Three Wildcards Will Have Big Role on Tuesday

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On the eve of Election Day, the FiveThirtyEight forecast has numbers that won’t surprise anyone who’s been following political coverage. The site gives Republicans an 83% chance of taking the House and a 54% chance of taking the Senate. The site’s Nate Silver, however, runs through three points that will go a long way in determining how Tuesday actually plays out.

  • Polling errors: Pollsters generally don’t have a great track record of late, and if they’re off in either direction, the implications are huge. If Republicans beat their polling averages by 3 points, they’re a virtual lock to take the Senate, writes Silver. If, on the other hand, it’s Democrats who beat their averages by 3 points, things are “very rosy” for them. They’d likely keep the Senate and possibly the House, too. Might the polls be biased against either Republicans or Democrats? Yes and yes.
  • Turnout gap: If the polls are accurate, then everything comes down to turnout and to which party has done the better job of energizing their voters. Republicans have generally led on this front (not unusual for the party looking to reclaim power), but some major polls this week suggest that Democrats have narrowed if not closed the “enthusiasm gap.” The size of the actual gap on Election Day—ranging, say, from a 6-point gap favoring Republicans to a 1-point gap favoring Democrats—will have big consequences.
  • Candidate quality: Republicans should be in a better position in regard to the Senate. “If all races went according to the national environment plus the state’s partisan lean,” we might be looking at a 54-46 Senate in favor of Republicans. But some “relatively weak” candidates have given Democrats a chance. “The GOP may well pay a price for its inexperienced, unpopular and in some cases scandal-plagued candidates,” writes Silver. “Just how much of one could determine which party winds up with Senate control.”

Read the full assessment, in which Silver acknowledges that “nobody in the polling or election forecasting community has any right to be all that confident about what will happen on Tuesday.” (Read more 2022 midterms stories.)

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