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Commentary By J. Miles Coleman

Most Recent Releases

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May 30, 2024

Districts of Change, Part Three: When Each District Was Most Democratic (and Most Republican) By J. Miles Coleman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

—Using data from Dave’s Redistricting App, we are looking at when each district has leaned most Democratic and most Republican, compared to the national popular vote, since 2008.

—By this metric, Biden’s 2020 performance represented the best Democratic showing since 2008 in a plurality of districts (145 of 435).

—Though his result was less impressive in raw terms, when adjusting for the national popular vote, John McCain was the best-performing recent Republican in 143 districts, the most on the GOP side.

—Some familiar trends, such as Mitt Romney’s strength in white collar areas and Hillary Clinton’s support from Hispanics, show up when comparing district voting across the years.

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May 9, 2024

Districts of Change, Part Two: Looking Beyond the Straight-Party Districts By J. Miles Coleman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— Most districts in the House, 379 of the 435, have exclusively backed nominees from only one of the major parties in presidential elections since 2008.

— This leaves 56 districts that have voted at least once for both parties.

— Districts that backed Barack Obama twice and then did the same for Donald Trump make up the most numerous non-straight party group, and most of those districts have Republicans in Congress.

— Democrats, however, hold four of the five “bellwether” districts that have backed the winners of the last four presidential elections.

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May 2, 2024

Districts of Change, Part One: How All 435 Congressional Districts Voted from 2008-2020 By J. Miles Coleman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— One of the most useful tools that the Crystal Ball employs on a regular basis is Dave’s Redistricting App, which helps us make sense of redistricting and includes a plethora of data.

— Using some of DRA’s newly-released data, we are looking back at how the 2008 election compares to 2020 by congressional district.

— Despite doing several points worse nationally than Barack Obama did in 2008, Joe Biden performed better than Obama in nearly half (211) of the current 435 House districts.

— Our home state of Virginia illustrates several of the broader national swings that have taken hold since 2008.

— Most districts cast more raw votes in 2020 than they did in 2008, though there are some interesting exceptions.

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April 18, 2024

Where Trump’s Primary Showing Was (And Wasn’t) Especially Strong By J. Miles Coleman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

—Though former President Donald Trump easily won most GOP primaries this year, some areas stood out to us.

—By comparing how Trump did in each county to how he did overall in each state, we can get a better idea of how his coalition is shaping up.

—Geographically, Trump beat his statewide primary share in a majority of counties in most states.

—Meanwhile, and not surprisingly, Trump tended to struggle in areas that are Democratic, or blue-trending, in general elections, although there were some exceptions.

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February 29, 2024

The Postwar History of Senate/Presidential Ticket-Splitting, Part Two By J. Miles Coleman

As Democrats try to hold the Senate through defending red states, a look at the rise and fall of split Senate outcomes in presidential years.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— This is the second part of our history of presidential-Senate split-ticket results, from World War II to now. This part covers the mid-1980s to present, a timeframe that started with many instances of split results and ended with hardly any at all.

— In 1984 and 1988, amidst large GOP victories at the presidential level, more than a dozen Republican-won states sent Democrats to the Senate both years.

— The 1990s, when Democrats were successful at the presidential level, split-ticket voting tended to benefit Republicans in the Senate, making the decade an exception in the postwar era.

— In the 2000s, Democrats were back to benefitting from the split-ticket dynamic, first under a Republican president, George W. Bush, then with a Democrat, Barack Obama.

— Montana, a state which Senate Democrats are defending this year in a Toss-up race, is the state that has split its ticket most often in the postwar era. And almost every state has split its ticket at least once during that time.

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February 22, 2024

The Postwar History of Senate/Presidential Ticket-Splitting, Part One By J. Miles Coleman

As Democrats try to hold the Senate through defending red states, a look at the rise and fall of split Senate outcomes in presidential years.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— In the post-World War II era, there have been nearly 200 instances of states voting for one party for president and another for Senate in presidential election years.

— This type of ticket splitting has generally been to the benefit of Democrats, who have been out of the White House for a slight majority of that timespan.

— The split-ticket trend has been declining, but Democrats will want to reverse that to some degree this year.

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February 15, 2024

Notes on the State of the Senate By J. Miles Coleman

Analyzing Hogan’s entry in Maryland; deciphering action out west; the 2024 Democratic downside risk.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

–Last week, national Republicans got their best possible Senate recruit in deep blue Maryland, with former Gov. Larry Hogan.

–Though Hogan will be hard pressed to actually win, as has been the case with some other recent “crossover” governors who’ve run in Senate races, his candidacy is notable enough that it moves Maryland onto the periphery of the competitive map.

–In Montana, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R, MT-2) finally entered his state’s Senate contest, setting up a primary with Tim Sheehy, who national Republicans prefer.

— In Arizona, Kari Lake, a pro-Trump election denier, received the nod from national Republicans, though Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (I-AZ) plans are still not known.

