Why could the Virginia and New Jersey elections suggest a red wave in 2022?

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Tuesday was a big night for republicans. the GOP overturned the governor’s office in Virginia, a race often seen as a wake-up call for next year’s mid-term elections (although perhaps this is a overreaction). But that wasn’t all. Even more impressive, the Republicans have arrived very close to winning the race for the governor of New Jersey, which was not thought to be quite as competitive.

Looking into the 2022 midterm, the best omen for the GOP may be the consistency with which they exceeded expectations across the board on Tuesday night.

The Republicans have won not only the governorship in Virginia, but also the the Deputy Governor’s Office Other office of the attorney general. They appear to have earned an online seat in the New Jersey state Senate and at least four (maybe up to eight) in the New Jersey General Assembly. And they’ve won several negative voting assignments that didn’t get as much attention as a seat of the state supreme court in Pennsylvania e municipal offices in New York. But the icing on the cake is that they took the majority in Virginia House of Delegates, depriving them of a single vote in the state Senate from full control of the state government.

And these state legislative elections probably have more to tell us on what the political context will look like in 2022. As we wrote earlier, special elections for both Congress and state legislatures can be quite predictive of the mid-term elections they lead to, as long as you look at them as a whole and look at their margins of victory, not just who won.

So far, neither side has consistently outgrown its weight in special congressional elections held in 2021. Perhaps this was, in part, because most of the special elections took place earlier in the year, when Biden was still popular. However, its approval ratings have since declined (43 percent approval, 51 percent disapproval), and this week we got the results of 100 Virginia House of Delegates and 40 New Jersey State Senate elections that took place in that undemocratic environment – and showed a clear pattern of Republican outperformance.

On average, current margins in those state legislative races are 7 percentage points better for Republicans than their districts FiveThirtyEight Partisan Leans. Notably, Republicans outperformed an average of 7 points in the Virginia House of Delegates:

Republicans outperformed Virginia House

2021 unofficial election results for the Virginia House of Delegates (starting at 1:00 pm Eastern Nov. 4) related to each district’s FiveThirtyEight lean partisan

It only includes races in which both a Democrat and a Republican were active candidates.

Partisan lean is the average margin difference between how a state or district votes and how the country votes in general. This version of partisan lean, meant to be used for congressional and governor elections, is calculated as 50 percent of the state or district lean relative to the nation in the most recent presidential election, 25% of its relative lean in the second. most recent presidential election. elections and 25 percent of streamlined custom state legislation.

Sources: Virginia Department of Elections, Daily Kos Elections

And they outperformed with an average of 6 points in the New Jersey Senate:

Republicans performed better in the New Jersey Senate

2021 Unofficial Election Results for the New Jersey State Senate (starting at 1:00 PM Eastern Nov 4) related to each district’s FiveThirtyEight partisan lean

It only includes races in which both a Democrat and a Republican were active candidates.

Partisan lean is the average margin difference between how a state or district votes and how the country votes in general. This version of partisan lean, meant to be used for congressional and governor elections, is calculated as 50 percent of the state or district lean relative to the nation in the most recent presidential election, 25% of its relative lean in the second. most recent presidential election. elections and 25 percent of streamlined custom state legislation.

Sources: Associated Press, Kos Daily Elections

This outperformance was consistent: Republicans outperformed the partisan lean in nearly every district. It was also the largest outperformance we’ve seen in the three times we’ve done this analysis for the odd-year legislative election, although to be fair, it’s still a pretty small sample size. In 2017, Democrats outperformed the Virginia House of Delegates by 2 points and the New Jersey Senate by 5 points; in 2019, Democrats outperformed the Virginia State Senate by 4 points and the Virginia House by 3 points.

Since partisan leaning represents our best guess as to how a district would vote in a neutral political environment, this implies that the nation currently leans towards Republicans by 6 or 7 points. If this were true in a year, the midterm of 2022 would be a real red wave.

Of course, we do not yet know the partisan tendencies of all the constituencies of the House that will go to the ballot next year, because most I haven’t been drawn yet. But for illustrative purposes only, if Republicans win every district in the current House map that has a redder lean partisan than D + 7, they would flip 47 seats en route to a 260-175 majority. And if every state with a skinny partisan redder than D + 7 voted Republican for the Senate next year, the GOP would flip five seats: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Colorado. (This obviously ignores other potentially important factors such as candidate quality; it’s just meant as an illustration of how impressive the Republicans’ performance was on Tuesday.)

To be clear, this is probably the worst case scenario for Democrats, just as this 7-point Republican outperformance in the 2021 legislative election is the worst for Democrats of the handful of medium-term indicators we currently have at our disposal. The most obvious counter-proof: Democrats still lead the polls general ballot of Congress with an average of 2.3 points.

But if I were in the Democratic Party, after Tuesday I would feel less comforted by that number. While polls are usually in the right field, they are still subject to a margin of error, as Democrats themselves discovered in 2020 when generic polls overestimated their margin of 4.2 points. Furthermore, there were already good reasons to think that generic polls right now are overestimating Democrats: almost all of them have so far interviewed registered voters rather than probable voters, who tend to be a more republican trend group, especially in a mid-term election when the the president is a Democrat.

Nothing about 2022 is written in stone and there is no guarantee that the red wave elections will come true. But the historical expectation with a Democratic president has always been that Republicans would have a good election cycle, and the evidence is mounting. The outperformance of Republicans in the 2021 election is simply a reminder of how bad things could go for Democrats.

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