The 2018 mid-term elections are only three weeks away, and as I have
predicted, the polls are tightening and more “safe” seats have become
The key to this period is that many voters are only now paying attention
to the individual races, Those who are “undecided” or capable of
changing their minds seem to be a larger percentage this cycle, as
indicated by many polls.
What should we now look for?
First, watch for polls further tightening or changing leaders.
Double-digit leads can dive into lower single digits almost
overnight. When this happens, it’s a race worth watching.
Second, polls this cycle (and the last one) have undermeasured certain
kinds of voters. Conservatives and Republicans often distrust polls
and refuse to answer them, thus distorting the results. But it is also
true that some polls have undermeasured the kind of voters who share
Bernie Sanders’ political views. Some recent primary upsets attest to
that. Watch for pollsters to try harder to obtain polls results that will
reflect the final results credibly.
Third, it’s difficult to measure, but the so-called “Kavanaugh effect”
appears to be a late-breaking factor in 2018 --- with Republicans being
roused to vote, especially in red states, but Democrats in blue states
also being motivated more to vote. Conventional media assumptions
have been that women, in particular, were upset by the Kavanaugh
confirmation,and will vote Democratic as a result. There is evidence,
however, that many women found the Democrats’ tactics objectionable.
Only the final results will tells us which is true.
Fourth, President Trump has appeared to “nationalize” much of the
election --- with his opponents and critics determined to give him a
defeat, but also his supporters roused to turn out to give him a victory.
His rallies on behalf of GOP gubernatorial, U.S. senate and house
candidates have drawn enormous and enthusiastic crowds, and the
candidates whom he supports have generally seen their poll numbers
rise after a rally. Democrats have some political celebrities on their side,
including former President Obama, and they clearly help their
candidates, especially in heavily blue state races, but most of the
competitive races this cycle are in red states.
Fifth, President Trump has the “bully pulpit” and particularly is
skillful in commanding media attention. Does he have an October
“surprise” or two ahead?
Sixth, opposition research is now a common factor in U.S. politics,
and late-breaking revelations can change a race quickly if credible.
This strategy was taken to the extreme by the opponents of Justice
Kavanaugh --- and they failed --- but some revelations can be
devastating to a campaign. Opposition research strategies often
appear near the end of the contest.
Seventh, a great deal of money has been raised this cycle by candidates
and PACs in both parties. Campaign radio, TV, billboard, mail and
social media ads are already flooding everywhere. They will peak in the
next three weeks. How effective they will be is unclear, as many voters
are turned off by their sheer noise and clutter.
Eighth, and most important in my view, the key figure in any election,
and no less so this year, is the individual voter. Candidates, campaign
operatives and advisors, pundits and the media in general, like to
second-guess them. That’s what happened most notoriously in 1948
and 2016, but it seems to be true that only the voting results on election
day will tell us what really happened.
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.