By Wendy Underhill
Of course, predictions don’t matter—results do. Still, who amongst us isn’t anxious to know what lies ahead?
For now, we can offer you predictions from several reputable sources:
KlarnerPolitics—Carl Klarner, former associate professor of political science at Indiana State University, now a political and academic consultant. uses a forecasting model that takes into account district-level data, unlike most models. That means he takes into account how safe (or competitive) each district is. By doing so, he makes predictions about party control by chamber, which is what really matters in state politics. He goes a step further, too, by providing the probability of outcomes by chamber. (Fun fact: The only chamber that this model predicts will see an increase in Republican members is the Hawaii House—which may go from 90.2 percent Democrats to 88.2 percent). The key Klarner takeaway: “The median prediction from the simulations is that the Democrats will pick up seven chambers in the upcoming election.”
For those of you who want to dig deep yourself, I recommend scrolling through the Carl Klarner Dataverse, where he’s made public deep data sets on legislative elections.
Capitol Journal—Lou Cannon is a master at corralling analysis and opinion from multiple sources into a coherent political analysis. In his meta-analysis of legislative races, he says “Nonpartisan analysts and pollsters give Democrats a solid chance to win nine to 15 legislative chambers and as many as 11 governorships currently in GOP hands.” (He’s got the skinny on governor’s races too.)
FiveThirtyEight—Analyst Nathaniel Rakich looks at trifectas—when one party controls all three power levers in a state (House, Senate, governor). He sees Colorado, Illinois, Nevada and New Mexico as places to look for new trifectas on the Democrats’ side and lists a number of chambers that could flip (both ways). He says “Republicans’ overexposure in governorships and legislatures alike, plus the Democratic-leaning national environment, could give Democrats ample opportunity to not only break up existing Republican trifectas, but also secure trifectas of their own.” As for opportunities for Republican pickups, he points to Alaska and Connecticut. (Hear all about it on this week’s FiveThirtyEight podcast, "The Most Important Races You’re Probably Not Watching," where he says his GOP pickup choice is Connecticut).
Governing—Louis Jacobson is calling 17 chambers competitive this year (out of 87 with regularly scheduled general elections this November). Like the other political observers, he sees this as a year when the pendulum swings toward the Ds. He says, “It's worth noting that the degree of Republican vulnerability in 2018 is smaller than it was for the Democrats in 2010. That year, we considered 25 Democratic chambers to be in play.” It was also when Dems were “shellacked,” in Obama’s word, and lost control of 24 chambers in the 2009-2010 election cycle.
And then there’s NCSL’s own StateVote 2018. We don’t make predictions, but we do point to chambers that are potential flips, and some of the factors in this year’s races. Read all about it in State Legislatures magazine or hear Tim Storey tell the tale on NCSL’s "Our American States" podcast.
Wendy Underhill is NCSL’s director for elections and redistricting.