Axios 2018

November 05, 2018

🗳️ Happy Election Day! It's finally here. Make time to vote, and bring your friends. 🗳️

1 big thing: Election Day nerves

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

By late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, officials from both parties say we should know whether or not the Democrats have won the House. Until then, everyone is on edge — and the tension is only going to get worse through the long election night.

What they're saying: Democrats remain "cautiously optimistic," one strategist told me, especially "after living through 2014 and 2016" when Democrats had high hopes but suffered major losses. President Trump is sounding the alarm by disputing CNN polls and warning of potential illegal voting.

  • And a national Republican operative texted me: "It's going to be a bad night in the House."

The big picture: Some House races will be too close to call on election night, and California's late results will likely take a few days to sort out. But between Pennsylvania and New Jersey — where polls close at 8 p.m. ET and where Democratic officials predict they'll pick up as many as eight seats combined — Democrats would be more than one-third of the way to the 23 seats they need to win the House.

What to watch: Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman tweeted how to watch the House tonight...

  • Democrats would need to win only eight of the 30 tossup races if every "lean," "likely," and "solid" seat went to the respective party. Republicans, meanwhile, would have to win 23 of the 30 tossups. "Not impossible, but difficult," he wrote.

Here's where things stand as millions of Americans head to the polls:

  • More than 2.3 million voters under 30 have already voted this year, per Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democratic political data firm TargetSmart. At this point in the 2014 midterm cycle, 849,876 voters under 30 had cast ballots.
  • Last-minute midterms forecasts unanimously predict Democrats winning the House and Republicans keeping the Senate.
  • Strategists from both parties have predicted the Democrats will win around 35 House seats. That'd be better for Trump than the 37 seats lost on average for a president with an approval rating below 50% during his first midterm election.
  • The generic ballot numbers haven't changed much over the last three months. On Sept. 4, Democrats led by 8.9 percentage points; on Oct. 4 they led by 7.7; and on Nov. 4 they led by 8.1.
  • Polls are tightening in key Senate races, like Arizona, Nevada, and Florida, but Democrats still face an uphill battle there.

What's happened: A lot, but remember Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation? The national GOP operative said the Kavanaugh bounce "helped Republicans narrow the Democrats' intensity advantage, but it didn’t solve their problems with Independents."

The bottom line: Surprises are always possible, as we learned in 2016. But the odds of a Democratic House — and two years of clashes with Trump and a Republican Senate — are about as high as they can get.

Exclusive poll: Trump gets credit on the economy, Republicans don't

Data: Survey Monkey online poll conducted Oct. 30–Nov. 1, 2018 among 2,323 U.S. adults. Total margin of error is ±3.0 percentage points. Modeled error estimates: African-American women ±10.0, age 18 to 34 ±6.0, White suburban women ±7.5, Never Hillary Independent voters ±11.5.0, Rural voters ±6.0, Republicans ±4.5, Democrats ±4.5, Independents ±8.0; Poll methodology; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios
Data: Survey Monkey online poll conducted Oct. 30–Nov. 1, 2018 among 2,323 U.S. adults. Total margin of error is ±3.0 percentage points. Modeled error estimates: African-American women ±10.0, age 18 to 34 ±6.0, White suburban women ±7.5, Never Hillary Independent voters ±11.5.0, Rural voters ±6.0, Republicans ±4.5, Democrats ±4.5, Independents ±8.0; Poll methodology; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

A majority of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the economy — the issue that's mattered most to them all year — but it won't be enough to give Republicans a clear advantage in Tuesday's elections, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.

Why it matters: It shows that the economy is one of Trump's strongest issues with the public, writes Axios' David Nather. So if Republicans don't do well on Tuesday night, it will raise new questions about whether they would have done better if Trump had stayed on message and talked about the economy more.

  • Unlike other issues we've tested in previous Axios/SurveyMonkey polls, Trump's rating on the economy and jobs (53%) is higher than his overall approval rating (46%). That's a sign that he gets at least some credit from people who don't support his other policies — but also that his other policies may be dragging him down.

By the numbers:

  • Independents are most likely to approve of Trump on the economy even if they don't like his job performance (50% approval on the economy vs. 35% overall). He also wins over white suburban women and #NeverHillary independents, two key voter groups we're tracking in the elections.
  • But the public is evenly split on whether congressional Republicans or congressional Democrats would do best on the economy and jobs. Rural voters and #NeverHillary independents prefer the Republicans, while millennials and African American women side with the Democrats.
  • The economy wouldn't help Trump in 2020. Only 45% say he'd be the best for the economy when he runs for re-election — while 51% prefer an unnamed Democrat.

