Crunch Time Report: Predictions for November

While we pride ourselves in our data work, the EveryDistrict team does not consider ourselves political prognosticators. We think the candidates we endorse can win with the right support and we work hard through Election Day to get as many of them as much support as possible. However, “Who’s going to win” is the question on everyone’s mind, so, here are our predictions.

With two weeks to go until Election Day, EveryDistrict has brought together everything we know about state legislative districts to play Nate Silver for a day. What might happen in the key state legislative races this fall and what does it mean for partisan control of the states?

The Challenge of Predicting in the States: While the predictions below are informed by on-the-ground updates from these chambers, actually predicting state legislative races is made difficult by a few overlapping factors. Downballot roll-off, when voters don’t make it all the way down the ticket, can make it hard to square top-of-the-ticket results with what happens in the legislature and hard to analyze even state leg-level polling. Democrats suffer, in particular, from roll-off because despite the rosy headlines about state legislative funding this year, it remains difficult for state legislative candidates to raise the necessary funds early in the campaign to get their name out there. We’ll see where Democrats might leave seats on the table because of this.

Another unique dynamic this year is the rapid change occurring in suburban districts. Across the country, the polling we have seen this year indicates that districts that less than a decade ago would have voted for Republicans by double digits can flip blue this year. Candidates started the year in extremely unfavorable territory – 70% of must-win districts in EveryDistrict’s nine target states were R-leaning. Judging how fast the suburbs are changing, and how those fed up with Trump will vote downballot, is difficult and leads to wide variability in results.  

These challenges notwithstanding, we lay out our take on the state of affairs below.  

Here’s the headline: Democrats should see substantial gains in the most competitive states, particularly if Biden’s growing polling lead is maintained. Democrats should be seen as favorites to pick up five chambers. In a tight year nationwide, there are five chambers leaning Democratic, four chambers that appear to be toss-ups, two chambers leaning in the GOP direction, and eleven GOP-controlled chambers in purple states where the GOP has an edge.

Supermajorities: Democrats have also eyed four chambers to attack Republican supermajorities – both chambers in Kansas and in Ohio. Right now, we expect Democrats to eliminate those Republican supermajorities in both chambers in Kansas and the Ohio House, but with the Republican Ohio Senate supermajority hanging on.

Democratic Holds: Of the most competitive Democratic chambers, including the six that Democrats took full control of in 2018, the only two that have shown signs of being in play are the New Hampshire Senate and Alaska House.* While early polling indicated that Democrats were vulnerable in New Hampshire, we expect that the national tide and Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s strong top-of-the-ticket polling will keep Democrats in control. In the Alaska House, where Democrats have been part of a power-sharing coalition with a few Republicans and Independents, the Republican partners have been defeated in primaries or are looking to return back to the GOP caucus after the election. While there is still hope, we currently expect the Alaska House to fall into Republican hands this November.

The End Result: With these changes, we expect Republicans to control at least 27 of the 50 upper houses after this year’s election, with three chambers (Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) hanging in the balance (which, if they go blue, would give us control of 23 chambers). Democrats may control 26 of the 49 lower houses, with Texas certainly too close to call at the moment and with the North Carolina House close to tipping back our way.

We also note that we continue to hear positive news out of Wisconsin. Our partners working to elect Democrats in the Assembly are reporting polling that indicates a big gain is possible. While the GOP gerrymander remains extremely strong in that state, Democrats could take a big bite out of it if they can close in the next two weeks.

How the Toss-Ups Might Break: If we pick regarding the most competitive seats, we give a slide edge to pickups for Democrats in Arizona and to get to a tie in the Pennsylvania Senate (which gives Democrats control because of Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman). In Arizona, the competitive landscape is small, but 2018 statewide results, particularly in the U.S. Senate race, showing a state trending blue. In Pennsylvania, Biden’s strong polling lead in the state gives individual candidates an opportunity to tie themselves to a popular top-of-the-ticket in the final weeks. While Democrats have put themselves in excellent positions in North Carolina and Texas, those chambers still have a slight Republican edge due to their baseline partisanship and the money the GOP has at their disposal.

How We Predict: In addition to EveryDistrict’s Legislative District Index, which measures the competitiveness of every district in the country, we also evaluate the demographics of the district, fundraising data, and private polling information that we are provided to determine the potential outcomes.

How We’ll Invest over the Next Two Weeks: We have developed a particular index to identify where we think Democratic candidates would most benefit from grassroots dollars over the next two weeks. This Candidate Investment Index articulates where dollars would go furthest and make the biggest difference for who has control of the state legislatures after November. We have already launched our Final Four fundraising program based on this index.

To Learn More: Our blog post giving a deep dive on the core states can be found here. It goes chamber-by-chamber to estimate what might happen once the returns come in.  

Next week, we’ll be expanding beyond these core states to provide an estimate of the nationwide state legislative results on November 3. Stay tuned.

* While some have identified the Alaska House as a Democratically-controlled chamber, EveryDistrict notes the current partisan control of the states as 59-39-1, with Alaska being the one because of the power-sharing agreement between Democrats and Republicans.