In the final installment of a two-part series, David Wiener reports on the ELFA Convention. Keynote speaker Dr. Larry J. Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, is a leader in the field of political predictions. Did he accurately predict the results of the mid-term elections?
The Tuesday morning Keynote speaker at the ELFA Convention was Dr. Larry J. Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia.
Dr. Sabato is a three-time Emmy award recipient and in-demand political commentator on FOX, CNN and MSNBC. Sabato’s Crystal Ball has been cited as the leading website in the field of political prediction. As has been the case in past ELFA conventions, Dr. Sabato’s knowledgeable and humorous observations on the political process were well received. The focus of Dr Sabato’s remarks offered an empirical prediction of the upcoming mid-term national election outcome.
Summarizing his remarks, he noted that — at present — the party affiliation of the House of Representatives is 238 Republican, 191 Democrat and 6 Independent. And the incumbent party has, on average, lost an average of 30 seats in the mid-term election cycle. As a result, he said it is quite possible that the Democrats will gain control of the House in November. And he was correct. The Democrats have taken control of the House after spending eight years in the minority.
Conversely, while at present Republicans have 51 votes in the Senate and Democrats have 49, a change of party control was not envisioned in the Senate. Why? While there are 35 Senate races in 2018, only 9 are incumbent Republicans defending their seat as compared to 24 Democrats and 2 Independents. Furthermore, the political theatre surrounding the hearings on the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh has worked to energize the Republican base. Once again, Sabato was correct. The Republicans have maintained their hold on the Senate.
His comments turned to the question, “Will there be impeachment proceedings if the Democrats gain a majority in both the House and the Senate?” While a Democratic controlled House could consider proceeding to impeach President Trump with a simple majority, removal from office requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate, which Dr. Sabato viewed as impossible.
Dr. Sabato touched on why the political polls missed the call of the 2016 presidential election, as cited in his book TRUMPED: The 2016 Election That Broke All the Rules. As a demographic, blue collar voters do not like the media and shy away from participating in political surveys. Therefore, this voting block apparently was underweighted in the key presidential polls leading up to the 2016 presidential election. He noted that pollsters have been working to refine their polling techniques in order to avoid the embarrassment they suffered in the 2016 election.
A wide field of Democrats are anticipated to vie for 2020 party nomination for the office of U.S. president. If they skip the 2020 presidential election cycle and the Republicans do lose the presidency, then it would not be until 2028 for the next open field — presuming the Democrat winning in 2020 pursues a second term in 2024.
Why does it appear that those elected from within each political party result in a more divisive legislative government? Dr. Sabato chalks this up to the gerrymandering art of redistricting. It means that the primaries from which each party selects their candidate to be on the ballot is more important than the actual general election. Each gerrymandered district generally results in the dominant party in that district’s geography to be a shoo-in in the general election. So, the primary has grown to be much more important while it consistently has a much lower voter turn-out than the general election. However, the highest voter participation in the primary elections tends to be from the more energized and passionate extreme sector of each respective political party. Enact sensible redistricting and, Dr. Sabato suggests, centrist members of each party will be more likely to be elected and bi-partisan collaboration will return to American governance.
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