What did the polls miss in 2018 Senate contests?

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On the roster: What did the polls miss in 2018 Senate contests? - Fox News voter analysis to give new insights into midterm results - Kemp bails on final Georgia governor debate - The Judge’s Ruling: What Trump needs to be successful - That must have been quite the alcohol blanket

There’s a difference between picking the winner and knowing the score. That’s just as true in politics as it is in sports.

We know that the polls will probably be quite predictive, but they will also be, in another sense, wrong. But by how much and in what directions?

Some years pollsters do better than others, but generally, we find a very solid track record. In the past three midterm cycles, there were a combined 31 competitive Senate races. In only 4 of those races did the final Real Clear Politics average of polls not foretell the actual winner.

In one of those races (Kansas 2014) there was a late-developing three-way contest that was basically impossible to poll. In another (North Carolina 2014) the average was basically tied so the narrow victory there was no surprise. In the other two (Nevada 2010, Colorado 2010) the polls missed the mark pretty substantially. 

Only two real misses out of three cycles is darned snappy, so we can safely say that polls have tended to be quite predictive. But that’s not the same as saying the polls were right

In both 2014 and 2006, polls tended to understate the effects of partisan waves. In 2006, Democrats in competitive Senate races did on average 2.25 points better than polls predicted. In 2014, Republican candidates in such races did 4.54 points better than forecast. In 2010, pollsters overstated the size of the Republican wave and GOP Senate candidates did, on average, 2.65 points worse than expected.

In 2006, Democrats only failed to beat the pre-election line in three states, and quite narrowly. Republicans only did worse than predicted in two states in 2014, also by small amounts. In 2010, the polls skewed Republican in all but two races.

The moral of the story: Polls are usually predictive, even when races are very close. But polls tend to miss on the size of margins of victory. And they tend to miss in the same direction within each year.

Have this year’s polls understated or overstated Democratic chances? Where are the one or two races where the polls might miss widely? Everyone has their own assumptions but no one knows for sure. Depending on the answers, we could either see Republicans with some breathing room in the Senate or a chance for Democrats to retake both Houses.

You can slice and dice the polls any way you like and torture every crosstab within an inch of its life. But we won’t know which kinds of voters pollsters tended to overlook until the votes start getting counted. 

And that’s why we play the game.

“Congress have undertaken to do more: they have proceeded to form new States, to erect temporary governments, to appoint officers for them, and to prescribe the conditions on which such States shall be admitted into the Confederacy. All this has been done; and done without the least color of constitutional authority.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 38

Smithsonian: “Long before George Washington moved into Mount Vernon, a Native American roaming the lands that would later become the first president’s estate lost a prized belonging: a three-inch wide, seven inch-long, carefully crafted stone axe likely used for cutting or carving wood. It would remain missing for some 6,000 years… Dominic Anderson and Jared Phillips, a pair of high school seniors who hail from Akron, Ohio, happened upon the ancient axe while helping to map out the dimensions of a cemetery believed to house the remains of Mount Vernon’s slaves and their descendants. The two were sifting through sediment when they spotted the axe, which bore a striking resemblance to a bumpy potato after spending 6,000 years exposed to the elements. … According to a press release, the axe, which was dated to the fourth millennia B.C. based on its similarity to other tools from that period, still retains evidence of its creator’s skill and craftsmanship.”

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Trump job performance 

Average approval: 42.2 percent
Average disapproval: 53.2 percent
Net Score: -11 points
Change from one week ago: down 3 points 
[Average includes: Gallup: 40% approve - 54% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 41% approve - 53% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; CBS News: 42% approve - 53% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 41.6 percent
Democratic average: 50.6 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 8.8 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up 0.6 points  
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 52% Dems - 43% GOP; USA Today/Suffolk: 51% Dems - 43% GOP; NBC/WSJ: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; Fox News: 49% Dems - 42% GOP; ABC/WaPo: 53% Dems - 42% GOP.]

