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(OPINION): The Trump Referendum

Updated: Oct 10, 2019

"Using Byler’s projection model, we can predict that there is an 80% likability the Democrats will take over the U.S. House with a net gain of 30 to 35 seats."

Author: Nate Shallal

With the highly contentious and polarized 2018 midterm elections just one day away, peoples’ eyes are on the polls. David Byler, a pollster at the Weekly Standard, spoke on Oct. 29 at Michigan State University regarding the 2018 midterm projections.

Byler, who attended Princeton University, was a former analyst at Real Clear Politics and current pollster at the Weekly Standard.

The American Enterprise Institute, in partnership with Michigan State University’s College of Law, hosted the event. Byler addressed a crowd of more than fifty students about political polling, a function that was highly criticized after the perception of failed projections in the 2016 presidential election.

Byler, who has created numerous algorithms and projection models, spoke extensively about the 2018 midterm races from Congressional to gubernatorial races. The central topic of the talk was the trustworthiness of polling after 2016 and what to expect in 2020.

However, Byler’s overall key point was that midterms are a referendum on the president.

He noted several different Republican and executive-led initiatives that he believes will bring voters to the polls. These include: Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Republicans’ attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, tax cuts, and the scandalous Brett Kavanagh hearings.

Byler said these four points will ultimately be in the back of every voter’s mind on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Current generic ballot polls show a seven to eight point lead for Democrats across the country. Although the president’s party, since the Second Great War, has lost an average of 22.2 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, Byler points out the advantage Republicans hold in the 2018 midterms. These advantages are based on the structural gerrymandering Republicans have poised to mitigate their losses.

However, if electoral history repeats itself, the widespread losses could be devastating to the Republican’s current majority. Using Byler’s projection model, we can predict that there is an 80% likability the Democrats will take over the U.S. House with a net gain of 30 to 35 seats.

Turning to the U.S. Senate race, with all eyes on John James (R) and Debbie Stabenow (D) in Michigan, Byler said the exposure and trends for the Senate do not have the same consequences as the current U.S. House races.

Byler explained that another strategic advantage Republicans have is that Democrats are “exposed” because many of their Senate seats are up for grabs. Although the Republicans have less exposure, their seats are widely considered safe due to Republican-leaning tendencies within their respective races.

There are also several contested seats which include Montana, Indiana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Missouri where Donald Trump received landslide victories and a Democratic senator is up for reelection.

Briefly covering the gubernatorial races, Byler said that races for the governor’s mansion are “weird” and largely dependent on state, not federal issues. In a gubernatorial race, the general populous is more likely to vote for the opposite party that they support than down-the-ballot. Currently, the Republicans have major exposure across the country for gubernatorial races, with many GOP candidates up for reelection.

Moving past the congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial races, Byler took time to discuss the accuracy of polls and how many people perceive the predictions and polling of the 2016 to be a failure.

Byler spoke on how political polling is not physics and that operatives in the field cannot take a microscopic take on people’s belief and preferences. Further, Byler insisted that being off a point or two is within the margin of error and should not be taken as an outright failure of the polling industry.

Based on past electoral data, polling shows that between all of the swing states in the 2012 and the 2016 elections the difference was exactly 2.7 points for both cycles.

The 2018 midterm elections will be a defining moment in the history of American politics. Will it be a referendum on the silent majority which brought a political outsider, President Trump, or will the Republican stronghold in Congress be able to withstand the changing public opinion and hold onto their seats? We will find out tomorrow.


Contributor: Nate Shallal

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