Princeton Election Consortium

Innovations in democracy since 2004

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


October 10th, 2020, 7:05pm by Sam Wang

A Classic Rock Twofer Tuesday PlaylistWith three weeks to go in the campaign, fundraising is heating up. That’s even true for state legislatures, which will shape the political playing field for 10 years through redistricting.

Today I will give four examples of how one donation can do the work of two.

Here are levels at which the PEC team has quantitatively analyzed per-voter power, a measure of get-out-the-vote or donation effectiveness:

  • The Presidency. Certain states may be especially important given the outside possibilities of (a) disruptions in the conduct of elections and (b) polling error.
  • Senate: maximizing the seat count. At this moment, six races are within 2 percentage points or less. Democrats may end up with anywhere from 51 to 56 seats. This has substantial implications for getting laws passed, the legislative filibuster, and judicial reform.
  • State legislatures: redistricting for a decade. Six legislatures are within reach of bipartisan control, and therefore fairer districting. These account for an estimated 93 Congressional seats, one-fifth of the House of Representatives. Bipartisan control of the process will hinge on margins totaling as few as 150,000 votes.

Because state legislatures are by far the most leveraged investment you can make, we have analyzed this specially, in a feature we call Redistricting Moneyball. In this feature we calculated the highest per-voter power based on political handicapping and a mathematical model of each state legislature’s control over redistricting.

I will now give you a list of targets where your donations will work on at least two of these three levels. Because Democrats have more opportunities to bring about bipartisan redistricting,. However, note that there is one opportunity, in Minnesota for Republicans to force a bipartisan approach to redistricting.

In all cases, you can donate in either the ActBlue or WinRed links in the sidebars. Candidates and their opponents are listed in the Redistricting Moneyball feature.

1) Minnesota. This is of interest to Republican readers, as well as anyone who favors bipartisan redistricting no matter which party might benefit otherwise. In the event that the Presidential race becomes competitive, then Minnesota Presidential per-voter power will be high. In addition, Minnesota currently has split control over legislation and therefore redistricting. To preserve that, Republicans cannot lose more than one state Senate seat.

Recommendation: Minnesota state Republican Party.

2) Kansas. The U.S. Senate race is on a knife edge between Barbara Bollier (D) and Roger Marshall (R). In addition, the state legislature currently commands supermajorities and can impose a single-party gerrymander. This was recently noted by Republican state Senate leader Susan Wagle, to general uproar. However, losing just one state House seat breaks the supermajority, with implications for up to two Congressional seats.

The highest concentration of swing districts is in Johnson County, near Kansas City. Outside that area, House District 98 near Wichita has the highest per-voter power in Kansas. In 2018, challenger Steven Crum, an elementary-school teacher, came within 130 votes (out of a total of 5,460 votes cast) of defeating incumbent Ron Howard (R). This year’s a rematch.

I should note that local races are far cheaper than a Congressional campaign, and can be run for as little as $30,000.

Recommendation: Johnson County Democrats of Kansas, and HD-98 candidate Steven Crum. Other individual candidates (and their opponents) are listed under Redistricting Moneyball.

3) North Carolina. North Carolina is an important knife-edge state for an orderly Presidential election, for redistricting – and maybe for control of the Senate. It is one of two states that are likely to be called for the Presidency on election night, and in our calculations currently has a per-voter power of 65 (maximum=100).

In addition, North Carolina is site of some of the nation’s most extreme gerrymanders – at least until the state Supreme Court stepped in. To prevent a replay of that past decade, a shift of five seats in the state House or four seats in the state Senate would give partial legislative control to Democrats. We consider the House a slightly easier lift than the Senate based on district ratings and per-district population.

Recommendation: North Carolina Democratic Party – House Caucus.
Individual candidates: House Districts 45 (Frances Jackson), 74 (Dan Besse), 83 (Gail Young), 82 (Aimy Steele), 59 (Nicole Quick). Senate District 11 (Allen Wellon).

4) Alaska. Finally, we have a state where votes are powerful for both the Presidency and the Senate. Around 300,000 votes will be cast. It’s the only state where PEC per-voter power is greater than 20 for both Presidency (around 30 today) and Senate (100, the top of the list).

In addition, there is the possibility that Alaska’s lone Congressional seat will change. This is consequential because in the event of the Presidential election being thrown into the House, each state gets one vote.

Note that another way to look at the President+Senate two-fer question is what race will determine control of the Senate, i.e. the tipping-point race. In that case, in addition to Alaska one would add Georgia (specifically, Ossoff v. Perdue) and South Carolina.

Recommendation: Independent/Democrat Al Gross v. Republican Dan Sullivan.

Tags: 2020 Election · President · Redistricting · Senate

6 Comments so far ↓

  • Marc

    NC Sen 31 MUST be hot based on the volume of mail my wife (but never addressed to me) has been receiving. 2-3 pieces every day (the record was 6!) mostly for or against the incumbent, starting about a week after the primaries. So, going on about 7 months. We’ve received maybe a dozen or 15 pieces total for all other races.

    • Sam Wang

      Considering that each mailer costs thousands of dollars to send, that is astounding. Have you received other communications that are thought to be more effective, such as handwritten postcards from other people?

  • Marc

    Nothing’s in an envelope, but very few of them are smaller than 5×7 and most are 8.5×11 (or close to that.) Around September 1, we started getting about 2 11×17 pieces a week.

    I wish I had kept everything so that I could have kept a real count and tallied all the groups that sent them. Some were strange, like the one from a pro-gun safety group this week that was against the incumbent, but the ad was about taxes and healthcare costs.

  • bks

    Two weeks ago I did my own idiosyncratic calculation looking for down-ballot candidates of maximum leverage, and located Dan Besse, as in your calculation (NC 74). So if anyone out there is in a quandary, back my play:

    • Sam Wang

      Totally rational choice. Top rating, open seat. Winston-Salem area, probably not as saturated as, say, Charlotte with money.

  • Charles Greenberg

    Most sites recommend giving directly to candidates rather than outside groups or even state / local parties. 1) Because candidates can buy ads for cheaper and 2) because you know the candidates will spend the money ASAP, but you don’t really know what some state party is going to do. What do you think?

Leave a Comment