Princeton Election Consortium

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Outcome: Biden 306 EV (D+1.2% from toss-up), Senate 50 D (D+1.0%)
Nov 3 polls: Biden 342 EV (D+5.3%), Senate 50-55 D (D+3.9%), House control D+4.6%
Moneyball states: President AZ NE-2 NV, Senate MT ME AK, Legislatures KS TX NC

Election night liveblogging, 9:00PM

November 4th, 2014, 9:23pm by Sam Wang

See below the fold for older commentary. The most recent comment will appear up top.

12:10am: Tonight’s performance by the GOP has been quite remarkable. In close Senate races, Republicans seem to be outperforming polls by around 5 percentage points. That goes a long way toward explaining what is happening in Virginia. In close gubernatorial races, Republicans are outperforming polls by about 3 percentage points.

I did say that historically, midterm polling can be off in either direction by a median of 3 percentage points – far worse than Presidential years. Tonight is certainly consistent with that.

11:30pm: Ernst will win Iowa. Other than New Hampshire, it’s looking like a sweep of close races by Republicans. Counting CO, GA, IA, KS, and NC gets to 52. Alaska and Louisiana are still outstanding, but that’s icing on the cake for the GOP.

11:15pm: Republican candidates are heading toward victory in Kansas and Colorado. Still outstanding are Virginia (possibly D), North Carolina (probably R), and Iowa (moving fast, heading toward R).

10:55pm: Republicans are overperforming polls substantially. The exact amount varies, but in key states (KS, VA, GA Senate; WI, GA governor) the bonus is remarkably large.

10:45pm: Rick Snyder (R-MI-Gov) wins.

10:20pm: Nathan Deal (R-GA-Gov) wins. In this and other races, Republican governors are looking good.

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) is leading. If Orman loses that one, then I think it’s over for Senate Democrats.

10:08pm: Scott Brown (R-NH-Sen) loses by an estimated 3-4%.

10:00pm: Update on projected margins in early states: KY, McConnell +14%. NH, Shaheen +4%. NC…man, that’s a close race.

Very few governors’ races called yet…but incumbents are running stronger than indicated by surveys.

9:45pm: Wyoming Governor and Senate for the R candidates. This is in the category of taking out the recycling…not exciting to talk about, but gotta do it.

9:30pm: NYT calls NH-Sen for Shaheen. The margin’s looking like 3-4%, a bit better than the pre-election 2%.

9:00pm: Tom Wolf (D) wins Gov-PA. Susan Collins (R) wins Sen-ME. Abbott (R) wins Gov-TX.

The Upshot is estimating Virginia Senate at Warner (D) by 1%. Looks similar over here. A nail-biter for sure. This will depend on large-population counties: Virginia Beach, Prince William.

Tags: 2014 Election

131 Comments so far ↓

  • Reason

    The only shining light in all this, is that the R’s will have to actually govern. If they do not, then expect them to pay the price in 16. They have more seats to defend than Ds. Night.

    • Doomed citizen in Florida

      And the dimming light in all this, is that for us who either live in WI or FL we have to deal with Scott and Walker for four more years!

    • Sheldon Rampton

      I guess that depends on what you mean by “actually govern.” I can think of some recent cases where elected officials and political parties have governed extraordinarily badly and still won subsequent elections.

  • Alan Koczela

    Well, looks like VA stays D. Not enough votes in VA Beach area to flip it. Fairfax County really came through for Warner. But, why so close? This one was suppose to be put to bed hours ago.

    With KS gone, IA rapidly slipping and NC depending on a very tilted Columbus vote, I suspect its all over but the cryin’. It looks like Rs take the prize and there could be a lot of gravy, too.

    BTW, here in MD, it looks like R (Hogan) beats D (Brown) in the governors race. There just aren’t enough votes in Prince Georges County and Montgomery County for Brown. In my opinion, it was the abysmal turnout in Baltimore City that did him in. (I know Brown lost big in the counties not suburbs of DC, but that was expected.)

  • Mitsu

    Democrats lost because Democrats ran scared. We’re sitting on 63 months of economic expansion, low unemployment, health care costs finally coming under control, millions of Americans insured who weren’t before… and Democrats couldn’t bring themselves to bring any of this up. They didn’t energize the base, they didn’t give voters any reason to vote Democratic. Of course Republicans outperformed polls: they were motivated, Democrats were not.

