10 Things To Know On Election Night

Ken Nahigian General Counsel, Nahigian Strategies
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Ground zero for this year’s congressional midterm elections without a doubt is the U.S. Senate, as most experts believe the Republican majority in the House of Representatives likely will be held, if not expanded. The media has doubled down on their coverage, and donors their dollars, on the 36 Senate races, 21 of which currently are held by Democratic incumbents. At stake, control of the Senate for the first time in a decade, and with it, the power to drive the legislative agenda, as well as keepership of the momentum going into the 2016 presidential and congressional races.

As the polls close on the East coast on election night, here are 10 things to know on November 4 that can give early indication as to which party is going to have the better night:

  1. Scratching the “Six-year itch” – Only once since World War II has a sitting president in his second term not lost significant seats in Congress during a midterm election. This phenomenon is dubbed the “six-year itch” and can be attributed to waning energy behind the sitting president and a desire by voters for something new, irrespective of who lives in the White House.

  1. False sense of victory – Because both Georgia and Louisiana laws require a runoff election in the event that no candidate on the ballot receives 50 percent of the vote or more, it is highly conceivable that both Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu and Georgia senate candidate Michelle Nunn win on election night with less than 50 percent of the vote, and then lose in runoff elections scheduled on December 6 and January 3, respectively. And, notably, should Nunn become the deciding seat for Democratic control of the Senate, this would mean that her runoff would actually take place after the new Congress is sworn in.

  1. Key dominoes – Indicators on election night that will signal either a Republican wave or Democratic strength will be found in the New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Kansas races. Republican Scott Brown is trailing incumbent Jeanne Shaheen and currently this race is not projected to be among the Democratic seats that flip. Similarly, sitting Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas until recently was considered a safe Republican keep. In North Carolina, Senator Kay Hagan once was considered vulnerable, but more recently not. Should both Brown and Roberts lose and Hagan win, then the race for control of the Senate tightens significantly. Should either Roberts or Brown win and Hagan lose, it’s likely the Republicans will have a big night.

  1. Mailing it in – In a first by any state, Colorado will be implementing an all mail-in ballot election. Every resident of Colorado was sent a mail-in ballot in an effort to combat fraud and ensure voting access. But this process is untested. Consider possible delays from this new process, coupled with the challenges of counting the votes from rurally-located Alaska natives in the far reaches of the states, and its fair to expect that we will not know the results of either races for days after the election. Don’t be disappointed if you go to bed on election night without closure in Colorado, Alaska, Georgia, and Louisiana.

  1. Romney states – Of the nine hotly contested Democratic seats, seven are states where Mitt Romney beat President Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

  1. Gubernatorial races – Counterbalancing the Republican momentum in the senate races are the strong campaigns being run by Democratic gubernatorial challengers to Republican incumbent governors. The gubernatorial races in Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, and New Hampshire could contribute to higher intensity among Democrats in those states. Republican senate candidates will rely on low intensity on the left in those races in a non-presidential year, but the races for governor may serve to inject energy on the Democratic side.

  1. Live free or die – Libertarian candidates will be on the ballots in Alaska, Georgia, and North Carolina, with each projected to receive a large enough percentage of the vote to potentially influence the outcome of their respective races, including forcing a possible runoff in Georgia.

  1. On your mark, get set…  – The retirements of Democratic senators from Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota, all states won by Mitt Romney, give the Republicans a three-seat head start on the six seats needed to regain majority control.

  1. October surprise: Ebola factor – elections in a lot of ways are about how voters feel, which is why a natural disaster or emergency almost always favors incumbents who have the opportunity to demonstrate their leadership and instill confidence in voters. However, the opposite can be true, and what may turn out to be a large factor in the midterm elections, or at least in the intensity of voters who favor incumbents, may very well hinge partly on how competent voters view the response to the current Ebola situation. While three weeks still remain for those in charge to demonstrate their emergency acumen, early voting has already begun in many states and the sentiment of the now likely hurts those in charge.

  1. Tables turn – Should Republicans win control of the Senate and you are a Democrat, fear not, as the tables will turn in the 2016 election during which Republicans will have to defend 24 of the 34 seats at issue, when it starts all over again.

Anything can happen in elections, as we saw in the stunning primary election upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor earlier this year after polls showed him up more than 20 points in the days before the race. As the saying goes, that’s why they play the game. But if you know these 10 things, you might actually get to bed early on Election Night.