2020 Election First Look: Record Turnout for Both Parties Strongly Favors Democrats


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In 2020, there will be record turnout for both parties in the House of Representatives. For Democrats, a major spike in 2006 midterm turnout foreshadowed record turnout in 2008. Likewise, record midterm turnout in 2018 foreshadows a new record in 2020. For Republicans, record turnout in 2016 plus record midterm turnout in 2018 equals new record turnout in 2020.

Since 2000, turnout for presidential candidates has tracked House turnout with each presidential race exceeding national House vote — except Donald Trump in 2016. For Republicans, this provides lots of room to increase turnout in 2020, just as George W. Bush did better in 2004 than in 2000. Donald Trump’s high Republican approval rate and record 2018 turnout suggest significant up side. For Democrats, any candidate will benefit from outrage against Republicans demonstrated in 2018 and continuing.

2020 ELECTION RANGE OF VOTING POSSIBILITIES

This far out from the election, ranges of voting possibilities supply outside limits and set the stage for further analysis as time marches on. Looking at data from history, here are expected ranges for (1) national popular vote for the House of Representatives, left side, and (2) popular vote in the presidential race, right side.

2020 Election Range of Voting Possibilities

This is the big picture view. Levels of excitement and outrage since 2016 remain extremely high with one unprecedented event after another. Americans will come out to vote in 2020 at record levels, probably near high ends of expected ranges for each party.

Nothing will budge popular opinion short of economic collapse or an event beyond unprecedented, beyond impeachment, beyond war on Iran, virtually beyond imagination. Should such a thing occur, we will know it when it happens.

In 2016, predictions or estimates that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency were everywhere. Not here. See “President Donald Trump is Coming January 20, 2017,” from July 2016 which concluded, “Expect President Donald Trump.”

High ends of ranges come from combining segments of recent record turnout elections to calculate maximum votes for 2020. Low ends are reasoned by looking at specific comparable situations (full details below). Numbers strongly favor Democrats with minimum turnout for Democrats near maximum turnout for Republicans.

SUMMARY OF VOTING POSSIBILITIES

HOUSE. Democrats will win the national popular vote for the House by as much as 12.6 percent or as little as 1.8 percent. If both parties near the high end of turnout as expected, then Democrats win by about ten percent, higher than the eight percent of 2018, gaining seats.

PRESIDENCY. The Democrat should win the popular vote handily by eight percent or more, but there is a small section of overlap where Donald Trump wins. Winning the popular vote does not mean getting into the White House anyway: The Electoral College permitted Donald Trump to get into office with a 2.9 million vote deficit. Democratic victory is likely but not guaranteed.

CONSIDERATIONS. Range numbers are based entirely upon history without adjustments. There are four variables to consider briefly that are not included in the ranges:

  1. Election gaming. Things like voter purging and voter suppression were already at extreme levels in 2016, so these effects are built into the numbers. (Investigator Greg Palast who predicted Donald Trump would steal the 2016 election disagrees, but work by his own team of experts should undermine his prediction this time.)
  2. Demographic change. Generation Z, who favor Democrats about 70 to 30, will increase from four percent to ten percent of the electorate. This means high ends of Democratic ranges are slightly understated.
  3. Hacking wildcard. Hacking the vote could be the surprise sucker punch that shows up suddenly after the election.
  4. Something beyond unprecedented could occur. Such a thing would be recognized as a game changer when it occurs.

SENATE. The Senate is an entirely different animal that can swing against the tide as in 2018 when Democrats slaughtered Republicans in turnout by eight percent but still lost two Senate seats. The 2020 Senate map is not particularly one-sided, so a Democratic sweep should add seats. Four seats are needed for Democrats to take control.

Looking ahead to 2022, The Senate map strongly favors Democrats. Not one Democratic seat faces serious danger. There are many pick up opportunities. The 2023 Senate will be more Democratic than the 2021 Senate, almost guaranteed. But economic collapse would change any future scenario.

DETAILS OF VOTING POSSIBILITIES

HOUSE of Representatives national popular vote projections explained and analyzed:

DEM MAX VOTE of 84,209,651 is the highest expected national popular vote for Democrats in the House. Take record 2018 midterm turnout, adjust for the average increase from midterm to presidential year of about 36 percent, then convert to 2020 population numbers.

