Columnists

What is Going to Happen on Election Day? Howey Makes His Forecast

What do you get when you cross an elephant with RINO? It’s an ancient joke with a contemporary twist, with the answer rhyming with “Hell if I know!” But that seems to be the final homestretch tagline from pundits and operatives.

As journalist Mark McKinnon observed on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier this week, “Things are happening that have never happened before.”

Journalist John Heilemann of Showtime’s “The Circus” noted after traveling in state after state, “It feels tight. It’s going to be a wild night.” Or NBC’s Steve Kornacki told the Washington Post Magazine, “My doubt-to-confidence ratio is extremely high. It’s actually getting to the point where I feel like there’s 20 different ways this can go.”

What is clouding this picture?

Start with the traditional first mid-term of a president’s party facing dire straits, then look at President Biden’s approval which was 42.8 percent in the Real Clear Politics aggregate; while the direction of the country is at 67.4 percent wrong track.

President Biden’s job approval on the economy stood at 38.9 percent approve to 58 percent disapprove in the RCP aggregate. It stood at 33.8 percent to 62 percent approve/disapprove on inflation; 35.6 percent / 60.2 percent on immigration, and 38.2 percent / 56.4 percent on crime. Even on abortion, Biden’s approval was just 38 percent with 56 percent disapproving, while on his handling of Russia/Ukraine just 45.3 percent approved with 50.7 percent disapproving. With numbers like these, it’s amazing that Democrats are even in the game at all. Yet the U.S. economy grew at a better-than-expected 2.6 percent GDP, the U.S. is near full employment with a 3.5 percent jobless rate, and the Dow increased by 14% in September, with those numbers eclipsed by an 8.2 percent inflation rate.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 Dobbs decision appeared to even the playing field for Democrats. While there were 334,891 early ballots cast in Indiana as of mid-Wednesday morning, 53 percent were cast by females. The partisan breakdown was 49 percent Republican, 40 percent Democrat, and 11 percent independent. The twist here is that a significant percentage of Republican women supported Roe and opposed SEA1.

In Indiana, there are a number of partisanized school board races that are expected to gin up suburban turnout.

The polls are being perceived as unreliable, with Politico observing that a number of partisan Republican polls are impacting aggregate numbers on places like Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight.

The U.S. Senate is a pure tossup. FiveThirtyEight: “The party that wins two of the three closest states will likely win the Senate majority. Republicans’ two best pick-up opportunities are Nevada and Georgia; Democrats having an edge in Arizona and New Hampshire while Republicans will likely win in Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin.” In the Indiana Senate race, FiveThirtyEight says Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young has a 98 percent chance of winning.

The U.S. House is trending Republican. FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans an 84 percent chance of winning the House, saying, “Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, there appeared to be a real chance that Democrats could keep control of the House. However, Republicans have regained much of the advantage they had earlier in the summer.”

In the Indiana secretary of state race, Democrat Destiny Wells has pumped about $520,000 in late TV money with an attack ad against Republican Diego Morales. Morales, meanwhile, has spent or booked $107,000, while the INGOP has spent about $350,000 on an ad featuring Morales and the rest of the statewide ticket. Indiana Democrats see this as its best chance for a statewide pickup in a decade. Republicans believe this is a baseline race, with neither candidate expected to have more than 15 percent name ID.

In the 1st Congressional District, Republican Jennifer-Ruth Green has raised an impressive amount of money, outraising freshman U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan $2.89 million to $2.23 million, giving Republicans hope that it can pick off a congressional seat it hasn’t held in a century. Open Secrets reports that almost $12 million in outside PAC money was spent in the 1st, giving it a competitive aura. FiveThirtyEight gives Mrvan an 87 percent chance of winning with a forecast margin of 53.4 percent to 48.6 percent for Green.

In General Assembly races, Republicans have a clear financial advantage. House Democrats raised $414,258 in late money, while House GOP raised $788,487. Yet, much of the late House money is flowing into Republican held or leaning seats. Senate Democrats raised $91,738 in late money, Senate GOP raised $742,861.

This has been the hardest cycle to analyze. National polling is questionable, and there has been virtually no credible polling here in the state. Indiana has essentially become a one-party state, and the fundraising, lack of Democrat challengers to GOP leadership, while eight Senate races and 33 in the House are unopposed, indicate the structural advantage for the ruling party emphatically continues.

This cycle should have been a slam dunk GOP wave, except that the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling and the House Jan. 6 committee have fueled Democrat concerns over abortion and the fate of American democracy. If next Wednesday Democrats are celebrating, the reason will find roots in those two issues.

If there is a Republican rout, it will validate James Carville’s 1992 mantra (“It’s the economy, stupid”), and will also solidify Donald Trump’s hold on the party.

The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com