  • Zeke Hunkaburning

    “This shows the D strategy of blaming Obama and running away from him cost them.”

    I ask you, do your really think this was a strategy or more of a pathetic attempt to play defense once caught off guard?

    “Strategy” implies a well thought plan, and there was nothing well-thought-out about the Dems overall approach to this election.

    It was theirs to lose and they lost it. I used to think of GOP candidates as “Spineless Wonders”
    but I guess it now extends to almost all poliiticians.

    On this we do agree, it bodes ill for the future.

  • Elizabelle

    This just does not feel like my country. Very disappointed in these results.

    • Matt McIrvin

      It’s never felt like my country. This is the country that elected Nixon and Reagan with 49-state landslides.

      It’s not that country any more in presidential elections, but the ghost of it reappears in midterms, and it’ll be that way for a while.

    • axt113

      It’s the leftover power of the GOP.

      They do well when Younger and minority voters stay home.

  • Jay Sheckley

    O, shut the door! And when thou hast done so,
    Come weep with me, past hope, past cure, past help.

    O Juliet, I already know thy grief.
    It strains me past the compass of my wits.
    I hear thou must, and nothing may prorogue it,
    On Thursday next be married to this county.

    Tell me not, Friar, that thou hear’st of this,
    Unless thou tell me how I may prevent it.

  • Davey

    Interesting…this is looking like two elections. A republican wave in red America, a regular, divided election in blue America. Not the best sign for progress for the next two years.

  • Steven

    I think it should be said that a pollster with a great reputation does it again. The Des Moines Register and Ann Selzer goes out on a limb by publishing their Ernst +7 apparent outlier and writing that the race was decided. She hit it right on the head in a night when polls were off.

    • Davey

      She really did nail that poll. In fact, that may be the only poll in the entire election that was even close to being right, lol.

  • TheVoter

    There will be people here who will give Sam Wang a pass by saying that Sam only got 1 race wrong or 2 races wrong. However, looking at the “tone” of Sam’s postings over the last two months, it is clear that his method was LESS predictive than Nate Silver on how the mid-terms would pan out.

    For the last two months, Sam has been way too pollyanna about Dems’ chances when it came to retaining the senate. No wonder many Dems took refuge in this site to make themselves feel better. They let the meta-margin gobbeldygookery support their magical thinking that they had a chance in hell.

    Although many will claim that Sam’s predictions were only as good as the poll data, it is now proven that Nate Silver is a better prognosticator. Yes, Nate himself might have used magical factors that he calls “fundamentals” but, if you go back all the way to Labor Day, Nate’s predictions were closer to the actual results than Sam Wang’s. And, that’s what counts – not the inputs or method.

    • Sam Wang

      My take is that the math was basically ok – just look at the topline. R+1.0+/-2.5% in fact goes in both directions, and we’re probably at R+4%.

      I agree my tone focused on the uncertainties, which amounts to attracting Democrats. But if you look back, you will see that I repeatedly mentioned the possibility of a GOP sweep.

    • securecare

      Take your anger elsewhere.

    • The Live Toad

      It had become clear to me a while back that a “polls only” approach has limitations in very close elections. However the Meta-Margin is not gobbledy-gook. It is a very useful tool and gave good insight into this race. In fact if you used that both ways (as Sam suggested) and took into account all of the magical thinking expressed by posters here then you would have suspected that R54 was vastly more likely than D+I>=50 quite some time ago.

    • axt113


      Check the final forecast for 538, he had pretty much the same forecast of the election as Sam did

    • Renov8

      Even though Sam’s numbers did not pan out in favor of the Dems, I found his insight and methods to be very interesting and thought provoking. In order to get a balanced approach, its important to look at all sides, rather than just the one that supports your cause. Between my multi-daily visits to this site and Silver’s, plus a couple other not so good one’s, I enjoyed reading the views and methodology. Keep it up.

  • Debbie

    Firstly I’m not American, don’t live there, don’t vote…but I do have a question, how does this happen? Seriously, how in anyone’s mind could you justify handing the keys to the hen house back to the fox? I am flabbergasted.