The average increase for Democratic House turnout from midterms to presidential years is 36 percent. Starting from a higher midterm level, the increase should not exceed the average because of diminishing returns. Thus, 36 percent is a fair increase in 2020 from 2018 record turnout. Expect this vote to be near the high end of the range, especially such a short time after the 2018 record and under such similar conditions.

DEM MIN VOTE of 71,761,839 is the lowest expected national popular vote for Democrats in the House. Take record 2008 presidential year turnout, then convert to 2020 population numbers.

This sets a floor on possibilities. It is certain that 2020 turnout will at least beat the old record.

REP MAX VOTE of 69,150,294 is the highest expected national popular vote for Republicans in the House. Take record 2018 midterm turnout, adjust for the average increase from midterm to presidential year of about 33 percent, then convert to 2020 population numbers.

The average increase for Republican House turnout from midterms to presidential years is 33 percent. Here too, expect the vote to be near the high end of the range.

REP MIN VOTE of 65,340,098 is the lowest expected national popular vote for Republicans in the House. Take record 2016 presidential year turnout, then convert to 2020 population numbers.

Just as with “Dem Min Vote” for the House, the old record becomes the floor. Americans supported Republicans in 2016 at record levels, despite lower relative turnout for presidential candidate Donald Trump. This suggests higher record turnout for House Republicans in 2020 regardless of presidential candidate, tightening the range.

PRESIDENCY popular vote projections explained and analyzed:

DEM MAX VOTE of 89,709,374 is the highest expected vote for the Democratic presidential candidate. Take the House “Dem Max Vote” for Democrats above then increase by the margin of 6.5 percent between House and presidential vote in 2008.

This number seems through the roof, but think about it. The 2006 ‘blue wave’ was the highest House turnout since 1982 (but it was not the midterm record). Still, the next presidential election in 2008 provided a new House turnout record. Just as high turnout in 2006 foreshadowed 2008, so too record turnout in 2018 foreshadows 2020. A popular Democratic candidate like Barack Obama would approach the maximum. But the candidate is undetermined, so there is still much room to miss the high end.

On the subject of “electability,” any Democratic candidate can win unless some major scandal breaks near the end. Even then, expectations of contrived claims after 2016, “vote blue no matter who,” and continuing outrage still should produce high turnout for the Democrat.

REP MAX VOTE of 76,666,704 is the highest expected vote for the Republican presidential candidate. Take the House “Rep Max Vote” for Republicans above and increase by the margin of 10.9 percent between House and presidential vote in 2004.

This seems super high, but there is a surprising amount of upside potential for Donald Trump. Since 2000, each presidential candidate earned more votes than his party’s national popular vote for the House except Donald Trump. If Donald Trump can capture most of that difference, his vote count soars.

George W. Bush gained Republican support for his second term in 2004 after any doubts about his willingness to pursue a grand agenda were erased. The same is true for Donald Trump. But George W. Bush started from a higher level of support and the 9-11 terror attack gave him a boost. Applying only the 2004 minus 2000 difference of 3.5 percent, Donald Trump would receive some 71,569,914 votes, a soft ceiling or a realistic starting point inside the range.

DEM MIN VOTE of 76,497,780 is the floor for the Democratic presidential candidate. Take record 2008 presidential year House turnout for Democrats, increase by 6.6 percent margin between House and presidential vote in 2016, then convert to 2020 population numbers.

Record 2018 House turnout for Democrats will produce a new record in 2020 that at least meets the old 2008 record. Presidential vote will be higher. Considering how “unpopular” Hillary Clinton was, expect the presidential race to gain at least as much margin over the House vote as she received in 2016. Also, Hillary Clinton’s margin over the House was near the low end of the past five elections (6.5% to 11.4%).

There is slight discomfort with this parameter, unlike the other seven. In 2008, Democratic House vote hit its record but presidential margin was at its lowest of the past five elections. Does this suggest a lower margin at higher House turnout? How low could the margin go? Theoretically, margin could drop toward zero, which would set a very hard floor at 71,761,839. However, the lower House turnout, the greater the presidential margin range. This conflict should resolve with some sort of mix that maintains the 76,497,780 floor in the graph.

REP MIN VOTE of 65,144,631 is the floor for the Republican presidential candidate. Take the 2016 vote for Donald Trump then convert to 2020 population numbers.

This calculation is simple. Donald Trump should attain at least the same turnout as 2016. As already discussed, there may be something beyond unprecedented to crash turnout. But most likely, he gains much more support above this floor.