Election Turnout Is Surging. Who Will Benefit?

(Bloomberg) -- Surging turnout has both Republicans and Democrats proclaiming they stand to benefit, as polls show tight races up and down the ballot that will determine control of Congress, state houses and governors’ mansions nationwide.

Some 34 million people have voted in the 2018 general election already, and at least 28 states and the District of Columbia have already surpassed their total early-vote tally from the last midterms, said University of Florida professor Michael McDonald. There was unusually high turnout in special and primary elections this year and that’s continuing. “People are engaged and voting in this election.”

One has to be careful when looking at early voting. In many cases, it can just simply be a shift in timing by people who would otherwise head to the ballot box on Election Day. However, there are indications that this year’s surge isn’t just cannibalizing Tuesday voters, but instead bringing out new voters who wouldn’t normally vote in a midterm election.

Put simply: Voters are motivated to turn out, and more of them will this year.

Midterm elections tend to have two notable trends: the incumbent president’s party almost always loses seats, and Republicans tend to turn out more than Democrats. This year, those two forces collide. “It’s a real open question as to what ultimately that enthusiasm gap turns out to be,” said Kathryn Pearson, a professor at the University of Minnesota.

The biggest test of who benefits from sky-high turnout may come in Pearson’s home state of Minnesota, with four competitive House seats and where early voting is on pace with that seen in the presidential election of 2016. “Minnesota typically leads the country in turnout, and my guess would be that this election will be no exception,” she said.

In the suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Republican Representatives Erik Paulsen and Jason Lewis are vulnerable because of a backlash to President Donald Trump, Pearson said. Still, Republicans have a chance to pick up two seats in rural Minnesota -- an agricultural belt along the state’s southern border, and another up in the ancestrally-Democratic Iron Range where Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs are seen as a populist defense of U.S. industry. Additionally, Pearson noted, the state has both its Senate seats up for election this year, and an open race for governor at the top of the ticket.

Democrats have a narrow lead over Republicans nationally in early voting, but the GOP has the lead in some key states, including Arizona and Florida. Early vote data can show who voted, but not who they voted for. Which party will reap the benefit of the high turnout in this year’s midterm is still an open question.

Two good signs for Democrats: Women are voting at a much higher level than men in early voting, according to The Hill’s Reid Wilson, and turnout among voters aged 18-29 (who historically don’t vote at nearly the level of older voters) is way up in swing states -- more than 400% in Georgia and Texas and more than 700% in Tennessee.

In Nevada, political sage Jon Ralston says he thinks Democrats have banked enough of an early vote edge (23,000 votes statewide) that Senate challenger Jacky Rosen has an edge on Republican incumbent Dean Heller. In the Texas Senate race, both candidates -- Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic Representative Beto O’Rourke -- say the high turnout will benefit their campaigns.

“We’re getting general confirmation where we can get data that the polls are correct that we have some very close Senate and gubernatorial races out there. The early vote looks very close,” McDonald said. “Maybe in Florida things are a bit closer than what the polls suggest,” including in the governor’s race where Democrat Andrew Gillum has had a slim but persistent lead in the polls over Republican Ron DeSantis.

How then to read the tea leaves? “I would go with the high turnout model at this point, I think that’s a safe assumption,” McDonald said. “We are not seeing a 2014 election, we’re seeing a cross between a midterm and a presidential election.”


  • Trump plans telephone town hall 10am on Nov. 5 with voters in key states and districts, campaign says
  • Half of Americans want Democrats to control Congress, compared to 43% supporting Republicans, final NBC/Wall Street Journal poll before elections shows; Democrats’ lead narrows to 7 ppts from 9 ppts in Oct.
  • Wall Street and business community, which typically lean Republican, hedging bets and giving more this year to Democrats, WSJ reports; $85m to Dems compared to $76m to GOP this year, as of Oct. 17, according to WSJ’s Julie Bykowicz