    Maybe it is just punishment for the many Democrats who chose to disown Obama as you would a wanton child. Unfortunately we all pay the price for such reckless foolishness.

    (A disgruntled international citizen)

    • Jay Sheckley

      Debbie- A lot of us voted exactly as you would. I did. My friends and I have warned people for years about this election. I can’t justify it, and I won’t. Cry for us.

  • Violet

    As a disappointed Democrat, I say the Democrats deserve it for their cowardice and running away from the predident’s accomplishments. And now the country has to pay the price. An embarrassment that Republicans can beat us with such awful candidates. Can you tell I’m a bit bitter?

    • Davey

      It’s ok to be bitter – with President Obama progressives felt they had a candidate that would rally everyone behind “hope and change” no matter what. This election had Democrats reverting to the campaigning that lost us elections before this -everyone split up and do whatever you want and hope it all works out. Maybe now the party will attain the courage to stick to message and push the agenda – it’s hard to imagine we would have fared much worse had we spent the last year fighting tooth and nail for progressive causes.

    • Michael

      A couple of other factors: 1) obstructionism works; 2) truth be told, some of the Democratic candidates were pretty awful too.

      Grimes seemed to be trying to run as a Democratic Ernst. Apparently never occurred to her that the concept of a Democratic Ernst is basically incongruous.

      Not that I could have won a senate election in Kentucky either, since my message that the war on coal is being waged not by the federal government but by cheap natural gas (and cheap natural gas is going to kick coal’s butt) wouldn’t likely have gone over too well.

    • Garry G

      A lot of stuff went wrong here – relentless Republican attacks, Koch money, Ebola, ISIS, you name it. But, as someone who was all in for Obama before he ran in his first primary, I’m disappointed he didn’t do a better job of telling his story so that someone like Alison Grimes wouldn’t feel it she was better off taking the 5th on whether she’d voted for him. I’m optimistic that the stars will line up a lot better for Democrats in ’16, but we need the President to be effective as the cheerleader-in-chief over the next couple of years to help set the stage.

  • Michael

    Seems to me that at least part of the issue with the margins being off is that when we just look at the margins at various aggregator sites, we are glossing over, rather than analyzing, a lot of the actual data. In VA, for instance, Warner led comfortably in all of the polls, but he only topped 50% in three of the ten taken since labor day, so maybe 49.1% on election day doesn’t reflect such a large error after all. On the other hand, the simple aggregate polling data pretty much nailed Franken’s margin in MN, so what do I know?

  • Michael

    Also, turnout was 25% less than 2012 in VA. So even though the conventional wisdom is that turnout is low in non-presidential years and that low turnout favors Republicans, maybe the likely voter models still need work? Underestimating Democratic turnout in presidential years and overestimating it in midterms?

  • pechmerle

    I expect a good bit of Wang bashing to set in among the prognosticator set tomorrow. I, and regular readers, know that Sam has been saying ever since June that this Senate election was on a knife edge, because anything between 20% – 80% inherently is. But the tone of Sam’s posts did shift some toward “there must be some way Dems can come out alright,” even as trends were turning a bit R since mid-Sept. There has always been some hazard in making the claim that this is the best, most quantitatively elegant prognostication site around for elections, and at the same time acknowledging that the operator is thoroughly pro-Dem. I accept that both are true, but I expect there may be people gleefully “pointing out” that both cannot be true and just see how that led to a big miss on the outcome today.

    That this will likely happen just adds to my sadness at how the next two years in the Senate will go.

    Others have pointed to some silver among the clouds. Here is in fact the most important one: the Dems will now get the benefit of their — at least temporarily — wise decision not to do away with the filibuster rules. We will have minority power during these two years, and be very glad of it.

    “To sleep, perchance to dream – ay there’s the rub.”

    • Bill

      I fear your comment about having filibuster power is incorrect. The Rs will do away with the filibuster as perhaps one of their first acts. This will give them the power to do as they wish in the Senate. Onwards to the impeachment of President Obama.

    • securecare

      I think Bill is likely correct. Very unfortunate for the sanity based among us.

