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Commentary By J. Miles Coleman

Most Recent Releases

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May 25, 2023

Leaning Into State Trends: The West Coast By J. Miles Coleman

Also some larger observations on how all the states have trended.


— The West Coast states have all been Democratic-leaning in nearly every recent presidential election.

— One exception was Oregon, which leaned slightly right of the nation in 2000, although it is now a solidly blue state.

— Looking nationally, Biden was the best-performing recent Democratic nominee in several Sun Belt states — many of which will be at the center of the 2024 campaign.

— Donald Trump, between his two elections as the GOP nominee, turned in the best recent Republican performances in half the states — this includes much of the electorally-critical Rust Belt.

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May 4, 2023

Leaning Into State Trends: The Midwest and Interior West By J. Miles Coleman

The two regions have four Biden-won states that will be key in 2024


— Both the Midwest and Interior West have states that Joe Biden carried by less than his popular vote margin in 2020.

— In the Midwest, Michigan and Wisconsin will likely be prime battlegrounds states next year, although Michigan seems a harder lift for Republicans.

— In the Interior West, Arizona’s Republican lean has been eroding in elections since 2008 — this allowed Biden to carry it in 2020, but Democrats will also have to work to keep neighboring Nevada in their column.

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April 20, 2023

Leaning Into State Trends: The Northeast and Greater South By J. Miles Coleman


— In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden carried 6 states — that were collectively worth 79 electoral votes — by a margin less than his national showing. In some ways, this made his electoral coalition less efficient than that of Barack Obama’s in 2012.

— No state has been within 5 points of the national popular vote in each of the past 6 presidential elections, but Pennsylvania has come the closest, though it has taken on a slight GOP lean.

— Aside from Virginia and Georgia, North Carolina, despite a persistent 6-point GOP lean in recent elections, seems like Democrats’ best southern prospect.

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February 2, 2023

The Shocking Decline of Senate Ticket-Splitting By J. Miles Coleman

Over two decades, double-digit overperformances have become far less common.


— Senate races are increasingly converging with presidential partisanship, to the point where the huge overperformances that were so common a decade or two ago have become much less common.

— Since 2000, the number of senators who have run more than 10 points ahead of their party’s presidential nominee has decreased sharply.

— This trend helps explain why we currently rate Democratic-held West Virginia as Leans Republican and started off Montana and Ohio as Toss-ups.

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January 19, 2023

2024 Governors Races: A First Look By J. Miles Coleman

And an updated word on Mississippi.


— North Carolina’s open-seat race is clearly the marquee contest of 2024’s gubernatorial races. It starts as a Toss-up.

— The other contests start with clear favorites despite several open seats.

— If popular Republican incumbents run for another term, the GOP should be in great shape to hold New Hampshire and Vermont. But they would be great Democratic opportunities as open seats.

— Mississippi moves to Likely Republican following the entry of a credible Democratic candidate after our initial 2023 rating release last week.

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January 12, 2023

The 2023 Governor Races By J. Miles Coleman

Democrats retain a slight edge in Kentucky, while Republicans favored in neighboring Deep South states.


— While it’s easy to begin looking towards the 2024 election cycle, 3 states will have gubernatorial contests this year.

— In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear remains personally popular, but he will be running in a red state with a large GOP bench.

— Louisiana and Mississippi should be easier contests for Republicans. Term-limited Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) will be hard for Democrats to replace, while Mississippi, where Democrats have not won a gubernatorial contest this century, will also be an uphill fight for them.

— The initial ratings for these 3 races are Leans Democratic for Kentucky, Safe Republican for Mississippi, and Likely Republican for Louisiana.

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March 3, 2022

Breaking Down North Carolina and Pennsylvania’s New Maps By J. Miles Coleman


— North Carolina and Pennsylvania are 2 closely-divided states where the redistricting process this cycle ultimately fell to Democratic-controlled state courts.

— Democrats seem likely to gain at least 1 seat out of North Carolina, although the relatively favorable map that they got will only be in place for the 2022 election cycle.