  • AZ-SEN: It wasn’t a political rally or a debate, but Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema put themselves in front of the biggest election-season crowd any candidates have to date, at Arizona State University’s homecoming football game against the nationally ranked Utah Utes
    • McSally sang the national anthem; Sinema took part in the pregame coin toss; Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, where this all played out, seats about 55k; Arizona State won the game in an upset
  • FL-SEN: Trump, attempting to help Republican Gov. Rick Scott turn back the ongoing "Red Tide Rick" attacks, says money for Lake Okeechobee is a "passion" for the governor who "called endlessly" on the issue
    • NOTE: While red tide algal blooms are naturally occurring, Democrats and environmental groups say Scott’s lax environmental regulatory policies have contributed to the severity of the noxious algae growth that’s shut down some beaches in a state where tourism is a key economic driver
    • Bloomberg’s Christopher Flavelle and Anna Edgerton, from Oct. 29: Florida’s Algae Blame Sticks to ‘Red-Tide Rick’ in Senate Race
  • IN-SEN: State Democratic Party buying Facebook ads under the banner of shadow pages including one called "Hoosier Conservatives" saying Republican Mike Braun is a tax hiker and was an active member of the "Democrat Party" for 20 years, Daily Beast reports
    • Indiana Democrats also paid for a mailer boosting Lucy Brenton, the Libertarian candidate, as an "anti-tax conservative," the Indianapolis Star earlier reported
    • Trump responds on Twitter, questions if Sen. Joe Donnelly is trying to steal the election
  • MO-SEN: Missouri Scout poll finds Senate race between Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill and Republican Josh Hawley tied at 47% each
  • ND-SEN: Facebook pulls North Dakota Democratic ad, which Politifact said was "Pants on Fire" false, that says out-of-state hunting licenses could be at risk if North Dakotans vote: Forum/WDAY
    • Facebook spokesman tells North Dakota media the ads "violate our policies against voter suppression"
  • TX-SEN: San Antonio Spurs basketball coach Gregg Popovich endorses Democrat Beto O’Rourke: San Antonio Express-News
  • VA-SEN: Trump lost Virginia in 2016. Ed Gillespie lost a governor’s race there in 2017. Republican Corey Stewart is running the same sort of campaign both of them ran, aping Trump’s style as Gillespie did. NBC4 Washington, in deep-dive on the race, reports it’s not working.
    • "With just days to go until Election Day, there’s little sign those Trump-like tactics — including personal attacks on Kaine and his son — have found purchase in increasingly blue Virginia"


  • FL-27: Former New York Yankees baseball star Alex Rodriguez records robocall for Democrat Donna Shalala: CNN
    • NOTE: Rodriguez, who grew up in the Miami-area district, won a national championship at Westminster Christian School in Palmetto Bay; A-Rod has said he would’ve gone to the University of Miami had he not been drafted by the MLB’s Seattle Mariners out of high school, and has been a major donor and the 2017 commencement speaker at the university; Shalala was president of the university from 2001-2015 and was Bill Clinton’s HHS secretary
  • IA-04: With polls showing him in an unexpectedly tough race amid national blowback over racial comments, Republican Steve King aired his first TV ad this weekend
    • "I know most of you agree our country is slipping away," he says in ad. "Well I think it’s worth fighting for, no matter whose toes have to be stepped on to make it right"
    • Cook’s David Wasserman notes the ad itself isn’t new, it’s a re-run from his 2014 campaign
  • MI-03: Some Republicans expressing concerns privately that GOP Rep. Justin Amash could get caught up if Democrats have a huge wave in Michigan, Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Chad Livengood says on WKAR’s Off the Record
    • If Democrat Gretchen Whitmer gets above 10 ppts lead on Republican Bill Schuette in the governor’s race, watch for surprises, he warns; RealClearPolitics average of recent polls is Whitmer +8.2
  • NM-02: Republican Yvette Herrell, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small remain effectively tied: 46%-45% in Albuquerque Journal poll


  • FL-GOV: Legendary former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden makes a surprise appearance at Trump rally in Pensacola; urges everyone to go vote and tells crowd that Trump plus God equals a majority
  • GA-GOV: Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for governor in Tuesday’s close election, announced a last-minute investigation Sunday into the party he’s running against “for possible cyber crimes” without citing evidence or details
    • State Democratic Party says Kemp’s claims are "100 percent false," an "abuse of power" and a "political stunt"
  • IA-GOV: Democrat Fred Hubbell holds narrow lead -- 46%-44% -- over Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, according to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll; lead is within survey’s +/- 3.5 ppts error margin
  • WI-GOV: Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker has won three elections so far for governor, including a recall effort he beat back. He has been a lodestar for GOP governance in the state and a thorn in the side of Democrats who they’ve never found a way to beat


  • MI: Marijuana ballot proposal leads, but Gongwer Michigan’s Zach Gorchow says pro-legalization side hasn’t had enough money to make their case on TV as effectively as opponents have: WKAR’s Off the Record
    • Gorchow also says redistricting reform proposal, which could cost Republicans some House seats in Michigan in next decennial redrawing of the lines, is favored to pass


  • From the Sunday funny pages, a reminder that women will hold the key to this election:

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