    • Edward G. Talbot

      I don’t think they need to abolish the filibuster. They know they have a very good shot at losing the Senate in 2016 and they can do a LOT through reconciliation in conjunction with the House.

      There is a fascinating constitutional question here if they push it. The presiding officer of the Senate ultimately makes the decision on whether something is allowed for reconciliation. Normally, that’s the President pro tempore, which is the senior member of the majority party or his designee. However, the Constitution says that the president pro tempore presides “in the Absence of the Vice President”, who is the President of the Senate. In theory, Biden could show up and say that something they were trying to pass would not be legitimate reconciliation legislation. It’s anybody’s guess if the Republicans would accept that – if they didn’t, it would be up to the Supreme Court to decide what the Constitution means, and they’d be hesitant to wade in. Alternatively, the republicans could pass a change to reconciliation rules with a simple majority (just as the dems changed the rules on approving nominations a couple years ago). However, that might have a similar effect to eliminating the filibuster and they might not want to.

      Anyway, my prediction is the filibuster mostly stays intact.

  • J

    I think what is important at this point, seeing some of the comments bashing Professor Wang for having a “Democratic bias”, that the statisicians like him or Nate Silver shouldn’t be attacked one way or another. They’re the ones who didn’t determine who won the elections, and instead did their jobs of tabulating a probable outcome. As the saying goes, you lose some, you win some. Obviously one was right and the other was wrong, but that doesn’t mean to say they should be on the receiving end of frustration that the election wasn’t what they predicted. And I say this as somebody whose own predictions were so wildly off.

  • PatL

    Thanks Sam,
    Your examples always pointed toward the way it turned out. I appreciated your explanations and reasoning. You’re the best in my book!

  • Mike

    Well, think of it this way, Sam. Sheehan won, so at least you won’t have to eat a bug! :-)

    Thank you for all your hard work! :-) It’s not your fault that the data you got from the polls was lousy. It seems that this year the problem with the data was that no one really was at 50%, so there were a lot of undecided voters near the very end and they all broke for republicans. In other words, Ernst+1 when the median was 46% allowed her a lot more room to grow. Maybe that’s why things got messed up with the polling…. too many undecideds near the end!

    Even the exit polls were massively screwed up!

    • Mitsu

      Undecideds may not have broken for republicans; I suspect the biggest difference was turnout. But the real bizarre story here is how badly Democrats told the story of Obama’s successes. Which is to say: to run scared from polls rather than change the story by telling the story. A pathetic loss, but it is the Democrat’s fault.

  • A New Jersey Farmer

    For all of the talk and the data and the Twitter lunchroom fights, there’s not one pollster that can claim a great victory for their method. This was always going to be a tough election to call and now it’s time to go back over the numbers and the assumptions and analyze what went right and what went wrong.

    As for the politics, yes, most of us looked analytically at the scientific data, but also emotionally at possible outcomes given what could happen rather than what the numbers said would most likely happen.

    GOP control of the Senate will not yield too much in the way of meaningful legislation and the prospect of another flip back to the Democrats in 2016 is likely given the demographics of presidential election years.

    • Olav Grinde

      I think there is a strong possibility of a Black Swan event prior to the 2016 elections.

      The Bank of Japan just announced a QE program that will be, relative speaking, far bigger than the American Fed’s was. Other central banks are carrying out similar desperate measures. This is further inflating a bubble – and making an even greater burst inevitable.

      Perhaps the most likely Black Swan is that interest rates rise significantly, putting debtors in an impossible crunch. Or we may see something even more dramatic, such as a sudden currency collapse. In either case, I believe there is a very strong risk that this will result in a financial meltdown far worse than the previous one.

      If so, voters may well place the blame President Obama and his party, even though the President has zero influence on the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies.

  • Insidious Pall

    Just…wave. The calls of the states were correct, but Sam was no farther off than anyone else. If the skewering begins, everyone’s ox will be gored. The polls missed this yes, but perhaps the only real miss was the undecideds who may have broken heavily red everywhere. The other possibility I wonder about is Sean Trende’s ‘missing white voter’ thesis regarding 2012. It may be that the opposite occurred here and the Republican base was energized substantially more than the Dem base. I’m reminded of the Romney campaign boss who woke up the next day and realized that a low-enthusiasm voter is still a voter. Dems (with Obama), were able to mobilize this group in 2012 but not now.

