Days of Change

Math Wins | November 7, 2018

As a student of math, I probably shouldn’t describe the kind of popular wisdom used to predict elections as “math,” but there are at least some trends that held in the 2018 midterms.

  • The popular vote is important. In 2016, Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote by winning enough states with just enough of a plurality. His margin of victory in the three closest states, was 1.5% or less. The House is made up of 435 districts that also have popular votes, and more Democrats won those.
  • The Senate was a long shot, at best. The Democrats had a good year in 2006, turning both Houses and flipping a lot of seats by campaigning against Bush. In 2012, they had Obama’s coattails to hold most of their seats.
  • It takes a lot more money to affect the outcome. On the Senate front, Democrats spent a lot of money to flip Republican Senate seats. They had plenty of money to do it. This has led some to believe one benefit of high profile Senate races was to convince Trump to spend more time campaigning for people like Ted Cruz so that Democrats could win the House.
  • Know your audience. Some Democrats were able to say they would back Trump on some issues to have a chance of getting elected. Most of them lost, but Republicans had it worse. If they didn’t support Trump agenda, candidates were subjected to friendly fire. This also affected the House races.
  • Fundamental transformation is a wish, not a reality. History tells us Trump will win in 2020. Conventional wisdom suspects Trump will be tired of losing, blame everyone else and refuse to run again, especially if he polls badly. The default makeup of the Congress is a lot like 2012, where Democrats run the House and Republicans run the Senate. There’s this thing that’s a little like gridlock called “working together.” It’s not always effective, but it doesn’t get undone quickly in the next administration.
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