— As we expected, a GOP-held seat was eliminated as Pennsylvania’s delegation was forced to downsize, but some of its Democratic members, particularly in the eastern part of the state, will have their work cut out for them.

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November 11, 2021

Less Than A Year Out: A Redistricting Update By J. Miles Coleman

Going over new maps in NC, TX, and other states.


— With some more populous states passing new district maps, the 2022 congressional landscape is getting a bit clearer.

— In Texas and North Carolina, Republicans took contrasting approaches — they were relatively tame in the former and more aggressive in the latter — but should likely net seats out of both states.

— In smaller states, like Alabama and West Virginia, redistricting has basically panned out as we expected.

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September 30, 2021

OR Finishes Redistricting, with CO, ME, and NE Close Behind; Many Other States Release Drafts by J. Miles Coleman

Last week, in the middle of what turned out to be a tumultuous special legislative session in Oregon, the Crystal Ball looked at the congressional map that Democrats were pushing for. After a COVID scare that prompted leadership to halt negotiations for several days, the Oregon legislature convened over the weekend. Facing the prospect of a walkout by Republican legislators, Democrats proposed a new map that was designed to be more palatable to the GOP. It worked. On Monday, enough Republicans showed up to allow Democrats to pass their plan.

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July 15, 2021

Republican Governors Draw Primary Challengers, But History Suggests They Face Long Odds By J. Miles Coleman

Checking in on gubernatorial races in Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, and elsewhere.


— With months to go until the 2022 gubernatorial primaries, several Republican governors have drawn notable primary challengers.

— Still, it is relatively rare for sitting governors to lose renomination, and all GOP incumbents appear to be favored in their primaries.

— Most, though not all, Republican primary challengers who have emerged are running to the right of their incumbents.

— While we’re holding off on making any ratings changes for now, any primary upsets may prompt us to reevaluate some races.

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April 8, 2021

Did Scandal Cost North Carolina Democrats a Senate Seat? By J. Miles Coleman


— In North Carolina’s hotly contested Senate race last year, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) narrowly won reelection against a scandal-plagued opponent, former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D-NC).

— Had Cunningham’s candidacy not been weighed down by a personal affair, he may have still lost. Indeed, a Tillis win was consistent with other results around the country and in the state.

— Still, Cunningham certainly didn’t benefit from his scandal, and it very likely cost him votes.

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March 18, 2021

How Mid-Decade Redistrictings Saved the Democratic House Majority By J. Miles Coleman


— Though new congressional lines are typically put into effect for election years ending in “-2”, four states adopted new maps at later points during this last decade.

— In North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, Republican-friendly maps were thrown out mid-decade in favor of plans that were more amenable to Democrats.

— If those pro-Republican maps were still in place, there’s a good chance that House Republicans would be in the majority now.

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March 11, 2021

2022 Gubernatorial Races: A Baseline By J. Miles Coleman

Aside from Maryland, no statehouses are initially favored to flip -- but surprises are surely coming.


— 38 states will see gubernatorial races over the next two years; Democrats currently hold 18 of the seats that will be contested while the GOP holds 20.

— Maryland, where popular Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) is term-limited, will be hard for Republicans to hold. With a Leans Democratic rating, the Crystal Ball expects a Democrat to flip the seat.

— We’re starting the cycle off with five Toss-ups: Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Not coincidentally, four of those gave President Biden very narrow margins last year.

— Democrats are clear favorites to retain governorships in three of the nation’s most populous states — California, Illinois, and New York — but they could be better-positioned in each.

— In the Senate, Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) retirement nudges that contest from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.

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March 4, 2021

Virginia and New Jersey Governors 2021: A First Look By J. Miles Coleman

In blue states, Democrats could match milestones and break curses.


— Virginia Democrats are trying to win three consecutive gubernatorial races, a feat the party has not accomplished since the 1980s.

— Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) is the favorite for his state’s Democratic nomination, though he faces a diverse field.

— In a move that’s ruffled some feathers on their side, Virginia Republicans will select their nominee at a May convention.

