Will the Republican Party enjoy a wave election in 2014? Here are some metrics that can help you determine the answer as you follow the returns Tuesday night.
The GOP has the upper hand in this midterm election cycle because it’s the sixth year of a presidency — and a pretty unpopular one at that. Historically, parties that don’t control the White House tend to chalk up a lot of gains in midterm elections such as this one.
Still, when measuring the extent of a wave election, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, a party’s electoral success in one realm — say, congressional races — might be undercut by failures elsewhere, such as in the governorships. And second, the true strength of a wave is measured less by victories in places where the surging party is already strong, but more by victories in states that are either competitive or that actually lean toward the opposing party.
The following 10 factors are designed to measure how broad a potential Republican wave turns out to be on a national scale — not just in U.S. Senate and House races, but in governorships, state legislative chambers, state attorney general races, ballot measures and state Supreme Court races.
We’ve included a rating system to gauge how well each party did once the results are tallied. The questions are designed to gauge aspects of the election deeper than just the surface results. Are Republicans winning in Democratic-leaning areas rather than in solidly Republican areas only? Does a party win both national and state-level races in the same state, or do voters split their ballots?
After settling on 10 key questions, we set a baseline for what’s “expected” — based on current analysis by electoral handicappers — and established a sliding scale that awards more credit to a party for exceeding the conventional wisdom once the ballots are finally counted. After the election, we’ll add these all together and see how strong the wave ended up being. Fire up those calculators; here we go:
1. How many reasonably competitive Senate seats does the GOP win in states won by President Barack Obama in 2012?
Races are: Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, New Hampshire, Virginia.
0: Weak night for Republicans; 1: medium night for Republicans; 2: strong night for Republicans; 3: very strong night for Republicans; 4 or more: extremely strong night for Republicans.
2. By how many cumulative percentage points do GOP Senate candidates in competitive races exceed Mitt Romney’s 2012 percentage in that state?
Races are: Alaska (Romney won with 55 percent), Arkansas (61), Colorado (47), Georgia (53), Iowa (47), Kentucky (61), Louisiana (58), Michigan (45), New Hampshire (47), North Carolina (51). (This list excludes the three-way Kansas and South Dakota races; for Louisiana, count the combination of all Republicans on the November ballot.)
GOP candidates run 30 or more points behind Romney’s 2012 percentage: weak night for Republicans; GOP candidates run 20-29 points behind Romney: medium night for Republicans; GOP candidates run 10-19 points behind Romney: strong night for Republicans; GOP runs 0-9 points behind Romney: very strong night for Republicans; GOP runs better than Romney: extremely strong night for Republicans.
3. How many incumbent House Democrats lose?
0-3: Weak night for Republicans; 4-8: medium night for Republicans; 9-13: pretty strong night for Republicans; 14-18: strong night for Republicans; 19-24: very strong night for Republicans; 25 or more: extremely strong night for Republicans.
4. Do more Democratic incumbent governors lose than Republican incumbent governors?
Vulnerable Republican governors: Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Vulnerable Democratic governors: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, Oregon.
More Republican incumbent governors lose than Democratic governors: Weak night for Republicans. More Democratic incumbent governors lose than Republican governors: Strong night for Republicans.
5. How many Republican governors are poised to take office in early 2015, compared to the GOP’s current 29?
21-25: weak Republican night; 26-28: medium Republican night; 29 or more: strong Republican night.
6. In how many states does the GOP win both a competitive Senate race and competitive gubernatorial race?
States are: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Oregon. (Does not include Kansas’ three-way Senate race.)
0: Weak night for Republicans; 1: medium night for Republicans; 2: strong night for Republicans; 3: very strong night for Republicans; 4: extremely strong night for Republicans.
7. How large is the net partisan shift in the control of state legislative chambers?
Democratic gain of 1-2 chambers: weak Republican night; no net change: medium Republican night; Republican gain of 1-3 chambers: strong Republican night; Republican gain of 4-6 chambers: very strong Republican night; Republican gain of 7 or more chambers: extremely strong Republican night.
8. How large is the net partisan shift in the control of state attorneys general seats?
Net Democratic gain of seats: weak Republican night; no net change: medium Republican night; net Republican gain of seats: 1-3: strong Republican night; net Republican gain of 4 or more seats: very strong Republican night.
9. How many ballot measures do voters reject on the minimum wage (Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota), and on marijuana (Alaska, Oregon and Florida), and how many do they pass restricting abortion (Colorado and North Dakota)?
0 rejections of minimum wage/marijuana and no passed abortion restrictions: weak night for Republicans; 1-2: medium night for Republicans; 3-4: strong night for Republicans; 5 or more: very strong night for Republicans.
10. How many more Republican-leaning candidates win compared to Democratic-leaning candidates in contested judicial races in North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, New Mexico and Montana?
0-2 wins by Republican-leaning candidates: weak night for Republicans; 3-4: medium night for Republicans; 5-6: strong night for Republicans; 7-8: very strong night for Republicans; 9 or more: extremely strong night for Republicans.
Contact Louis Jacobson at [email protected] Follow @loujacobson.
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