Commentary: Forecasting Mid-Missouri's Midterm Election Results
Today’s commentary is one of my favorites – forecasting next week’s elections after talking to my Democratic and Republican insiders. As usual, they agree more than they disagree, but the disagreements are sharper this time. Let’s get right to it.
The environment favors Republicans this year for historic reasons. The party of the incumbent president usually struggles in the first midterm after the presidential election. The insiders’ disagreement is over the magnitude of the struggle. More on the national scene later.
Locally there are several interesting and competitive races. Both think Democrat Kip Kendrick will win the open Boone Co. presiding commissioner seat. Kendrick has run a smart, well-funded grass-roots campaign and the county leans Democratic.
In the newly-drawn 50th state legislative district in south Columbia both agree the Democrat Douglas Mann will win. In the newly-drawn 47th district in northwest Boone Co. the Republican John Martin may win in a slightly-Democratic district due to the infusion of late money. My Democratic insider believes Democrats may do no better than maintain the status quo statewide in legislative races and will remain a super-minority come January.
Both think Republican Eric Schmitt will beat Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine handily for the open U.S. Senate seat. They expect a double-digit margin. There are no competitive U.S. House seats, even though two are open, so the delegation will remain 6-2 Republican.
Nationally both see Republicans taking over the House. The Republican says they will pick up at least thirty seats; the Democrat thinks it will be more like nine. The Democrat is “cautiously optimistic” about the chances Democrats will keep the Senate at 50-50, with the possibility of a pickup in Pennsylvania. The Republican thinks the final tally will be at least 52-48 Republican, with pickups in Nevada. Arizona and maybe Georgia, possibly after a run-off election there.
I lean toward the Democrat’s view. Ohio is a possible Democratic pickup in the Senate; their candidate, Rep. Tim Ryan, has run a textbook old-fashioned Democratic campaign that will be a model going forward if he wins. But Ohio has gotten pretty red recently.
There will be at least one “Where did that come from?” result. The Iowa Senate race, where 88-year-old incumbent Chuck Grassley is facing the toughest race of his long career? Or Washington, a blue state to be sure, where incumbent Senator Patty Murray is getting a stiff challenge from a mediagenic Republican newcomer Tiffany Smiley, who has the perfect last name for someone seeking elective office? Or Utah, where Democrats are officially supporting the independent challenger to the long-time Republican senator?
The Republican insider thinks there’s still a lot of anger in the electorate. So does the Democrat, but a different kind of anger. I actually agree – there are lots of angry voters, some of whom make polling unreliable because they channel their anger into misleading responses, if not outright lies, to pollsters’ questions. In 2016 and again in 2020 it didn’t take many Trump voters who told pollsters they were undecided or were voting for the Democrat, or in 2022 pro-choice voters who are “shy” about their view, to make poll results wonky.
It’s hard to know what to make of the high rates of early voting. And what will Donald Trump do between now and the election? Millions of voters will be hanging on his every word. We’ll know all soon and I’ll be back in two weeks to see how my activist friends and I did.
Before that, be sure to tune in to KBIA Election Night. I’ll join Ryan Famuliner and his team for comprehensive coverage of local and state races.
Dr. Terry Smith is a Political Science Professor at Columbia College and a regular commentator on KBIA's Talking Politics.