans have numbers of competitive places and the number of sort of [unintelligible 00:54:45] indicators to suggest that they’re going to pick up the majority and the Democrats look to be pretty much on the defensive and [are trying 00:54:55] everything they can try to stave a Republican win.
So the [unintelligible 00:55:01] and my hope is that I’ve answered some of your questions. I’ve tried to explain some of what’s going on is not sort of as uncertain as the pundits make it and [unintelligible 00:55:24] is pretty historically expected. And with that, I’m going to take questions.
Presenter: [Unintelligible 00:55:33] questions, so I think we definitely have time to answer a few of these and then we will get to the other ones privately. So the first one we chose: Oregon or Merkley’ race as a likely Democrat. Early in the race there was less of a gap and [unintelligible 00:55:52] thought that the Republican would win. What [unintelligible 00:55:54] Merkley campaign to an early lead?
Dr. L. Brown: Well, this is really just the [unintelligible 00:56:02] Oregon. There was [unintelligible 00:56:06] and the candidate who is a Republican and her name is Monica Wehby. She, in fact, is a neurosurgeon. She hasn’t been very involved in politics. She made a run for the seat, she won the nomination and there was a great deal of interest in her largely because she doesn’t hold some of the traditional Republican beliefs, for instance [unintelligible 00:56:37] is her choice and there was a sense that she might fit the Republican [unintelligible 00:56:45] organ, which tends to be a little bit more liberal. [Unintelligible 00:56:51] where Merkley is that he’s run I think a good campaign and [unintelligible 00:56:56] Monica Wehby, for her campaign and for sort of the Republican hopes there [unintelligible 00:57:07] a couple of attacks come at her for some of her background which related to kind of messy [unintelligible 00:57:07] and, I believe, [unintelligible 00:57:20] and these things came back upon her in a negative light.
And then, in addition, there was some question about plagiarism on her [website 00:57:33] and in her potentially campaign position. One of the things that we’ve seen come across the board are that [unintelligible 00:57:47] campaigns basically took stock language from the political parties about their candidates’ issue positions. They then put those on their websites without [unintelligible 00:58:00] them or making it more kind of individual to that candidate. And what happened [unintelligible 00:58:11] of Google and sort of [unintelligible 00:58:16] opposition research on both sides have said that these candidates are plagiarizing one another.
Some of this is a little overblown, you known in a much severe case of real plagiarism with the candidate, Walsh in Montana, where he in fact he has now had his master’s revoked by the War College in Pennsylvania because he had plagiarized much of his master’s thesis. That’s not what’s happening here with [Monica Wehby], or I believe there were about three Democratic candidates who also came under the charge. This was more a situation where these candidates were not politically sophisticated and they were not politically knowledgeable. They went to their political parties for kind of an understanding of an issue position and their political parties said here’s the language and the way in which we frame it and then what we essentially see is that these parties give them this language and these candidates then replicate the language, but I think they said it’s a little bit overblown because, [unintelligible 00:59:36] you know, forever and a day put a platform that the candidates have mimicked and parroted in the [unintelligible 00:59:47] trail. So that these people are plagiarizing from their parties seems a little absurd.
But, nonetheless, I think all of these things together have cut into Monica Wehby’s lead and just hasn’t been as strong a candidate and people thought she would be. So it led to a good deal of money that was going to go to her campaign being withdrawn and [unintelligible 01:00:15] being the incumbent [unintelligible 01:00:16] his money on his campaign and his position as an incumbent wisely to reinforce his candidacy. So I hope that [unintelligible 01:00:28].
Presenter: So the next question. Do you feel we are likely to see an increase in close races this election cycle like we saw in Minnesota with Al Franken and Norm Coleman, or do you suggest that parties are becoming more strict at running elections that seek to avoid that scenario?
Dr. L. Brown: Well, we could certainly see some close races. Do I think that we could end up, you know, within hundreds of votes and end up with a recount? Yes. And it’s not that parties are not sophisticated about running races. For instance, last night in my class I spent the class basically helping students understand how campaigns come up with a winning number. [Unintelligible 01:01:14] actually the way the state or district [unintelligible 01:01:18] off with that number or numbers that you need to target that you think are going to be enough to make sure that win. Well, if all of those numbers are based upon history and when you average sort of [cyclical 01:01:36] races and you take a look at history, if you have enough examples in [unintelligible 01:01:47] race [unintelligible 01:01:47] end up being statistically significant.
From a mathematical standpoint, [unintelligible 01:01:55] where you project a winning number and it’s simply off I will tell you is one of the things and one of the unreported stories about what happened to Eric Cantor when he lost in his primary. If you look back in the State of Virginia and you look at the House districts that [unintelligible 01:02:18] a competitive primary, you try and gauge the number of people that will turn out. Whether it’s Democrats or Republicans the average turnout, total turnout in the competitive primary races in Virginia House district is 40,000 people. Well, Eric got 28,000 votes and [40,000 01:02:46] people had turned out he won because you only need 50 plus one to win, right, 50 percent plus one.
He won in his district, 28,000 out of the 40,000 [unintelligible 01:03:05] a win, but sometimes history is broken. In fact, if you look at that race, 65,000 people turned out in total with the result that Eric Cantor’s 28,000 simply wasn’t enough to get him over the top. So there’s [unintelligible 01:03:25] again might end up misleading you and that’s part of the reason why, you know, when I look at midterm elections or I look at presidential elections I choose history to [unintelligible 01:03:39] but you have to also look closely at the specifics. If you think that this is a year there’s going to be high engagement, or [like] Eric Cantor’s race, if you think that you might particularly be the target of some tea party angst because [unintelligible 01:04:01] in Washington and you’ve been part of Washington Establishment for [unintelligible 01:04:08] in too many instances and you haven’t been in the district enough, then really, you’re probably going to want to overestimate what you need rather than underestimate. And this year I do think that part of what our program is and part of what [unintelligible 01:04:25] students to is look at history enough that they also look at the specifics and get into context and know how one year might be different from the next or from the historical pattern overall.
Presenter: You might have covered this, Lara, but I’ll ask it anyway. Whose approval ratings matter more, Obama’s or Congressional Republicans?
Dr. L Brown: The Republicans. That’s a really easy answer, and the reason why is because those voters who tend to make the difference in the election are those voters who only marginally follow politics and are usually only marginally interested in politics. And quite frankly, they’re not all that informed about politics. They tune in late in the political cycle, they feel that they need to vote because it is their duty, but they don’t necessarily follow the ins and outs every year. And one thing, though, that they do do is they form an opinion of the president and they have that opinion kind of in their back pocket at all times.
If you actually surveyed many of those individuals and you asked them who is in charge of each chamber in congress, you likely would not, in fact, get the right response. So congressional approval- well, it’s [dead-end 01:06:02] and it’s not a good thing for incumbents who are running for re-election. Their [priority 01:06:09] is the president’s approval will matter much more.
Presenter: Great. I appreciate you taking the time this morning to discuss the upcoming midterm elections with us. Thank you everyone for joining us today, and for those questions that weren’t answered we will follow up with you after the webinar and answer those specifically. If you have any additional questions from the presentation or about the online political management program in general, please contact your enrolment advisor. And the time to apply for the spring start term, which begins in January 2015, is fast approaching so you can contact your enrolment advisor to discuss the application process in more detail as well.
I’ll also be sending the recording to the webinar in the next week, so watch out for that.
Thanks again everyone and have a wonderful afternoon. And thank you, Lara Brown.
Dr. L. Brown: Thank you [Lakey]. Thank you everyone for listening in and spending your lunch hour with me.
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