Take a deep breath. It won’t help you understand what’s happening in the contest for the presidency, but it won’t hurt either.
Commentary by Larry J. Sabato
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Whatever you think of him, Donald Trump is a stick of dynamite thrown into the presidential pond. All the boats have been rocked, and given Trump’s potential for more explosiveness, the political waters show little sign of settling down anytime soon.
Donald Trump is so special that we’ve created a category (and perhaps a word) just for him in our Republican presidential rankings: “The Un-Nominatable Frontrunner.”
Since we last took a comprehensive look at the 2016 Senate races, a slew of new candidates have jumped in, some promising contenders have dropped out, and intraparty competition has intensified.
Sounds dramatic. Yet what most strikes us is the overall stability, thus far at least, of the Senate picture.
We all know what Donald Trump is saying and the issues he’s emphasizing. Many have noted the strong reactions of the media, pundits, and his business associates, some of whom have cut ties. Now the most recent surveys show Trump in the double digits among Republicans nationally. Two new polls have even found Trump ahead of Jeb Bush, the nominal frontrunner: Economist/YouGov’s survey placed Trump at 15% and USA Today/Suffolk University’s poll showed him at 17%.
The Buzz about Bernie has taken hold on the Democratic side of the 2016 campaign, and it’s easy to see why. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is drawing huge crowds and great poll numbers in the first two states to vote, Iowa and New Hampshire.
In the aftermath of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) announcement speech on Monday, Maggie Haberman of the New York Times tweeted that “Several Dem strategists confess to pangs of concern watching Jeb speech right now.” Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post replied to Haberman, saying that he was hearing the same thing.
These are just the latest examples of the press citing Hilary Clinton aides or unaffiliated Democrats saying the campaign most fears facing Jeb Bush. Maybe it’s true. But pardon our skepticism. We suspect the Clinton camp would welcome Bush as the GOP nominee, and whispered worries to the contrary could very well just be orchestrated noise. Bush would bring the elimination of dynasty as an issue and no generational contrast. Moreover, the Clinton team already knows exactly how they’ll use the Bush 41 and 43 baggage as campaign projectiles.
Earlier this week, we debuted our initial Crystal Ball Electoral College ratings in Politico Magazine. We’ve reprinted that column below for those who did not see it. As promised, we have elaborated on the map and our reasoning for the initial judgments.
Republicans in 2016: Rubio Edges Ahead of Walker By Geoffrey Skelley, Kyle Kondik, and Larry J. Sabato
For Republicans looking ahead to 2016, Florida is the pivotal state in the Electoral College. Naturally, we can’t know exactly what will happen a year and a half from now, but from our current vantage point, it appears very likely that the GOP must win the state to have a shot at winning 270 or more electoral votes and control of the White House.
Given the state’s importance, particularly to the Republicans, it seems appropriate that the top two contenders for the party’s presidential nomination in the Crystal Ball’s rankings now hail from the Sunshine State.
The least shocking announcement since… well… Rand Paul’s presidential launch last week is now in the books: Hillary Clinton is running for president.
The perfunctory announcement came Sunday afternoon via a roughly 2.5-minute video, which is clearly targeted at key Democratic constituencies, like women, minorities, gays and lesbians, and labor. Clinton herself doesn’t appear until after the video’s halfway point, and she doesn’t interact with any of the others in the video.
2016 Republican Nomination: The Race “Officially” Begins by Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley
Last week, a Crystal Ball reader sent us an e-mail asking if now would be the time to remove “low name ID nationally” from our list of negatives for possible presidential aspirant Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN). We absolutely agree, given the turmoil surrounding Indiana’s new religious freedom law: There’s little question that name identification is no longer a problem for the Hoosier State governor.
Admit it: You love a juicy scandal. We claim to be high-minded and policy-oriented, but our noses are buried in the accounts of the latest political calamity -- and we read those stories before anything else.
The Hillary Clinton e-mail controversy is just the latest entrée in a decades-long, calorie-rich menu provided by the former first lady and her husband. But will it make a difference in 2016?