— In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) is poised to become the state’s first Democratic governor to secure reelection since 1977.

— Virginia’s open-seat race starts as Leans Democratic in the Crystal Ball ratings. New Jersey starts as Likely Democratic.

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February 18, 2021

Moving Past Impeachment: Trump Acquitted (Again) By J. Miles Coleman


— In the second impeachment trial of his presidency, former President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate. Seven Republicans joined 50 Democrats in voting to convict Trump.

— The sole Republican running for reelection in 2022 who voted to convict Trump was Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — she has a reputation as a political maverick.

— Democrats will be targeting a few open-seat contests next year in the Senate, specifically North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where retiring Republicans have been censured by their local parties.

— For now, Senate Democrats probably won’t see much electoral backlash from their votes, though Democrats representing Trump states may feel heat in 2024.

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February 11, 2021

The House: As 2020’s Final Contests Settle, Vacancies Arise By J. Miles Coleman

Look for House seat openings in Ohio, New Mexico to come up soon.


— With the race for NY-22 settled, 2020’s House elections may finally be fully in the rearview mirror, though IA-2’s results will be reviewed by Congress.

— Before this week, we rated two special elections in Louisiana as safe for either party; with a new vacancy in TX-6, we see an imminent special election there as Likely Republican.

— Two more districts, NM-1 and OH-11, seem likely to host special elections soon, as their incumbents have been designated for positions in the Biden administration.

— Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) retirement doesn’t impact our Safe Republican rating for the Alabama Senate race.

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February 4, 2021

2020’s Crossover Districts By J. Miles Coleman

Only a handful of House Democrats and Republicans represent turf won by the other party’s presidential nominee.


— 16 members of the House hold districts that voted for the other party’s presidential nominee in 2020.

— Many Biden-district Republicans are from racially diverse areas, and they often came out on the winning end of rematches.

— Democrats held several Trump seats in both blue collar and suburban areas.

— Overall, the trend of ticket-splitting is on the decline — just a decade ago, it was common to see dozens of crossover districts.

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January 28, 2021

2022 Senate Races: Initial Ratings By J. Miles Coleman

On a potentially limited playing field, both parties look to expand past their current 50 seats.


— Republicans will be defending more Senate seats than Democrats in 2022, but both sides have some potential pickup opportunities — though a large gain for either party seems unlikely.

— Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) would have been an overwhelming favorite to win a third term, but even with his retirement, Ohio’s rightward lean makes it an uphill climb for Democrats.

— Democrats’ clearest path to gaining seats runs primarily though the Rust Belt, as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin seem to be their top offensive races, though they may finally get lucky in North Carolina.

— We rate four states — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire — as Leans Democratic, and these seem to be the most obvious GOP targets.

— There will likely be more retirements this cycle, but they probably won’t change the fundamental picture.

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December 17, 2020

Georgia Senate Runoffs: Breaking Down November, Looking to January By J. Miles Coleman and Niles Francis


— In a highly unusual situation, both of Georgia’s Senate seats will be on the ballot next month — one seat was already scheduled to be elected, while the other is a special election.

— As January’s result will decide control of the Senate, both sides are invested in Georgia’s outcome.

— In the regular election, Democrat Jon Ossoff made some gains in the suburbs since he was last on the ballot, but to beat Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), he’ll likely have to do even better.

— The battle for the state’s other seat is a bitter contest between appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat and a preacher.

— Though it would add an extra layer of chaos to the outcome, history — and data from November — seems to point away from a split outcome.

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August 27, 2020

States of Play: North Carolina By J. Miles Coleman and Bennett Stillerman


— After President Obama’s narrow win there in 2008, light red North Carolina has proved elusive for Democrats — but it remains a target for both sides.

— North Carolina’s politics are increasingly shaped by its growing bloc of unaffiliated voters.

— Over the past decade, North Carolina’s traditional east-west divide has evolved into more of an urban-rural split — a pattern seen in many other states.

— In a state known for volatile Senate races, 2020’s contest should be true to form,  and further down the ballot, voters will weigh in on several statewide races.