Sabatos Crystal Ball

How’d we do in 2018? A final update

UVA Center for Politics December 20th, 2018

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Editor’s Note: Three quick notes this week:

1. Our First-Ever Name Our Post-Election Book Contest: We’re pleased to announce that our book looking back on the 2018 midterms and ahead to 2020 will come out in April 2019 and will be published by Rowman and Littlefield. The book is as yet-untitled, and that’s where you come in: We’re looking for suggestions for the book title. Please submit any ideas to goodpolitics@virginia.edu. We can’t promise that we will pick the eventual book title from the suggestions, but Rowman and Littlefield has generously offered $150 in book credit to whomever we judge made the best submission (whether we end up using it or not). The submission deadline is Dec. 31.

2. The University of Virginia Center for Politics will be hiring a new staffer to work on the Crystal Ball, and we’re still taking applications. If you’re interested, please visit jobs.virginia.edu and find the Coordinator of Media Relations position under “University Staff,” posting No. 0624191. Please email us at goodpolitics@virginia.edu if you have any questions.

3. The Crystal Ball will not be publishing over the holidays. Our next issue will be released on Thursday, Jan. 10. We wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year.

— The Editors

The day after the election, when results were still pending in many places, we went over our picks for 2018 and how they stacked up. With almost everything now settled, we thought we’d provide a final tally in the three categories where we issued race ratings, Senate, House, and governors, while also saluting some of our outside contributors:

Senate: 34 of 35 correct. The lone race we missed was Florida, where Sen.-elect Rick Scott (R) beat outgoing Sen. Bill Nelson (D) by about a tenth of a percentage point. Republicans will have a 53-47 majority starting in the new year, for a net gain of two seats. We’d also like to note that there were some questions going into the election about a couple of races, New Jersey and Tennessee, that to some looked like Toss-ups. We never rated either as such, and that decision ended up being vindicated as Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen.-elect Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) both won by double digits.

House: 423 out of 434 correct. Overall, we predicted a net change of D +34, and it ended up being D +40. For the time being we’re setting aside NC-9, where because of some apparent fraud involving absentee ballots there very well could be a new election. We favored veteran Dan McCready (D) there in our ratings over former pastor Mark Harris (R); it appeared in the immediate aftermath of the election that Harris had prevailed by about 900 votes, but those results are now very much in question. Democrats will have a 235-199 majority starting the next Congress, with NC-9 likely to be vacant at the opening of the new House. Analyst Nicholas Cohen recently published an interesting assessment of probabilistic House forecasts and found that ours performed the best in part because of our willingness to eliminate Toss-up ratings at the end of the cycle. 

Governor: 32 of 35 correct. We missed Florida, Iowa, and Ohio, and we also left Georgia as a Toss-up (the lone race we didn’t call) in anticipation of a possible runoff. As it was, Gov.-elect Brian Kemp (R) won 50.2% to 48.8% over former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D), getting slightly more than 50% and thus avoiding a runoff. We had D +10 overall, and it ended up being D +7. Republicans will control 27 governorships next year to Democrats’ 23.

We also want to acknowledge some other forecasters we published earlier this year, like Crystal Ball Senior Columnist Alan Abramowitz, James Campbell, and the teams of Michael Lewis-Beck and Charles Tien and Joseph Bafumi, Robert Erikson, and Christopher Wlezien, all of whom projected a Democratic House takeover as part of forecasts made over the summer. Special kudos go to Campbell and Lewis-Beck/Tien: Both projected D +44 in the House, which seemed high at the time but ended up very close to the mark, while simultaneously projecting the Republicans to net one (Lewis-Beck/Tien) or two (Campbell) Senate seats.

We again want to thank the many sources on both sides of the aisle who helped us have a successful cycle.