— With Democrats being so exposed this cycle—they hold roughly two-thirds of the Senate seats that will be up—it’ll be important for them to minimize their losses.

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February 1, 2024

A Deeper Dig into the Granite By J. Miles Coleman and Kyle Kondik

The Trump, Haley, and Biden coalitions in the New Hampshire primary.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

—With a lull in the primary calendar, we thought we’d take a closer look at last week’s New Hampshire primary.

—Nikki Haley’s town-level victories were confined almost exclusively to places that Joe Biden carried in the 2020 general election.

—Although Biden showed some weakness in a few of the state’s larger cities, he carried nearly every town in the state.

—The GOP primary saw the most raw votes cast of any New Hampshire primary contest, but that was driven in part by participation from voters who likely won’t be voting Republican for president in the fall.

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January 25, 2024

The Fields Above the Graves: Louisiana 2024 Redistricting By J. Miles Coleman

In vintage Louisiana fashion, Democrats gain a second Louisiana seat.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— Earlier this week, Gov. Jeff Landry (R-LA) signed a new House map that creates a second Black-majority seat in the state.

— The new district, stretching from Baton Rouge to Shreveport, would have favored Joe Biden by 20 points in 2020 and is Safe Democratic.

— Former Rep. Cleo Fields (D) seems to be a frontrunner for the new seat, and, if elected, would return to Congress after a nearly 30 year absence.

— Aside from its partisan implications, the new map could be interpreted as Landry’s attempt at punishing Rep. Garret Graves (R, LA-6).

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December 7, 2023

Notes on the State of Politics: Dec. 7, 2023 By J. Miles Coleman

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— The pending resignation of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R, CA-20) and Rep. Patrick McHenry’s (R, NC-10) retirement announcement are notable developments, but they do not precipitate rating changes.

— With New York’s George Santos (R, NY-3) expelled from Congress, a special election in his district will be held in February.

— A recent special election in Utah’s 2nd District stood out as something of an exception: a special election where Republicans overperformed.

— Though Georgia Republicans were ordered to draw a new congressional map, the plan that they produced maintains the state’s existing 9-5 Republican split.

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November 2, 2023

A 2023 Election Mega-Preview By J. Miles Coleman and Kyle Kondik

Places to watch in Kentucky, Mississippi, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— The key races we’re watching next week are gubernatorial races in Kentucky and Mississippi, the state legislative contests in Virginia, an abortion-related ballot issue in Ohio, and a state Supreme Court race in Pennsylvania.

— We continue to favor incumbent Govs. Andy Beshear (D-KY) and Tate Reeves (R-MS) in next week’s gubernatorial elections, even as upsets are possible in either.

— If the abortion rights vote in Ohio is close, some key Obama-to-Trump counties may tell the tale of the election, while partisan loyalties in Pennsylvania may be a bit weaker in the court race than in a federal race.

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October 12, 2023

Louisiana 2023: The Road to Saturday’s Primary By J. Miles Coleman

With a November runoff expected, some context for this weekend’s jungle primary.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— On Saturday, Louisiana voters will go to the polls to begin selecting a replacement for term-limited Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA).

— In the all-party primary, state Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) has been the frontrunner for much of the campaign and will likely advance to a runoff.

— The state Democratic establishment has thrown its weight behind former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, who will probably join Landry in a runoff.

— Despite Edwards’s success in recent gubernatorial elections, many of the dynamics that favored him in 2015 and 2019 are now absent. The Crystal Ball rates the race as Likely Republican.

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August 24, 2023

The Atlas of Post-Dobbs Abortion Ballot Measures: Part Two By J. Miles Coleman

Comparing ballot issues to partisan races in VT, CA, MT, KY, and state halves.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— Vermont and California were two blue states where the pro-abortion rights sides of 2022 ballot measures ran considerably ahead of Democratic nominees for statewide office.

— Also in 2022, voters in Kentucky and Montana defeated GOP-backed abortion-related ballot questions; the results of those votes may provide something of an electoral roadmap for Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).

— The pro-abortion rights side has generally run ahead of Democratic candidate performance recently, although there are now examples from several states of Democratic candidates doing better than the ballot issues in a variety of heavily minority areas.

— In each of the seven states that have held abortion-related ballot measures since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, the pro-abortion rights side has outperformed Biden more In the counties that make up lesser-populated “bottom half” counties in these states.

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August 17, 2023

The Atlas of Post-Dobbs Abortion Ballot Measures: Part One By J. Miles Coleman

Comparing ballot issues to partisan races in KS, OH, and MI.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decisions last year, seven states have held abortion-related ballot issues, and abortion rights advocates have won all seven contests.

— In Kansas and Michigan, the pro-abortion rights side broadly outperformed the winning Democratic nominees for governor.

— In Ohio, last week’s Issue 1 ballot question, which was cast as a proxy vote on abortion rights, followed a similar pattern, roundly outperforming now-former Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D) showing in last year’s Senate race.

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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.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— 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

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— 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

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— 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.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— 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.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— 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.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE

— 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.