What to Watch For on Election Night

Charles Cooper

There will be significant implications over the next two years for policy, the 2020 election, and the President.

Voting Booths

With the election just around the corner, predictions are all over the map around both who wins and what it means. For sure, there will be surprises on election night and there will be interesting trends that won’t be identified by simply looking at who won and who lost.

This is what we will be watching for election night:

Turnout
As always, turnout (and who turns out) is an important data point to watch. Generally, early turnout in certain geographic areas can most easily tell the story for the rest of the evening.

Numbers Matter
To state the obvious, wins and losses really matter when the House and Senate are both within striking distance of a new Democratic majority. Everyone will be watching whether Democrats can gain enough seats to win one (or both) of the chambers. If this should happen, it may be even more important to understand the size of the majority, which will dictate how much bipartisanship will be required to move legislation, whether the President’s agenda has any chance of moving, and to what extent Republicans will have influence over the legislative process. Of course, a narrow majority for the Democrats will keep Republicans in the game; a larger majority will effectively remove their influence over legislation.

Unlikely Trends
On election night, if seats that “lean” Republican or are “likely” Republican begin turning Democratic, a blue wave is possible. Just watching those seats that are “toss-ups” won’t tell the broader story. Furthermore, there may even be a handful of seats that aren’t even on the risk map at this point but, surprisingly, turn on election night. Identifying those trends early in the evening will give a good indication of what the next morning will look like for the Republicans and Democrats.

Interesting Losses
On occasion, analyzing a loss can tell a very different story than the result of the election itself. It will be important to identify seats on either side of the aisle that may not have flipped but came surprisingly close in a district or state that should not have been close at all. It could be the beginning of a trend that could be an important factor in 2020 or could highlight a large-scale change in a district or state that has not been in play.

President’s Performance
At the end of the day, the 2018 election is a strong indicator of how the 2020 presidential race will line up. If Republicans suffer significant losses, it will be a reflection on the President as he has toured the country asking voters to support candidates because is it “a vote for me.” If Republicans are able to buck the historical trends and hold onto the majority (especially in the House), it is a really good sign for the President and voter intensity among Republicans leading up to 2020.

Look Beyond the Federal Government
While national news will focus on Congress, there is a lot at stake in the states this election. There are 38 governors races this cycle with nine that remain very close. In addition to state legislatures that are positioned to potentially switch majorities, there are several other high-impact issues at stake, including 2020 redistricting.