2016 PRESIDENT UPDATE: CLINTON ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE…YET By Geoffrey Skelley, Kyle Kondik, and Larry J. Sabato
Hillary Clinton went before cameras and reporters at the United Nations last week to address the ongoing controversy over her use of a private email system during her time as secretary of state. She was terse, combative, and essentially told the American people to “trust her” when she says that she didn’t do anything wrong and isn’t hiding anything. Clinton’s visceral dislike of the media was obvious and can be summed up by three words (“Go to Hell”), which was how Politico’s John Harris put it after Clinton’s presser.
A Major Reshuffling of the Republican Presidential Deck By Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley
The new first tier is Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, and Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin.
Well, that didn’t last long! By that, we mean our pre-Christmas ordering of the GOP presidential field. We shouldn’t be surprised. Politics never takes a long holiday break anymore.
First prize for early maneuvering goes to Jeb Bush. His unexpected, all-but-in announcement on Dec. 16 stunned his competitors and the political community. Bush didn’t just accelerate the entire process, including forthcoming announcements by rivals, but he also gained a leg up in conventional wisdom’s positioning.
It might not have been 1994 or 2010, but 2014 was a wave all its own: A late-breaking surge that lifted Republicans to some surprisingly strong performances across the country.
Notably, though, the argument for this election being a “wave” has more to do with the House and gubernatorial races, as opposed to the main event, the Republican Senate takeover.
The GOP is likely to bump up its House majority to its highest total since the one it held after the 1928 election, netting at least a dozen additional House seats.
As is our longstanding tradition, we at the Crystal Ball attempt to call every election for House, Senate, governor, and in presidential years, the Electoral College. After studying these campaigns for months or years, we believe we owe you our best judgment about the outcomes. While we’re proud of our overall record over the years, we always miss a few calls, sometimes more than a few. Toss-ups are vexing, and the massive amounts of intelligence from polls, analysts, campaign managers, and party officials can be exceptionally contradictory. Not many of our sources have ever attempted to mislead us; they sincerely believe this candidate or that one will win — and smart people on the other side of the aisle are equally convinced their nominees will triumph.
The day after any election (or runoff or recount), when the actual winners are known, it all seems so obvious in retrospect. But of course it isn’t, pre-election. We apologize in advance — and we’ll do it again post-election — for all the races we will inevitably miscall. Our goal is perfection, and we’ll achieve it on the proverbial twelfth of never.
While many races remain close, it’s just getting harder and harder to envision a plausible path for the Democrats to retain control of the Senate. Ultimately, with just a few days to go before the election, the safe bet would be on Republicans eventually taking control of the upper chamber.
We say eventually because there’s a decent chance we won’t know who wins the Senate on Election Night. Louisiana is guaranteed to go to a runoff, and Georgia seems likelier than not to do the same. The Georgia runoff would be Jan. 6, 2015, three days after the 114th Congress is scheduled to open. Vote-counting in some states, like Alaska, will take days, and other races are close enough to trigger a recount.
As we approach the home stretch, 2014 has turned into a tale of two elections. On the one hand, this is a classic sixth-year itch election where the incumbent president’s party is going to suffer losses in both houses of Congress. We’re just arguing about exactly how many. Overall, it is indisputable that Republicans will have more critical victories to celebrate than Democrats when all the ballots are counted, and they have a strong and increasing chance to control the next Senate.
Governors frequently report on the state of their states, but what’s the state of the governors? To judge by many of the ongoing gubernatorial campaigns, it’s not great. Out of 36 contests, one governor (Neil Abercrombie, Democrat of Hawaii) has already lost his primary, another is headed for almost-certain defeat next month (Tom Corbett, Republican of Pennsylvania), and 10 others are in toss-up or close “lean” races.
The race for the Senate is perceptively moving in the Republicans’ direction, but not so dramatically that we’re ready to call the race definitively for them.
While we’ve long said the 2014 map and midterm dynamics make a GOP takeover of the Senate a probable outcome, there are just too many close races left and more than a month to go, when big gaffes, unexpected legal actions, and national events can potentially flip a Senate seat or two.