We can still take the Senate. Don't give up hope
I know you’ve been burned before (see: Election, 2016). But hear me out. If we keep fighting and keep working and do everything we are able to, I think we’ve got a shot at the Senate. But who cares what I think, right? Look at the numbers. Yes, I know they are still showing the Republicans as prohibitive favorites. But the trend is in our direction.
The graph above shows the FiveThirtyEight polling averages. This chart is set to the “Lite” model, which relies only on polls and throws out everything else. Team Blue’s chances have improved by about 2.5% in the past four days alone. That’s even more impressive given their model’s structure, which, if I understand it correctly, makes it harder to move the needle the closer it gets to Election Day.
As it stands, Democrats would have to win the two races FiveThirtyEight rates as Lean Democrat (Florida and Indiana), and the three toss-ups (Arizona, Missouri, and Nevada). The trend in Nevada has shifted strongly in recent weeks. Republican incumbent Dean Heller held a lead in most of the late September and early-mid October polls, but Democrat Jacky Rosen led in all four polls conducted in the past ten days. FiveThirtyEight gives Rosen a 50.5% chance of winning, the first time I can remember seeing her with above a 50% chance (and yes, I check obsessively—they don’t show the historical trend in each race, unfortunately).
Nevada Arizona shows the Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, with a 59% chance of winning, and recent polling doesn’t show a decisive move either way compared to polls from a few weeks ago. The trend in Missouri is, however, in favor of Democrat Claire McCaskill, who is leading in all seven of the most recent polls conducted, with her best results coming in the most recent four (when adjusted for each pollster’s partisan leanings). FiveThirtyEight gives her a 60.1% chance of winning (Missouri is rated as toss-up in one model and Lean Democrat in others, as the dividing line is having a 60% or better chance of winning). The percentages I’ve provided in these three races are all based on the Lite (polling only) model.
Winning all those states, something that is more than plausible, gets us to 50 Senators. But, thanks to Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote, we need one more. Unfortunately, that’s the hard part, as we know. To be fair, there are no states that simply “Lean Republican” according to FiveThirtyEight, so we’d have to win one of the five they rate as “Likely Republican”.
In Tennessee, a very recent local poll from East Tennessee State showed the race dead even, and FiveThirtyEight rates that pollster as having essentially no partisan lean. It’s one poll, but it gives us some hope. In Texas, yes Texas, we are seeing improving numbers that provide even more hope. The last two polls (adjusted for partisan lean) conducted show an average lead for Republican Ted Cruz of only 2 points, a significant improvement over the polls from earlier in October. 2 points! Democrat Beto O’Rourke can absolutely win this.
Plus, polling cannot capture the shifts that take place in the last couple of days before the election, after the last polls have been conducted (again, see: Election, 2016). If the most recent few days have seen shifts toward Team Blue, the next four might also.
What it comes down to is turnout. No one knows exactly what turnout will look like. Pollsters model their raw data based on what they think it will be. If turnout blows past the usual midterm numbers, and it sure as hell looks like it will based on the thirty million early votes already cast, then maybe those polling models, even if they already account for an increase in turnout, will be off by 2, or 3, or even 4 points in our favor. If that happens, Democrats will hold the 50 Senate seats where they are now favored (however slightly), and pick up Texas as well—and maybe more.
Are the odds still long? Yes. But the very recent trends are in our favor, in particular in Nevada, Missouri, and Texas. We can absolutely pull this off.
Please vote, and help get as many other voters as you can to the polls. Your efforts can swing a Senate seat, and maybe even swing the whole Senate. The fate of the country and the people we love depends on it.
Ian Reifowitz is the author of Obama’s America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity (Potomac Books).