Fox News: “Fox News is launching a new election coverage methodology to estimate and analyze the decisions made by Americans in the 2018 midterms. The Fox News Voter Analysis (FNVA), conducted in partnership with the Associated Press, will provide a comprehensive look at voting behavior, opinions and preferences as America votes. The FNVA is based on surveys conducted in all 50 states by NORC at the University of Chicago, as well as actual voting results by county, as collected by the AP. The new system follows a decision by Fox News after the 2016 elections to move beyond exit polls, which have been conducted by a consortium of national news organizations since the 1960s. While exit polls historically have provided useful information, it has become clear in recent elections that voting patterns in the United States are changing in ways that make traditional exit polling problematic for news coverage. … Fox News collaborated with the AP in designing the questionnaires for the FNVA survey. It's a probability-based, state-by-state survey of registered voters combined with a massive poll of Americans conducted online.”

Early voting in 17 states already exceed 2014’s turnout - WaPo: “Americans have already voted in record numbers in many states in this year’s midterm elections, confirming the heightened interest in the fight for control of Congress and state houses playing out in dozens of bitterly contested races. With less than a week remaining until Election Day, voters in at least 17 states surpassed overall early and absentee voting numbers from 2014, according to Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida. In some cases, early and absentee vote totals are on track to double since four years ago. The numbers are so high in some states that early voting may exceed total vote counts — including Election Day tallies — from four years ago. The heightened participation reflects in part a surge of interest among Democrats, who stayed home in large numbers in 2014, when Republicans took control of the Senate and widened their control of the House.”

DCCC raises millions online - The Hill: “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said its online fundraising for the 2018 election cycle surpassed $100 million on Tuesday. ‘The DCCC made the early and aggressive investments necessary to build a top-tier online fundraising operation, and it’s paid off massively,’ DCCC Chief Digital Officer Julia Ager told The Hill in a statement. ‘The outpouring of support from grass-roots donors has allowed us to invest in over 80 races, fund an unprecedented $30 million base engagement and turnout campaign, and hold Republicans accountable every step of the way.’ … In 2016, the DCCC had raised $67 million at this point in the campaign cycle, according to Politico, which noted that the digital fundraising by the House Democrats' campaign arm so far this year is about 40 percent of the $250 million raised.”

NYT: “Plans for the final debate of Georgia’s raucous race for governor collapsed on Wednesday after the Republican nominee, Brian Kemp, abandoned the forum’s long-scheduled timing so he could campaign alongside President Trump this weekend. Mr. Kemp had been expected to meet Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate, in a Sunday evening debate that was announced in September and was to be broadcast live. But Mr. Kemp backed away from the 5 p.m. debate in Atlanta after Mr. Trump’s campaign set a rally in Macon, about 100 miles to the southeast, for 4 p.m. The upending of the debate calendar set off an hourslong quarrel that seemed likely to reverberate and resurface through the final days of an election cycle that was already acrimonious. By the time trick-or-treaters were knocking on doors on Wednesday evening, Mr. Kemp had agreed to a different time for the debate — 7:30 p.m. on Monday, the night before the election — but Ms. Abrams’s campaign balked at altering the terms of a debate that were set more than seven weeks ago.”

Dems invest in Smith in Minnesota Senate race - Roll Call: “The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is making a six-figure independent expenditure for Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith — its first investment in a race that’s long leaned in the Democrats’ favor. Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC, has also invested $400,000 in mail and digital advertising in the race. Smith is running against Republican state Sen. Karin Housley in a special election to fill out the remainder of former Democrat-Farmer-Labor Sen. Al Franken’s term, which expires in 2020. Smith was appointed to replace Franken, who resigned last December amid accusations of sexual misconduct. Polling has shown Smith ahead, but she got a late start — she wasn’t sworn in until January. That’s given the former Minnesota lieutenant governor less time than incumbents would normally have to raise money and introduce themselves to voters.”

Dems continue to go all in for Menendez - NYT: “In New Jersey, many of the suburbanites who are backing Democratic House candidates from Republican-leaning areas are still uneasy about embracing Mr. [Bob] Menendez after his 2017 federal corruption trial, which ended in a mistrial. And these voters have been reminded of that case most every day by a monthslong, $30 million ad campaign financed by Bob Hugin, a wealthy former pharmaceutical executive who is Mr. Menendez’s Republican opponent. … New Jersey’s leading Democrats — including Mr. [Cory] Booker, who has been spending much of his time out of state preparing for a widely expected presidential bid — are pleading for voters to rally behind Mr. Menendez. The senator’s campaign has sought to highlight the stakes by broadcasting a commercial portraying a vote for Mr. Hugin as a vote for Mr. Trump.”