The bottom line: When a president is presiding over an economy this strong — and the public says that's what matters most to them — it's unusual for the president's party not to get a bigger bounce out of it.

What a midterms split would mean for 2020

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

FiveThirtyEight projects Democrats have an 87% chance of taking the House and Republicans have an 83% chance of winning the Senate.

Why it matters: This split has the potential to dramatically shift things for the Democratic senators with an eye on running for president in 2020.

  • Congressional gridlock and a risk of things like government shutdowns will be imminent, as a Democrat-led House tosses things to their colleagues in a GOP-controlled Senate who won't have the votes to pass them.
  • That could inspire some Democratic members to be open to more compromise and less confrontation with the other side, which would change the tribal 2020 calculus that we see building right now.
  • And the Democratic apparatus could be extinguished in places like Montana and Indiana if those red-state Democrats lose, giving little hope and resources to Democrats hoping to win Senate (and, in Indiana, gubernatorial) races in the future.

What to watch: Geography literally laid the battleground for the 2018 midterms. The two types of candidates who faced the biggest battles this cycle were Democratic senators in Trump country and House Republicans in districts Hillary Clinton won. What happens in those areas tonight will lay the 2020 battleground, too.

Ad of the week: Trump's infamous caravan ad

Screengrab via YouTube

NBC, Fox News and Facebook have pulled a controversial anti-immigration ad paid for by Trump's campaign. CNN refused to air the ad at all, calling it "racist," reports Axios' Zach Basu:

The backdrop: Last week, Trump tweeted a longer ad blaming Democrats for letting Luis Bracamontes, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who received the death penalty for murdering two police officers in 2014, back into the country.

  • This 30-second ad features Bracamontes too, but this time it tries to connect him and his crimes to the migrant caravan traveling through Mexico to the U.S. border.

The ad aired on four networks before being pulled, according to iSpot data obtained by Axios.

  • Fox Business: 8 airings
  • Fox News: 6 airings
  • MSNBC: 3 airings
  • NBC: 1 airing

Early voting numbers have skyrocketed

Polling booths in Florida
Polling booths in South Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 35 million people have already voted in the midterm elections, according to new data from TargetSmart, a Democratic political data firm.

By the numbers: 6 million are infrequent voters (those who don't always show up for midterm elections), and more than 1.5 million are Americans who have never voted in any election before.

  • 3 million more women than men have voted, and 6 million more women have voted already in the 2018 cycle compared to this point in the 2014 cycle.
  • Nearly 3 million voters between the ages of 18 and 29 have voted early, compared to just over 1 million at this point in 2014.
  • Voter turnout among African Americans is up 77% from the last midterm election, and Hispanic and Asian voters have "more than doubled their early vote turnout compared to 2014," writes TargetSmart CEO Tom Bonier.

Democratic women have a better shot at the House

Republican House candidate Young Kim is running in a tossup district. Photo: Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images

Here's another sign that 2018 is the year of the Democratic woman: three in 10 Democratic women running for the House are in races that the Cook Political Report rates as "toss-up" or better — meaning they have a greater chance of being elected — compared to just one in 10 Republican women in House races, according to an analysis by NPR.

Why it matters: Although there's been a record number of women candidates and nominees this cycle, there's a large gap between the parties — 42% of all Democratic nominees for House, Senate, and governor are women, compared to just 14% of Republican nominees. This latest NPR analysis suggests there will be an influx of women in Congress, but mostly in the Democratic caucus.

  • The analysis only looks at women candidates who aren't incumbent House members.

By the numbers: Zero Republican women are running in races rated "likely" or "solid" Republican. For Democrats, one in 10 are running in races rated that way for their party.

  • But Republican men have a much better path than their female counterparts. About one in seven are running in races rated "likely" or "solid" Republican.

The bottom line: This gender gap is reflected among voters, too. Women prefer Democrats by a 16-point margin.

Trail pic of the week: Ted Cruz in Texas

Cruz at a rally in Texas before the election. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz — who's facing a tough challenge to his left from Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke — continued his Get Out The Vote bus tour on the final day before the election.