Reading Into The Tea Leaves

It’s become fairly common for pundits, analysts and all types of political junkies to read into early voting numbers based on a whole host of things; party affiliation of returned ballots, gender, location and so on. While the proliferation of polls provide fresh evidence this will be either a wave election or just a meh election the early voting number say something as well, until they don’t.

Take for instance Florida and North Carolina. Both offer tidbits of good news for the GOP, albeit for different reasons. Now to be fair, both are right leaning states (some could argue Florida is now solidly red) and even in favorable Democratic years, statewide victories have been hard to come by. Hence, a midterm year defined by an unpopular Democratic President is a heavy lift.

The early voting numbers indicate this. In North Carolina, Democrats have been alarmed to see the median age of the average voter be a whopping 66 years. Some of this could be driven by older black voters turning out making the average voter age higher but even so Democrats have prior expressed concern about reduced black turnout.

In Florida, a state which has veered to the right unlike North Carolina (which has stayed pinkish/purple) the numbers are even more stark. As of Sunday, a little less than 1.9 million had returned their ballots. Of those, 704,962 were Republicans, 809,561 were Democrats and 344,998 are unaffiliated. These numbers are downright horrific for Democrats who not only trail in registered voters in the state but also had banked over 600,000 votes in the state in 2020 only to lose it by over three points. In fact, if one takes into account the 190K+ early voting in person lead the GOP has more registered Republicans have voted in the state than Democrats. I don’t read too much into early voting numbers but considering the electorate into 2020 was +8 GOP no percentage win among Independents will turn the state blue. The only question now is whether the GOP will have made significant enough inroads among Hispanics to take Miami – Dade outright.

In Texas, the numbers are a little less clear cut than Florida. Early voting numbers broken down by geography show virtually every area of the state (suburbs, big cities, rural areas) turning out at about the same rate. Like North Carolina though, Texas has been a steady red state trending purple but with a distinct pink lean again making a Democratic statewide win here unlikely.

Then we come to the two Democratic bulwarks which represent the epitomy and maybe the limitations of their party coalition; Georgia and Nevada. In Georgia, a record number of voters have voted early, but broken down by race only 30 percent of them have been black (less than 2020). Unlike say Florida, North Carolina or Texas, Georgia is trending sharply to the left.

Then we move onto Nevada, a state more people are keeping an eye on than even its neighbor to the South (Arizona). To date, as of Sunday, October 30th, turnout appears to be lagging 2018 and far below 2020. If one uses 2020 as a proxy when Democrats racked up a 60,000 vote margin in the early vote on route to a 33K+ vote victory, they are well behind in that race. Per John Ralston (I’ll leave the debates about his being a partisan hack aside), Democrats have built up a lead of about 13,000 votes. If the electorate trends more Republican, which some polls have shown, and Democrats win Independents by a few points, they need to boost their early vote lead to around 30K ballots. The downside is they have not but the good news is they have another week to make it happen.

What all these numbers have in common is that people have to read into them to get the good or bad news… well okay, not so much Florida, those numbers are just apocalyptic for Democrats. Twitter and the left wing blogosphere is going nuts indicating this shows we are not in for a red wave. Conservatives and others trumpet these numbers as running behind Dem margins in 18 and 20 as a sign things are looking red.

These numbers don’t confirm much. What does confirm far more are the generic ballot and the fundamentals and both lean right. Individual polls will show some races competitive that should not be or some sleeper races we did not expect. Take the recent NYT/Sienna poll which found PA – 8 looking blue, NM – 2 a dead heat and KS -3 in suburban Omaha a blowout. Yet, we have polls in the WA Senate race and for NY Governor showing those races a dead heat. Then we have Democrats freaking out about their own internals in CA 26, a D +20 district. If that district is even within 5 Democrats are looking at a 40 seat loss in the House and the Senate won’t be there’s until 2026 at the earliest.

Considering this and that we are 8 days away from the election my first prediction is as follows. These are straight number predictions, not individual races.

House: R + 20 – 30

Senate: R + 2 with one Run-off

Governor R + 2 – 3


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