Biden heads to Iowa for midterm campaigning - Atlantic:Joe Biden’s plan was to avoid Iowa during his nationwide midterm campaigning: He didn’t want to feed the 2020 talk that he and his aides knew a trip there would spark, and he wasn’t sure what kind of crowd it would bring. On Tuesday night, he arrived… He delivered a harsh but hopeful speech that left many people thinking he’d be back before long, in pursuit of the 2020 campaign; he’s set a moving deadline by which he’ll make up his mind. … This isn’t a full campaign swing, something the people who may soon be his opponents have done. He didn’t even stay the night, instead flying out immediately to continue his final push of the week: He [had] stops on Wednesday in Illinois and Missouri, and on Thursday he campaign[ed] for Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Biden is the only major Democrat still hoping to help Heitkamp hold on to a Senate seat that most Democrats believe has fallen out of their grasp. Officially, Biden agreed to come to help Abby Finkenauer, the state legislator hoping to beat Congressman Rod Blum in a race that is more competitive than Democrats had hoped or expected it would be by this point.”


Arizona: Martha McSally (R) 46% vs. Kyrsten Sinema (D) 46% - Fox News

Indiana: Joe Donnelly* (D) 45% vs. Mike Braun (R) 38% - Fox News

Massachusetts: Elizabeth Warren* (D) 54% vs. Geoff Diehl (R) 32% - WBUR

Missouri: Claire McCaskill* (D) 43% vs. Josh Hawley (R) 43% - Fox News

North Dakota: Heidi Heitkamp* (D) 42% vs. Kevin Cramer (R) 51% - Fox News

Pennsylvania: Bob Casey* (D) 50% vs. Lou Barletta (R) 35% - Franklin and Marshall

Tennessee: Marsha Blackburn 50% (R) vs. Phil Bredesen (D) 41% - Fox News

West Virginia: Joe Manchin* (D) 45% vs. Patrick Morrisey (R) 40% - WV MetroNews

NJ-07: Leonard Lance* (R) 39% vs. Tom Malinowski (D) 47 - NYT

Massachusetts: Charlie Baker* (R) 68% vs. Jay Gonzalez (D) 25% - WBUR

Pennsylvania: Tom Wolf* (D) 59% vs. Scott Wagner (R) 33% - Franklin and Marshall

*Indicates incumbent

This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano writes: “The world is not so happily arranged that our understanding can discern the evil in people who choose darkness over light -- hence the need for leadership that liberates and heals rather than stifles and wounds. President Trump -- like all his modern predecessors -- has a bully pulpit available to him. He has the means through which to mold the hearts and minds of people to do good and to avoid evil, and he has the means through which, as well, to intimidate them into fear of challenging him. And that bully pulpit must be exercised within the confines of the Constitution, because it -- and it alone -- is both the source of and the restraint on presidential power.” More here.

Timothy Carney: “When Trump Voters Go For Democrats” - NYT

After midterms, Dems face leadership election scramble - Fox News

Senate Republican Conference schedule leadership elections for Nov. 14. - Roll Call

Oprah campaigns for Stacey Abrams - Fox News

“When I can, I tell the truth.” – President Trump said in an interview with ABC News Wednesday night.

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AP: “Police say a baggage handler told them he was drunk when he fell asleep in a cargo hold and flew from Kansas City to Chicago. American Airlines says the Piedmont Airlines employee was working American Flight 363 on Saturday when the Boeing 737 left Kansas City International Airport with the handler in a heated and pressurized cargo hold. Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says he was found when the flight landed about an hour later at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The spokesman says the handler told police he was intoxicated and had fallen asleep. No charges were filed, and he was sent back to Kansas City.”

Barack Obama takes Ecclesiastes’ view that [power, territory, tribute] are vanities, nothing but vanities. In the kingdom of heaven, no doubt. Here on earth, however — Aleppo to Donetsk, Estonia to the Spratly Islands — it matters greatly.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Aug. 18, 2016.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.