Tuesday, March 13, 2018

What I Didn't Expect in Politics in 2017

It's snowing out and nothing else is really going on, so I'm taking care of some site housekeeping today. Every year, I make a certain number of predictions on these webpages, and every year I try to look back at how I did. This is the first of two posts on that subject—the one that will focus on politics.

Every fall, I issue race ratings, inspired by those at Inside Elections, for every downballot constitutional office up for election. For those types of elections (not so much for politics in general), 2017 was a pretty quiet year: only the Virginia lieutenant governor, Virginia attorney general, and Louisiana treasurer were on the ballot. Here were my ratings for those three races, originally issued in October and kept current (although they never changed) through November 6. They predicted a status quo election, with Democrats holding onto the two offices they already owned, and Republicans successfully defending their one seat.

The small number of races meant I had fewer opportunities to make a bone-headed mistake, and as a result the ratings validated quite nicely.
  • Democrats won two out of two races I rated as Lean Democratic.
  • Republicans won the one contest I rated as Solid Republican.
The final results are also pretty close to how one might express a "Lean Democratic" or "Solid Republican" race quantitatively. Here's the Democratic margin of victory or defeat in each of the three elections:

In a well-calibrated world, the Virginia average of D+6.2 is probably right on the border between Lean Democratic and Likely Democratic. Likewise, the Louisiana treasurer margin of R+11.5 is on the Solid side of Likely Republican. All in all, pretty close, though.

As I mentioned, getting these races right is no great achievement: last year offered a small number of fairly predictable races. The big challenge will be 2018; midterm cycles are the absolute busiest for downballot constitutional offices. My goal this year is to merely handicap all 142 of them before November, let alone get them all right. Wish me luck!

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