Revisiting The Polls: 2016 Presidential and Congressional Elections

By Alex Moore

As promised in my most recent post, we would let the poll volatility die down and return to analyze the electoral data a few weeks following the conclusion of the RNC and DNC. Obligatory “told you so” when I hit everyone with the Aaron Rodgers “r-e-l-a-x reeeeelaxxxxxx” when Trump briefly shot ahead in national polls following the RNC and everyone freaked out.

In short, HRC has a very, very comfortable lead over the Trump circus in national polling. The RCP national poll average currently has HRC leading Trump by an 8-point margin. Remember, as I pointed out in my most recent post, this is when polling really begins to paint an accurate portrayal of what the election day landscape will look like. Of course, it is always possible that things can change, particularly when head to head debates begin in late September. However, history tells us that polls around this time period (a few weeks after the RNC and DNC as candidates hone their general election messages in) are accurate indicators of Election Day. Trump continues to break records with his abysmally low favorability ratings. HRC is a historically unpopular candidate herself, so it is pretty telling that her favorability ratings are 17-points higher than Trump’s.

Moreover, HRC is dominating Trump in nearly every single battleground state. HRC currently leads Trump in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, and the ever-important battleground states of Ohio and Florida. Some of these leads are as small as a half point, others are as high as 10-points. HRC, somewhat shockingly, even holds the lead over Trump in Georgia, a deep-red state that last voted for a Democrat in 1992 (prior to the 1994 Republican Revolution, and it was Slick Willie, a southern moderate). Add all of the poll data up, and HRC, if the election were held today, would absolutely obliterate Trump to the tune of a 362 electoral vote romp (imagine how lit Twitter will be). HRC is doing a magnificent job of rebuilding the Obama coalition of minorities, women, and progressives that carried Barry O to two comfortable victories. Moreover, Hillary, and the Democratic Party as a whole’s (minus the Sandernistas) outreach to moderates and disgruntled Republicans seems to be working, as Hillary holds a sizeable lead over Trump in college educated white voters, a group that Mitt Romney won in 2012. To summarize, HRC is recreating the Obama coalition that worked like a charm in 2008 and 2012, and then expanding on it.

I, along with anyone else with a rudimentary knowledge of electoral politics, am confident that HRC will win the Presidential Election. The big question now concerns whether or not the GOP will cling to its 4-seat majority in the Senate. The GOP majority in the House is sizeable enough (its biggest in nearly a century) where it would take a massive Democratic wave to unseat the GOP majority. I do not foresee that happening, particularly due to the fact that all signs indicate that congressional Republicans are throwing in the towel on winning the Presidency and focusing their money and attention on defending their congressional majorities. I do predict, however, that Democrats will probably win a net gain of seats in the House. The thing to watch in the House is whether or not that net gain will be sizeable enough to get them within striking distance of the GOP majority leading up to the 2018 Midterms.

The Senate, however, is another story. There are a couple of factors that lead me to believe that the Democrats have a real chance of taking back the Senate (Harry Reid’s retirement would also give us an interesting battle to see who the Senate Majority Leader would be). First and foremost, it’s a Presidential year. Turnout of likely Democratic voters is always higher on these such election years, as opposed to Midterm years when likely GOP voters have higher turnout rates. In conjunction with this is what political scientists call the “coattails phenomenon”, when down-ballot candidates on the party of the President-Elect ride the proverbial coattails of that candidate and unseat incumbents from the other party. If we do see a massive Democratic wave, these two symbiotic factors are largely to thank.

There are other factors that cater to the Dem’s chances in the Senate as well. First and foremost, it is important to remember that the Vice President has the ability to cast the tiebreaking vote in the case of the Senate voting 50 to 50. If the Democrats do not gain a majority, but are able to win enough seats to make party-line votes 50/50, Tim Kaine will cast the tiebreaking vote, as his ticket will likely win the Oval Office. Moreover, the GOP has to defend far more incumbent seats than the Democrats. While the GOP is forced to defend 24 incumbent Senate seats, Dems only have to defend 10. Current polls project the GOP to retain a razor thin majority of 51 to 49. Of course, this would mean that, with Vice President Kaine casting the tie-breaking vote, the Democrats would only have to flip one Republican across party lines to pass legislation through the Senate (notwithstanding filibuster attempts, obviously). I suspect the Presidential race to be a relative blowout. However, the numerous toss-up Senate races will still present us with something to watch closely leading up to Election Day. Most of the toss up races currently lean Republican. However, with Trump acting a fool at the top of the GOP ticket, down-ballot candidates may face increasing peril.

Assuming the Presidential race continues down this path towards a probable HRC blowout, I will be sure to focus more attention on the Senate, House, Gubernatorial (shoutout to North Carolina, among other state races), and State Legislative races as well.


Photo Credit: Lee Chapman