    • Olav Grinde

      “It may be that the … Republican base was energized substantially more than the Dem base.”

      I think that’s the crux of the matter, pure and simple.

      However, I would like to see an analysis that explores the correlation (or lack of it) between who won and campaign spending, including PAC and SuperPAC money clearly designed to influence the rating.

      In other words: How important is money in American elections?

    • Olav Grinde

      * designed to influence the outcome.

    • securecare

      Looking at my local turnout suggests that the “missing voter” was of a different kind this cycle as suggested. Certainly big money also played some role.

  • Amitabh Lath

    All the Republican Gov. wins boosts Chris Christie’s shot at the Republican nomination. He can claim it was his work at the RGA.

    • Olav Grinde

      Not sure Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker or Mike Huckabee would applaud that thought.

    • Amitabh Lath

      Of this list, only Ted Cruz (and Huckabee, although I wouldn’t consider him seriously) would be guaranteed to bring their home state to the Electoral College.

      And it is very hard to win without your own state (see Al Gore, TN and Mitt Romney, MA). If people who elected you to statewide office do not think you would make a good president, why should outsiders?

  • Jay

    So I predicted on Facebook Monday night that there would be significant correlated errors in the polling tonight and either Republicans will win 53+ seats or the Democrats will win 51+ seats (including Greg Orman). I said that, “If Republicans win Iowa, Colorado, and Alaska, I expect Kansas and North Carolina and possibly New Hampshire to swing their way.” I called it right. Depressing that the swing went against the Democrats, but no one said it couldn’t. But it seems to me that maybe off-year election models should be bi-modal instead of more or less normally distributed. The likelihood of extreme outcomes seems higher than of the median outcome.

  • Froggy

    Given a victory of this magnitude, it’s far from a foregone conclusion that the Democrats will win the Senate back in 2016, even given the favorable map. They have to pick up four seats (five if Joe Manchin switches parties). Illinois and Pennsylvania are likely pick-ups, and New Hampshire and Wisconsin are within reach, though far from sure things. Ohio and Florida look to be good ground for the Democrats in a presidential election year, but they have weak benches in both states. (Republicans swept the statewide offices yet again in Ohio last night.) And it’s hard to see Grassley losing if he runs again in Iowa, as he’s said he plans to do.

  • birtelcom

    When one adds up the nationwide vote totals for the 100 seats that will represent the Senate come January, looking at the last three cycles that produced those 100 senators, I wonder what the Dem/GOP balance of that nationwide vote would come out to. And similarly, what was the national Dem/GOP vote total for the House from yesterday’s election?

  • Brian

    Ultimately, last night was due to many different factors. The politics of fear played a role with the whole ISIS coming to get ya and Ebola on your door step, candidates and Obama’s unwillingness to push a unifying message that celebrates their achievements and fires up their base is a big one, and also I think that the map was already setup to break for republicans. The interesting thing now will be to see just how long the republicans can go before they over reach and ultimately eat each other. The crop of lawmakers they elected last night have a distorted view on reality and there is zero chance that any of them will “compromise” on a damn thing with democrats or the president. 2016’s map is more in line with Democrats taking back the senate and with higher turnout, the presidency. So if anything, republicans can celebrate now, but they will be crying in 2 years time with only themselves and their over reach to blame.

  • Paul

    Sam Wang was clear that (a) there could be a consistent systemic bias in the polls, one way or the other and (b) that the percent likelihood of the democrats and independents obtaining 50 or more Senate seats was only 35% plus or minus 15%. As to (a), Sam was correct – polls systematically under-predicted GOP results. As to (b) Sam predicted GOP control correctly. The odds of the democrats maintaining control even at 50 seats was at the furthest extent of this predictive range. We had to figure it was over on Tuesday morning and that the real question was how many seats the GOP would win (or the democrats would lose), not whether the GOP would regain Senate control.

    The fact that Sam Wang and Nate Silver use different methods is a good thing. They put their data and projections out there, along with the error range. I hope both continue their work as we now begin to think more seriously about 2016.

  • Randy Haugen

    52% turnout here in Iowa.

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