|The Author consults with some of the great minds of modern political science.|
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Although the polls could be wrong, there isn’t much disagreement about what they’re saying. Of the seven forecasting models tracked by The New York Times, all point to a Republican win, and most with about the same probability (75 percent) as FiveThirtyEight’s forecast. Furthermore, they agree on the outcome of all states but Kansas. These include models that rely on polls alone and those like FiveThirtyEight’s that account for polls along with other factors.
Those other factors — the so-called “fundamentals” — have tended to converge with the polls over the course of the year. If used properly, they can make a forecast more stable and reduce the statistical noise associated with polling. But they make little difference now, since even those models that once used the fundamentals no longer weigh them heavily. The modest exceptions are in Kansas and Alaska, where the polling has been sparse and (especially in Alaska’s case) potentially unreliable; the FiveThirtyEight model sees the fundamentals as favoring Republicans in each state. But it would still have Republicans favored on the basis of the polls alone in Alaska. And in Kansas, the fundamentals are not enough to make Republican Pat Roberts the favorite.Nate Silver / "Final Update: Republicans Have a 3 in 4 Change of Winning the Senate" / FiveThirtyEight
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In October 2013, the Republican Party hit the lowest approval rate in its history. Most Americans blamed the GOP for the 16-day government shutdown after a prolonged and heated debate over the Affordable Care Act’s implementation.
“Republicans are no longer the party of business,” Bloomberg Businessweek proclaimed. Liberal publications such as The New Yorker and Rolling Stone agreed with the conservative New York Post that the Republicans had committed political suicide.
One year later, Republicans are set to win the biggest majority ever in the House of Representatives and, more important, take back the Senate in Tuesday’s midterm elections. So what happened?
Alvaro Guzman Bastida / "GOP: From Shutdown Villains to Kings of Congress?"/ Al Jazeera
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Regardless of how this all shakes out, there's an overwhelming sense that the next two years are likely to see more of the same gridlock. The first two years of Obama's second term have seen little movement on much of anything—the highlights, such as they are, included a government shutdown, the disastrous initial rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and a succession of foreign crises. In some ways, it's hard to imagine much less getting done in Washington than is already happening.
But here are two ways that conventional wisdom could be very wrong. First, things could get even more jammed up. Take presidential appointees. So far, 280 Obama appointees have been confirmed to federal courts. Some of those confirmations came only after Senate Democrats changed the rules to lower the threshold for confirmation to 50 votes—a move that, in turn, stemmed from unprecedented obstruction by Senate Republicans. The administration also has to staff various executive jobs, including Attorney General Eric Holder's replacement. It's easy to imagine that a GOP-controlled Senate would be a place for Obama appointments to go to die. On the other hand, some Republicans—especially moderates—see the next two years as a chance to move real legislation, to force Obama to agree to a set of compromises palatable to moderates in both parties.David A. Graham / "The Midterm Elections: A User's Guide" / The Atlantic
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No group is more solidly Republican than white men.* While the long-term trend is that the nation is growing more racially diverse -- and, in particular, seeing an increased percentage of the population that is Hispanic -- it's a slow evolution. As we noted in September when President Obama postponed action on immigration reform, the midterm electorate is significantly whiter (and less Hispanic) than in presidential elections. Meaning that an already friendly 2014 midterm will see an electorate built on top of the Republican base.Philip Bump / "Why the 2014 Electorate is the Best Possible One for Republicans" / The Washington Post